(We made it to Japan! Here to recount some of our misadventures is Mister Boy.)
Originally, I was going to write this blog post as a sort of instructional guide on how to navigate the Japanese animal importation process for your pet cats. Having recently done so, I thought it would be a good way to assuage your fears and anxieties.
It turns out the process is fairly well explained by the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS), albeit not in chronological order. So I’ll skip most of the details, except for the parts we feel could use some clarifying. But what I won’t do is assuage your fears and anxieties, because if you screw it up—like we pretty much did, despite enormous amounts of planning and fretting and duck-alignment—things can go wrong for you, and your fluffy little buddy could spend six whole months locked away in kitty quarantine. So, instead, I am writing this post as a cautionary tale on what can go wrong.
To add color to the narrative, let’s introduce the subjects. On the left is Little Man, aka smoker cat, aka Mr. Kitty, aka Buttface McGeezy. On the right is Cheesy Poof, aka the fat one, aka Booga Bear, aka Buttface McGeezy.
I’ll assume that you’re starting this whole process at least seven months before you’re due to arrive in Japan, or else you’re completely screwed—your best hope is to find a foster home or release the cat into the wild. Get your cat microchipped, inoculated for rabies, and blood drawn and sent to Kansas State University as described by the regulations. The Japanese love themselves some regulations, and they are sticklers for the rules. The order of operations is very important. Our first mistake was doing each step of this process on different days for each of our cats, since our car couldn’t carry both of them at once. The dates on the documents differed for each cat, creating opportunity for error that the vet later stumbled into like a big dumb dinosaur into a tar pit.
When filing your advanced notification with AQS, your options are mail or fax. I strongly recommend hellofax.com as a web-based fax service. The first few faxes are free, it is easy to earn additional free faxes, and they transmit internationally. Figure out which AQS branch at Narita to send the notification to based on what terminal your airline uses. The notification process is actually quite good; they responded to us by email and we were able to clarify some of the confusing parts of the importation process.
A few days before your flight, you’ll have to have an APHIS Form 7001 filled out by your vet, as well as Forms A and C from the AQS. My advice: Double check all the information on these forms. You’ll then have to mail them off to APHIS for official government seals, and they won’t necessarily confirm that the information on the forms matches the source documents either.
You’ve got all your ducks in a row, your cat is locked safely in its prison cage, and you arrive at the check-in counter to check the cats as baggage. In our case, the incompetent desk staff spent an hour checking us in, then decided that we actually needed to take them to the cargo terminal. (This was a lie. Or, at best, a complete misunderstanding of their own system. If this happens to you, call the office you made the reservations with—United PetSafe for us—because even though you think that they were one of the twenty offices they called before deciding to fuck you over, they weren’t.)
So off you go to cargo, taking an airport taxi and paying even more money than the pet reservations should have. The cargo agent will be terse but efficient, and he’ll get the cats stowed away. Then you’ll be stranded at the cargo terminal, and will rely on the kindness of strangers to drop you off back at the passenger terminal.
Next you’ll enjoy your flight. I recommend getting hammered.
Arriving in Narita, your plans are now screwed. Your cats flew cargo instead of baggage, so you can’t pick them up in the baggage area like you’d hoped. No, once again you have to slough your way to the cargo terminal, this time with all your luggage. Your airline’s baggage assistance counter will hopefully have directions on a print-out, but your cab driver won’t speak any English. There is one saving grace: You are in Japan now, and the service will finally be fantastic.
An Introduction to Japanese Bureaucracy
At the cargo terminal, you’ll have to sign in at a security gate and receive visitor badges. The terminal is actually two levels, with United’s area on the lower level, which is a bit confusing. You’re now a good mile from the passenger terminal and the buses to Haneda, but the check-out process will take at least an hour, so it’s probably unwise to ask the cabbie to stick around. If you’re lucky, like us, the fantastic service will extend to the airline giving you a ride back to the terminal. Otherwise, you might have to call another cab, and hope that they can find you. Or walk.
At the customer service desk, your pets should be waiting for you. You’ll have to complete the quarantine and customs process next. The airline assigned a driver-cum-chaparone to guide us around the government complex. First stop is the AQS. Here they will scan your cat’s microchip and closely inspect your paperwork.
If you’re unlucky or careless like we were, this is where you will find out that the vet filled out the paperwork incorrectly. In our case, the vet put the wrong dates for a rabies vaccination and the blood test on Cheesy Poof’s forms. Even if you have the original vaccination certificates and the results from the blood test with the correct dates, if they aren’t sealed, AQS will disregard them: It’s the sealed forms that matter.
And do you know what incorrect forms gets you? Summary judgement for your cat: Six months in quarantine. Straight to Guantanameow. No credit for time served.
If you’re especially unlucky, you’re a regular schmoe planning on working in Japan. In this case, your cat will be kept by the AQS service right there at Narita. We were lucky enough to be moving to an air base, so AQS released our cats to be quarantined there. There was more light at the end of the tunnel: AQS said that if we could have new forms drawn up by the military vet with the correct dates, they could release Cheesy Poof from quarantine. This is very, very good news, since Cheesy Poof wouldn’t thrive in a prison environment.
Double check your paperwork.
The last step is a visit to the customs house across the street, where you probably won’t have to pay any additional duties so long as the cats are your pets (and not for sale). Then it’s back to the airline’s cargo service counter to pay any service fees, and off you go back to the terminal… with the cat, God willing.
Cats have been permitted on every bus we’ve taken so far (so long as they fit on your lap), and the regional train. They aren’t allowed on bullet trains unless they’re in a very small carrier. This came up when our flight to the airbase was cancelled, and we had to make alternate arrangements: either take the train, or fly to a nearby city and get to the airbase “somehow.” JAL does a very good job flying with pets domestically: The fee is a flat $50 per pet, they always fly baggage, and you don’t need reservations. I really like Japan.
We opted to fly, then took the bus to the train station, and a train to the airbase. Doing this with 120 lbs of luggage and two thoroughly unamused animals amounts to an extremely tiring adventure. The cats are a bit of a spectacle, and the Japanese riders tended to be amused by them instead of annoyed.
And that’s it. The cats are now safe and secure in the base kennel. The base vet is working with AQS in Tokyo to have Cheesy Poof’s quarantine lifted. We hope to bring him home with us next week. Total cost: Well over $2000, most of my sanity, and a dangerous brush with total calamity. To conclude, do not bring your cats Japan unless you absolutely can’t live without them. Like us.
Or further tips for the thrifty costumed caperer.
Lord Baron Von Partyfoul and The League of Evil
I survived my weekend of villainy, only to be struck down by an unknown malady. Curses! Now that I seem to have made a recovery, I shall continue this tale. Continue Reading…
Okay, I’m back! I spent last week down visiting the storied Grandma, down in North Carolina. I thought I’d be able to wrangle out a post while I was there, but as is often the case, my ambition and reality didn’t align. C’est la vie.
While I didn’t get any writing done, I did do a lot of plotting…nefarious plotting.The Mister and I have decided to turn to a part-time life of villainy (this may or may not coincide with a pubcrawl next week). As most of our dastardly plans revolve around making a public spectacle of ourselves (such is the wont of supervillains) we find ourselves in need of some dramatic costumes. Otherwise people might mistake us for regular villains. Or drunken louts. One of the two. Maybe both. Continue Reading…
By popular demand, more comics! Pretend it’s on time.
Ahh, the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the daffodils are starting to push their way up. Spring must finally be on the way right? Hahaha, just kidding, it’s just a tease. A cruel, cruel tease.
I’m going to be honest, I’m pretty close to full blown grumpus. If the weather doesn’t stop toying with me soon, I might lose it. I want sunshine. I want to go barefooted. I want to stop wearing pants. Right now it’s a pleasant 65F outside. I can hear gobs of birds warbling and crooning. It smells like spring. Unfortunately, I’ve already checked the weather, and it’s going to be back down to freezing with 25 mph winds tomorrow. Oh what fun! I think I’ll start working on my blanket nest now.
Grump, grump, grump.
Courageous Tillie and his faithful steed George set off to seek adventure. Who knew what exciting foreign lands and heroic deeds lay before them? They would cross the treacherous River of Eels, slay the terrible monster of Gila, and they would rescue fair Hilda. Songs would be written about them, they would be showered with untold riches, and they would get to have tea with the Queen. All the neighbors would be envious. And as long as they were back by dinner, Tillie’s mom promised they could both have cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles for dessert.
Do you remember being a kid and you just got a brand new set of markers (or colored pencils, or crayons) and you were consumed by a need to use all of them, at once, on one glorious picture? Continue Reading…
A while back, I accepted a commission to make a gazillion tiny plush koi fish for wedding favors. I had worked out all the details, what they were supposed look like, how big, what color, etc., and then I got stuck. I didn’t know what to make them out of. Normally I use felt for my little plushies, but I needed something with a particular fish scale pattern. After an exhaustive search I hadn’t found anything that fit and I was actually starting to consider ways to paint the scales on. Then in a moment of brilliance, I remembered hearing about an awesome sounding website called Spoonflower a few months back. Spoonflower offers custom printed fabrics and the minimum order size is less than a yard. I have to admit, once I remembered this I was thrilled to have an excuse to try it out. The idea of being able to get exactly what I wanted without all the searching was pretty fantastic. So I whipped up the pattern I needed and ordered me some fabric. A week or so later, and ta-da! My fancy fabric showed up in the mailbox.
An introduction into the properties of faux fur and where to acquire it.
Long ago when I first became a maker of plushies, all I used was craft felt because it was well suited to the tiny creatures I made. Also, I was dead broke and that was all I could really afford to work with. As I got further into the world of plush I dreamed of the days when I would have a vast array of fabric at my disposal. Having inherited my mother’s weakness for outrageous colors and fabrics, I yearned for all sorts of exotic materials. In particular I lusted after a stash of wild and colorful faux fur. Continue Reading…
Once upon a time there was a girl who came to be know as a Maker of Things Varied and Wonderful. All sorts of curious things did this girl create–hats and pastries, monsters and all manner of fantastic beasts. One day it was suggested that perhaps the Maker of Things should share her adventures and secret knowledge with the world. Acknowledging a desire to share her learnings and accomplishments, the girl set forth to pen her adventures for the edification of all. Here begins her epic tales of craftery. Continue Reading…