A number of embassies in Japan are opening their doors to the public for a limited time. 

Tokyo’s Minato Ward is home to a large number of foreign embassies, and while many of them are heavily guarded and off-limits to the general public, there’s now a special offer that lets you step inside their gates for a limited time.

Called the Minato City World Festival, the new promotion is being run as a stamp rally, allowing people to gain entry to several foreign centres and institutes, and a total of 33 embassies from countries like Bolivia, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Uzbekistan, and El Salvador.

▼ Holders of this special stamp rally “passport” will be able to step foot on foreign soil without leaving Tokyo.

As soon as our Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato heard about the campaign, he took a look at the list of embassies on the list and decided he’d like to take a trip to Afghanistan. So after picking up one of the stamp rally passports, which are available at various institutions around Minato, including stores in the Azabu Juban shopping district, he hopped on a train and arrived at the doors of the embassy.

One of the requirements for all visitors taking part in the campaign is to show a form of photo ID upon entry, so after whipping out his driver’s license, Mr Sato was ushered inside and onto Afghan soil. While he was tempted to let his fun and playful side run loose on the grounds of the embassy, Mr Sato decided to compose himself and stay on the right side of the law, given that he was now outside of Japan’s jurisdiction.

Some of the embassies taking part in the World Festival require visitors to call a designated call centre to make a booking ahead of their visit, and attend on certain dates and times. Mr Sato went through this procedure before visiting the Embassy of Afghanistan, which meant staff were ready to give an introductory presentation in Japanese to attendees.

▼ Mr Sato was surprised to learn that New Year’s Day falls on March 20 this year, according to the Afghan calendar.

After learning about Afghanistan and their work at the embassy in Japan, Mr Sato was able to stroll through the halls and a luxurious looking room which had been set up with various display pieces.

▼ Mr Sato was particularly drawn to this interesting page of script attached to an animal pelt.

Everything he saw, including furnishings, decor and national costume displays, really made Mr. Sato feel as if he’d left Japan and gone to Afghanistan.

When he went up to the rooftop area of the embassy, though, he was once again reminded of the country he was really in, as the gorgeous outdoor terrace came with a stunning view of Tokyo Tower.

▼ The other side of the terrace had a beautiful view of the city.

Visitors were also offered cups of tea, which helped to warm our reporter up on the cold winter’s day. Even that was a memorable experience in itself, as it was a tasty brew that Mr Sato wasn’t familiar with.

After enjoying his cup of tea, Mr Sato left no stone unturned in his exploration of the visitors’ access areas, taking a trip to the bathroom, which had an air of foreign charm about it.

With that, he left the embassy feeling like he’d learned a lot about Afghanistan and its culture and people, which is one of the aims of the Minato City World Festival. And as he made his way back to the station, he made another discovery, coming across the Geodetic Datum Origin of Japan, which is the point used to locate Japan on Earth.

The Minato City World Festival is a great way to get out and about and learn more about Tokyo, and the foreign people and embassies that reside within it. While the official website has all the necessary information regarding open times and pre-visit reservation requirements, it is all in Japanese, so you might want to ask a Japanese speaker to help you out with the details. It’s also important to note that the organisers request that people refrain from calling individual embassies in relation to the campaign.

If you do decide to visit the Embassy of Afghanistan, you might want to ask them about the work that the Japanese Embassy is doing in their homeland, and keep an eye out to see if they still have their copy of the Saint Onisan manga somewhere on the premises.

Photos © SoraNews24 
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[ Read in Japanese ]