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I'll be in Shanghai under a business visa for 5 months. During the third month, I would want to travel to Hokkaido, Japan for one week break. I'm a Malaysian and I'll need to obtain a short-term tourist visa to enter Japan.

The validity of a Japan visa is three months, so obtaining the visa before leaving my home country is out of the question. So that leaves me with one option, which is to do it in China, specifically Shanghai.

Now here's the catch: I'll only be able to get my ticket after 90 days in China (it is paid for by the company), but I'll be traveling in 7 days time. So, is it possible to not have a confirmed ticket/booking and still get a advance visa?

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Sounds like your main issue is whether or not you should apply for a Japanese visa before buying a plane ticket there. I would say this is the right way to go, and at worst you will be out the cost of the visa application fee.

Once you get your Japan visa, which you should apply for at least 2-4 weeks before you want to travel, then book your travel to Japan. Don't forget that there are a number of LCCs flying to Japan now, mainly to Osaka and Narita (Tokyo) and you can pick up another LCC from there to get a cheap return airfare to Hokkaido.

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