English at Japanese stations
There are now:
- English stations announcements on Bullet trains
- Nearly all station platform signs have the station name in English under them
- There will be arrivals/departure boards in English at all major Bullet train stations
That said, it’s always best to be prepared, so don’t forget your phrasebook!
Telephone / Fax:
Full international direct dial service.
Country Code: 81.
For outgoing international calls dial either 001 010 (KDD) or 0033 010 (NTT) followed by the country code and then omit the first 0 from the telephone number. You need an international telephone card to make calls from certain public call boxes (regular telephone cards can not be used to make international calls).
Japan has a number of companies that offer excellent luggage forwarding services - referred to as takuhaibin in Japanese. You can send your bags onwards to a hotel from any of Japan’s 17 airports. This is common practice in Japan so hotels will be more than happy to hold your bags until you arrive. If you are sending bags to an airport allow a little extra time to pick them up. Don’t forget to keep your receipt to prove which bags are yours!
You can send your bags from most convenience stores and some hotel lobbies. Use the Japanese addresses in your info-pack to help and ask the shop / hotel staff to fill out the forms for you.
The most widespread company is Yamato Transport, commonly known by the nickname kuroneko (black cat).
The weather is a favourite topic of conversation in Japan. This is unsurprising given the complexity of the climate in a country spanning 20 degrees of latitude.
From the harsh winters and mild summers of Hokkaido to the sub-tropical Okinawan climate there is a great variety in Japanese weather. Even in the same city both extremes of weather can be experienced in a year - Sapporo in Hokkaido can experience temperatures of -10°C in the winter but heat waves of 30°C in the summer are not a rare occurrence.
On the mainland, summer temperatures are generally between 20 - 30°C. In the early part of summer (mid-June to mid-July) there is a rainy season lasting a few weeks, this is however broken up by days of fine weather. Rains come again in late summer thanks to typhoons, although these usually blow over in a day.
Health and safety
Although Japan is a clean and relatively safe country it is always advisable to take out Travel Insurance for the duration of your stay.
Come to Japan in the summer or autumn and you will, unfortunately, meet some mosquitoes. You can buy various repellent sprays and creams cheaply in Japan or you may wish to bring some from home.
You can also get electric repellent devices for your room - however, most rooms have air-conditioning so the best thing is simply to shut the windows. If you think you will have a particularly bad reaction then it may be best to cover up, especially in the evenings.
Malaria is not endemic in Japan so there is no need to take any tablets.
How much money will I need in Japan?
Everybody spends a different amount when they visit. However, nearly everyone finds Japan a lot less expensive than they were expecting. Eating out is very reasonable and as food is one of the biggest expenses (and pleasures!) when travelling, this helps to keep costs down. Local transport, which is generally NOT included in our packages is also inexpensive, with the highest fare on the Tokyo subway being just 310 yen (around ï¿¡2/$3.) Entrance fees to shrines, temples and museums are also very reasonable, with most in the region of 200-500 yen. Occasionally you will need to pay as much as 1000 yen, but this is not the norm.
As a rough guide we recommend 80,000 yen per person (approximately ï¿¡570/ $900) as a good amount to cover basic costs on a 2-week trip. This should cover your meals, drinks, local transport and any entrance fees. What this won't cover are souvenirs and other purchases you may wish to make. Beer and drinks can add up very quickly so if you like a tipple of an evening you may need to budget a bit more.
Getting Money in Japan
Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at most major banks, larger hotels and some duty free shops. You may avoid some commission by using yen-denominated Travellers Cheques.
Please Note: When changing money in Japan you will get a significantly better rate if you exchange foreign currency traveller's cheques rather than foreign currency cash. For example, at Kansai Airport on 22nd March 2009 GBP traveller's cheques could be exchanged for ï¿¡1 = 136 yen whereas the rate for cash was only 126 yen.
The highest denomination note is the 10,000 yen note (Ichiman-en satsu in Japanese). Japan is still a cash based society and relatively safe, thus despite their high value you will see plenty of ichiman-en notes in circulation. The other notes are worth 5,000 yen, 2,000 yen (a newcomer - introduced in the year 2000) and 1000 yen (sen-en satsu).
As for coins, there are three silver coins: the 500 yen coin (not to be confused with a Korean coin of similar size but far less value), the 100 yen coin, and the 50 yen coin which has a hole through its centre. The 10 yen coin and 5 yen coin (again, with a hole in it) are both bronze, the almost worthless one yen coin is silver and weighs next to nothing.
Credit Cards: Credit cards and debit cards of the major issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, JCB, Diners) are becoming increasingly accepted in the major cities. However they are not used as much as in western countries. At a supermarket there may only be one till where you can pay with plastic and more often than not you will not be able to use a credit card. Avoid cash machines at banks as these do not normally accept foreign-issued cards. Instead use the Post Office cash machines or ATMs at branches of the Seven Eleven convenience store from which you will be able to take out money using Visa cards, Cirrus or Maestro. You will need a 4 digit PIN number to do this.
Is tipping expected in Japan?
For the most part there is no tipping in Japan; leave change behind on a restaurant table or at the cash register and you may find yourself chased down the road by staff desperate to return your 'lost property'. However, tipping is customary in a few instances. A tip properly given at these times will impress the recipient with your cultural awareness. Tipping is common when staying at a ryokan, (Japanese-style inn), in which meals are served in your room. The tip should be handed directly to the server or maid. 1000 yen in a small envelope is customary (up to 3000 when staying consecutive nights), although a small gift from one's country or another location in Japan is acceptable. You can try to let a taxi driver "keep the change" but you may find that the driver at first refuses the tip, and tries to hand it back to you; it may take a couple of goes to get him/her to take it! If you hire a driver for the day then a tip of 500-1000 yen is customary.
Police: dial 110
Fire / Ambulance: dial 119
You should be able to make yourself understood in simple English.
Japan Helpline: 0120 461 997 (for emergency advice in English 24hrs)