Japan Travel Notes

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Australian Embassy in Japan

2-1-14 Mita, Minato-ku
TOKYO 108 8361
Telephone: (81 3) 5232 4111
Facsimile: (81 3) 5232 4057
Email: consular.tokyo@dfat.gov.au
www.australia.or.jp/en/ 

Smartraveller

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers.
www.smartraveller.gov.au

Entry Requirements for Japan

Like many other countries, Japan has now introduced heightened security measures.

All foreign nationals, including permanent residents of Japan, are now required to have their fingerprints electronically scanned and are photographed upon arrival in Japan. Refusal to provide fingerprints or be photographed is grounds for refusal of entry into Japan.

Time Zones

Japan is on Greenwich Mean Time +9 time, making them 1 hour behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and 2 hours behind during Australian daylight saving time.  There is no daylight saving time in Japan.

To obtain the current local time and date in cities and countries in all time zones.
www.worldtimeserver.com

Voltages and Plugs

Japan uses 100 volts. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarised pins, like North American plugs.  You cannot use appliances in Japan that are not suitable for dual voltage. If you intend to purchase electrical appliances in Japan for usage outside of Japan, you are advised to look for equipment specifically made for overseas tourists.
www.korjo.com/Adaptor-Guide

Currency

To obtain the most up-to-date exchange rate you may wish to visit
www.xe.com/currencyconverter

Japan’s currency is Yen. The symbol for the yen is ¥. The sub-unit of the yen is the sen, 100 sen = 1 yen, but sen are rarely seen.

Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Yen. The ¥5 and the ¥50 coins have holes in them.

Bank notes are available in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000 Yen.

Credit Cards and ATM machines

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are the easiest way to access your money in major cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto. ATMs are sporadically available in Japan; however, many do not accept foreign credit, debit or cash cards and their service hours are often restricted. Many ATMs operate only during banking hours, although some remain open until 18:00-20:00 on weekdays.

You can withdraw cash nationwide at ATMs of Japan Post Bank and Seven Bank. Citibank ATMs are also in service but the number of ATMs is limited.

The easiest way to find an ATM is at a 7-11 Convenience store; over 21,000 Seven Bank ATMs can be found in 7-11 stores throughout Japan. ATMs are open 24/7 at all 7-11 Convenience stores. Japan Post Bank also has about 26,400 ATMs nationwide. Most of them are located at Post Offices, but some of them are located at train stations and super markets. Service hours differ by ATM.

Please note that using a credit card in a growing number of foreign countries usually requires a new “chip-and-pin” credit card with an embedded microchip and an associated PIN number (the PIN is specific to each credit card). If you have questions about using your credit card in a foreign country, please contact your bank prior to departure from Australia. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Cash

Japan still operates largely on a cash basis, and it is not unusual to see Japanese walking round with large wads of Yen, although credit cards are becoming more popular.

International credit cards such as American Express, VISA, Diners Club and MasterCard are also acceptable at these major establishments. However, credit card transactions are not always convenient outside big cities so obtaining cash beforehand is recommended when you travel to the countryside.

Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaux and larger hotels, though you may get a better exchange rate at the ATMs.

Travelers Cheques are NO longer accepted.

Telephone & Communication

Mobile telephones

Japan’s mobile-phone networks use 3G (third generation) mobile-phone technology on a variety of frequencies. Thus, non-3G mobile phones cannot be used in Japan and most foreign mobile phones will not work in Japan. Furthermore, SIM cards are not commonly available in Japan. For those who want to use a mobile phone while in Japan, one straight-forward solution is to rent one. Several telecommunications companies in Japan specialise in short-term mobile-phone rentals.

You may also be able to use your Australian mobile phone and SIM card in Japan. Check with your local provider that your phone can switch on ‘Global Roaming’ and that your provider has coverage in the places you are visiting. Mobile phones can be very useful for SMSing  (especially if you get lost!). International calls are often expensive, as is checking your message bank as calls have to be routed through Australia. SMS services will also be more expensive. Please check roaming rates with your mobile telephone service provider.

Internet
Internet is widely available; there are many internet cafes in Tokyo and in the main cities in Japan. Most Tokyo hotels have Wi-Fi access. The new grey telephones have modular sockets for computer network access.

If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype or Vonage, which allows you to make free international calls between online computers and phones, and cheap international calls if you’re calling a normal phone number. Most cybercafes throughout the country will be using these programs already, complete with headset, microphone, and webcam.
www.skype.com    www.vonage.com

Business Hours in Japan

Banks   09.00-15.00 Monday to Friday
Post Offices   09.00-17.00 Monday to Friday
Shops   10.00 – 20.00 Monday to Sunday

Personal Safety

Japan generally has a low rate of crime. However, you should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.  Sporadic incidents of bag snatching have occurred. Exercise normal safety precautions and take care with your valuables.

  • We strongly recommend the use of a money belt to keep your cash, cards and travel documents safe. This should be kept under your clothes at all times. This is a precaution that should be taken anywhere due to the difficulties that can be experienced in trying to replace stolen items.
  • Take photocopies of all important documents (passport, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance) and keep one copy securely in your luggage and leave another copy at home.
  • It is generally helpful to take a business card from the hotel you are staying at. This can assist hugely if you get lost. If you also have a key card for your hotel, make sure you keep these two cards separate or you run the risk of allowing a thief access to your room
  • Take extra care in crowded places and try not to ‘advertise’ the fact that you may be carrying valuables by having something like an expensive camera over your shoulder. Put it in your bag or under your coat. And men, try to avoid keeping your wallet in your hip pocket.
What to Pack

Clothing (general)

The time of the year you visit this destination will dictate the type of clothing it is appropriate to bring. It would always be advisable to take a rain coat or a water proof windbreaker. For daytime activities, we suggest a wardrobe that is versatile, casual and comfortable. It is recommended that “layered” clothing might offer the best comfort in a variety of conditions. Always expect the weather to be changeable.

Beyond the normal wardrobe we suggest

  • comfortable walking shoes (very important)
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat
  • folding umbrella and/or light raincoat
  • ladies should have a scarf with them at all times in case it is required to cover shoulders or head when entering religious sites
  • prescription medicines for the full duration of your time away and a written copy of your prescriptions including what they are for, provided by your doctor
  • extra prescription eyeglasses (if required)

Medications

Japan has strict rules governing the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. Some medicines cannot be imported into Japan, including products containing pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) or Dexamphetamine (treats ADHD), while others may require permission or a certificate (Codeine) from the Japanese government.It is always good practice when carrying any prescribed medication to have a letter from the doctor explaining what it is and what it is required to treat.

Etiquette

Social Customs

Japanese manners and customs are vastly different from those of Western people. A strict code of behaviour and politeness is recognised and followed by almost all Japanese. However, they are aware of the difference between themselves and the West and therefore do not expect visitors to be familiar with all their customs (but do expect them to behave formally and politely).

Greeting and Communicating with Japanese People

Bowing is the customary greeting in Japan, but handshaking is also becoming more common. The honorific suffix san should be used when addressing all men and women; for instance Mr Yamada would be addressed as Yamada-san.

Please note if asking for directions, that the Japanese custom is always to help and to avoid saying ‘no’, and that Japanese people will try to assist, even if they are unsure of how to direct you.

Shoes

When, where, why, and how shoes are worn in Japan can be confusing. Generally, shoes are not worn in Japanese homes, temples, ryokan, and various other public places (including some restaurants). Follow the lead of locals and don’t panic! Your shoes won’t be stolen while you’re off touring a temple.

Photography

No attempt should be made to photograph anything remotely connected with the armed forces or in the vicinity of defence installations. Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask before photographing someone, they may try to obtain money from you.

Religion

Shintoism and Buddhism (most Japanese follow both religions, although religion does not play a major everyday role in most Japanese lives, with frequent temple visits being more usually attributed to tourism). There is a Christian minority, and in the island of Okinawa, some people believe in Niraikanai, a paradise that lies beyond the sea.

Clothing (Churches, Temples and Shrines)

Please note, shoes are not to be worn in Japanese temples and shrines.  Although ‘foreigners’ do not have to adhere to a strict dress rules, women should wear a head covering (ie a scarf) in active places of worship. Men must also remember to remove their hats in religious buildings. In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building, rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.

Useful websites

Japan National Tourism Organization
www.jnto.org.au/ 

Climate

We suggest that prior to departure you check the weather forecast for the most up-to-date information.
www.worldweatheronline.com

Average minimum/maximum Temperatures (˚C)

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Tokyo -1/10 0/11 3/14 8/20 13/24 18/27 22/31 23/32 19/28 13/22 6/17 1/12
Kyoto 0/7 0/8 3/11 8/17 13/22 18/26 22/30 24/32 20/27 13/22 7/16 3/10
Matsumoto -6/5 -5/7 -2/11 4/18 9/23 15/26 19/30 20/31 16/26 8/20 2/14 -3/8
Kanazawa 1/7 1/8 3/11 8/17 13/22 18/25 22/29 23/31 19/27 13/22 8/16 3/10