To know before you go

General

  • Make sure your passport is valid throughout your visit.
  • Make as many copies of your passport as you are using hotels and one extra. Hotels and apartments are required by law to have a photocopy of your passport. Having a photocopy at the ready will speed things up while checking in and also help you considerably in getting a new one if you happen to lose it. Also, never hand your passport over to anyone but a government official.
  • If you are not from the Netherlands or Belgium, please find out if you must obtain a visa beforehand to be allowed entry into Japan. If this is not the case, you can get the standard Landing Permit without a hitch.
  • European aviation law forbids you to carry a personal computer in your check-in luggage. It must be carried in your cabin luggage.
  • No need to bring an umbrella; these are sold there at ¥104 and up.

Electronics

  • Bringing your own appliances is not really necessary; a hair dryer is standard equipment in hotel rooms and apartments, and an iron can usually be rented at the desk of the Weekly Mansion apartment building and most business hotels if you need one. The only thing you might need is an electric razor (for those who shave dry), a charger for the batteries of your camera, MP3-player or similar device, and perhaps a laptop.
  • The power system in Japan is 100 volts, 50 or 60Hz AC with US-type sockets, but with different earthing. Modern lightweight AC adapters can handle 100-240V (check this before you go) and you need an adapter or cable without earthing for these,as three-pronged plugs are not used in Japan.
  • You can buy adapters, power converters and cables for any device in Japan’s electronics districts like Akihabara (Tokyo) or DenDen Town (Osaka) or any major electronics shop like Yodobashi Camera or Bic Camera

Clothing

  • Bring shoes you can easily slip in and out of; you will do that a lot in Japan. However, it’s also very important to have good quality walking shoes, as you will also be walking a lot as well. Please take our word for it.
  • They have washing machines in Japan too, you can make due with 5 to 7 day’s worth of clothing.
  • Use common sense in your clothing style: don’t wear potentially insulting or loud shirts. So no “I am looking for a Japanese girlfriend”, “Hentai and proud of it”, “Otaku” or other funny T-shirts.
  • Summers in Japan vary in temperature from warm (25° Celsius) to rather hot (40° Celsius). Make sure to bring light clothes and perhaps a light jacket with you (in case it gets a bit nippy) and maybe a second pair of shoes if you have sweaty feet. Especially in summer we urge our travellers to take a bath or shower at least once a day. Not only is this polite towards the people sitting next to you in public transport, but to your fellow travellers and room mates as well.
  • Winters in Japan range from 12° – 15° in the South to minus 5° – 20° in the north. Please take this in account when packing.

Medical: what to do when you get sick

  • Japan is a very safe country in terms of health, as it has high standards on health and hygiene. With no compulsory immunisations and no significant diseases you have to worry about, Japan is a country you can go to on a whim if you want.
  • In case you’re on medication; do you have enough to last the duration of your trip and some spare doses, in case you forget or lose one? We recommend you acquire a medicine passport and take prescriptions with you. Medicals passports are available through your physician or chemist. Make sure you know the generic name as well as the brand name of your medication for import purposes. Medication that might be common in Europe, might not at all be common in Japan. For example, contraceptive pills are sold on prescription only.
  • Some brands or types of cold medicine are illegal in Japan because of certain ingredients. When in doubt; don’t bring them.
  • While it’s safe to drink tap water, drinking water from streams or rivers needs to be avoided at all cost, due to possible parasites. It’s usually better to drink bottled water anyway, as tap water in Japan is most often high on chlorine and therefore doesn’t taste very nice. The alternative is to boil the water, but this is quite time-consuming and useless with one vending machine per six Japanese.
  • In case you do fall ill, and are travelling with us, inform the Shiranai Travel guides first. They will have a first aid kit and some pain relief available if you don’t have any. If your illness is more serious than a headache or pain in your left pinky nail, you should visit the local clinic. Operating hours are primarily limited to weekday mornings, but this may vary. Before you head off on your own, ask at the hotel’s reception or at the apartment front desk. Japanese doctors are usually able to understand some English too, but most of their documents are written in Japanese. If possible, ask if someone from the apartment or the hotel has time to accompany you to explain your illness. Also, make sure to bring your insurance policy.
  • If you’d rather make sure you get to a place where they speak English, when in Tokyo call the nearby Catholic hospital on: 03-3951-1111 This hospital is located in Shinjuku or you can try 03-5570-2288 for the Akasaka international clinic. In Oskaa you can call the Osaka Prefectural Government Medical Administration Division: 06-6941-0351. Or the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia 064395055 (8:00-17:00 Monday to Friday). In Fukuoka you can contact the Fukuoka City Hospital who have English speaking staff on call at: 092-632-1111 or the Kyushu medical center at 092-852-0700. Or again, in weekends or late at night, try to explain your trouble to the apartment or hotel staff. Also, do not forget to leave the Shiranai Travel staff a message!
  • The general emergency number is 119. You can call this from any phone for free. Please check in advance (if you can) the street name. Also state if you need and ambulance or a police car.
  • If you witness or just witnessed a crime, call 110 and try to explain what you saw to the police. This is also a toll free number.
  • Should you need to speak to the police without an emergency, you can call them on an English line between 9:30 and 16:30. The number to call are for Tokyo 03-3501-0110; for Osaka 06-6943-1234; for Fukuoka 092-733-2220.

Plane travel and luggage

  • For those who have never flown (intercontinental) before, there are certain rules you have to abide by, especially regarding cabin luggage and using on board equipment. Check with your favourite airport for tips and pointers for a comfortable and safe journey.
  • It might be obvious, but do not talk about bombs, hijacks and other nonsense at the airport. If you do, airport security will arrest you, check up on you, interrogate you and send you home with a hefty fine. In other words “end of vacation”; nothing we can do about that.
  • Make sure you switch off your mobile phone. PDA’s with a phone built in or smart phones usually have a Flight Mode. This switches the network transceiver off while the rest of the unit can be used for playing games, making notes, taking photos and so on. However, it’s up to the flight attendants to determine whether Flight Mode is allowed or that it needs to be turned off completely. A laptop, NDS and/or PSP are allowed aboard Japanese planes, but WiFi needs to be turned off. In a nut shell: no transmitters/tranceivers during flight, no electronics at all during take-off and landing.
  • The air inside the plane is conditioned and therefore very dry. Drink plenty of fluids as long as you’re thirsty and go easy on the alcohol. The air inside the plane can be cold as well; bringing a sweater might help on top of the blanket provided.
  • If nature calls during flight, it’s smart to go before the meal is served, since most passengers rush for the lavatories the second they finish their meal or their movie, or as the flight draws to an end.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for very long. Move around and perform some exercises to avoid thrombosis.
  • Most airlines are very strict on regulations; make sure that your luggage does not exceed the 18kg limit for your suitcase, and 10kg limit for cabin luggage, including a laptop. Maximum size for cabin luggage is usually 115cm/45”, using the L+W+H-equation. Ignoring these rules usually means paying extra. Lots and by the kilo.
  • Pack some extra clothing (some underwear and a shirt or two) in your cabin luggage so that you will have something to wear for a day in case your suitcase goes missing. You should put any valuable items in your cabin luggage as well. This goes double for medication.
  • Getting rid of the ear pressure can be done by swallowing and yawning, or try to open your mouth and move you lower jaw far to the left and right and exhale at the same time. Pressure is also relieved by chewing some gum or other food.

Luggage in general

  • It’s uncommon for the Japanese to travel through the country with large suitcases. As a result, coin lockers tend to be very small and are barely able to hold a back pack, let alone a large, heavy suitcase. Therefore travel light when possible while in Japan and bring a small back pack with you or buy one there; a small back pack can be had for around ¥1.000 and are sold by vendors at larger train stations and small shops in major cities.
  • It’s also possible to store your luggage at a depot, but again, these can only be found at larger or tourist destination stations.
  • While travelling by train with your suitcase, place it either at or next to an exit (normal trains) or behind the last set of chairs on the Shinkansen or other express trains. It is possible to ask for a seat at the back of the carriage. Please also inform train staff if you leave your suitcase or other luggage at a storage point in the train, else it may be removed from the train and destroyed.

Cash money and bank/credit cards

  • The currency in Japan is the Japanese yen (¥), available in coins of ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500; and in bills of ¥1.000, ¥2.000, ¥5.000 and ¥10.000. ¥100 equals approximately € 0,60 ~ 0,65.
  • Day to day business in Japan is based on cash money. Don’t be surprised to fi nd yourself carrying larger sums of and paying with cash money instead of using your bank- or credit card like you do at home.
  • Cash points usually close after 19:00 and the acceptance of foreign issued credit cards still leaves a lot to be desired. Make sure you carry enough money to make it to the next cash point. While there is crime in Japan, it’s safe to walk with large amounts of cash. Take the usual precautions regarding pickpockets and you’ll be fine.
  • Check if your bank card carries the Cirrus- or Maestro logo, and that it’s capable of withdrawing money in foreign countries. When in doubt, check with your bank whether your card can be used in Japan.
  • In case your bank has a tight withdrawal limit, we advise you to bring at least ¥50.000 in cash with you; this way you’ll be sure your first apartment and the trip from the airport can be paid, and you’ll have some spending money at the ready for a drink, dinner or a snack for a couple of days.
  • Dutch debit card holders can withdraw up to €500 worth in yen per day through a Citibank, 7/11 (15.000), Shinsei Bank or Postbank ATM at one of the 26.519 post offices throughout the country.
  • Credit cards are accepted by post office ATMs and those of Credit Saison Tokyo, Citi Bank and 7/11 Bank. They are accepted at most stores, however, withdrawals have to be made directly with the Credit card company and not with the store’s bank (ichi kara).

Insurance and valuables

You’ll never know when disaster strikes. While Japan may be a safe country to be in, it has seismic activity (earthquakes) and heavy weather during summer, there are people who may try to relieve you of your personal belongings and you may get in an accident or something. Make sure your insurance covers you in Japan as well as in your home country. It might cost you a few euro more, but you are able to travel without having to worry about your stuff. Also have the card and the number of your insurance company’s international help line at hand. Valuable items should be carried with you and not included in your checked baggage, as JAL is not liable in the event of damages or loss of these items, like: cash, jewelry, precious metals, securities, bills of exchange, documents, electronic data, passports and other personal identification, samples, credit/bank cards, cash vouchers, checks, commuter passes, keys, computers and accessories, mobile phones, cameras, medication, watches, mementos, etc. Shiranai Travel will be liable for any damage to fragile articles, although adequate precautions will be taken in their handling.

Dutch and Belgian representatives in Japan

Tokyo:

  • Nederlandse Ambassade, Consulaire Afdeling 3-6-3 Shiba-koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 Tel: 03-5401-0411; Fax: 03-5401-0420 e-mail: tok-ca@minbuza.nl Jurisdiction: Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaragi, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, Niigata, and Shizuoka Consulaire Afdeling: open van 9.00-12.00 Ma-Vr, of op afspraak www: https://www.oranda.or.jp/index/english/index.html
  • Ambassade van België Shiba Daimon Front Building 1-7-13 Shiba-koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 Tel: 03-5405-3372 or 03-5405-3360; Fax: 03-5405-3373 e-mail: tokyo@diplobel.be www: http://www.diplomatie.be/tokyonl

Osaka:

  • Consulaat Generaal in Osaka, Consulaire Afdeling Twin 21 MID Tower, 2-1-61 Shiromi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 540-6133 Tel: 06-6944-7272; Fax: 06-6944-7275 e-mail: osa@minbuza.nl Jurisdiction: Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa

Contacting relatives

Regular quad-band GSMs will NOT work in Japan. No really, they won’t. A phone with 3G with UMTS/WCDMA will usually do the job, but make sure you have a contract with a provider with a roaming agreement in Japan. Ask your provider to be sure. It’s also possible to rent a phone at the airport, but calling home will put a fair dent in your budget. Buying a pepaid phone is not possible anymore for tourists who are staying in Japan for less than 6 months. Let those who stay at home know where you are by giving them a print of the Shiranai Info Sheet, specially made for those who stay at home (Only for our travelers). Fear not! Giving your parents or loved ones a call can be done in several ways. Despite the huge amount of cell phones in Japan, there are still quite a lot of pay phones. International phones are usually gray or orange. Green phones can (usually) only call within Japan. If the phone doesn’t accept coins, a vending machine with cards is often close by. You can call with different operators from the same pay phones in Japan. To call internationally with the following operators, dial:

  • KDDI:001-010-countrycode-phonenumber
  • NTT: 0033-010-countrycode-phonenumber
  • Softbank: 0041-010-countrycode-phonenumber
  • Softbank IDC: 0061-010-countrycode-phonenumber

The country code for The Netherlands is 31; for Belgium it’s 32. The Japanese apartments and hotel we stay at provide free internet access; with this and a laptop, you can use software like Skype. Of course, there is also the possibility of using the phone in your apartment or hotel room, but these are usually quite expensive. When making a call, please keep the time difference in mind.