Japan Travel Tips

Japan Travel Tips

Business Hours:
Banks: Open Monday–Friday 09:00-15:00 Closed weekends& holidays
Post Offices: Open Monday–Friday 09:00-17:00 closed weekends& holidays. Some main post offices are open seven days a week.
Department Stores and shops: Open every day 10:00-20:00. Most department stores are closed for two to three weekdays per month.
Museums: Open every day 10:00-17:00. Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Business Offices: Open Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00 closed on weekends& holidays.

Currency:
Japanese currency is called Yen (¥). Banknotes come in denominations of¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000 and¥10,000 (¥2000 notes are very rarely seen).

Coins come in denominations of¥1,¥5,¥10,¥50,¥100 and¥500.

The¥1.00 coin is an aluminum lightweight coin, the¥5.00 and¥50.00 coins have a punched hole in the middle (the former is colored bronze and the latter silver).

Note that some vending machines do not accept older¥500 coins.
Currency Exchange/ ATMs

Cash or travellers checks can be exchanged for yen at an 'Authorized Foreign Exchange Bank' or at major post offices and some of the large hotels and stores but few other places.US dollars are preferred. Taiwanese or Korean currency is normally not accepted.

The majority of ATMs do not accept foreign-issued credit cards, although post offices ATMs are an exception. Look out for the Cirrus or Plus logos or check with your card company before departure.

Cash is still king in Japan, although the use of credit cards is pretty widespread in major cities for purchases in department stores and hotels. The Japanese are used to a very low crime rate and often carry wads of cash for the sacred ritual of cash payment. Foreign travellers can safely copy the cash habit, but should still take the usual precautions.

Customs Overview:
Duty Free Customs allowances include the usual tobacco products plus three 760ml bottles of alcoholic beverages, 57grams of perfume, gifts and souvenirs with a maximum value of¥200,000 or its equivalent. You must be over the age of 20 to qualify for these allowances.

There are no limits on the importation of foreign or Japanese currency. The export of foreign currency is also unlimited but there is a¥5,000,000.00 export limit for Japanese currency.

Dining Etiquette:
In certain venues, such as Izakaya or Chinese restaurants, it is common for all people at one table to order and share various dishes. On the other hand, at restaurants that serve set menus, bowl dishes (e.g. domburi or noodle soups) or Western style dishes, each person usually orders individually and eats one separate dish.

In most restaurants, you are supposed to bring your bill to the cashier near the exit when leaving in order to pay. Some restaurants, especially cheaper ones, have different systems for ordering and paying. At some stores, you may be required to pay right after ordering, while in others, you are supposed to buy meal tickets at a vending machine near the store's entrance and to hand them over to the staff in order to receive a meal.

In restaurants in Japan, it is not common to tip. When leaving, it is polite to say "Gochisosama deshita" ("thank you for the meal").

There is little tipping or bargaining in Japan. If you want to show your gratitude to someone, give them a gift rather than a tip.

Many meals are served sitting on the floor. The formal way of sitting for both genders is kneeling (seiza). People, who are not used to sitting in seiza style, may feel uncomfortable after a few minutes, and their legs may get numb. However, foreigners are not usually expected to be able to sit in seiza style for a long time, and an increasing number of Japanese people themselves aren't able to do so due to a more westernized lifestyle.

In casual situations, men usually sit cross-legged, while women sit on their knees laying both legs to one side. The former sitting style is considered exclusively male, while the latter is considered exclusively female.

  • Do your best to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
  • Don’t blow your nose in public, and especially at the table.
  • Don’t burp.

Chopsticks:

  • The proper usage of chopsticks is the most fundamental element of Japanese table manners. Some of the most important chopstick rules are:
  • Hold your chopsticks towards their end, and not in the middle or the front third.
  • When you are not using your chopsticks and when you are finished eating, lay them down in front of you with the tip to left.
  • Do not stick chopsticks into your food, especially not into rice. Only at funerals are chopsticks stuck into the rice that is put onto the altar.
  • Do not pass food with your chopsticks directly to somebody else's chopsticks. Only at funerals are the bones of the cremated body given in that way from person to person.
  • Do not spear food with your chopsticks.
  • Do not point with your chopsticks to something or somebody.
  • Do not move your chopsticks around in the air too much, nor play with them.
  • Do not move around plates or bowls with chopsticks.
  • To separate a piece of food into two pieces, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks while moving them apart from each other. This needs much exercise.
  • If you have already used your chopsticks, use the opposite end of your chopsticks in order to move food from a shared plate to your own plate.
  • When eating rice, take the rice bowl into one hand and the chopsticks into the other and lift it towards your mouth while eating. Do not pour soy sauce over rice.
  • Knife and fork are used for Western food only. Spoons are sometimes used to eat Japanese dishes that are difficult to eat with chopsticks, for example some donburi dishes or Japanese style curry rice. A Chinese style ceramic spoon is sometimes used to eat soups.

Drinking rules:

  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one's own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends' cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.
  • While it is considered bad manner to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.
  • Do not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, which usually is "kampai!"


Electricity:
The voltage used throughout Japan is uniformly 100 volts, A.C. There are two kinds of frequencies in use; 50 Hertz in eastern Japan and 60 Hertz in western Japan (including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka). A convertible type of electrical appliance such as a hair dryer, travel iron and shaver will therefore be handy; otherwise a step-down transformer is required to convert the voltage. There are no columnar-shaped plugs or 3-pin plugs used in Japan; 2-flat-pin plugs are used instead. It is therefore advised to purchase a plug adapter beforehand.

Hot Spring Bathing Etiquette:
Take off all your clothes in the changing room and place them into a basket together with your bath towel.

Japanese hot springs are enjoyed naked. Swimming suits are not allowed in most places. However, it is the custom to bring a small towel into the bathing area, so you can enhance your privacy while outside of the water. Once you enter the bath, keep the towel out of the water.

Before entering the bath, rinse your body with water from either a tap or the bath using a washbowl provided in the bathing area. Just rinsing your body is okay unless you are excessively dirty, in which case you want to use soap.

Enter the bath and soak for a while. Note that the bath water can be very hot. If it feels too hot, try to enter very slowly and move as little as possible. If it is still too hot, mix in some cold water, but only after consulting other bathers.

After soaking for a while, get out of the bath and wash your body with soap at a water tap, while sitting on a stool. Soap and shampoo are provided in some baths. Like in private Japanese bathrooms, make sure that no soap gets into the bath water. Tidy up your space after you finished cleaning your body.

Re-enter the bath and soak some more.

After you finished soaking, do not rinse your body with tap water; the minerals will need to soak into your skin to have the full effect.

Language:
Japanese is the official and by and large the only language spoken in Japan. Dialects are used in some areas like Kyoto and Osaka but standard Japanese (Tokyo speech) have become more popular with the advance of television, radio and cinema.

National Holidays:

  •  1 January - New Year's Day
  • The 2nd Monday of January - Coming Age of Day
  • 11 February- National Foundation Day
  • 21 March - Vernal Equinox Day
  • 29 April - Green Day
  • 3 May - Constitution Memorial Day
  • 4 May - National Holiday
  • 5 May - Children's Day
  • 20 July - Marine Day
  • The 3rd Monday of September - Respect for the Elderly Day
  • 23 September - Autumn Equinox Day
  • The 2nd Monday of October - Health and Sports Day
  • 3 November - National Cultural Day
  • 23 November - Labor Thanksgiving Day
  • 23 December - The Emperor's Birthday

During Japan's biggest holidays, most hotels are quite booked. These times include the New Year holiday from 29 December to 3 January, and Golden Week from 27 April to 6 May. Golden week includes Green Day, Constitution Day and Children's Day.

Time Zone:
GMT/UTC +9
Japan do not observe daylight saving time.

Visas:
US passport holders, most EU residents and visitors from Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa if staying in Japan less than 90 days. UK citizens may stay up to 180 days without a visa. A valid passport is required, with a minimum validity of 6 months. For more information on visas, visit the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html

Weather Overview:
Visiting Japan can be enjoyable in every season of the year. Spring and autumn bring temperate weather and colorful foliage and flowers. Wintertime is ideal for enjoying winter sports and hot springs, while summer brings a plethora of fascinating festivals.

Spring (March to May), with its clear skies and cherry blossoms, is probably the most celebrated Japanese season, but it's a holiday period for the Japanese and many of the more popular destinations tend to be flooded with tourists.

Autumn (September to November) is a great time to travel. The temperatures are pleasant and the autumn colors in the countryside are fantastic.

Winter (December to February) with the exception of Okinawa, can be bitterly cold, but great for winter sports.

Summer (June to August) is very hot and humid, although, it is a good time to visit northern Hokkaido and major tourist attractions as they are generally less crowded.