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Japan Overview

Geography

Japan is situated in northeastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan. The area of Japan is 377,944 square kilometers, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined or slightly smaller than California. Japan consists of 6,852 islands, including four of the large main islands.

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Language

There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many Japanese are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education.

Even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still certainly enjoy Japan. But if you know a few everyday Japanese phrases then it will make your trip even more memorable. A few words make a big difference

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Useful Japanese Phrases:
Japanese < > English
Ohayou gozaimasu Good morning Kon'nichiwa Good afternoon
Kon'banwa Good evening Oyasumi nasai Good night
Sayounara Good-bye Sumimasen Excuse me
Gomen nasai I am sorry Wakarimasen I don't understand
Arigatou Thank you Hai Yes
Iie No Doko desuka Where is ___?
Ikura desuka How much is ___? Oishii Delicious
Tanoshii Pleasing

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Basic Information

Visa Information

Any foreign visitor who wishes to enter Japan must have a passport, which will remain valid during the period of stay. In order to enter Japan, visitors usually must comply with the conditions of their visas and authorizations of resident eligibility. However, visa exemptions can be made for citizens of sixty-six different countries provided that their stays are within ninety days such as with stays for sightseeing purposes and that they do not engage in activities where they earn compensation.

Revisions in visa conditions are made periodically. Therefore, please check the “Visa” section in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website if the latest and detailed information on standard visas or visas other than for those for short stay programs is needed.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Climate

Japan has four distinct seasons. The climate can widely vary depending on the region you visit as the country is long from north to south. Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu have extra tropical climates, Hokkaido has subarctic climates, and the southern islands such as Okinawa have subtropical climates. For example, springtime skiing can be enjoyed in the northern areas between March and April, but sea bathing can be enjoyed during the same time of the year on the islands in the southwestern areas. Japan also has particular climactic events such as a rainy season and typhoons.

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Time Differences

All of Japan is in the same time zone, 9 hours ahead of G.M.T. No Daylight Saving Time is practiced in Japan.

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Money
  • Currency and Money Exchange
  • The currency of Japan is written "円". Its currency sign is "¥" and is written "Yen" or "JPY" in foreign characters. Consumption tax in Japan is 8%. Currently, whether indicated prices are tax-included or not is up to the store. Please ask the staff if the prices include tax or not before making your purchase if you would like to know how much you must spend.

  • Travelers Checks
  • Travelers Checks are accepted by leading banks, hotels, ryokan (Japanese inns) and stores in major cities.

  • Credit, Debit and Prepaid Cards
  • Credit, debit and prepaid cards of International brands are acceptable at wide variety of merchants. There will be instances where merchants may not display the card acceptance marks so do not hesitate to ask the salesperson if your card is accepted. You can use cards for Narita Express (JR) and Shinkansen (JR) fares; however, may not use them to pay for most of short distance train/subway fares. You can withdraw cash nationwide at ATMs in Japan Post Bank and in Seven Bank.

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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).

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Internet

In Japan, you will find many Wi-Fi signals which you can enjoy browsing the internet. Please note they often require a password for security reasons. (In an effort to prevent internet-related crimes, service providers are required to identify whom they are providing the services to. Some require long-term contracts which normally are limited to residents of Japan.)
Also, most accommodations are internet-ready, but you might sometimes find a wired internet connector in your room. In such case, please use a wireless travel router. If your budget allows, hiring a mobile hotspot device at the airport is another good option. You can use it in any areas the mobile covers.

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Emergency Info

Japan is known for its clean, safe urban areas and for the quality of its healthcare and public safety infrastructure. Still, as is the case with travel in any unfamiliar place, it always pays to exercise common sense, and to be familiar with the resources at your disposal should you experience problems or need assistance.

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