The yen(¥) is the Japanese currency. There are 4 types of notes and 6 different coins in circulation. The bills are in 10.000yen; 5000yen; and 1000yen denominations; and the coins are 1yen; 5yen; 10yen; 50yen; 100yen and 500yen. You can convert foreign currency at any bank; hotel or tourist facility that displays an "Authorized Money Exchanger" sign.
All major credit cards such as American Express; Visa; Mastercard and Diners Club are accepted at all major hotels; restaurants and tourist facilities. Japan is still a cash based society; so you need to be aware that quite a lot of small restaurants and shops don't take credit card; particularly outside of the big cities.
Only major tourist facilities and department stores accept traveler's checks. It is advised that you exchange them for yen at banks hotels and other exchange facilities.
Tipping is not customary in Japan; so do not feel obliged to.
Hotels and major restaurants will usually add a 10-15% service charge to your bill.
A jacket or sweater would be enough in the spring or autumn. Summer is hot and humid so you will only need light clothes.
In winter; a coat would be enough but if you are traveling in the north it is advisable to bring warmer clothes with you. Casual wear is suitable for sightseeing and a lot of restaurants.
Bring a pair of comfortable shoes if you plan on doing a lot of walking. Do not expect to be able to buy shoes here if you have a large foot. Bring along shoes that you can take off easily because you will need to take them off when entering temple and shrine buildings and some restaurants.
Make sure to pack any prescription medicines you need. Japan does have international standard medical services and facilities. Hotels can help you if you need urgent attention.
The electrical current is 100 volts in Japan. Furthermore the current in Eastern Japan(Tokyo/Kanto area/Tohoku/Hokkaido) is on 50 Hertz and Western Japan(Nagoya/Osaka/Kyoto/Shikoku/Kyushu)uses 60 Hertz. Japanese electrical plugs are the flat two-pin type.
There are two types of toilet. One is western style and the other one is Japanese squat style. Squat toilet is still common in public conveniences. Do not sit directly on Japanese style toilet bowl but squat down astride the bowl facing the hood. In the toilet cubical you should change your footwear to the slippers provided there. Most station public toilets do not have toilet paper and hand dryers. There is usually a vending machine at the entrance. It might be a good idea to bring along your own toilet paper and tissues. You will find packets of tissues handed out free as promotion useful for the toilets.
The number of non-smoking cars has increased over recent years on long distance trains. Smoking is prohibited on all short distance and commuter trains. All train stations are non-smoking with the exception of train cabin with designated smoking areas. All subway stations are non-smoking. The number of restaurants with non-smoking sections is increasing but they are still rare. Do not be surprised if you see a Japanese person light up in a non-smoking area especially if they are standing in front of a "No Smoking" sign.
Mobile Phone Manner
All trains and buses have announcements that ask passengers to be considerate of others when using their phones on the train. Some train companies actually ban the use of mobile phones on their trains. It is basically a matter of common courtesy not too talk too loudly when using a mobile phone in public.
You can find taxis all over Japan. It is only necessary to use one if you have large heavy suitcases to carry from the hotel to the station. In some remote areas taxis are the only reliable form of transport as buses do not run as regularly. The fares vary according to the taxi company. Empty taxis can be recognized by the red light in the front of their windshields on the passenger side. From 11pm to 5am a 20% surcharge is added. Most taxis only seat 4 people and only have room for 2 large suitcases in the boot. The left rear door is operated by the driver(None of the other doors are). Wait for the door to be opened for you to get in and out of the taxi. The driver will also close it for you. Do not forget to keep your fingers out of the door. Pay the exact fare when you have arrived at your destination and you do not need to tip.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008