Basic Information

Climate

Winter (December - February)

The temperature rarely drops below 0°C in the plains along the Pacific coast during wintertime. It is also quite dry and very often sunny. Central Japan and Northern Japan are highly reputed regions for winter sports. Southern Japan is comparatively mild and pleasant in winter.
Clothing: overcoats, sweaters, etc.

Spring (March - May)

The plum blossom is a good sign that the cold winter will soon end and spring is just around the corner, followed by the cherry blossom at its best in the Tokyo area between the end of March and the beginning of April to bring this beautiful season to a climax. Splendid views of mountains, fields and gardens all blanketed in gentle pink abound in this season.
Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.

Summer (June - August)

The Japanese summer begins in June with a three to four week rainy season. This is an important time for farmers to plant rice. It becomes seriously hot and humid from July onward and many Japanese enjoy bathing in the sea and relaxing at cool resorts in mountainous areas. Summer is when many interesting festivals and other events are held all over the country.
Clothing: light clothes (cardigans and other similar kinds are handy, since indoors are mostly air-conditioned.)

Autumn (September - November)

Autumn always brings such freshness with a light breeze and cool temperature after the hot and humid summer. All forests are dyed in glorious autumn colors. Chrysanthemums create beautiful displays with their abundance of flowers to enchant visitors to parks and gardens. Autumn is also the season for many exhibitions, music concerts and sports tournaments in Japan.
Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.


Average Temperature & Precipitation in Major Cities:

 

Winter (Jan)

T(F)

T(C)

P(mm)

Spring (Apr)

T(F)

T(C)

P(mm)

Sapporo

25.5

-3.6

113.6

44.8

7.1

57

Sendai

34.9

1.6

37

50.5

10.3

98

Tokyo

43

6.1

52

58.2

14.6

125

Nagoya

40.1

4.5

48

57.9

14.4

125

Osaka

42.8

6.0

45

59.2

15.1

104

Fukuoka

43.8

6.6

68

59.2

15.1

117

Naha

62.6

17

107

70.5

21.4

166

 

Summer (Jul)

T(F)

T(C)

P(mm)

Autumn (Oct)

T(F)

T(C)

P(mm)

Sapporo

68.9

20.5

81

53.2

11.8

109

Sendai

72

22.2

179

59.4

15.2

122

Tokyo

77.7

25.4

154

65.3

18.5

198

Nagoya

79.5

26.4

204

64.6

18.1

128

Osaka

81.3

27.4

157

66.2

19

112

Fukuoka

80.9

27.2

278

66.5

19.2

74

Naha

84

28.9

141

77.4

25.2

153

 Key: "T" stands for temperature in (F) Fahrenheit and (C) Celsius.
Average of year 1981-2010


Geography

Japan is situated in northeastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan. The area of Japan is 377,873 square kilometers, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined or slightly smaller than California. Japan consists of four major islands, surrounded by more than 4,000 smaller islands.

Shown below are the four major islands, their locations and sizes.

Hokkaido (northern island)

83,000 square kilometers

Honshu (main island)

231,000 square kilometers

Shikoku (smallest island)

19,000 square kilometers

Kyushu (southern island)

42,000 square kilometers


Japan's topographical features include coastlines with varied scenery, towering mountains, which are very often volcanic and twisted valleys that invite visitors into the mysterious world of nature.


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.
Shown below is a list of time differences between Japan and other major international cities.

America

Sao Paulo

-12 hrs

Toronto

-14 hrs

New York

-14 hrs

Chicago

-15 hrs

Mexico City

-15 hrs

Los Angeles

-17 hrs

Asia & Oceania

Sydney

+1 hr

Seoul

0 hr

Hong Kong

-1 hr

Beijing

-1 hr

Singapore

-1 hr

Bangkok

-2 hrs

Jakarta

Delhi

-2 hrs

-3.5 hrs

Europe

Moscow

-6 hrs

Frankfurt

-8 hrs

Geneva

-8 hrs

Paris

-8 hrs

London

-9 hrs

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.

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

Business Hours & Holidays

Business Hours

 

Weekdays

Sat.

Sun. & National Holidays

Banks

09:00-15:00

closed

closed

Post Offices

09:00-17:00

closed

closed

Dept. Stores

10:00-20:00

10:00-20:00

10:00-19:30

Shops

10:00-20:00

10:00-20:00

10:00-20:00

Museum

10:00-17:0

10:00-17:00

10:00-17:00

Offices

09:00-17:00

closed

closed

Some main post offices are open seven days a week.
Most department stores are closed for two to three weekdays a month.
Most museums are closed on Mondays.

Population

Japan's population is over 126 million. Most Japanese reside in densely populated urban areas. Japan's capital city is Tokyo. The population of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area including the city, some of its suburbs and the surrounding area is approximately 12 million.

Major cities of Japan and their approximate populations

City

Population

Tokyo

12,059,000

Yokohama

3,426,000

Osaka

2,598,000

Nagoya

2,171,000

Sapporo

1,822,000

Kobe

1,493,000

Fukuoka

1,290,000

Sendai

1,008,000

National Holidays

Date

Name of the Day

January 1st

New Year's Holiday

The 2nd Monday of January

Coming-of-Age Day

February 11th

National Foundation Day

March 20th

Vernal Equinox Day

April 29th

Showa Day

May 3rd

Constitution Memorial Day

May 4th

Greenery Day

May 5th

Children's Day

The 3rd Monday of July

Maritime Day

The 3rd Monday of September

Respect for the Aged Day

September 23rd

Autumnal Equinox Day

The 2nd Monday of October

Health and Sports Day

November 3rd

Culture Day

November 23rd

Labor Thanksgiving Day

December 23rd

The Emperor's Birthday

Healthcare

Drinking water

Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Japan. Mineral water including major imported brands can be easily obtained from super markets, convenience stores and other similar places.

Hospitals

Medical systems and facilities in Japan are well established so that you can expect to receive a high standard medical treatment, should you have a problem with your health during your stay.

Inoculations

There are no inoculations required for entering Japan from anywhere around the world.

Electricity

konn.jpg

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-up transformer is required to convert the voltage.

There are no columnar-shaped plugs or 3-pin plugs used in Japan but 2-flat-pin plugs are used instead. It is therefore advised to purchase a plug adapter beforehand.


Money

Currency and Money Exchange

There is no limit on the amount of any currency that may be brought into or taken out of Japan. However, if you transport (any currencies, checks, securities or other monies) exceeding 1,000,000 yen worth in Japanese currency into or out of the country then you must complete a customs declaration.

mo1.jpgThe unit of Japanese currency is yen. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen and bank notes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen.

mo2.jpg



You can buy yen at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money exchangers. At the international airports, currency exchange counters are usually open during normal office hours. The exchange rate fluctuates daily depending on the money market.
World Currency Shop [MONEY EXCHANGE]

http://www.tokyo-card.co.jp/wcs/wcs-shop-e.php

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. Outside the major cities, cards not may be widely accepted. However, you can withdraw cash nationwide at ATMs in post offices and in 7-eleven stores.
 

For more details please check the URL below.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/atm.html

ATMs

You can withdraw cash using your international brand credit, debit, prepaid and cash cards nationwide at ATMs of Japan Post Bank and Seven Bank. Citibank ATMs are also in service but number of ATMs is very limited with most of their ATMs located in major international airports and in their branch offices. Please note that no other Japanese banks currently accept international transactions. To find ATMs near your destination, Visa provides an ATM locator on their website which you can use to locate ATMs by your nearest subway/train station.
Notice:Certain Maestro cards with IC chips are able to make withdraw only at AEON Bank's ATMs (not Japan Post Bank ATMs and Seven Bank ATMs).
Please refer to the URL below for more details.

http://www.mastercard.co.jp/personal/atm-notification.html 

Visa-ATM Locator

http://www.visa.co.jp/visitjapan/atm-locator/

Japan Post Bank ATMs

Japan Post Bank has about 26,400 ATMs nationwide. Most of them are located within the Post Offices but some of them are located at train stations and super markets. Service hours differ by ATM. The service is available in English.
Yucho(Japan Post Bank)-International ATM Service

http://www.jp-bank.japanpost.jp/en/ias/en_ias_index.html

Seven Bank ATMs

Seven Bank has over 16,828 ATMs (May 2011) at 7-Eleven Convenience stores nationwide and other places. The service (both screens and sounds) is available in English, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Portuguese.
Seven Bank to Resume ATM Services for Overseas-IssuedMasterCard®Brand Cards

(As of Dec. 16, 2013)

http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/english/ir/pdf/2013/20131216_E1.pdf 

International card brands accepted at Seven Bank

http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/card2.html

Service hours

http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/card2.html#service

Instructions for using Seven Bank ATMs

http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/service2.html

Telephone & Postal Services

Telephone

Domestic Calls

Public telephones accept 10 yen and 100 yen coins and/or telephone cards. A local call (within Tokyo's central 23 Wards and some other metropolitan cities) costs 10 yen per minute. If you put in two 10-yen coins and speak for less than one minute, one of the coins will be returned to you. No change is given for partial use of a 100 yen coin. Prepaid telephone cards cost 1,000 yen from vending machines, kiosks at train stations, and convenience stores. Charges for inter-city calls vary according to the distance. Domestic calls are cheaper at night and on Saturday, Sunday & national holidays.

Area Code
Telephone numbers in Japan consist of an area code and a phone number (Exchange Number + Subscriber's Number). For example: (03) 1234-5678.

Sapporo

011

Osaka

06

Sendai

022

Kobe

078

Tokyo

03

Hiroshima

082

Yokohama

045

Fukuoka

092

Nagoya

052

Naha

098

Kyoto

075

 

International Calls

Direct Calls
A direct overseas call can be made from a public telephone displaying an International and Domestic Telephone sign. These phones are not widespread, but can be found at airports, hotels, and other key facilities. Direct dial calls can be made via a telephone company using the company's access number.

Credit Card Calls
A credit card call can be made from a telephone with an International and Domestic Telephone sign. Insert a 100 yen coin (returned when you finish the call) and input an access number. The telecom business is fiercely competitive and so rates and systems change often.


Companies

SoftBank Telecom / http://tm.softbank.jp/english/personal/

KDDI / http://www.001.kddi.com/en/

Access and Inquiry Numbers

Direct dial

Credit card

Collect & operator-assisted

Inquiries

KDDI

001-010

0055

0051

0057

  SoftBank Telecom

0061-010

0043

-

(0120)-030061

NTT Communications

0033-010

0034-112

-

(0120)-505506

Mobile Phones

You can use your mobile phone in Japan in SoftBank Mobile or DOCOMO's 3G (3rd Generation) service area. All you have to do is bring your own SIM card and insert it to a rental phone or your own 3G handset.
For more details, please check with your local mobile phone service provider. Rental phone service is also available upon arrival at Narita Airport or Kansai Airport. For further information please contact any of the following companies.

G-Call:Services for Visitors from Abroad
JAL ABC RENTAL PHONE
PuPuru(Japanese Mobile Phone Rentals)
http://www.pupuru.com/

NTT DoCoMo International Roaming Center
TEL: 03-3830-1453 or toll free 0120-654-100
SoftBank Global Rental
Toll Free Numbers

Telephone numbers starting with 0120 are receiver-paid calls under NTT's Free Dial 0120 service. For Japan Telecom, the toll-free numbers begin with 0088, but calling areas are sometimes limited. Toll free numbers can not be called from outside Japan.


Facsimile and Computer Networking

Facsimile machines are available at most hotels. Ask the front desk or go to the hotel's business service center. Some hotel phones and the new gray telephones have modular sockets for computer network access

Any foreign visitor who wishes to enter Japan must have a passport, which will remain valid during the period of stay.

Nationals of many countries are eligible to enter Japan without a visa unless the purpose of the visit is to reside in Japan, to obtain employment or to otherwise engage in remunerative activities.

The following is a list of nationals of countries that have "Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements" with Japan:

For a period of 90 days or less

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria(*7), Bahamas, Barbados(*6), Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany(*7), Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong(*3), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland(*7), Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lesotho(*6), Liechtenstein(*7), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao(*4), Malaysia(*1), Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia(*2), Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Surinam, Sweden, Switzerland(*7), Taiwan(*5), Tunisia, Turkey(*6), United Kingdom(*7), United States and Uruguay

For a period of 15 days or less

Thailand(*2) and Brunei

(*1) For nationals of Malaysia (since July 1, 2013), visas are not required only for holders of ePassport in compliance with ICAO standards. Those who do not hold such ePassport are advised to obtain a visa in advance, otherwise will be strictly examined and may be refused entry to Japan.
(*2)
 For nationals of Thailand (since July 1, 2013) and Serbia (since May 1, 2013), visas are not required only for holders of ePassport in compliance with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards.
(*3)
 For citizens of Hong Kong, visas are not required only for holders of Special Administrative Region (SAR) passport issued by the Hong Kong SAR of the People's Republic of China or British National Overseas (BNO) passports who have the right of residence in Hong Kong.
(*4)
 For citizens of Macao, visas are not required only for holders of SAR passport issued by the Macao SAR of the People's Republic of China.
(*5)
 For citizens of Taiwan, visas are not required only for holders of Taiwan passport which includes a personal identification number.
(*6)
 For nationals of Barbados (since April 1, 2010), Turkey (since April 1, 2011) and Lesotho (since April 1, 2010), visas are not required only for holders of Machine-Readable Passport (MRP) or ePassport in compliance with ICAO standards. Those who do not hold an MRP or ePassport are advised to obtain a visa in advance, otherwise will be strictly examined and may be refused entry to Japan.
(*7)
 For nationals of those countries with visa exemptions permitting stays of up to 6 months under the bilateral visa exemption arrangements, those who wish to stay in Japan for more than 90 days are required to apply for an extension of the period of stay to the Ministry of Justice (Regional Immigration Bureau) before the period of permitted stay is to expire.
(*8)
 Nationals of Peru (since July 15, 1995) and Colombia (since February 1, 2004), are advised to obtain a visa in advance, otherwise will be strictly examined and may be refused entry to Japan.

Nationals of countries that do not have "Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements" with Japan must obtain a visa.

A "Temporary Visitor's Visa" is usually required as permission to stay in Japan for a period of up to 90 days for non-remunerative activities such as sightseeing, participating in amateur sports, visiting relatives, taking inspection tours, participating in lectures or research, attending conferences, making business contacts or other similar activities.

Needless to say, the "Temporary Visitor's Visa" cannot be used for any remunerative purposes, which involve profit making or payment acceptance within Japan by the visitor.

To apply for a visa, please check the following link:
External: http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/short/pdfs/procedure.pdf

As the type of documents required for the application may differ according to the purpose of your visit, the applicant is advised to check with the Japanese Embassy or consulate beforehand.

The Police Box ("Koban") System

To report a crime, accident, or other emergency, dial '110' from any telephone. In Tokyo, an English-language line to the Metropolitan Police is available from Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., at 03-3501-0110.

Your best resource for contacting the police, getting directions if you are lost, or for reporting a lost or stolen item, is your nearest "Koban", or police box. This network of mini police stations is unique to Japan, and they can be found in virtually every neighborhood throughout the country, there are over 1200 Koban in Tokyo alone. While not all Koban are staffed 24 hours a day, most of the police boxes located in heavily populated areas will have an officer on duty. In the most popular tourist areas, Ginza, or Shinjuku, for example, there may be someone who can help you in English, and they may have forms and other documents available in English as well.

Look for the KOBAN sign, with its distinctive red light, whenever you need police help with:

·         Reporting a loss, theft, or other crime

·         Reporting an automobile accident

·         Directions to businesses and attractions

·         Other emergency-related questions

If you are unable to find a police box, ask at your hotel or other local business, most people will know where the nearest one is located in their neighborhood.


Accident, Theft, or Other Emergency

In an emergency, your country's embassy is often a good first point of contact. If you lose your passport, you will need to contact your embassy to arrange a replacement (always carry a copy of your passport in your luggage and separate from your other documents; keep a copy at home, as well, in case your luggage is lost or stolen). While embassy staff are limited in the other services they can provide, and are required to follow local laws at all times, they may have other information and resources to offer the traveler in need. The link below provides a list of all major embassies located in Japan, along with their addresses and phone numbers.

Foreign Embassies in Japan

If you should lose your credit card, traveler's checks, or your airline ticket, contact the issuers directly to arrange for replacements. We recommend that you keep a list of toll free numbers for the issuers of your cards and tickets separate from those items themselves, but if you have not done so, here are links to contact information for major credit card companies and airlines with offices in Japan.

Credit Card Companies
Traveler's Checks
Major Airlines

Theft, car accidents, and other emergencies can occur anywhere, and can happen to even the most careful traveler. If the incident occurred in your hotel, you should contact the front desk manager or concierge first, and they can help you take the necessary steps. If you are in your hotel during an earthquake or other natural disaster, again, follow the instructions of the hotel staff to assure your safety. In other cases, you may need to report the incident to the local police; the pages below give further information and advice on dealing with theft, accidents, and other emergencies.

Theft
Automobile Accidents
Emergency Numbers and Other Information


App "Safety Tips" for Earthquake and Tsunami Early Warning

Earthquake Early Warning and Tsunami Warning---"Safety tips," a push-enabled information alert app for foreign tourists

Japan is prone to frequent natural disasters. In order to keep your safety, Japan Tourism Agency offers "Safety tips," a push-enabled information alert app for foreign tourists.
.(1) Overview of the app
"Safety tips" is a push-enabled app for Earthquake Early Warning and Tsunami Warning within Japan. It is provided in English. The app offers various functions useful for both foreign tourists and residents in Japan. Evacuation flowchart shows actions to be taken in the state of emergency; Communication Card helps you to communicate with people around; Website Links shares helpful information in the state of disaster.

If You Become Ill

Medical emergencies in a foreign country can be a frightening experience. Fortunately, Japan has an advanced medical services infrastructure, and in most urban areas you will be able to find a major hospital or clinic with at least some ability to communicate with you in English. Travelers with pre-existing conditions are strongly encouraged to carry copies of any prescriptions, along with enough medicine, if any, for the duration of your stay. All visitors should also carry proof of medical insurance, either private or public, as well as a list of any medications or substances to which you have a known allergy, along with a notation of your blood type.

In Japan, common over-the-counter drugs and prescription medicines are available only at drug stores, most of which have a pharmacist on duty, and not at convenience stores or supermarkets. You are generally permitted to bring into the country such over-the-counter and prescription medications as are generally available overseas, in quantities sufficient for personal use (there are some restrictions on medications containing stimulants, even if available over-the-counter elsewhere. See the Japan Customs information page for more information). The strength and composition of common drugs, including pain relievers and cold remedies, may differ from standards in your home country; consult with a pharmacist on duty, or a doctor if you are visiting one.

Japan has no requirements for pre-travel inoculation against known diseases, however, if you are arriving from a country where there is a threat of avian flu (so-called "bird flu"), SARS, or other epidemic disease, you may be asked to visit the Health Office at the airport upon your arrival.

Many large hotels have access to on-call medical services; some may have an in-house doctor or clinic?inquire at the front desk. If your illness requires hospitalization or other more advanced care, there are facilities around the country prepared to handle the foreign visitor. Below is a link to a list of such facilities.

Medical Facilities with English or other language-Speaking Staff

If you are unable to immediately contact English-speaking services, this link below provides some common phrases you can use to communicate with Japanese-speaking staff. In Japan, ambulance services are provided by the fire department; dial '119' from any phone to request an ambulance.

Common Phrases for Medical Emergencies

Some medical information is also available for visitors to Japan via telephone, with service provided in English and in many other languages.

The AMDA International Medical Information Center

The AMDA International Medical Information Center provides telephone services to foreigners in Japan in several languages. They can provide introductions to medical facilities with staff who speak the patient's language, and also explain the health care system to callers.

Tel: Tokyo 050-3598-7574(office)
Tel: Tokyo 03-5285-8088(consultation)
Tel: Osaka 06-4395-0555
Tel: Machida 042-799-3759

For the Disabled Traveler

At major train stations, airports, and hotels, as well as in most newer shopping centers and theaters in the city, the disabled traveler or wheelchair user should have little trouble in getting from place to place. About 35% of Japan's train stations are completely accessible, and work continues to improve accessibility at other public facilities, including the installation of elevators, wheelchair ramps, and other accommodations. Barrier-free toilets are now available in about half of all train stations, and you will also find them in most newer buildings. Most major urban hotels will also have wheelchair accessible rooms and public areas, though smaller "business hotels" and more traditional Japanese-style inns may not be accessible. If you have special needs, always check with your travel agent or directly with the facility before making your reservations.


Other Information

Festival(Matsuri祭り)

Gion Matsuri(Kyoto)

Gorgeous floats, sometimes called 'mobile art museums,' parade down the main streets of Kyoto.

The Gion Matsuri, familiarly known as 'Gion-san,' is a festival held at Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and the highlight is the splendid pageant of some 30 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th. Each float, two-storied and about 6 meters tall, is topped with a long pole shaped like a spear. Adorned with exquisite craftwork such as woven fabric, dyed textiles and sculptures, these floats are so gorgeous that they are sometimes even described as 'mobile art museums.'

During the parade, children wearing make-up and musicians playing the flute, drums and bells are seated on the second level of the floats. Some floats have dolls propped up on the second level. This festival is believed to have started 1,100 years ago when floats were made and paraded in the town to appease the deity of plague and illnesses.As charged seating is also available, you should inquire at the Kyoto City Tourist Association (http://www.kyokanko.or.jp) as early as possible. Moreover, between the 14th and 16th, the Yoiyama festival is held at night preceding the main attraction on the 17th. Floats displayed in the town are lit up with dozens of lights, and the festive music known as Gion-bayashi can be heard almost everywhere in the town streets. During the festival period, people go and visit each of the floats, where they can buy omamori (good luck charms) made from sasa bamboo grass for warding off evils.Although only limited to the Yoiyama days, the local residents open their homes to the public, exhibiting their valuable art collections, a customary event known as the Byobu Matsuri or the 'Folding Screen Festival.' This is a precious opportunity to actually visit and observe traditional Japanese residences of Kyoto. Please remember, however, that this is not a visit to an art museum, so be sure to observe etiquette when visiting the homes of its citizens.

Kanda Matsuri(Tokyo)

100 portable shrines gather for this festival and a procession of 300 people parades through the streets of Tokyo.

One of the most famous festivals of Tokyo, Kanda Matsuri is also ranked among the three largest festivals of Japan. Protected by the Shogun during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and permitted to enter the grounds of Edo Castle where he lived, it also came to be called 'Tenka Matsuri'('Tenka' meaning Shogun). The main festival is conducted in years ending in odd numbers according to the Western calendar, and the festivals held in even-numbered years are much smaller in scale. The rule to change the scale of the festival in alternate years was determined by the Shogun in the Edo Period, for the festivals then were so extravagant.

The main attraction well worth viewing in odd-numbered years is the parade on the Saturday, when some 300 people march through central Tokyo districts such as Kanda, Nihombashi, Otemachi, Marunouchi, and so on. In addition to the portable shrines with a phoenix decorated on the roof there are all kinds of floats, and Shinto priests mounted on horseback line up in rows, producing a spectacular sight. On the Sunday, almost 100 small and large portable shrines gather from each quarter. Recommended souvenirs are T-shirts printed with pictures of the festival scene, fans, towels, etc.

Kanda, the venue of the festival, was formerly the central quarter of Edo (present-day Tokyo) back in the Edo Period. And those born and bred in Kanda were called 'Edokko.' Eddokos are considered to be very high-spirited, and their characteristics are reflected in the Kanda Matsuri which is a jovial festival brimming with energy. The Kanda Myojin Museum, which is open to the public on weekends and on national holidays, has a diorama of the Kanda Matsuri and also displays models of floats. If you wish to find out more about the festival, you should visit this museum.


Eating and Drinking Etiquette

How to Eat

If you are not familiar with how to use chopsticks then dining at Japanese or other Asian cuisine restaurants may present a challenge at first. But once you have mastered them then eating with this simple instrument is a genuine pleasure.

Except in Chinese restaurants that provide plastic chopsticks, you eat with wooden chopsticks that come in a paper wrapper. Take them out, split them in half, and hold the two halves in one hand with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, as if holding two pencils. Then let the middle finger slip between the two sticks. One stick will rest between the forefinger and middle finger, the other between the middle and ring fingers. Watch how other people manipulate the sticks to figure out how to pick up pieces of food correctly.

To deal with soup, pick up the small bowl with one hand and sip from the edge of the bowl. You can dip your chopsticks into the soup to pick up small chunks of bean curd or thin slices of seaweed.

Noodles served on a wooden tray are simply picked up in bite-size portions. If served in a hot broth, alternate between picking them up and lifting the bowl to sip the broth. Slurping is a sign of a good appetite and eating with pleasure, and is in this instance, perfectly acceptable.


Drinking Etiquette

In cozy and friendly Japanese-style bars, customers often pour drinks for each other from bottles of beer as a gesture of companionship. If you are a fellow beer drinker, reciprocate with your own bottle. A whiskey drinker may invite you to drink from his bottle and fix a drink for you. In this case, you need not reciprocate unless you have your own bottle. (Many of these bars have a bottle-keep system for regular patrons who buy a bottle from time to time as it is less expensive than paying for single drinks over the long run.)

If with a group, do not begin to drink until everyone is served. Glasses are raised in the traditional salute as everyone shouts Kampai! (Cheers!)

If you drink sake, and someone offers a drink from his carafe, drink what remains in your cup before holding it out. In this case, too, reciprocate. But don't let it get out of hand. Pouring sake for each other at high speed can get you drunk much faster than you might imagine.

Excessive drinking is frowned on. But it happens. Rely on the bartender if someone close to you gets too boisterous.

Japanese students have three years of English-language studies in middle (junior-high) school. Many go on to become good or even fluent English conversationalists. You are likely to come across them in bars that cater to business people who work at general trading houses or other companies with international business dealings. Even small talk in broken English, with the aid of body language, can make the evening all the more enjoyable. Don't hesitate to jump in.

Japanese sake (rice wine) goes extremely well with a variety of Japanese dishes. Brewed with rice and water, sake has been a Japanese alcoholic beverage since ancient times. Because it can be drunk warmed up in winter it warms the body. When drunk chilled, good sake has a taste similar to fine-quality wine. There are local sake breweries in every region across the country, which make their respective characteristic tastes based on the quality of rice and water as well as differences in brewing processes.

Traditional Dishes of Japan

Once known in the west either in the form of "sukiyaki" or the more exotic "sushi," Japanese cuisine has in recent years become much more familiar and appreciated around the world. Many visitors to Japan will have already sampled the pleasures of raw fish or batter-fried shrimp. But few first-time visitors to Japan are prepared for the variety and sumptuousness of Japanese food, as it is traditionally prepared. Eating in Japan is an experience to be enjoyed and remembered fondly for the rest of your life.

Sushi

Yakitori(Japanese Style Chicken Kebab)

Sushi is a small piece Of raw seafood placed on a ball of vinegared rice. The most common ingredients are tuna, squid and prawns. Cucumber pickled radish and sweet egg omeletare also served. Yakitori is made up of small pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over hot coals.

Tempura(Japanese Style Pakora)

KaisekiRyori

Tempura is food deep- fried in vegetable oil after being coated with a mixture of egg, water and wheat flour.Among the ingredients used are prawns,fish in season and vegetables. Kaiseki ryori is regarded as Japan's most exquisite culinary refinement.Consisting mainly of vegetables and fish with a seasoning base of seaweed and mushrooms, the dishes are characterized by their refined savor.

Soba and Udon

Soba and udon are two kinds of Japanese noodles. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and udon from wheat flour. They are served either in a broth or dipped in sauce and are available in hundreds of delicious variations.

 

Japan Rail Pass

JAPAN RAIL PASS... The Key To Convenient Sightseeing In Japan.

The JAPAN RAIL PASS is offered by the six companies that make up
the Japan Railways Group (JR Group).

The JAPAN RAIL PASS offers an incredibly economical way to travel throughout Japan by rail. Please be aware, however, that some restrictions apply.The pass is not valid for "NOZOMI" and "MIZUHO" trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
October 21, 2010 The JAPAN RAIL PASS can now be used for the Tokyo monorail.

JAPAN RAIL PASS types and prices

There are two types of JAPAN RAIL PASS: Green (for superior-class Green cars), and Ordinary. Each of these types is available as a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day PASS.See "JAPAN RAIL PASS validity", for services that can be used with a JAPAN RAIL PASS.

■Prices of Exchange Orders (as of September 1, 2014)

Type:

Green

Ordinary

Duration

Adult

Child

Adult

Child

7-day

38,880 YEN

19,440 YEN

29,110 YEN

14,550 YEN

14-day

62,950 YEN

31,470 YEN

46,390 YEN

23,190 YEN

21-day

81,870 YEN

40,930 YEN

59,350 YEN

29,670 YEN


The above are yen ( ¥or円) prices for a JAPAN RAIL PASS Exchange Order; the actual cost in local currency is calculated based on the Banker's selling Rate (BSR) ,etc., at the time the Exchange Order is issued. Note that the purchase exchange rate may differ from the exchange rate in effect when you actually visit Japan.
The local currency price, applicable exchange rate, and issue date for an Exchange Order are specified on the Exchange Order itself. Children who are age 6 through 11 as of the date on which the exchange order is issued are eligible for child PASS prices. Prices are subject to change. The applicable price is the price valid on the date when an Exchange Order is issued. 
*Prices shown are accurate as of September 2014. Prices are subject to change. Please see the JAPAN RAIL PASS website for more information.

Tokyo Rail Way & Sub Way MAP


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Osaka Rail Way & Sub Way MAP


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Kyoto Rail Way & Sub Way MAP


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