Facts for the Visitor

US citizen: No visa required, visitors permitted to stay 3 months.
Japanese citizen: Not applicable.

Language Skills Needed
Although its possible to get by on English alone in Tokyo and a few other major cities, little English is spoken elsewhere. Since many Japanese study written English in school, questions in simple text are normally better understood than verbal communication. Signs and directions are regularly posted in Japanese. Find a Japanese map and compare the characters to the posted signs to get around independently.

Cash Machines
Only Citibank cash machines are connected to the Plus and Cirrus networks. There is one in the Narita Airport lobby after exiting customs. In Tokyo, there are few Citibank machines. Outside major cities there are none. The easiest way to find them is on the Citibank web site. Since Japan is a cash-based society (credit cards are not widely accepted) and costs are high, withdraw the equivalent of US$500 to US$1000 whenever you find a Citibank machine. Theft of your money in Japan is highly improbable.

US$ 1 = ¥ 118.9 on September 14, 2001.

100V, 50~60Hz. Plugs have 2 flat pins like the US.

International Certificates of Vaccination are not required.

Tipping is never required nor expected. Don't try to tip anywhere. It'll just create confusion.

Accommodation in Japan ranges between traditional tatami rooms to western-style hotels; from pricey to very expensive.
Traditional A traditional-style room generally has a tatami floor, sliding wood and paper-screen doors, low tea table, and futons for sleeping. Prices are per-person, always include breakfast and often include dinner. There are 2 types of traditional accommodation.
  Ryokan More expensive, better service, unbelievable Japanese meals, and a spacious and relaxing common bath (ofuro) or hot springs (onsen). Prices are about ¥15,000 per person per night and up.
  Minshuku Less expensive, generally owned and operated by a family, very good service, excellent meals, and a small common bath (ofuro). Prices are about ¥7000 per person per night and up.
Western Anything that isn't traditional Japanese fits into the "Western" category even though the room may vary from a Westerner's expectation.
  Hotel Most hotel rooms have a bed, private bathroom, TV, and telephone. Room sizes range from 2 meter by 3 meter singles to spacious doubles. Meals are not included. Prices are for the room, not per person. Tiny singles are ¥10,000 and up. More spacious doubles are ¥17,000 and up.
  Capsule Hotel The cheapest clean urban overnight is in a capsule (kind of like a cadaver storage at a morgue). Prices are ¥3500 and up.
  Love Hotel If the cheaper hotels are full, find a brightly lit Love Hotel. Rooms often have themes and are charged by the hour. Contrary to the clientele one might expect, many guests are business men with long commutes needing a few hours sleep between leaving work late and the next morning, and married couples with kids and tiny apartments.
  Mountain Huts Mountain huts and lodges range from adequate to excellent. All serve breakfast and some serve lunch and dinner also. The availability of running water depends on the hut's location. Sleeping is on a futon and normally very cramped. Carry a light sleeping bag if staying at huts at high elevation. Prices are per-person. All huts in the Kimikochi area charge ¥8500 per person with dinner and breakfast.

Public Telephones
There are 2 types of public telephone pre-paid cards: NTT and IC. IC phones are clearly marked and are often orange. NTT phones are usually gray or green. The gray NTT phones have an English instruction option and are equipped with an ISDN and analog RJ11 jack for laptop computer connection. Telephone cards come in ¥500 (50 unit) and ¥1000 (105 unit) denominations. They can be purchased at any train station kiosk, souvenir shop, or mini-mart. Directory assistance is number 104 and costs ¥100 (10 telephone card units) per number.

Few Internet Cafés can be found in Tokyo. None can be found in the country side. The easiest way to find an Internet Café in Tokyo is to ask at the police box at any major train station. The police will gladly show a map and explain how to get there.

The train and bus networks throughout Japan are excellent. Just bumming around Tokyo, expect train fare to cost between ¥1500 to ¥2000 per day. Free train and subway mini-maps are available at the station master's office next to the ticket gates at every station. The maps are in Japanese and provide you with the routes and station names in Japanese characters that you can compare to route maps on the train platform and in the train cars. The bus network is very difficult to navigate for non-Japanese speakers. A few train and subway conveniences to mention:
Kaisu-ken If traveling the same route multiple times, consider buying a booklet of 11 Kaisu-ken for the price of 10 fares. Kaisu-ken are valid between 2 stations for an unlimited period of time. Purchase them at the purple-colored ticket vending machines. At these same machines, 14 Off-Peak Kaisu-ken can also be purchased for the price of 10 fares, but they can only be used between 10:00-16:00.
iO Card iO Cards can be used in the JR (Japan Rail) network only. They come in ¥1000, ¥3000, and ¥5000 denominations. No discounts are given. The advantage is that the iO Card, like a telephone card, can be used at JR ticket gates in place of a ticket. The entry and exit points are recorded and the appropriate amount is deducted from the card. This avoids lengthy waits to purchase individual train tickets. The combination of up to 2 iO cards and cash can be used at JR ticket machines (displaying the iO symbol) to purchase individual tickets too.
PassNet This is identical to the iO card but is valid for all trains and subways other than JR.

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