Information & Facts
The fascinating land of pink cherry blossoms, sushi and Manga
comics, Japan is a cultural explosion of attractions, neon-lit
cities and exquisite mountainous landscapes. Thankfully this
mystical country retains plenty of its oriental charm resulting in
an 'East meets West' experience of a lifetime.
Head to the capital of Tokyo for a spot of shopping, sample
authentic Japanese sushi and maybe even enjoy a little karaoke.
With a myriad of ancient shrines and temples round just about every
corner in this dynamic city, it offers some excellent sightseeing
where both old and new world co-exist.
Head south to the city of Hiroshima, the country's most famous
tourist attraction, where thousands of visitors make a pilgrimage
to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, taking in the museums and
lively city that has emerged from its tragic past along the
Visit the vast countryside and marvel at the hundreds of
volcanoes scattered around it, take a dip in the hot springs and
explore the mountainous interior of the islands. Parks are
punctuated with cherry blossom trees and mathematically correct Zen
gardens never cease to amaze foreigners.
Business in Japan can be highly formal and greetings are usually
rather ritualistic due to the hierarchical society; a third party
introduction is useful. A polite bow is customary; the more senior
the person, the deeper the bow. Business cards are exchanged often,
using both hands. It can be useful to have cards printed with both
English and Japanese, and one should present the card with the
Japanese side facing the recipient. Punctuality is very important
and dress is formal. Women can encounter some sexism as
traditionally women are seen as caregivers and wives. Gift giving
is an important aspect of Japanese society and in a business
context gifts are usually given after the first or second meeting.
It is wise to consult someone locally on what is appropriate in
order not to cause offence. Business hours are usually from 9am to
5pm on weekdays; some businesses are open on Saturdays from 9am to
The weather throughout the four main islands that make up Japan
is generally temperate, with four distinct seasons. The weather can
get very hot during the summer months. June, July and August are
hot and humid and after June the country experiences its wettest
months. In the south winters are cool but sunny, but as one moves
further north temperatures drop and snow falls. The island of
Hokkaido in the far north of Japan is bitterly cold in the winter,
with snow guaranteed.
The international access code for Japan is +81. The outgoing
code depends on what network is used to dial out on (e.g. 001 for
KDD) followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0011 for the
United States). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)3 for Tokyo and
(0)82 for Hiroshima. Local calls can be made from any public phone,
but only some allow international calls. Telephone cards are sold
at kiosks and from vending machines. The local mobile phone
operators use technology that is not always compatible with
international networks, but 3G has roaming agreements with most
international networks, and local handsets can be hired from the
airport and various other locations. Internet cafes are widely
The Japanese are formal and reserved and visitors are expected
to behave politely. Their system of etiquette is one of the most
complex in the world, with a strict code of conduct for almost
every situation. It is important to avoid causing 'loss of face' by
insulting or criticising someone in front of others. Bowing is the
customary greeting. The possession of common prescription, or over
the counter medicines, particularly for allergies and sinus
problems, are forbidden under Japanese law, and it is highly
advisable to check with a Japanese embassy before travel.
Travellers to Japan over 20 years do not have to pay duty on 3
bottles of alcoholic beverages; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g
tobacco, or a proportionate mix of these (non-residents are
permitted twice the amount); perfume up to 59ml; and gifts and
souvenirs to the value of ¥200,000. Prohibited items include all
types of firearms and ammunition, narcotics, pornography, meat
products, counterfeit money, all plants and vegetables with soil,
fresh fruit, vegetables, and plants or parts thereof.
Electrical current is 100 volts, 60Hz in the west
(Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima); 100 volts, 50Hz in eastern Japan
(Tokyo, Sapporo, Yokohoma). Flat two- and three-pin plugs are
No vaccination certificates are required for entry to Japan.
There have been recent outbreaks of the deadly bird flu, but no
human infections have been reported. Travellers to Japan are
unlikely to be affected, but live animal markets and places where
contact with live poultry is possible should be avoided, and all
poultry and egg dishes well cooked. Medical facilities are very
good, but medical assistance in Japan can be very expensive and
visitors have to pay the whole cost up front. Travellers should
ensure that they have adequate medical insurance before travelling.
The possession of Vicks inhalers and other common medications used
for allergies and sinus problems are banned under the strictly
enforced anti-stimulant drugs law, and visitors are advised to
check with the Japanese embassy if in doubt.
Japanese is the official language. Most Japanese people
will have studied English at school, but few can speak it well or
understand what is said to them.
The currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY), which is equal to 100
sen. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and
stores, but most Japanese operate with cash. Cash and travellers
cheques can be exchanged in banks, post offices and currency
exchange bureaux. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 9am to
3pm. Travellers cheques offer the best exchange rate and are best
taken in US dollars. ATMs do not accept all credit and debit cards;
only the international ATMs in post offices, airports and some
All foreign passengers to Japan must hold proof of sufficient
funds to cover their expenses while in the country, return/onward
tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next
destination. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has
at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of
departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often
apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official
The vast majority of visits to Japan are trouble-free. It is
generally a very safe country with low levels of common crime, and
is stable, highly developed and modern. Travellers should, however,
still be vigilant about personal safety and belongings. Typhoons
are common particularly from June to October and travellers should
take note of storm warnings along the coastal regions if travelling
during this period. Japan is in a major earthquake zone, and
earthquakes of varying sizes occur very frequently.
Local time is GMT +9.
Tips and bargaining are not expected in Japan, however a service
charge of between 10 to 15% is generally added to hotel and