Daily Life in Japan

Everything you need to know about living in Japan


Foreign relations

Embassies and consulates

Please find a list of foreign embassies and consulates in Japan under http://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/protocol/a-h.html.

Postal service

Post offices throughout Japan provide a wide range of postal services like for example the shipping of letters, parcels and registered mail as well as savings and insurance services. Door-to-door delivery services called takuhaibin are also provided by various companies other than the post office. Mailboxes are red.

Immigration Office

Please register yourself at the Immigration Office if you are planning on staying in Japan longer than 90 days. You will be required to obtain a proper visa and an alien registration card. Tourists from many countries like Germany, Mexico, etc., usually receive a visa upon arrival in Japan valid for 90 days.

 

Public transportation

Subway

The subway in Japan is one of the most extensive and most used subway networks in the world. Because operated by different companies, tickets and fares slightly differ from each other but the system has been streamlined for passengers to easy transfer between different trains and lines. For single journeys, choose your destination with the help of a map over the vending machine and pay the fare calculated depending on distance. Take the ticket, insert it into the designated slot at the security gate and do not forget to pick it up again when you have crossed. At the destination your ticket will be kept back when you leave the station. Alternatively, multi-journey prepaid cards like Suica or PASMO are available and re-chargeable at vending machines or convenient stores and work for most trains and busses. The fare of the ride will be subtracted automatically from the balance on the card. Also, there are different multi-journey day passes valid for different amount of days.

Bus

The bus network in Japan is extremely extensive and complements the subway system well. Only, it can seem intimidating to foreigners who have never used a bus in Japan. Enter at the back door, or, if only one door is available, enter in the front. Draw a ticket from the ticket machines at the door, keep on to it. The number on the ticket will help you determine your fare with the help of the digital display in the front of the bus which shows the fare for your number depending on your destination. If you want to get off at the next station, signal this to the driver by pushing one of the buttons throughout the bus. Pay your bus fare at the front when embarking. If you do not have exact change you can use the changing machines inside the bus. Alternatively, use the same multi-journey prepaid cards as for the subway or a multi-journey day pas for bus rides.

Taxi

Riding the taxi in Japan is expensive and usually unnecessary thanks to Japan’s efficient public transportation networks. An exception is the time after midnight until the morning when trains and busses stop operation. Fares for taxis start at ¥600 to 700 for the first two kilometers and then increase by ¥100 in increments depending on distance or time.

Train

Japan is covered by an extensive and reliable network of train tracks and stations operated by a number of different companies with Japan Rail being the biggest. There are different kind of trains differing in fare price, speed and frequency of stops. Tickets can be purchased at ticket vending machines or ticket counters. Use these tickets to enter through the security gate and to leave the station.

 

Banking

Setting up a bank account

To set up a bank account or post office account in Japan, bring your passport, resident card, a recent utility bill stating your current address and your hanko stamp if you have one (more on the hanko stamp under “Miscellaneous” at the bottom of the page). After your application, ATM card and bank book will be sent to you per mail. Through your bank account, transfers or furikomi, can be made through the counter, at ATMs or through the internet. They are usually processed on the same day if made within business hours. A fee of typically 200 to 500 yen is paid by the sender.

Paying bills

Bills can be paid directly at the counter of your bank, via ATMs, the internet or by having it subtracted automatically from your account. There is also the option of settling your bills at any convenience store to your availability. Simply hand your bill to the cashier and pay the required amount. This service does not cost any extra fees.

Checks and credit cards

Checks in Japan are not usually used and can be expensive to cash in. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops across Japan. If you are a permanent resident in Japan it is also possible to obtain a credit card at your bank.

 

Health care

Hospitals

Annual health checks (kenshin) are provided free to just about everyone in Japan, including foreigners. In case of sickness or accident an appointment is not usually necessary, except at dental clinics, and you can go to any hospital you choose. There are a number of hospitals and clinics that employ foreign or English-speaking staff and doctors will usually be proficient in English. Upon visit to a hospital or clinic, you will need to show your health insurance card. If you don't have one, you will be charged a nominal fee. Otherwise, you'll pay 10 or 30 percent of the costs, depending on which kind of insurance you have.

Insurance

Japan has a system of universal health coverage which divides itself into two compulsory insurance systems, the National Health Insurance, or kokumin kenkou hoken, and the Employees' Health Insurance, or shakai kenkou hoken. Monthly premiums and benefits vary depending on different factors like type and place of employment, age, and so on. Foreigners applying for one of the two health care plans need to show their resident card and passports.

 

Cell phone

Rental

Rental phones are available at the airport. Fees include rental fee and calling fees depending on your usage. To rent a phone, bring your passport and credit card.

Prepaid phone and SIM card

For acquiring a prepaid phone or SIM card at cell phone stores foreigners will need an ID and a verification of residence. A residency card or Japanese driver license usually suffices. For visitors, a passport and their hotel address will be accepted. Credit can be bought at cell phone stores and convenience stores, and is typically valid for 60 days from activation. Phone numbers remain active as long as you have valid credit in your account, but will expire after three months to a year without use.

Cell phone contract

Signing up for a monthly paid cell phone plan is only available to residents. To apply, you will need a resident card and a Japanese bank account. A new cell phone is usually included in the plan for free or subsidized and it will require you to sign a contract for two years of service. The contract, however, can be cancelled at any time and by paying a cancellation fee.

 

Miscellaneous

Hanko stamps

Hanko stamps are personalized stamps usually bearing the family name kanji or other signature. They are used in addition or instead of handwritten signatures for documents and banking. Some people may have several hanko stamps for various different purposes. Foreigners do not necessarily need such a stamp it is, however, still recommended to preclude any misunderstandings regarding handwritten signatures.

Electricity

The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt. In comparison, it is 120 Volt in North America and 220 Volt in Central Europe and most other regions of the world. Japanese power outlets are identical to ungrounded North American outlets with two pins.

Water

Tap water in Japan is generally clean and drinkable. However, locals and visitors alike complain about the taste and smell of it so bottled drinking water is still more popular. Even after the great tsunami catastrophe in 2011 that had authorities struggle to contain great damages to the nuclear plants in Fukushima tap water in Japan is considered safe enough for use and consumption.

Bathroom

The bathroom in many Japanese houses usually consists of a small entrance room in which to undress, and a bathing room with a big bathtub and a shower. Before stepping into the filled bathtub to soak, shower yourself thoroughly. After enjoying the hot bath clean yourself again with the shower. The bath water is usually left in the bath tub for family members to use one after another and drained only by the end of the day. This is why a thorough shower before bathing is important as courtesy towards those following in the bath.

Toilets

To a visitor, Japanese toilets can look like high technology novelties straight from the future because they are equipped with various buttons for functions like bidet function, toilet seat heating and movement sensor. In contrast, there are also still many traditional style toilets to be found throughout Japan that are let into the floor.