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General Information

Climate

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, particularly in the South. May, June and July are the wettest months, and June, July and August are hotter and more humid. 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.

Narita Airport (New Tokyo International) (NRT)

Location: The airport is located 40 miles (66km) north-east of Tokyo.

Time: GMT +9. Contacts: Switchboard: + 81 (0)476 322 802.

Flight Information: +81 (0)476 34 5000.

Transfer between terminals: A free shuttle bus connects the two terminals.

Transfer to the city: Each airport terminal has a separate railway station. Different train services on the JR or Keisei lines serve Tokyo and surrounding destinations. The journey to Tokyo takes one hour; if possible book a seat in advance. Buses connect to the domestic airport and hotels in the city centre; the journey takes between one and two hours. Taxis are not advised as, due to the distance, the fares are very high. The tourist information desk in the arrivals hall can help travellers with their transport needs.

Car rental: Rental cars can be organised at the airport, though most visitors wisely avoid driving in Tokyo and instead take the efficient public transport.

Facilities: The facilities at New Tokyo Airport are extensive and include shops (including duty-free), banks, ATMs, currency exchange bureaux, massage, baby changing and left luggage. A variety of restaurants catering for Japanese, Chinese and Western tastes are available, including a new revolving Sushi Bar. Both terminals have shower facilities and Day Rooms (bedrooms which can be hired by the hour). There are Internet cafes situated throughout the airport.
Website:www.narita-airport.or.jp/airport_e Time: GMT +9.

Electricity

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 used.

Money

The currency is the Japanese Yen (¥), which is equal to 100 sen. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, but most Japenese 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 major stores.

Language

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.

Getting Around

Tokyo’s public transport system is one of the most efficient in the world and is clean and safe, combining an extensive train network, 13 underground subway lines and a bus system. Visitors usually find the trains (JR) and subways the best way to get around although the complexity of the underground network can be intimidating; rush hour from 7.30am to 9am and 5pm to 7pm should be avoided. Most stations have English signs.

Because lines are owned by different companies, transfers between trains or subways usually require a transfer between different train systems, with different ticketing systems that can be confusing. The Tokyo Combination Ticket (Tokyo Free Kippu) is a day travel pass that allows unlimited use of the trains, subway and bus lines within the city. Subway tickets are bought at vending machines; just buy the cheapest ticket if unsure how much to pay and the difference, if any, can be paid at the end of the journey. The bus system is more complicated for visitors as most destinations are written in Japanese only and bus drivers don’t speak English.

Taxis are convenient but never cheap, particularly in rush hour. Taxis can be hailed on the street, except in some central areas, where they only pick up from taxi ranks. Drivers speak little English so it is a good idea to have the destination written out in Japanese. Driving a car in the city is not advised.

Health

No vaccination certificates are required for entry to Japan. 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. Visitors using prescription or common over-the-counter medications (such as inhalers or allergy and sinus medicines) should note that some may be prohibited in Japan and customs officials may detain travellers carrying them.

Such travellers are advised to contact the Japanese embassy in their home country before departure to ascertain whether their medication is permissible.

Although new outbreaks of avian influenza have recently been confirmed in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Malaysia, travellers to Japan are unlikely to be affected, but they should avoid bird markets and farms and places where they may come into contact with live poultry.

Tipping

Tips and bargaining are not expected in Japan, however a service charge of between 10 to 15% is generally added to hotel and restaurant bills.

Safety

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 September and travellers should take note of storm warnings along the coastal regions if travelling during this period. An earthquake measuring about 7 on the Richter Scale occurred on 20 March 2005 off the north coast of Kyushu affecting cities, including Fukuoka, but also parts of Saga Prefecture. Communications and services, and road and rail links have been disrupted in the region. Travellers should avoid the Niigata area in view of the damage caused by the earthquake and its aftershocks and should monitor news and weather forecasts regularly.

Customs

The Japanese are formal and reserved and visitors are expected to behave politely. When entering a Japanese home or restaurant it is customary to remove shoes, and bowing is the customary greeting.

Communications

The international access code for Japan is +81. The outgoing code is 001 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0011 for the United States). 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 local handsets can be hired from the airport and various other locations. Internet cafes are widely available.

 

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