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General Info about Tokyo, Japan

Visa requirements:
Citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK can stay for a period of up to six months without a visa. If you are going to work during your stay you will need to obtain the appropriate working papers.

When you arrive you will be given a 90-day Short Stay Visa which can be extended for another ninety days while inside the country. Those visiting from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most European countries will also be granted the same visa upon arrival but will need to organise one before leaving the home country.

Residents of all other countries, or those intending to work or study while there, should contact the Japanese Embassy in their home country to find out exactly what documentation is required before travelling.

Currency
The currency used in Japan is the Yen (Y). Notes come in denominations of Y1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 and the notes in use are Y1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500.

Language
The language spoken in Tokyo is Japanese. English is widely spoken, however, particularly by younger citizens and in tourist areas.

Climate
Tokyo’s climate is a varied one. Its winters are generally mild but can get quite cold in December and January. Springs are mild and once it hits summer it can become very hot and humid. October and November also are mild. There is no wet season although it can experience a bit of rainfall between March and October.

Medical Care
Standards of health are very high in Tokyo. There are international pharmacies around the city although drugs can be expensive. Tokyo’s Medical and Surgical Clinic (Tel 03 3436 3028) has foreign doctors if you need medical assistance. The emergency telephone number for ambulances is 119.

Time Zone
Tokyo is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time with no daylight saving.

Opening Hours
The majority of shops are open seven days a week from 9am-7pm or 8pm. Banks open from 9am-3pm.

Tourist Offices
The major airports, train and bus stations have tourist desks in them. The Japan National Tourist Organisation has two offices in Tokyo. One is in Narita Airport (1st Floor) and the other is at the Tokyo International Forum (in the basement). They airport branch opens between 9am-8pm and its other branch opens between 9am-5pm.

Tax
There is a sales tax of 5% on most goods although if you show your passport you should be able to get this taken off the price.

Currency Exchange
You can change all your monies and travellers cheques in the banks and most of the city’s post offices. If you have a bank card with a ‘Cirrus’ logo on the back you should be able to withdraw money at the city’s ATMs.

Electricity
100 volts AV/50 cycles. Plugs are the same as those used in North America (flat 2-pin).

Telephones
You will have no problem finding public phones in the Japanese capital. If you want to make an international call then you must use one of the grey/silver ones. Keep an eye out for the English signs.

When calling Tokyo from overseas dial the international access code for the country you are in followed by 81 (Japan’s country code), followed by the area code (3) and then the local number.

Calling overseas from within Tokyo you dial Japan’s international access code (010) followed by the code for the country you are calling, the area code (dropping the 0) and then the local number.

Post Office
Tokyo’s main post office is outside Tokyo Station (train).

Tipping
Up until recently tipping was virtually unheard off but the western custom is becoming more frequent. Nevertheless, it is still quite uncommon and at no time is it essential. In restaurants where a service charge of between 10% and 15% has already been included, you should only tip if you really think it’s necessary. If a service charge has not been added a tip equivalent to a service charge is adequate. You don’t need to tip taxi drivers but many people tell them to keep any small change. It is worth noting once again, however, that at no time is tipping compulsory, it is entirely at your own discretion and will probably earn you some funny looks as the locals find it quite strange.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.

In Japan they are New Year’s Day (January 1st), Adults Day (2nd Monday of every January), National Foundation Day (February 11th), Vernal Equinox Day (March 20th or 21st), Greenery Day (April 29th), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3rd), Children’s Day (May 5th), Maritime Day (3rd Monday of July), Respect for the Aged Day (3rd Monday of September), Autumnal Equinox Day (23rd or 24th of September), Health Sports Day (2nd Monday of October), Culture Day (November 3rd), Labour Thanksgiving Day (November 23rd) and The Emperor’s Birthday (December 23rd).

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