Japan Overview

General Overview of Japan

Japan has a fascinating and multifaceted culture; on the one hand it is steeped in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years; on the other it is a society in a continual state of rapid flux, with continually shifting fads and fashions and technological development that constantly pushes back the boundaries of the possible. This is part of what makes it such a fascinating country to visit. If you are looking for something different you are sure to find it here!

Religion in Japan is a mix of ideas from Shintoism and Buddhism. Unlike in the West, religion in Japan is rarely preached, nor is it a doctrine. Instead it is a moral code, a way of living, almost indistinguishable from Japanese social and cultural values. Japanese religion is also a private, family affair. It is separate from the state; there are no religious prayers or symbols in a school graduation ceremony, for example. Religion is rarely discussed in everyday life and the majority of Japanese do not worship regularly or claim to be religious. However, most people turn to religious rituals in birth, marriage and death and take part in spiritual festivals throughout the year.

Japanese is the native language of Japan. The degree to which English is spoken varies considerably in Japan. The rule of thumb is that English is much more widely spoken in destinations that are popular with international tourists.

Many countries people can travel for 90 days in Japan under the visa waiver program. For more information on Japan’s visa and Immigration regulations please go to the Japanese Embassy / Consulate web page in the closes city to where you are based.

Japan accepts Working Holiday Visa applicants from the following countries: Australia, Denmark, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Taiwan, Hong Kong (SAR), Ireland, Slovakia, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Those between the ages of 18 and 30 can apply for a working holiday visa for Japan. For more information on Japan’s Working Holiday VISA and Immigration regulations please go to the Japanese Embassy / Consulate web page in the closest city to where you are based.

Japan has four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. It also has over 4,000 other, smaller islands. The biggest island is Honshu and contains Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Nara, Kobe and other major cities.

Voltage in Japan is 100 volts with 50 hertz frequency in eastern Japan and 60 hertz in western Japan. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins

Japan’s international calling code is +81.

Japanese standard time is GMT +9.

The Japanese currency is the Yen. With notes in ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 denominations and coins ¥ 1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, ¥500.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and exchange bureaus can be found throughout Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto and other major cities. As crime in Japan is one of the lowest in the world, most people carry plenty of cash with them. A lot of ATMs in Japan do not accept international cards. Look out for 7-11 convenience stores or post offices to get cash out.

Credit cards accepted at most hotels, department stores, duty free shops and restaurants although when travelling through the countryside it is wise also to carry cash as many smaller businesses may not accept credit cards and very much rely on cash.

Public phones accept 10 and 100 yen coins or magnetic prepaid cards. Emergency numbers include 110 for police, 119 for ambulance/fire.

There are two types of restrooms in Japan which offer either traditional Japanese-style squat toilets or Western-style. Many modern restrooms will include both types although visitors to the countryside will often find only the traditional type is available.

Japan is an extremely safe country with an extremely low crime rate and terrorism is virtually non-existent here. Even so, it’s still wise to make sure that you take care of your belongings and be aware of your surroundings.

Japan has strict rules governing the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. Some medicines including the stimulant medicine dexamphetamine (used to treat ADHD) and pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) are banned in Japan and you may be detained if you are found with them. Others such as narcotic medicines (codeine, morphine and oxycodone) require you to apply for a Narcotic Certificate. If you do not have this certificate when entering Japan, the medicine may be confiscated and you may be detained. For further information refer to the Bringing Medicine into Japan webpage found on the Embassy of Japan website.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy; particularly any and all ski related documentation.

Medical facilities across Japan are of a high standard. Medical facilities with English-speaking staff can be found in most major cities. Medical care in Japan can be expensive. Payment in full or a guarantee that costs will be met is usually required before any treatment is commenced.

You are subject to the local laws of Japan, including ones that appear harsh by your own countries standards. If you're arrested or jailed, first contact your countries Japan Consular or Embassy Office and they will do what they can to help you. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Police powers in Japan may be very different to those in your own country. Police have broad authority to stop, search, seize and detain. Police can stop you on the street, demand identification and search you and your possessions. Travellers visiting for less than 90 days are required to carry their passport at all times. Foreigners residing in Japan must always carry their residence card.

If you are arrested, you can be detained for up to 23 days without charge. Even if you consider that the alleged offence may be minor, you may be held for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings.

Be aware that some local laws and penalties may be very different to those where you are from. Penalties for serious crimes, such as murder, include the death penalty. Other sentences can include heavy fines, lengthy imprisonment with hard labour and deportation.

Possession of illegal drugs is a crime. You can be charged with possession if trace amounts are found in your bloodstream or urine. Do not use, carry or get involved with drugs. The minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol in Japan is 20 years of age.

Japan has a national zero per cent blood-alcohol level standard for driving. It is also an offence for a passenger to allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive. In some parts of Tokyo and other cities, smoking on the streets is prohibited. Those caught are liable for an on-the-spot fine.

The use of UHF-CB radios (walkie-talkies) which do not meet Japanese specifications (such as those purchased outside Japan), is prohibited.

For criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station or on the Police national emergency number. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

Emergency contact numbers in Japan are as follows:

LIFELINE SERVICES in ENGLISH +81 (0)3 5774 0992

Before Travelling to Japan Make Sure of the Following:

  • Passport: Is it up to date? Make sure you have at least 6 months still valid on your passport

  • Travel insurance: Are you covered and are you aware of what your policy actually covers when it comes to ski and snowboard related injuries?

  • Your Credit Cards will work in Japan – check with your bank before leaving and that you have sufficient credit available to you. Inform your bank of travel plans and periods so that your international transactions will not be blocked. You will need to bring sufficient cash with you as many places will not accept credit cards.

  • Make sure you have accommodations booked in advance through Ski Japan Holidays

  • Getting around: Do you know how you will get around Japan, and do you need to pre-book any tickets? (Tip: Japan Rail (JR) passes must be bought before you arrive.)

  • Driving: If you're planning to drive in Japan, do you have an International Driving Permit? Is driving covered by your insurance? Are you familiar with the road rules?

  • Phone: Do you know if your phone will work in Japan? Make sure you switch off data roaming?

  • Medication: Have you checked that your medication is legal in Japan? You should carry all medications in their original packaging, along with their original prescription. It is also a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any specific medications you are on and what they are for.

  • A list of emergency contacts at home and in Japan

  • Your hotel address written in Japanese (and any other important information such as food allergies)

  • Chargers and a power adapter to convert any electrical devices you may have.