international plugs

Practical Information for Travelers

Japan is a popular vacation destination for tourists from around the world.  However, it is important for people to know a few things before leaving.

Electricity
Japan's voltage standard is 100 volts.  This differs from America, where the standard is 110 volts, and Europe, where the standard is 220 volts. Most of the world's other countries also use different voltage standards from Japan.  Some of the country's wall plugs are made for double pins that are not polarized, identical to the ungrounded outlets in America.  However, most of them are polarized, which means that one of the plugs is a little bigger than it's opposite.  This means that adaptors may be required to use equipment from other countries.  

The electrical current frequency is actually different from one side of the country to the other.  In the east, the frequency is fifty hertz.  In the west, the frequency is sixty hertz.  This is only an issue for very sensitive electronics and most electrical appliances can run fine using either current frequency.

Renting a Mobile Phone
The easiest and most cost-effective way for a traveller to get a mobile phone in Japan is by renting it.  A credit card and picture identification are required to do this.  Rental phones can be rented from airport kiosks or through the mail.  Renting a phone generally costs two hundred and fifty to one thousand yen per day plus seventy to two hundred yen per minute for outgoing calls.  However, it is possible to get a discount for reserving a phone rental in advance.      

Postal Services
Japanese post offices offer a variety of services.  They provide regular services of shipping letters, postcards, registered mail, and parcels and savings and insurance services.  The smaller offices are open for five days per week and serve customers from nine in the morning to five in the evening.  The bigger post office locations keep their doors open until seven at night on weekdays.  Some are even open on the weekends. Most have automatic teller machines.  And, all of the mailboxes are easy to spot because of their uniformly bright red coloration.

Street Addresses
Other than major streets, the roads of Japan aren't actually named towns and cities are divided into blocks, subareas, and larger areas.  This is like what the Roman Empire did with their insole system.  They even number the houses in temporal order instead of geographical order, which means the addresses are determined by the order in which the houses were constructed.  The postal addresses on the letters that are written in Japanese always begin with the postal code and continue with the prefecture, then, the city, then, the subareas, and, finally, the name of the person to which the letter is being sent.  If the sender writes the address in Einglish, it starts with the name of the letter's recipient and ends with the person's prefecture and the postal code.

Delivery Services
The Japanese use a service called takuhaibin to send their luggage, parcels, and other goods from one house to another, anywhere in the country.  Generally, these deliveries will arrive on the following day and it doesn't cost very much.  The leading provider of the takuhaibin, or takkyubin, service is the company that was the first to provide it, Yamato Transport.  Other popular companies are Sagawakyu (Sagawa Express) and Perikanbin (nittsu).

Emergencies
As in every other country, emergencies can happen.  People should be prepared in advance to deal with whatever might happen.  It is helpful for Americans to remember that that 911 does not work in Japan.  Their emergency numbers are 110 for the police and 119 for ambulance or fire department.  

The most common natural disasters that occur in Japan are earthquakes and typhoons.  In the event of an earthquake, people are advised to find a door frame in which to stand and to try to stay away from gas mains.  During a typhoon, the name for a hurricane in the Pacific, people should try to stay indoors and stay away from areas that may be prone to landslides.

By keeping these things in mind, travelers can feel secure that they are prepared to visit Japan.