Japan Post to Ship Electronics with Lithium Ion Batteries Starting 2013

Shipping electronics with lithium ion batteries from Japan is a pain, to put it simply. You, as of now, essentially have two options, FedEx or DHL, which I explained in more detail in how to ship electronics with lithium ion batteries from Japan. This all came about when I tried to send an old laptop to my sister in the States and the post office, after accepting it initially, later called us and said we couldn't send the computer unless we took the battery out.

However, good news! Starting January 1, 2013, Japan Post will allow you to send electronics with lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries, as long as they meet certain requirements. 

  • Batteries must be in or attached to an electronic device (e.g. in a camera, or connected to a laptop, etc.) -- batteries cannot be packaged separately/by themselves, even if they're a spare.
  • Cell-type batteries (cylinders) must be less than 20 watts a piece.
  • Other batteries (usually rectangular), must be less than 100 watts and must have the wattage labeled on the outside of the battery/device. For reference, a Macbook Pro's battery is 60 watts.
  • You can't send damaged batteries or anything that might catch fire.
  • Batteries can't weigh more than 5 kilograms.
  • You can't send more than four cell-type batteries in one package. For example, if one camera has one battery inside it, you can send up to four of those cameras. If a camera has two of those batteries in it, you can only send two cameras. 
  • You can't send more than two other batteries (again, usually rectangular) per package. So if you want to send a video camera and a laptop that both use these types of batteries, you can send those two items together. If you have a laptop, video camera and a DSLR with this type of battery, you can only send two of those items in a package.
Please see the Japan Post website for the official press release and detailed information (unfortunately all in Japanese) about this. The detailed document has a list of countries that lithium ion and polymer batteries can be sent to, via air (first column) or sea (second column).

I think this is a great development, especially considering how expensive it is to ship electronics with lithium batteries via FedEx and DHL. I only wish they would have implemented this earlier this year!

Many thanks to Tim for the heads up.

HOW TO: Find Natural Food in Japan

If you've been following Surviving in Japan for a while, you've probably seen me mention places to find certain health-related items, such as natural and organic food and such. iHerb is one of my personal favorites, but some things can't be imported to Japan, such as almonds and chia seeds.

I've attempted to list several places you can find these items (yes, almonds! yes, chia seeds! yes, hemp seeds! yes, raw food!) in Japan in the Metropolis article I've linked to below. If there's anything in particular you want to find, let us know.

Wholesome Holiday: Find your natural foods this Christmas | Metropolis Magazine

Summary of stores to find natural and health food items:

Tengu Natural Foods
Amazon Japan
Living Life Marketplace
Hemp Kitchen - for hemp items
Cocowell - for coconut items
Natural House - also has actual stores around Japan
Pro Foods

iHerb is an affiliate link, but you get a USD$5-10 discount if you use it (from their advertising budget). I highly recommend iHerb for natural foods, health products, vitamins, supplements, and more. I've used them since my first year in Japan over four years ago and they've been a wonderful resource.

7 Useful Resources for Winter and the Holidays in Japan

It's freeeeezing cold here in Shizuoka city today, and those winter winds I hate so much are back in full force as well. It's interesting to watch the clothes you hand outside blow sideways... And hope that you've tied everything down well enough so you won't lose anything (we've had several years of practice now).

So as we move into mid-December, meaning Christmas and New Year's are on their way, and then the coldest months of January and February, I thought I'd pull out some posts that might be useful this time of year.

1. Where to Find "Illuminations" (Christmas/Holiday Lights) in Japan

Light displays in Japan can be pretty spectacular. You'll probably see basic ones while out and about but I recommend going to a larger one if you can. Last year we went to Gotenba, Shizuoka to see the light tunnel (pictured above). The screenshots in the post are outdated, but the sites are laid out essentially the same, so it's still helpful for those of you who want to find a place to go and can't read Japanese.

2. Resources for a Very Merry Christmas in Japan

Looking for holiday decor? Food? Cards? This post has you covered.

What You Should Know When Signing Up for Softbank

If you have, or have had, a contract with Softbank (one of the main mobile carriers in Japan), you may have experienced Softbank's seemingly differing policies. (This may be the case at the other carriers as well, although I've heard less about them in this regard, so please let me know if you have a story to share.)

For my latest column, I spent about two months(!) trying to clarify some of Softbank's official policies regarding making a contract, as people have been told all sorts of things by different Softbank stores. As you can read in the column, they did give me some answers, but the whole process was incredibly confusing and frustrating. I've not really had much to complain about in regards to Softbank before, and I really wanted to try to clear up any misunderstandings for both sides. However, after numerous phone conversations and an exceptionally long thread of emails, I'm not 100% sure what they told me is actually their "official policy" (in fact, they said they couldn't give me anything in writing with these "policies").

And I'll be honest, after all this, I'm considering switching carriers. I also don't like that they won't reveal what they actually check when they run the ID process. Is it really a secret?

You can read the column for yourself and feel free to share your experience with Softbank, or any other carrier, whether positive or negative, in the comments below. I'd love to hear about other carriers and it'd be interested to see how many SiJ readers have had positive or negative experiences getting a cell phone in Japan.

Softbank's policies on foreign customers hard to pin down | Japan Times

Thanks to SiJ's Sponsor: The H&R Group

As you may know, Surviving in Japan functions from my research, experiences and free time; your support, ideas, guest posts, and feedback; and, more recently, kind sponsors. Today I'd like to introduce The H&R Group, Surviving in Japan's current sponsor.

The H&R Group offers a variety of real estate, relocation and life-enrichment services to ensure smooth transitions for expats in Japan, particularly for those of you moving to or living in Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya. And they help not only assignees and their families, but also the companies they work for.

For a better idea of what services they provide, The H&R Group family consists of:

Buying a Used Car in Japan - What You Need to Know

Today's post comes from David Ainley of Motovique. Motovique is a privately owned business helping private individuals looking to buy and sell their vehicles at a fair price, or simply assist sellers to transfer the title on their cars with ease. They also offer free resources for the international community over on their blog. 

Buying a Used Car

The cost of buying a used car in Japan. Infographic by Motovique.

With some three million used cars sold annually in Japan, the vast number of vehicles available to buyers can be confusing. Whilst the level of courtesy and service offered is generally of a high-standard, the processes involved in buying a used car in Japan can be confusing. While cars seem relatively cheap in Japan, buyers need to be prudent in their search, as vehicles listed at dealerships and online can be misleading.

26 Fun and Useful Japan Links - Nov 20

Oooooo, it's illumination time! 
Happy Fall and Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. Here's another round of plenty of fun links, plus quite a few useful and informative ones. Enjoy!

HOW TO: Search for an Apartment in Japan - Part 2

We're finally back with part two on how to find an apartment in Japan. In part one, we discussed ways to find apartment rental listings and real estate agents and gave you some helpful search words. Today, we're going to walk you through how to use Suumo, which is one of the Japanese apartment listings sites we listed in part one. As to be expected, each site is different, but most of the vocab below should be helpful when searching online in Japanese.

How to Use Apartment Search Sites - Suumo

Starting a Business in Japan: Mister Softee [Interview]

Today I'm happy to introduce entrepreneur Andrea Fisher, who, aside from creating her own line of stylish flute bags and previously running a fleet of soft cream trucks driven by women, has now brought her soft serve franchise to Japan. She shares with us the process of starting a business here, the difficulties involved, and why she chose Japan.

HOW TO: Heat Your Home (and Stay Warm) in Japan This Winter

heater, japan, japanese, winter, heating
Original photo via manicstreetpreacher, design, editing and text by me.

Winter in (most of) Japan can be cold. And not just in the mountains of central Japan or Hokkaido as you would expect, but even coastal climate areas like where I live here in Shizuoka. It may not typically snow here, but the wind is strong and biting.

Well, obviously, it's cold. It's winter. And I'm a wimp when it comes to cold.


Many homes in Japan are not insulated well and don't have double-paned windows, although this is changing with newer structures. Despite that, there's a good chance many of you live in a drafty apartment or house.

That said, there are some ways you can winterize your Japanese dwelling, but if you're on the hunt for a decent heater, you'll find several options below, depending on your preferences and budget. (I've previously written a guide to heaters in Japan, but expanded a bit in today's post.)

HOW TO: Travel From Narita Airport to Tokyo With a Bicycle

Today's post comes from Byron Kidd of Tokyo by Bike. Byron covers anything and everything related to cycling in Tokyo as well as other parts of Japan and Asia, so I highly recommend following his stuff if you're a cyclist or would like to know more about it as it pertains to Japan. -Ashley

輪行初挑戦 taking my bike on the train
Bicycle in a bike bag on a train in Japan. Photo by mumblion 

A question I'm asked time and time again is:

"Upon arriving in Japan, how can I transport my bicycle from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo?"

Of course, you could ride, but after a long flight I doubt you'd be alert nor energetic enough to navigate the 76km from Narita Airport to central Tokyo. It's an option if you're up for the challenge but not one I'd recommend if this is your first trip to Tokyo.

HOW TO: Deal With the Low Point of Culture Shock [Your Advice]

You know what? You are awesome. When I wrote that post about my low point of culture shock, I had no idea what kind of response I would get. It scared me to be that vulnerable and honest, even though I felt it was something I needed to write. But the comments poured in. And the emails. You offered wisdom and advice, and some of you said you've been feeling the same. 

From my heart, thank you.

Lately I often feel so disconnected from "home" and the relationships there, but your kindness reminds me that I have meaningful connections here, and that no matter what, I'm not alone. Your kind words and shared stories have helped me much more than I could say. 

And, many of you said it sounded like more than just culture shock, and how I've been feeling is certainly is more than just that (I often seem to experience more than one thing at a time, annoyingly). But as I've analyzed and separated them out, it was so strange for me to realize that this low point just appeared earlier this year, even though it didn't really a couple years ago when I was dealing with labrynthitis. 

Since I wrote that post I do think things have been looking up a bit (aside from the lack of sleep and having a baby and too much work). Now I only hope I get through winter without being too affected by SAD... 

And I know I still owe some of you an email or comment response. I promise I'm not ignoring anyone; I try to write meaningful responses and I have far too much on my plate at the moment. But please know that I thank you for writing or commenting, and that I will make my best effort to get back to you if I haven't already. 

That said, I'd like to share some of the advice you offered in terms of dealing with culture shock. For anyone reading, not all of it may apply or help you, but there are a lot of good ideas and you might find something that could help in your situation.

22 Japan Links Worth Reading - Oct 28

Another week, another set of links. (Some of the food ones are especially yummy.)

Have a great week! -Ashley

Living in Japan

Japan to see normal to above-average temperatures this winter | Japan Today - This gives me hope...

No takers for free legal consultants at Haneda | Japan Times - This surprised me; why wouldn't people want to take advantage of free legal advice? I get emails about stuff all the time. Or have there really been no problems at Haneda lately?

Japan falls to 101st place in gender equality rankings | Japan Times - This is just sad.

Japanese government radiation monitoring posts not showing reality: Greenpeace | Japan Times

Creating Happier Communities: 22 Local Governments in Japan Preparing a "Happiness Index" | Japan for Sustainability

Major Japanese Internet Shopping Website Launches Sale of Low-Price Solar Panels for Home Use | Japan for Sustainability

Tokyo Public Law Office opens consultancy designed for foreigners | Japan Times - So if you're in or near Tokyo and have legal questions, go! Ask real lawyers!

Gap and Banana Republic in Japan now offer online shopping. It'd be nice if they added Old Navy too...

Our daily motivational pep session [for women] | Japan Times - An interesting piece on the home obligations of Japanese women and how difficult it is to forge a different path.

Getting a Credit Card in Japan - Poll Results

You may recall a post I did a little while back about how to find a credit card in Japan with a poll for those who have a card or have tried to get a card. I've finally summed up the poll responses and have shared them below. Just over 100 people responded, but I deleted several because of missing information or the respondent hadn't actually ever tried to get a credit card.

While this is an informal poll and, of course, does not explain all situations, whether personal or those reflective of a credit card company, some of the information may be of use to those hoping to get a credit card in Japan.

Out of 86 responses, 61.6% percent said they do have a Japanese credit card, and 38.4% do not, though they have applied at least once, as indicated below.

Japan, credit card, Japanese

Those who have at least one Japanese credit card have lived in Japan varying lengths of time, with most of the respondents having been here between three and five years (30.2%), although the 5-10 years and 10-15 years categories aren't too far behind (22.6% and 18.9%, respectively). Comparatively, more non-credit card holders have lived in Japan for one to two years (33.3%), versus the 17% of credit card holders, as you can see below. The 10-15 years category is missing from the latter chart because it was not chosen by any respondents.

Japan, credit card, Japanese

Japan, credit card, Japanese

How long did card holders live in Japan before they were approved for a credit card? Interestingly, it was relatively even between the less than 1 year, 1-2 years and 3-5 years categories (27.5%, 29.4% and 25.5%). So, though most card holders have lived in Japan for more than three to five years, it seems that many of them were able to get a card not too long after arriving.

Q&A: Tips for Buying Tickets to a Musical in Japan?

Q: What is the best way to purchase tickets to musicals here in Tokyo? Was hoping to get tickets to Chicago, but it looks like every performance sold out quick. Thanks!

- April

A: I've never been to a musical in Japan, in Tokyo or elsewhere, so if any you have, what's your best ticket-buying advice? Is it similar to buying tickets for other types of shows/events? I'll add your answers to the post. -Ashley

Looking for a Pet-friendly Apartment in Japan? Here are 7 Things You Should Know

Editor's note: Have pets? Planning a move in Japan? If so, Stephanie in Kanagawa has some very useful info to share in today's guest post. It's definitely not easy, as Stephanie will explain, but with a few tips hopefully you'll be able to navigate the process more smoothly! - Ashley

Moving in Japan is never easy or fun, but moving in Japan with pets is a challenge, even for the Japanese. We recently moved with two cats from Tokyo to Kanagawa and I hope our experiences will help anyone else in a similar situation.

moving in Japan, pets, cat, apartment, finding an apartment

1. Don’t rely on the apartment hunting websites 

22 Fun and Informative Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks - Oct 7

fall in Japan

Another two weeks, another round of Japan links! We've got mostly fun stuff today, plus a lot of foodie goodness. Must be because Fall is the season for eating...

Living in Japan

Police mull mandatory safety training for unsafe bicyclists | Japan Times - Whether for or against this, I honestly think something needs to be done about all the kids who constantly ignore the rules and cause, or nearly cause, accidents on a regular basis.

Fukushima offers free medical care for children under 18 | Japan Today

Hottest September in 110 years | Japan Times - And boy was I glad that it was!

Affordable Custom Made Shoes from KiBERA | RocketNews24 - This seems like a good service, although they only do (women's) sizes from 22 to 25 cm, unfortunately.


Random patdowns begin at 30 int'l airports in Japan | Japan Today

Japan Wheelchair Travel Journal - One person's experience getting around parts of Japan in a wheelchair.

Festival of Light: Experiencing the Nebuta Matsuri | Nippon.com

Where to See and Enjoy Japan's Fall Foliage 2012 (紅葉)

kouyou, Japan, Fall, Autumn, leaves, foliage, see, view

Now that it's October, we're inching closer to seeing the Autumn leaves in much of Japan -- although some places, like Hokkaido, are already boasting their colors. Lucky you folks in the North!

I've written previously about finding places to go to see and enjoy the lovely hues of orange, red and yellow here in Japan, this is a 2012 update.

You may already be familiar with the popular tourist destinations for Fall colors (such as Kyoto), but if you're looking for some less crowded areas or some place nearby, you might find one of the following sites useful. Each site offers a way to search locations all over Japan and find listings of good 紅葉 (こうよう, kouyou) spots. They are in Japanese only, which is why I'm also providing a tutorial below.

Beauty, Skincare, Organics, and Starting a Business in Japan [Interview]

Today I'm happy to introduce Elana of Tokyo-based Elana Jade Organic Beauty Salon. Elana is originally from Australia and after starting her beauty business there, she later ended up coming to Japan and re-started Elana Jade. Her salon provides several services including waxing, massage, and facials.

I previously interviewed her for Expat Women over a year ago, which you can read here, but wanted to feature her here on SiJ with a more Japan-specific focus. She shares with us about starting a business in Japan, the organic beauty market here, and even takes on some of our readers' questions. Enjoy!

Ashley: First of all, would you tell us a little about who you are, what you do, and how long you’ve been in Japan?

Elana Gilbert of Elana Jade Organic Beauty Salon
Elana: My name is Elana Gilbert and I have been living in Japan for four years. I am a beauty therapist and personal fitness trainer. I believe a holistic approach to health creates optimal well-being. I have owned my organic beauty salon in Azabu Juban for three years now and I'm loving it!

Ashley: What led you to start a business in Japan? 

Elana: After visiting my brother, Nathan, in Japan in 2007 I really fell in love with the country and quickly I decided to move here. The original plan was to come to Japan and start a health and beauty facility with Nathan (who was already working in Japan for four years as a personal trainer). Unfortunately, the timing proved to be wrong with the beginning of the financial crisis. We both decided it would have been too risky to open a place so large at that volatile time. Fortunately I was able to convince Nathan that it was viable to open a beauty salon as a great business model on its own and in 2009 the Elana Jade Organic Beauty Salon was born.

Ashley: What was the most difficult aspect of starting your business here and were you able to find a solution(s)?

Elana: The language was a major obstacle. Fortunately, teaming up with my brother, who had already set up a fitness company in Tokyo, was a major help as he could speak Japanese. More importantly, he had contacts that specialize in foreign company start-ups as well as local realtors.

The second major obstacle as a new and foreign-owned company was obtaining a building lease. Many Japanese landlords are very strict in regards to who they lease to. We overcame this by shopping around until we found a landlord who was willing to give us a go. Having properly set up a joint-stock company with paid-in capital also helped.

The Low Point of Culture Shock

Sunglasses and hats. These days I often hide behind them, thinking as if in some way they'll conceal my dirty-blond hair and blue-green eyes -- features that stand out starkly here in Japan. Then again, if you've spent some time in Japan, you know how uncommon baseball caps and sunglasses are among young women here. I usually justify them as covers for my three-day-unwashed mom hair and the dark purple clouds accentuating my lower eyelids from a year of nightly baby wakings. But deep down I know that lately, it's also a bit more than that.

29 Click-worthy Japan Links - Sep. 21

Hey all - I've had an awful lot going on lately, and realized I completely missed a links post a week ago. So I'm playing catch up. Hope you've been all been doing well! Enjoy.

Living in Japan

Tokyo the most expensive city in the world for food: UBS | Japan Times - I seriously wonder what they bought, though. A couple 10,000 yen melons, perhaps?

How To Identify A Kanji That You Don’t Know | Tofugu - This has some great ideas for anyone trying to get by reading kanji here in Japan. I also highly recommend iphone app Shinkanji

Who can guarantee you'll get your dream apartment? | Japan Times - It's interesting, though, because we didn't need a guarantor... 

Foreigners barred at Haneda can get legal aid | Japan Times

Contact Lenses | Japanzine - This seems like a useful service for those who might need contact lenses while in Japan.

Tokyo firms asked to stockpile water, food just in case | Japan Times

HOW TO: Become an Organ Donor in Japan

You might remember the recent series of Lifelines columns I did on blood donation in Japan, and in response someone asked if organ donors needed to meet the same requirements. The answer to that question is in this week's column along with information on how you can become an organ donor. I also answer a woman's question regarding how to renew a resident card as a permanent resident without a Japanese address:

Unlike giving blood, becoming an organ donor easy | Japan Times

Ultimate Guide to Baby Products in Japan - Part 1

You're having a baby. Or maybe you already have a baby or two and you've just moved to Japan. You might know what kind of stuff you need (since a lot of that information is available in English) but how do you find what you need in Japanese? Are the car seats safe? Are the bottles BPA-free? Can you find organic bedding?

I attempted to answer these in the latest issue of Metropolis magazine, which you can read here, and then went ahead and elaborated a bit more below. I know there are many, many more baby products, but I believe most of what I've listed below are some of the more important ones, plus a few extras added in. I've also added my thoughts here and there in terms of what we've done to save money or what I like, but I believe that everything is different for every baby and family, so it's just there for anyone who might be curious or wondering.

And please, let me know in the comments what you'd like me to cover next, or what you've used and liked, didn't like, or whatever. I'm particularly keen to hear from those of you who use/have used bottles, as my kid wanted them desperately for a month and then refused them, so my knowledge of slow-flow - fast-flow or whatever it's called is limited.

On to our Japanese baby products:

HOW TO: Get a Self-Sponsored Visa to Work in Japan

This topic is something I was personally curious about before I actually looked into it for the latest Lifelines column. And though it seems like a bit of work, especially if you don't have contracts of some kind with some steady part-time employers, it's not impossible. In fact it might be a better option for quite a few folks, depending on what type of work you do.

So, how do you go about it? What kind of paperwork do you need? Check the link below for what you need to know:

Self-sponsored visas: a passport to freedom or a world of pain? | The Japan Times

Do any of you (who haven't already told me) have a self-sponsored visa? How easy or difficult was it to get?

Q&A: Finding a Vet and Pet-sitters in Japan

I'm looking to all of you experienced pet owners living in Japan for some help with this one. We don't have any pets and I know some of you do and probably have some good advice or suggestions. What do you know about going to the vet here in Japan (anywhere in the country), and where do you take your pets when you go on vacation or need someone to watch them for a little while?

Q: For us folks in the 'burbs (we're about two hours northwest of Tokyo via train/subway or car), can you assist with recommendations about pets??

We drove our two 50 lb dogs into Tokyo to the Japan Veterinary Medical Group and had a great experience with a (very fluent) English-speaking vet last Saturday -- basically just a meet-greet to develop a relationship should we need one in a hurry. Sano-Sensei was great - I would certainly recommend. That said... it sure would be nice to not have to drive them two hours to the vet, AND both of us go so one could literally drive around in circles due to parking shortage. Any knowledge of vets in the rest of the country?

On a related note... pet sitters? We'll go back to the States every year for a few weeks. Most of the 'home centers' (Cainz, Super Viva) have 'pet hotels' here (as best we can tell, no one here knows what a 'kennel' is), but for pups over 20kg, it's prohibitively expensive (like, well over US$130/day for them both -- over twice what we paid for a great kennel in the US -- and they're not 'big' dogs). Finding someone we'd trust to enter our home (or just stay here) two to three times a day and feed, water, potty the pups. Have you by chance run across any of those types of services, or folks looking to just make extra money doing that occasionally - in the outlying areas?

(That said, is anyone remotely near Ashikaga who might want to earn some extra money looking after a couple of larger playful dogs around the last two weeks of November??)


A: Over to you. What do you know and/or suggest? I'll add your answers below. Thanks! -Ashley

TokyoVeggie said:

Finding a (GOOD!) vet is incredibly difficult. In the Kanagawa area, for example, there are a lot of pet clinics, but we immediately ruled out 4 due to how dirty the offices were. Also, you have to make sure that the vet actually knows about your type of animal. In this case, it would be best to ask Sano-sensei if he/she knows anyone in your area. Another idea is to Google Ashikaga, Japan, and then visit each vet one by one until you find one that you like/can communicate with.
For pet sitters, we always use www.petsitter.co.jp. I just looked it up and they do have a certified pet sitter in Askikaga! Unfortunately, the website is only in Japanese, but we have had excellent experiences with using the sitters on that site, so I really recommend it over letting someone with no certification watch your pets, especially if you will be out of the country. When I return to the States, it is nice to know that my pets will be taken care of even in case of a disaster or an emergency. And the sitters we have found on that site emailed us updates every day.
Hope that helps!

HOW TO: Search for an Apartment in Japan - Part 1

We recently moved about half an hour away from where we lived for the past three years, in Shimada, Shizuoka. It was bittersweet to leave the apartment, as excited as I was for a change and the new chapter in our lives.

Bye bye, old apartment...

That apartment was where my husband and I first moved into together after we getting married and spent those first years of our life together.

We brought our baby daughter home to that apartment.

It was also the place I was sick with labrynthitis for many months, trapped inside most of the time. The place where Surviving in Japan was born. The place I've lived the longest since I left home after high school almost 10 years ago now (has it really been that long!?).

But I knew the day would come to leave, and after weeks of frantic searching for apartments, only to have the good ones sometimes snatched up within half a day of being posted online, we found a nice one in a quiet neighborhood. We also didn't experience any problems considering that we're both American. I had heard about said problems, but no one seemed to not want to rent to us... In fact it seemed the opposite.

We'll be posting things related to moving over the coming months, but I won't throw everything all up at once as I don't want to wear out those who aren't moving and don't plan to move anytime soon.

I should also stress that unless you find an English-speaking real estate agent (it's possible, particularly in major cities) or have someone help you with the process, some aspects might be difficult (or impossible) to handle without much Japanese, unfortunately. But I'm hoping some of you will have experiences about that to share relating to the relevant posts as we post them.

But for today, let's look at how you can start your apartment search in Japan.

How to Find Apartments

1) Seek out a real estate agent to look for you. Some agencies are available across Japan, such as Able (エイブル) or eheya.net, (these aren't recommendations, just a couple I know of) while others are region-, or city-specific. Aside from asking any folks you might know in the area, you can search for  不動産業者 plus the city (in Japanese) you plan to move to for potential real estate agents in that area.

James recommended the real estate agency UR (available nationwide, but more so in certain regions):

"The largest network or danchis, foreigners welcome, no key money, all you need is a three month deposit. The other nice thing about UR is that, usually, they are quite low rent. I've got a nice spacious 4LDK in Nara for less than 100,000 yen a month. They're setup to appeal to young families and old people."

And if you're looking for a home in Tokyo, Nagoya or Osaka and want English support, you might try Japan Home Search.

2) Search on apartment listing sites. These usually contain listings from different real estate agents, but I found this to be one of the best ways to look for an apartment and also to know the main real estate agents in our area. I searched these obsessively and what I like best is that that you can adjust the search preferences, such as price, size, number of rooms, age of building, among other options (which we'll explain how to do in another post).

Some of the best/largest sites include, in order of ranking by kuchiran:

1) Suumo(スーモ)賃貸
2) アパマンショップ (tied)
4) アットホーム web (tied)

There are others on the list, some specifically real estate agents with listings on their websites, and there are several reviews for each (in Japanese). 

I tried some of the above, plus a few others, and personally found Suumo and HOME's to be the best for our area in terms of selection, but as they all have slightly different listings (some places you'll see the same thing listed several times), it was worth checking them out individually. You can also sign up for notification emails based on particular preferences for apartments so you get an email when a new listing under your criteria shows up.

To start your search, a few words you need to know right off the bat:

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
賃貸ちんたい  chintai rentals
賃貸物件ちんたい ぶっけん chintai bukken rental property
アパート - apaatoapartment
マンション -manshon apartment (large building)
一戸建ていっこだてikkodatedetached house
不動産屋ふどうさんやfudousanya real estate agent
不動産ふどうさんfudousanreal estate
借りるかりる kariruto rent/lease

What's the difference between an "apaato" and a "mansion"?

A "mansion" is not a giant, fancy building as you might infer from the word, but just a large, multiple-story (three or more usually) apartment or condo building made of reinforced concrete, steel or a combination of the two. One example is in the picture at the top of this post. The walls are obviously thicker, so sound doesn't carry as much (although that doesn't seem to apply to the elephants children living above us now...) You'll see these under 賃貸 or 賃貸物件 for apartment rentals (so you aren't looking at buying a condo!)

An "apaato" is usually only two to three floors and made of wood or lightweight steel (which means sound carries more). They remind me a bit more of townhouses. Sometimes they are two-story single units with maybe four to eight units per building (depending on how big the building is). There are variations, of course.


All right, over to you. For those of you who've moved in Japan, how did you find your apartment/house/place you're living in now? What real estate agency did you use? Or which listings websites did you find had the best selection?

Coming soon: How to use apartment listing sites and a list of other topics related to the moving process!

Pension Enrollment and Lump Sum Payment Questions

When it comes to the pension system in Japan, did you know that either your employer enrolls you (Employees Pension), or you need to do it yourself? In last week's Lifelines Steve asked whether enrollment automatically happens 36 months after you arrive in Japan, and questions about the lump sum payments.

Short answer: You aren't automatically enrolled in a pension scheme unless your employer handles this for you.

There's more to that, though, which you can find here:

No automatic enrollment in pension system | Japan Times

25 Japan Links You Might Want to Check Out - Aug 28

Sulfur pits in Hakone (Owakudani)

Howdy all! We're back with some more Japan-related links from the past couple weeks. Enjoy!

Living in Japan

Cheap Internet When Staying in Tokyo (Tokyo Cheapo)

Nine power firms to trim electricity prices in October (Japan Times) - Less money to pay, yay!

Japan yens for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups  - My favorite line, "addicted expatriates accounted for some of the sales". That said, according to this article Reese's are here to stay.

Foreigners get home for elderly (Japan Times) - So, the caregivers speak languages other than Japanese. A good thing, I think.

Check with school, kids before posting videos of children online (Japan Times) - For all you teachers out there taking photos of all your school events and students and posting them on Facebook or blogs, you might want to read this.

El Nino likely to last until winter, Japan Meteorological Agency says (Japan Today) - Could we have a warmer winter? Please, and thank you. (I'm sure all you winter-lovers will be shaking your heads in disagreement at this.)

Rolling blackouts this summer averted by public power-saving efforts (Japan Times) - That's probably somewhat obvious (the why part), but it seems overall electricity usage has been lower than peaks in 2010.

Japan fifth in Bloomberg healthiest countries rankings (Japan Times) - Not just based on diet, of course. What do you think? Does Japan deserve to be ranked so high?

HOW TO: Apply for a Credit Card in Japan

Editor's note: This post is the second part in our short credit card series. The first post explained how to find a credit card, with a brief poll for those who've tried to get cards or have been successful. You can, of course, apply for credit cards in person (such as at stores, banks, etc.), but you'll usually need to be able to read and write in kanji. Today David is going to walk through you how to apply for a credit card online. 

Of course, the application may vary a bit by card, but the information asked for is generally the same.  
- Ashley

Editor's note Nov 8, 2012: The credit card ranking site we previously linked to now appears to be down and not working. Unfortunately we will have to do screenshots over for a new site, so if you do apply via a site, use the screenshots below as a basic guide for the Japanese and translations. You can search for クレジトカードランキング for sites or try the credit card section on kakaku.com.


So you've found a credit card that you would like to apply for and you've made sure that you meet the qualifications. Now let's look at how you can actually apply for a card (online). 

HOW TO: Find a Credit Card in Japan

Editor's note: This topic has been a long time coming. Several of you have wrote in asking what we know about credit cards in Japan, have we been able to get one, which ones are recommended, among other questions.

As we just recently moved, the costs of said moving were on the high end of things (enough for me to end up in tears more than once, because ya know a teacher's salary isn't anywhere close to "we're doing well"). So I suggested to David (husband) that we get a Japanese credit card, just in case.

And in case definitely happened. But on the bright side of things, we were approved for a few cards we applied for, the Rakuten card, the J-West card and the Luluca card (specific to Shizuoka). We initially applied for the Life card but weren't approved.

After talking with different people, it seems that some people are able to get certain types of cards easily, while others haven't been able to get any cards. So we ran a poll to get your answers - you can find the results here.

Words to Know

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
人気ポイントにんき ぽいんと ninki pointo Why it's popular
年会費 ねんかいひ nenkaihiYearly membership fee
ETC 専用カート ETC せんようかーどETC senyou kaado ETC Card
発行期間はっこうきかんhakkou kikan Time till card issued
海外旅行保健かいがいりょこうほけん kaigai ryokou hokenInternational Travel
国内旅行保健こくないりょこうほけん  kokunai ryokou hokenDomestic Travel
ショッピング保健しょっぴんぐほけん  shoppingu hokenShopping Insurance
利用限度額りようげんどがく  riyou gendo gakuLimit
付帯保健ふたいほけん  futai hokenSupplementary

When we were looking at different credit cards to potentially apply for, we discovered a credit card ranking site that I'll use as an example in this post.

Editor's note Nov 8, 2012: The credit card ranking site we previously linked to now appears to be down and not working. Unfortunately we will have to do screenshots over for a new site, so if you do apply via a site, use the screenshots below as a basic guide for the Japanese and translations. You can search for クレジトカードランキング for sites or try the credit card section on kakaku.com.

31 Worthwhile Japan Links From the Past Two Weeks - Aug 12

He makes me want to laugh. Laughing is good!
Fake 500 yen coins, another Wendy's, advice for pet-owning apartment seekers, some fun recipes, a real-life sushi train amusement park ride, the other languages used in Japan, and more in this edition of Japan links.

Hope you're all enjoying this hot summer and take care!

Living in Japan

The size of your dog could depend on your landlord (Japan Times) - Some useful info for finding an apartment if you have a pet. And just fyi that we'll have lots of "how to find an apartment" posts coming up soon!

New foreigner IDs now bear minister's signature (Japan Times) - Those who may have gotten their new resident cards right away might want to read this.

Heat victims soar to new July record (Japan Times) - It's almost surprising to me that this continues to be in news every other day...

Identity fraud cases on the increase in Tokyo, police warn (Japan Today) - I can't believe most of these happen in person.

Counterfeit 500-yen coins circulating in Tokai (Japan Today) - So be careful if you live in Aichi!

85% of Japan's schools can survive upper-6 temblor, leaving 3,545 that can't: survey (Japan Times) - This makes me glad we live in Shizuoka, but then again, we are still expecting this next "big one"...

January-June deaths in Japan expressway accidents soar (Japan Times) - I seriously hate how truck drivers often tail us when driving. Scares me. And having one of those "baby on board" stickers doesn't seem to do much either.

HOW TO: Use Your Dehumidifier in Japan

Forget what I said about it being relatively dry and pleasant around here... Today the humidity took a big jump with sporadic thunder and showers. So those dehumidifiers will come in handy after all!

Now that you know what type of dehumidifier to get, or at the very least, what to look for, let's talk about how to use it.

Unless, of course, you enjoy pushing buttons at random until the machine does what you want. No judgement here, I did the same thing for a while a few years ago! The joys of being functionally illiterate, right?

Here's a lovely picture with the English translations for your reference, and I've also added a chart below if you want the complete breakdown of each kanji or to copy/paste the words.

dehumidifier, Japan, how to use, Japanese, translation

How to Manage Afro Textured Hair in Japan

For those of you lovely ladies (or gents) living in Japan who might be struggling to take care of your Afro textured hair, I have a couple helpful videos to share with you today (shared with me by readers of SiJ). And if you haven't already, you might also be interested in reading 4 Tips to Maintain Black Hair While Living in Japan, from Amanda of Whoa...I'm in Japan?

Some technical difficulties

Hey everyone, looks like we're having some technical difficulties with the how-to guides link, but rest assured the page is still there. You can find it here:

Surviving in Japan How-to Guides

Hopefully we'll have this fixed right away!



Can you keep your visa if you leave your job? Answer in latest Lifelines

If you've ever wondered whether you can keep your visa if you quit or lose your job, the answer isn't necessarily black and white. I've heard some people say that the visa is yours to keep, but that isn't always true, although it can be for some people.

Read the answer, plus an answer on if there's a maximum hour work week for those with Instructor visas, here:

How would changing jobs affect my visa? | Japan Times (Jul. 31, 2012)

A Guide to Dehumidifiers in Japan

Japan, dehumidifier, how to find, Japanese, compressor, desiccant, humidity

I don't know about you, but the last few days in Shizuoka have been on the drier side of things, for Japan at least. Still humid, but hovering around 60% during the day instead of 70-80% or so.

But that aside, we all know the humidity rises during Japan's summer season. And though you might use an air conditioner (either the air conditioning or dehumidifying function) if you have one, a dehumidifier 除湿機 (じょしつき, joshitsuki) can be a useful little machine, either to help take moisture out of the room for whatever reason (or the bathroom, closets, etc.) or to dry clothes, especially if you can't or don't hang your garments outside to dry or the weather is just, drowning your balcony.

If you can't read Japanese, going to the electronics store might be slightly overwhelming when trying to figure out exactly what you want (more so if the salesperson is trying super hard to convince help you pick something out in a mix of English and Japanese). So here's what you should know about these handy machines, including the types, advantages and disadvantages to each, and various important specifications, such as how much space it can effectively dehumidify or the wattage used.

Help for Curly Hair in Japan

Some of you may remember a Q&A we had a while ago about where to find a hair diffuser in Japan. Claire wrote in to say that she was able to buy a hair diffuser for less than 2000 yen at the hair salon Toni & Guy (found in various prefectures throughout Japan).

She also suggested a salon whose owner is familiar with how to work with curly hair, for those able to travel to Tokyo:
For anyone with curls in the vicinity of Tokyo, I found a wonderful salon - Nepenji in Ebisu. The owner, Kiyoko, is fluent in English and trained at the Devachan salon in New York, which specialises in curls. She not only gives me the best haircuts I've ever had (as in, I want to bring her back to England with me whenever I eventually leave!) but she has completely revolutionised my hair regime. My hair is in better condition than it's ever been before and she's the first stylist I've ever met who I feel completely relaxed with (haircuts for me often equate to trauma, esp. in Asia, but she just KNOWS what to do!). They also do amazing treatments and sell Deva (sulfate-free) products, which Kiyoko gets sent over from NY. 

If you've got curly hair and have any tips, suggestions or places to share, let us know in the comments!

Ali echoed Toni & Guy:
I totally agree with the Toni & Guy suggestion. I have naturally curly hair which I then perm to make even curlier, and Toni & Guy in Hamamatsu was the best place for me. They really understood my hair, and my hairdresser even spoke a bit of English (although I think that guy has left now). As for products, I found it quite hard to get good serums, but there were some you could find in the larger drugstores. 

Volunteering in Japan: Children's Homes and Opportunities for Non-Japanese Speakers

Have you ever thought about getting involved and making a difference somehow? Working for a cause? Or just helping people (or animals)? And now you're in Japan, perhaps wondering what your options are.

There are, of course, many, many non-profit organizations in Japan, but not all of them accept volunteers who don't speak Japanese.

I've listed some options in last week's Lifelines column, and also took a look at getting involved with children's homes (orphanages) in Japan and how that works.

And by all means, let me know if you know of other options that should be mentioned! Thanks!

From baby massage to fostering pets, many options for volunteers | Japan Times

Local orphanages may be best bet for volunteers | Japan Times

22 Cool Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks - July 29

At a temple entrance

Well, we're all moved into our new apartment, with some unpacking left to do still, of course. Please enjoy this latest collection of Japan links from the past two weeks, covering a wide range of topics, from 120 yen per square meter of land being sold in Hokkaido, to blue ramen and curry, to some fun summer words, to why Japan needs family doctors.

Pour yourself a glass of non-Japanese lemonade or some mugicha (or whatever your preferred cold beverage is) and relax a bit.

HOW TO: Use an Air Conditioner in Japan

Given that we're in the height of summer now with the rainy season behind us, temps are soaring across the country and folks are suffering from heatstroke left and right, this might be a good time to look at how to use your air conditioner, especially as I've received several requests for this post. Of course, we should all be trying to do our best to save electricity or finding other ways to cool off, but now that we have a baby, I understand the importance of regulating the temperature somewhat (or else, we NEVER sleep at night due to a cranky, hot little one).

And if the heat and humidity are enough to actually affect you negatively, then please be careful and cool down as needed. It's crazy (in a bad way) to see how many people are falling victim to the heat, this year and every year.

Back to your air conditioner. Keep in mind that aircon makes and models vary -- some have only the most basic features and others a long list of options. I'm using our air conditioner remote as an example for this post, but there are remotes that differ to some extent. Some features might be called something else under different models, as well.

air conditioner, aircon, remote, Japan, Japanese

HOW TO: End Your Battle With Mold in the Bathroom

If you've lived in Japan for any length of time, you know how frustrating it can be to keep the mold away. (And if you haven't lived here yet, well, you'll soon find out...) It grows like a wild beast here. I thought we had pretty bad mold in the pacific northwest in the States, but it's terrible here. I mean, if it isn't rusting, it's probably molding at some point.

OK, maybe not everything, but it does feel like it sometimes!

Not to mention, I'm allergic to it.

It's been four years in Japan and every year I realize more and more just how hard it can be to WIN the mold war, short of bleaching everything in sight (which, I don't do, for various reasons).

So how can you keep it from taking over? And when it's spreading it's nastiness around your bathroom, how do you get rid of it? Here are some ideas:

Accommodation in Japan: Share Houses

Japan, share house, accommodation, living
Living area of a share house in Japan. Photo provided by Tokyo Sharehouse.

For some folks, finding a place to live in Japan can be a challenge, particularly if you don’t speak Japanese fluently. I’ll be addressing this more in the coming months in terms of finding and renting an apartment (less than a week until we move!), but today I’d like to introduce a potential option (and Surviving in Japan’s July sponsor) that might appeal to some of you: living in a share house. 

The basic concept of a share house is similar to dorms, some hostels, or sharing an apartment or flat with someone (or a few people) in western countries. Several people live together in the same house or apartment and share common areas like the kitchen, living room and bathrooms, but have some private space, such as, at the very least, a bedroom.) One difference about share houses as opposed to other types of room sharing is that there is a management company and/or administrator involved, so you have someone to go to with problems that you can’t or don’t want to discuss with your roomies.

Some of you might be thinking of the “gaijin houses”, which are share houses for foreigners living in Japan. This term is still used, and there are share houses that still fit this term, but more Japanese people have been staying in share houses over the years so “share house” or “guest house” are becoming more commonly used.

Share houses in Japan can be quite basic or on the more luxurious end of things (as you can see from the pictures in this post), depending on the house, and rooms are typically furnished with a bed, air conditioner, television, small fridge and desk.

share house, Japan, bedroom, living, accommodation
A standard bedroom in a share house. Photo provided by Tokyo Sharehouse.

Who are share houses for?

Share houses host a variety of people, although they are most popular with students and working adults in their 20s and 30s. The average length of stay is anywhere from one month up to one year. This is helpful if you only plan to be in Japan a short time, but not so short that you want to live out of a hotel, whether for school, a long trip or if you’re completely new to Japan and don’t want to live by yourself in an apartment in those first weeks or months.

A share house might also be a good fit if you’re a people person and enjoy socializing, like taking part in events and/or parties, and it can also provide a chance to immerse yourself in Japanese.

Why live in a share house?

Aside from the social aspects and emphasis on community, a share house can be more budget-friendly, as they don’t usually require deposits, key money and/or other initial fees that many apartments in Japan do. This does depend, though, as we found when searching for our new apartment. Although if a share house requires these fees, they will probably be relatively low.

Costs depend on the house you stay at and where it’s located, so obviously a house in or near the center of Tokyo will generally be more expensive than those farther away (with some exceptions, particularly if you are willing to teach English once or twice a week). So you might pay as low as 30,000 yen a month or up to 80,000 yen a month (in the greater Tokyo area).

share house, guest house, Japan, dining, living, accommodation
Dining and Living area in a share house. Photo provided by Tokyo Sharehouse.

You also don’t always need a guarantor, as you often will when renting an apartment in Japan. We didn’t need a guarantor for our apartment, but they asked us to list some “emergency contacts” here in Japan, basically to take care of our stuff if we just up and leave the country with no notice (more on that in a later post). It is possible to hire a guarantor company, but this adds on more expenses.

Of course, share houses aren’t for everyone, such as families with children or if you’re more introverted and don’t prefer to socialize at home. If you have any issues sharing with others (showers, kitchen, etc.) or just prefer to have everything to yourself, then a share house probably isn’t a good option for you.

They also aren’t necessarily available everywhere, so you may be limited to the major cities. If you plan to live in Tokyo, for example, it’s no problem, but if you want to live out in the countryside, you may want to look into other options.

OK, this might be a good option for me. How do I get started?

One way is to search around online. There are quite a few results in English, although you’ll probably find more options in Japanese (シェアハウス in Japanese, but you can also search for room shares and similar terms).

Also, some companies are able to promote themselves more heavily to the English-speaking community than others, such as the bigger chains (due to the language barrier), so you might miss out on finding the many other houses that exist.

Another option is Surviving in Japan’s July sponsor, Tokyo Sharehouse, which fills the gap for non-Japanese speakers by helping them to find share houses in the greater Tokyo area, including Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba (with plans to expand to other areas of Japan in the future). They also act as an intermediary if the share house management can’t communicate in English (at no charge to you).

Otherwise, all you typically need to stay in a share house in Japan is ID, your passport, a current visa and of course, money.

Japan, share house, living, accommodation, bedroom
Bedroom at a share house. Photo provided by Tokyo Sharehouse.

Tokyo Sharehouse’s website also has a helpful FAQ regarding share houses in Japan.

So tell us, have any of you ever stayed at a share house? If so, what was your experience like?


This post was brought to you by Tokyo Sharehouse, a portal site devoted to making it easier for non-Japanese speakers to find share houses in the greater Tokyo area. Many thanks to them also for providing share house information and photos for this post. 

HOW TO: Save Money While Traveling in Japan - Tofugu Post

Whether you live in Japan or not, most people want to save money, especially if and when traveling.

I've seen numerous "how to save money traveling in Japan" posts out there, and while most are helpful to some degree, are mainly seen through the eyes of travelers, rather than residents.

There are of course, hundreds of ways to save money in regards to living in Japan (another future post here), but for now, if you're planning a trip in Japan, here are some ways I and my family save money when we travel.

You might not be convinced, but these ideas might not all be what you'd expect.

Have some of your own budget-friendly travel tips to share? Hop on over and leave a comment!

25 Ways to Save Money While Traveling in Japan | Tofugu

24 Click-Worthy Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks - July 15

fireworks, summer, Japan

It suddenly got ridiculously humid here in Shizuoka, and it feels like a big choke hold. Here's another round of Japan links, including how to wear a yukata, Hokkaido's abandoned rail, how to travel cheap by train without a Japan Rail Pass, and more. Enjoy!

(And a note to those of you in Kyushu and Shikoku - reading and hearing about all that's happening is frightening. I truly hope if you're reading this that you're safe and well, but my thoughts are with everyone there right now. Please be careful.)

Living in Japan

Hokkaido nervous about winter power supply (The Japan Times) - Appropriate, as it's so dang cold there in winter...

Guys, not sure how to wear that yukata? Check out this video for some tips.

And girls, a how-to-wear-a-yukata video for you too. (Hat tip to Japan Pulse)

Got some old jeans you don't wear anymore? Bring them to Gap for a 20% off coupon and help folks out in the process. They are accepting used/old denim, whether it's Gap brand or not, and you can receive a 20% off coupon per item you bring. The project goes from July 16 to August 19 and excludes mini skirts and baby denim (unless it's Baby Gap brand). All items must be washed and need to be wearable (no holes, fraying, noticeable dirt spots, broken or missing buttons/zippers, etc.). Donations are going to the Japan Relief Clothing Center NPO to be sent to people around the world in need of these items.

Breaker, breaker: How to conserve energy without thinking too much (Yen for Living) - Useful tip if you own a home.

Complex rules in place for safety's sake, but Red Cross still wants your blood (The Japan Times) - Hopefully the last in our blood donation saga...

How to keep your health insurance when you can’t pay for it (Yen for Living) - Good to know.

Old Navy is in Japan! Who's going? (The Japan Times)

24 Handy Resources for Traveling in Japan

Japan, travel, resources, howto

Are you traveling to (or in) Japan this summer? Or sometime this year? Are you prepared for the heat and humidity of summer, the difficult-to-read food labels if you don't know Japanese, or how to find reasonably-priced fruit?

Do you know how to find insect bite medicine if the mosquitoes eat you alive?

Or how to find a non-smoking restaurant if you're sensitive to smoke (it's harder than you think).

Or even the most seemingly simplest of tasks, customizing your favorite caffeine beverage at one of those major coffee chains if there aren't any English-speaking staff available. Some of the customizations might not be what you're accustomed to...

Below you'll find answers to all of the above, plus more tips and advice you probably won't find in any guidebooks that might come in handy while you're traveling around Japan.

Japan, dance, festival, matsuri

First of all, although the rainy season has ended in Okinawa and will soon be ending on the main islands, here are some ways to deal with general heat and humidity summer in Japan usually brings: Surviving the Rainy Season in Japan: 40 Tips

You successfully managed to send your luggage from the airport off to your destination, but how do you send it back when you're heading home? HOW TO: Deliver Your Luggage to the Airport

If you want to save money, one of the best ways to do so is by booking with a Japanese travel site (preferably in Japanese), or directly via the hotel's Japanese version of the site. It's a bit daunting at first, but here's a guide to help walk you through the process: HOW TO: Make a Hotel Reservation Online (in Japanese)


About Cycling and Biking in Japan
If you plan to ride a bicycle at all, you'll want to be aware of some of the rules of the road (although these aren't always strictly enforced).

biking, cycling, Japan, rules

HOW TO: Find Shinkansen and Express Train Seating Charts
If you're worried about being seated near a smoking car (some trains still have them, though nowadays most don't) or just want to have a better idea of where you'll be sitting (or want to choose), this will tell you what you need to know.

Planning to ride local buses? Major cities and popular tourist destinations usually have bus information listed in English (you'll want to check the tourist information centers for more), but in other cities almost everything is in Japanese, and believe me when I say it's sometimes incredibly confusing to figure out. To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, see HOW TO: Find Bus Routes/Schedules Online - Part 1 and Part 2.


The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan - Enough said. You'll be glad you read this.

food, labels, Japanese, Japan, read, howto

HOW TO: Find Allergy-Friendly Food in Japan - If you have any kind of food allergy, make sure to read this post.

Looking for inexpensive fruit and veggies? The trick is to check out local farmer's markets or morning markets: HOW TO: Find a Farmer's Market in Japan

HOW TO: Find a non-smoking restaurant in Japan - Most restaurants in Japan still allow smoking, although more are creating separate sections for smokers and non-smokers. If you have issues with smoke, have kids, etc., here is a way to find suitable dining spots.

HOW TO: Customize Your Drinks at Starbucks or Tully's in Japan - Just in case you can't find any English-speaking staff. And Japan does some customizations a bit differently.

Japanese Phrase Cards for Vegans, Vegetarians, People With Food Allergies, or Other Dietary Restrictions - These would be handy to carry around.


If you're coming from abroad, it's probably best to bring your own sunscreen, but if you're staying a while and/or run out, here's A Guide to Sunscreen in Japan

sunscreen, Japan, guide, summer, travel

HOW TO: Find anti-itch, insect bite medicine in Japan - The mosquitoes are incredibly annoying here. If you don't bring your own medicine (might be a good idea to do so), here's how to find some relief for those bites.

HOW TO: Find motion sickness medication in Japan - Feeling a little nauseous? Forgot your motion sickness medicine at home? Here's what to look or ask for.


Why not head to the movies? Here's all you need to know, including some tips to find discounts (because the movies tend to be expensive here in Japan): 7 tips for going to the movies in Japan

movies, Japan

HOW TO: Find a fireworks festival (花火大会) this summer - Don your yukata and geta, grab a hand fan and plastic tarp, and enjoy a spectacular Japanese summer pastime.

fireworks, Japan, festival

Maybe you're planning to conquer Mt. Fuji, but if you want to explore places a little less crowded, here's how to find hiking trails in Japan.

HOW TO: Take great travel photos when you visit Japan - Some useful tips to visually document your journey.

If you want to explore one of Japan's many water parks or just cool off in a pool, learn HOW TO: Find a recreational pool or water park in Japan

Other Tips

Make life easy - 8 tools for surviving in Japan - Though more geared for folks living here in Japan, these apps and resources will come in handy when traveling or planning travel activities as well.

HOW TO: Transfer Money To and From Japan - If you run out of cash and don't want to use your credit card, or for any other reason, here's how you can receive money while in Japan.

money, Japan, transfer

5 Ways to Not Stand Out in Japan - Many foreigners tend to stick out like a sore thumb, but guest poster Caroline provides some advice on how to blend in.

A Guide to Convenience Store Copy, Print, and Fax Services in Japan - Just in case you need to make copies, print something out, send a fax, or whatever. Granted, hotels usually have these services, but the convenience stores are also really, well, convenient. I've listed what each of the major convenience store chains provide and whether they offer services in English or not.

convenience store, 7-11, Japan