Internet in Japan: Broadband (High-speed) Options and Basics

Are you heading to Japan this summer? Wondering what you're going to do about internet? Needless to say, trying to sort through all the internet information can be, for many of us, a bit daunting, confusing, and to put it bluntly, a headache. I've attempted to cover the basics of broadband internet in Japan today, with some help from Chris Green of Asahi Net. Asahi Net is a leading internet service provider (ISP) in Japan and the June sponsor of Surviving in Japan. And, as usual, I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and experiences regarding internet in Japan in the comments!

Two Types of Providers

First things first, as this might not be the case in your home country: Internet services in Japan are typically unbundled services (cable internet is usually not), meaning that one company usually provides the line and the other establishes the internet connection (in other words, the internet service provider, or ISP is typically separate from the company who sets up the line and rents you the modem, although this isn't always the case). As for companies that provide the line and hardware, NTT East and NTT West are the main ones, though KDDI and some other companies also provide these services, often because they lease the line from NTT East or NTT West.

ISPs, called プロバイダ (purobaida) in Japanese, are the ones that get you an internet connection. There are many, many of these around the country -- some of the big ones include Asahi Net, Yahoo BB, OCN, So-net, @nifty, Biglobe, etc. Most only offer Japanese support, so if you're looking for English, you might find some helpful information here, or check out Surviving in Japan's June sponsor, Asahi Net.

You can sign up with NTT East or NTT West on your own and then sign up for an ISP separately, if you prefer, or, you can sign up with an ISP and they will pass your application to NTT East or NTT West directly. You may either end up paying two bills each month, or a combined bill, depending on which option you go with and the ISP you choose.

And this is another possible service that can help get you hooked up (all in English).

Main Types of Broadband (High-speed) Internet in Japan

Fiber-optics / FTTH (Fiber to the home)  光ファイバー

Fiber optics, or FTTH, as it's also called, is the fastest and most popular option for internet in Japan, with a max speed of 100 or 200 Mbps (or 1 Gbps for the au Hikari service), depending on your location, and thus service and line/wiring. There are two types of FTTH: family/home type and "mansion" type. The former is usually for standalone houses (and is more expensive) and the latter for apartment buildings with several units. The mansion type is cheaper than the family type and ADSL. 

One downside to FTTH though is that it's not available everywhere yet, so depending on where you live, you might not even have the option for FTTH. Also, if it's not already installed in the building (if you live in an apartment building, etc.), you will have to request permission (via a special form) from the owner to have a line put in.

Connection time, from the time of application, can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, or possibly longer during peak season (March/April and August/September, sometimes around the New Year holidays as well). If you're hooking up the mansion-type service, then it will probably be closer to two weeks, and if the family/home type, four weeks. These are just in general though; there are always exceptions.

We've been using FTTH for the past three years and it's worked out really well. We had to have the line installed in the beginning, but I started the process a month before moving so we had internet when we moved in.

How is Japanese sauce (ソース) different from... sauce? (+Recipe)

Today we have a guest post from Kiyomi, who blogs at All About Japanese Food. She explains the difference between what we call sauce in the West and what Japan considers to be sauce (ソース).  


Today I would like to introduce a sauce that is unique to Japan, plus a popular recipe that is best accompanied by this particular sauce.

What does ソース(sauce) mean in Japan?

If you are living in Japan, have you ever gone to a supermarket and asked, “ where is the sauce (ソース)?” and the clerk showed you some dark, thick sauce that you had never seen before?  This is what we call ソース in Japan. Unlike “sauce” in English, the ソース in Japanese refers specifically to a black, thick, liquid-type sauce, such as ウスターソース, とんかつソース(濃厚ソース), and 中濃ソース. It can also include other varieties such as 有機 (organic ones) or 塩分カット (low sodium). Other sauces like soy sauce, tomato sauce or mayonnaise are called by their individual names, so they aren't referred to as "sauce" in Japanese.

ソース in Japan

Japanese Phrase Cards for Vegans, Vegetarians, People With Food Allergies, or Other Dietary Restrictions

For those of you who are vegetarians, vegans, have food allergies, or any other kind of dietary restriction, it can be difficult when you're out and about in Japan to ensure that the food you're eating doesn't contain anything you can't eat. Not just for those living here, but travelers as well.

Maki, of the amazing food blogs Just Hungry and Just Bento, created printable pdfs (in A4 or US letter size) with cards that list English phrases for dietary restrictions and their Japanese translations.

She currently has cards for:
  • vegetarians
  • vegans
  • pescatarians
  • folks who eat poultry and fish but not meat
  • wheat allergies
  • dairy/lactose allergies
  • nut allergies
  • shellfish/shrimp allergies
  • soy allergies
  • no alcohol

You can also get a "fill in the blank" allergy card.

So the next time you eat out in Japan and aren't sure how to explain to the server what you can or can't have, you can just pull out the appropriate card. Or if you're going to a party or something like that, you can let the hosts know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time by sending along a card.

Happy eating!

Printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan | Just Hungry

26 Japan Links You Might Want to Check Out (From the Past 2 Weeks) - June 18

Hakone Shrine, Hakone, Kanagawa, Japan

Another week (or two, actually), another set of Japan-related links from around the web. A wide variety today: from the rainy season to GoLloyds being sold to saving energy to moldy Mos burgers to suicide in Japan, archery in a volcano, a Lego theme park, Expressway Service Areas, and the Oi Reactors being restarted. Enjoy!

Living in Japan

The rainy season is officially here, as it started in late April down in Okinawa and early June for most of the rest of us, aside Hokkaido, of course.

Smartphones, car navigation systems may aid evacuations when next Big One strikes: Tokyo officials (Japan Times)

Foreign residents decline a third year, by 56,000 (Japan Times) - Consider too, that this still leaves 2.079 million foreign residents in Japan, according to the article.

Tokyo-area driving school offers lessons in English (Japan Times) - If you're in or near Tokyo and plan to get a driver's license (although I can't really imagine why you would need to own a car in Tokyo), you might want to check out driving lessons in English (especially if you've never driven before). Although I can attest it's possible to pass with very little practice. Take one or two hour-long practice sessions at a nearby driving school and you should be good to go. The rest is all about memorizing the course. (This all assumes that you already have a license issued in a country abroad, otherwise, you have to start from scratch anyway).

Calls made for bicycles to have number plates (Japan Today) - Some people think this is a bad idea, others, a good one. Personally I think they would be helpful, especially for reporting purposes, but I also do strongly feel parents and teachers need to do a better job teaching kids how to ride bikes safely in Japan. This comes from numerous times of children not stopping and not looking when they suddenly ride their bike across a crosswalk in front of me while driving, or not stopping or looking at any of those annoyingly small intersections on narrow roads all over the place.

Just yesterday I had to come to a skidding halt, when two junior high age girls, who had been biking straight along the sidewalk, suddenly decided they would cross the street, without looking and without stopping to check for cars. Fortunately I had been watching them as I was driving and was able to slam the brakes in time and skidded to a halt right in front of the cross walk (and fortunately the car behind me was far enough behind that they didn't rear end me). I wasn't thrilled.

Shinagawa will pay to raze quake firetraps (Japan Times) - Why? Because people's wooden houses are all built ridiculously close together, creating a potential difficult-to-put-out neighborhood fire.

Parents, you might want to read this article from Japan Healthcare Info about how to locate pediatric emergency services in Japan what to prepare in advance. (Japan Today) 

You may have read our recent post on how to transfer money to and from Japan, and users of GoLloyds might be interested to know that Lloyds is selling GoLloyds to Shinsei Bank. (Financial News)

Did you see those crazy (expensive) bladeless Dyson fans last summer or this year? For hardly anything, you can get smaller, portable versions of those, although not Dyson. (RocketNews24)

Where to Find Tall and Plus Size Clothing in Japan

There were so many responses to the Q&A I posted a couple weeks ago that I thought I would compile everything into this post for a more comprehensive list to finding tall and plus size clothing in Japan. Keep in mind too though that sometimes what is considered tall or plus size here is, in many cases, similar to standard sizing in many western countries. Ultimately you'll want to check the sizing guides and measurements to see what might work for you.

And, this is probably obvious, but there are numerous places to shop online overseas and have things sent to you, or companies that will ship the items to you in Japan instead. Be careful of import taxes though - anything leather especially, like shoes, or more expensive items might set you back quite a bit (check the link for more details on that).

(Most of the stores I've listed below are online sites only available in Japanese - you can use a browser translation tool or something like Rikaichan or Rikaikun to help you navigate.)

If you're looking for outdoor gear (clothes and/or shoes), you can find an extensive list of stores and brands here that sometimes do carry larger sizes.

Men and Women

Uniqlo carries some "plus size" clothing in its online store (up to XXL), for women and men.

Isetan has an online tall size (166-175cm) women's shop and also plus size shops for women.

Isetan also offers a tall and plus size store for men online. (If you live near an Isetan you might want to check out the store also.)

Aoki, a store with shops across Japan that focuses on suits and formal wear, has tall and plus size clothing for men and up to 3L plus size for women (link is to online store). The women's selection isn't as extensive as the men's.

Cecile (online) offers plus size clothes for women, men, teens and kids. Also has larger size bras.

Polopony (online store) has some larger sized tshirts and athletic wear.

Ito Yokado has a selection of plus-size clothes (thanks to Meredith for suggestion).

Tokyo: "Comme ca in Shinjuku store also has some great European sized clothing for women, men, and children. I also surprisingly stumbled upon some elegant, yet pricey, plus sized clothing (non-straight sizes) in one of the numerous store boutiques in Takashimaya in Shinjuku."


Nissen has a tall size online women's shop.

Rope is another Japan-based store that offers tall women's sizes online.

LLQueen focuses specifically on women's plus size clothing (online).

Chayclub also sells women's plus size clothes online.

Shimamura, a fashion store located around Japan, reportedly has some plus-size clothes (thanks -chai- for the tip!)

If you live in a major city with a Costco, you might want to check out their selection (thanks Bruce for the tip!)

Though this is technically ordering online, J.Crew, which used to be in Japan, has a Japan store and ships to Japan, and offers tall and some plus sizes for women, and tall sizes for men. (They also have up to size US size 12 shoes for women, but if you get anything with leather, the import fees can be outrageous.)

L.L.Bean has some US sizing, according to Bruce, and good selection.

While on the topic of American sizes, Gap in Japan sizes with US sizes (some shirts might seem a bit smaller, but overall they are usually the same). You can locate a Gap near you here. Gap Japan will also be opening an online store in October 2012, for those of you who don't live near one.

Zara has some tall-size clothes, including dresses and maxi-skirts. Ashleylaurent recommends sizing up if you shop here.

Aeon (shopping mall) also has some larger sizes. (Thanks to Haikugirl for the tips).

Tokyo: Haikugirl recommended British store Next, and Ashleylaurent suggested Topshop in Shinjuku for European sizes for taller women and men. Meredith also recommended Smileland in Shibuya.

Tochigi: Stacy suggests Sanki, "it has cheap clothes with labels that read XXXL. That size sometimes fits, and I am about a size 12 US." She also says Sanki is located elsewhere.


John suggested this Kanto-area store for men's plus size clothes:

"There is a shop that sells dress shirts, polos, and suits for plus size men (actually all size men). It's called Sakazen and there's quite a few around Tokyo. The stores generally have like 5 or 6 floors. The prices are fairly cheap, but some floors have more "exclusive" brands which are slightly overpriced. It's worth a visit."

Sakazen also appears to have an online shop.

MD (Mido) carries plus size men's clothing, up to 8L.

Kansai: Big and Tall (Thanks to Blueshoe for the tip). 


If you have anything else to add, even if it's regional, let us know!

Q&A: Apartment Hunting in Tokyo and Yokohama

I received a question from Srishti regarding apartment and location recommendations for the Tokyo/Yokohama area. I haven't lived there myself so can't personally recommend anything and I'm hoping those of you in the area will have some advice.

Side note: It's funny timing, actually, as I'll be moving elsewhere here in Shizuoka, Japan with David and the baby this summer, so there will be lots of moving-in-Japan related information coming in a few months! If you have a story to share about moving in Japan, feel free to let me know and with enough responses I might be able to compile a useful "experiences" post.

Q: Could you possibly guide me with how to choose an apartment in Yokohama or Tokyo? I know there is private versus public housing... but I'm not sure of the pros and cons and whether is it economical to get a furnished or non-furnished apartment or even what questions to ask. I'm moving from Germany so this is my second international move.

A: So, readers living (or have recently lived) in Tokyo and/or Yokohama, what do you recommend? Many thanks in advance for your help!

HOW TO: Transfer Money To and From Japan

transfer, money, remittance, overseas, Japan

Editor's note: Many thanks to Peter Lavelle of foreign currency exchange Pure FX for compiling and writing most of today's guest post.

If you’re living in Japan, or know someone who is, one potential problem can be sending money to and from the country. How do you do it? What are your options?

In fact, while GoRemit (formerly GoLloyds) is a well-known service (which I’ll cover in this post), there are other useful alternatives you might want to consider, depending on your circumstances and requirements. Let’s take a look at them.

Some Words to Know

送金               そうきん                           soukin                         remittance
送金手数料  そうきんてすうりょう      soukin tesuuryou        remittance fee/charges
外国向送金  がいこくむけそうきん      gaikoku mukesoukin   overseas remittance
外国送金   がいこくそうきん             gaikoku soukin            overseas remittance

How To Transfer Money To Japan From Overseas

This is the more difficult question to answer, given that there’s precious little information about it on the internet (a pretty thorough Google search on my part brought up a lot of spam and not much else.) In short, if you want to transfer money to someone in Japan, you have three options:

26 Useful Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks - June 4

Hakone Shrine, Hakone, Kanagawa, Japan
Living in Japan

City of Saitama to offer translation for foreigners' emergency calls (Japan Times) - A good idea, I think.

Japan faces a long, hot, nuclear-free summer (Japan Times) - Will we survive? So far I haven't heard anything about this summer being as hot as the last two, so maybe it won't be too bad. (This comes from someone who abhors winter and looks forward to the warm months.) At least we know now that eel prices will skyrocket.

Government doesn't plan to issue mandatory power-saving order to western Japan (Japan Times) - So far, so good.

While it's getting all hot and humid and everything, now that it's June, Super Cool Biz has started. Break out the Hawaiian shirts! (Do people actually wear those to work? I wouldn't know, since I work at home.) (Japan Times)

And this probably comes as no surprise, but gas and power utilities across Japan will raise their monthly rates in July (Japan Times)

If you're a cheapskate and you live in Tokyo, you might appreciate this newer site, Tokyo Cheapo.

Something skittering across your floor? You could try using a lint roller to capture and get rid of it. Probably won't work for cockroaches, though.

Trying to navigate the hundreds of Japanese study resources? Language in Review, a new website, is trying to make things easier for you. 

Aichi school's 'cyclist's license' keeping kids safe (Japan Times)  - With how often kids nearly almost ride their bikes without paying attention to their surroundings (and many near collisions as a result), I honestly think this is a good idea.

Travel and Recreation

Japanese city hosts world’s largest glass-walled toilet (The Japan Daily Press) - Would you travel to a city, for the toilet? That aside, would you want to walk the distance from door to toilet when you really gotta go? (The whole area is 200 meters square.)

The Tokyo Sky Tree is now open, and you can read all about the tower's construction here(Japan Times)

Sagami Lake's Pleasure Forest in Kanagawa is opening two family attractions this summer: a cubic maze and an obstacle course. Looks like some good ol' family fun! (RocketNews24)

Living out in the countryside? You might want to check out and contribute to this new website devoted to all things rural Japan -- The Inaka Project.

Planning your first trip to Tokyo? Here are some things to keep in mind

Like manga? Why not check out the Kyoto Manga Museum? (

Savin' Electricity (and Money)

80% of the Residents Living in Homes with Photovoltaic Systems Pay No Energy Bill (Japan for Sustainability) - Ironically, one of these homes is being built next door to us right now! And solar panels going up everywhere. It'd be nice to have a house and save some money on the electricity bill...

LIXIL Launches New Shower that Reduces Water Use by 48% (Japan for Sustainability) - Let's be clear, it reduces water AND maintains water pressure. That's the important thing, right?


"Miracle Apples" and Natural Cultivation (Japan for Sustainability) - The title is utterly boring, but the article fascinated me all the way through to the end, and it's difficult for me to stay focused all the way through long articles online, but this idea of "natural cultivation" is a good one. The farmer in the article has been growing apples since 1970 and started out using pesticides (which actually burned his skin if he got it on his hands), but later switched to natural cultivation. Apples aren't native to Japan and it's difficult to grow them here because of the heat and humidity during summer, so most farmers apparently use pesticides for them. Sounds yummy, doesn't it? Biting into a juicy apple with pesticides all over it! And, what's that, Japan is one of the largest pesticide users in the world? Food for thought (no pun intended).

It also talks about nitrates and their potential harm:
"Plants absorb nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth. That is why all fertilizers, both chemical and organic, contain a large amount of nitrogen. Nitrogen breaks down into nitrate nitrogen (nitrates) in soil, and then is absorbed by plants. Though useful to plants, nitrates can be harmful to human beings: infants have died from methemoglobinemia, a blood disease that can be caused by ingesting nitrates in drinking water, due to excessive intake of nitrates. Thus, people have become concerned about the contamination of soil, water and agricultural products by nitrates in fertilizers. 
The EU has safety standards for nitrates contained in vegetables of up to about 2500ppm, although this varies depending on the season or kind of vegetable. In contrast, Japan has standards for tap water, but no regulations for vegetables. Some vegetables contain over 2500ppm of nitrates. Most vegetables grown with Kimura's natural cultivation method contain less than 500ppm of nitrates. Some contain only single digit levels."

Umeboshi: perfect in any culinary pickle (Japan Times)

Fukushima Nuclear Crisis/Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Tepco to be nationalized on July 25 with ¥1 trillion transaction (Japan Times) - This probably comes as no surprise.

Butcher serves up 'cesium beef' at rare tasting (Japan Times) - The nuclear disaster events have proved a catch-22 for those raising, selling and serving free range beef, sadly.

Researchers develop cloth that draws cesium out of toxic water (Japan Times)

WHO releases mixed Fukushima radiation report (Japan Today)

The World’s First Radiation Counter Cellphone Announced In Japan  (Asiajin) - Wonder how well this actually works.

Chiropractic Care in Japan - How it's different, how to find a good practitioner, and more [Interview]

Today I'd like to introduce to you Dr. Kei Takeyachi, owner of Tokyo Chiropractic and executive director of the Japanese Association of Chiropractors. In this interview, Dr. Takeyachi has graciously shared quite a bit of information regarding chiropractic care in Japan.

So if you're seeking a chiropractor here in Japan and not sure what exactly to look for, or you used a chiropractor in your home country and you want to learn more about how what chiropractic is like in Japan, read on!

In this interview we discuss:
  • What chiropractic actually is and what it treats
  • How chiropractic in Japan differs from other countries
  • Who is qualified to be a chiropractor, according to the World Health Organization
  • How to find a reputable chiropractor in Japan, and one who speaks English if necessary
  • How much chiropractic services in Japan typically cost
  • Whether or not chiropractors offer massage services at their clinics
And more.