Best time to go to Japan
Just like the Netherlands, Japan is famous for its four seasons. Spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) are the best times to visit Japan. Spring is cherry blossom season and there is little rainfall, clear skies and mild temperatures. As temperatures dip quickly after the sweltering summer, the colours of the leaves change suddenly into vibrant shades of orange, red; yellow and brown. Quite a picturesque sight. Summer is also a good time to travel to Japan, although it can be very hot and humid. Start the day early and enjoy a good siesta during the hottest hours of the day.
|Rainfall in mm||49||60||115||130||128||165||162||155||209||163||93||40|
|Number of rainy days||5||6||10||10||10||12||10||8||11||9||6||4|
|Hours of sun/day||6||6||6||7||6||5||6||7||5||4||5||5|
|Rainfall in mm||111||96||80||61||55||51||67||137||138||124||103||105|
|Number of rainy days||18||16||14||9||9||7||8||9||10||12||14||16|
|Rainfall in mm||44||59||100||121||140||201||155||99||175||109||66||38|
|Number of rainy days||5||6||9||10||10||12||10||7||10||8||6||5|
|Rainfall in mm||71||84||125||185||170||312||257||175||249||114||94||81|
|Number of rainy days||11||9||11||11||10||13||10||9||11||6||8||10|
|Hours of sun/day||4||5||6||7||7||6||7||8||6||6||6||4|
Japanese customs and etiquette
In Japan, rules aren’t mere suggestions. They’re not to be bent, ignored, mocked or challenged. They are the rules and everyone obeys them. In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. Children normally begin learning how to bow at a very young age. Most Japanese do not expect foreigners (Gaijin) to know about the proper bowing etiquette. A combination of a bow and shaking hands is usually expected from foreigners. Japanese people will often shake hands with foreigners instead of bowing. Greeting or saying goodbye with a kiss is somewhat new in Japan and is not to be done in public.
Honour, sincerity and honesty are central in Japan. This makes Japan one of the world’s safest countries. No need to be afraid of pick pocketing, yet be careful to never leave your valuables unattended. Travelers often just leave their luggage on the platform unattended and go and buy a cup of coffee. You will never get cheated in shops or cabs. Prices are fixed. You will never get forced into buying something, even after tasting. You always get back correct change. If you would openly count your change, this would be considered insulting.
You’ll always have to remove footwear when entering a temple, a private home and traditional accommodation or a hot spring resort. There will always be a rack to put your shoes. You’ll usually be given a pair of slippers for walking around inside. Never wear slippers when you step onto a Japanese tatami mat. Remove them before stepping on the tatami and place them at the room entrance. Walk barefoot or keep your socks on. There are often different slippers for the bathroom. You should never wear the normal slippers into the bathroom, but always use the bathroom slippers (when provided) and vice versa.
It’s a good idea to bring comfortable slippers with you when traveling in Japan, especially for temple visit days when you have to remove your footwear all the time.
At busy times, when waiting to board a train, a bus or a metro, Japanese form an orderly queue. Train station platforms even have lines drawn on the platform to guide the direction of the queues. Pushing your way past is considered very rude. Of course let people get off first, before you get on the train.
It’s quite common to see “no tattoos allowed” signs at certain establishments. In Japan, there is certainly a stigma towards tattoos. The easiest explanation, of course, is that Japanese mafia (yakuza) traditionally mark their bodies with tattoos. But not everyone who has tattoos in Japan is in organised crime. Still it’s a taboo. When you have tattoos on your body, you cannot enter a communal onsen.
There is no custom of tipping in Japan in any situation, whether in restaurants, bars or cabs. Leaving a little extra cash on the table at a restaurant will often result in a waiter chasing you down the street to give it back. If you insist on leaving a tip, it is actually a little insulting.
Mobile phone in Japan
Japan is a leader in mobile phone technology and has developed its own mobile network. While the Japanese were forging ahead and using technology unique to Japan (UMTS), the rest of the world was developing standards that now define a somewhat common ground globally. There is no GSM network in Japan, so GSM-only phones do not work. While most of today’s mobile phone models can be used in Japan, some older phones may not work due to different technologies, not even with a Japanese sim card. If you have third generation UMTS telephone, it might work in Japan. Modern smartphones with data access, usually work with UMTS.
What if you don’t have such a phone, but you still want to be reachable in Japan? Then renting is the easiest way for the average traveler to get a phone, and it typically requires a picture ID and a credit card. Many companies have kiosks at the airport, usually in the arrival hall. Keep in mind that renting a phone and making phone calls is not cheap. Apart from rental charges for the phone, you easily pay between 200 and 300 yen per minute for a phone call. Before you pick a phone, compare the prices of the different companies. You can buy a prepaid phone card for a public phone booth at nearly every convenience store, yet only grey phones are for use with international calling cards. They display the words “international phone” and will enable you to call overseas.
A majority of hotels in Japan offer free Wi-fi in their guests rooms or they charge for internet access based on 24 hours periods. Unlike many other Asian countries, there are not so many internet cafes in Japan. Everyone has Wi-fi access on their smartphone. If you use your laptop in a Starbucks or McDonald’s, you can login to the free Wi-Fi network for customers. It’s a good idea to bring a small network cable with you, as many hotels don’t have good free Wi-Fi in the rooms, but an internet access plug is provided. Most hotel lobbies offer free Wi-fi.
Dutch and Belgian nationals must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for a tourist “visa free” stay of up to 90 days. Your passport must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan, so don’t forget to check the expiry date of your passport.
International Drivers Permit
To drive a vehicle legally in Japan, you will need an international driving permit (IDP). To get an international driving permit in the Netherlands, visit the ANWB. It costs around €19,-. Belgians need a driver’s license issued in Belgium and a Japanese translation, which can only be obtained in Japan. We can assist you with this application. For this service, we charge €75,- per driving license. Unfortunately, any international driving permit (IDP) issued in Belgium is not valid in Japan.
Business hours and money matters
Banks close at 15pm and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays and national holidays. Post offices are open till 17pm, Head Post Offices are even open until 20pm. Currency exchange is usually handled by banks, however, you’ll find that not every bank branch or service can make the exchange for you. Some banks are purely corporate banks and don’t offer a currency exchange service. Many ATMs in Japan are out of service during the night and many ATMs do not accept cards that are issued outside of Japan. The big exception are the ATMs at the post office, at Citibank or at the many 7-Eleven Convenience stores across the country. However, it has happened in the past that these ATMs temporarily only accepted Japanese credit cards. It is advisable to exchange some Yen in your home country, especially when you arrive late at night. Reminder: don’t forget to activate your credit card for use outside of Europe!
In the 1980s, Japan started to develop a reputation for being outrageously expensive, when prices were in fact excessive. But over the past few decades, in part due to Japan’s relative economic stagnation, it has gradually become a much more reasonable and thus accessible destination. Product prices went down and remained low. In the Netherlands prices have almost doubled since the euro changeover. Meanwhile the average price in the Netherlands has become higher than in Japan.
Sushi = 100 yen per dish
a cup of coffee = 200 yen
a sandwich = 300 yen
½ Liter of beer = 500 yen
a bento box (lunch box) = 500 yen
a metro ticket in Tokyo = 160 yen
a day pass metro Tokyo = 710 yen
100 yen = +/- 0,75 euro
The voltage in Japan is 110 Volt and Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarised pins. They fit into North American outlets. You will need to bring an adaptor for your razor or for charging phones etc.
You can safely drink water from the tap anywhere in Japan. It may have a scent of chlorine, but it’s perfectly drinkable. Most hotel rooms provide green tea bags, a flask of hot water or a water kettle.
Japan has a world-renowned healthcare system, testified by the country’s average life expectancy (84 as of 2013) – the highest in the world. Medical facilities are generally clean, modern and the staff are very helpful. There are relatively few GPs and family doctors, most doctors are specialists in a particular field of medicine. Medical costs are high, especially if you are treated at a private clinic. Make sure you have a good travel insurance.
There is no winter and summer time in Japan. In winter Japan is 8 hours ahead of Amsterdam/Brussels, in summer 7 hours. Embassies
|Embassy of Japan in The Netherlands
Tobias Asserlaan 2, 2517 KC Den Haag
T 0031 (0)70 346 95 44
F 0031 (0)70 310 63 41
|Embassy of Japan in Belgium
Kunstlaan 58,1000 Brussel
T 0032 (0)2 513 23 40
F 0032 (0)2 513 15 56
|Dutch Embassy in Japan
3-6-3 Shibakoen, Minato-ku
T 00 81 3 5776 5400
F 00 81 3 5776 5535
|Embassy of Belgium in Japan
Shiba Daimon Front Building
1-7-13 Shibakoen, Minato-ku
T 00 81 3 5405 3360
F 00 81 3 5405 3373