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Basic Info

Four Seasons

Japan is a country that has a clear four seasons throughout the year.

The four seasons in Japan are as following:
Spring runs from March to May; Summer runs from June to August; Autumn runs from September to November; and Winter runs from December to February.
Japan is very lucky to have all four seasons distinctively; thanks for that, it also has different seasonal attractions during the whole year.

The average monthly temperatures (℃) for Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Okinawa (Infromation from Japan Meteorological Agency) are as following:

Tokyo (Kanto) Monthly average temperature, ave highest / lowest temperature (℃)
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Year 2015 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
Average Temperature 5.8 5.7 10.3 14.5 21.1 22.1 26.2 26.7 22.6 18.4 13.9 9.3 16.4
Average Highest Temperature 10.4 10.4 15.5 19.3 26.4 26.4 30.1 30.5 26.4 22.7 17.8 13.4 20.8
Average Lowest Temperature 1.8 1.9 5.8 10.1 16.6 18.6 23.2 23.9 19.8 14.8 10.7 5.8 12.8

Kyoto (Kansai) Monthly average temperature, ave highest / lowest temperature (℃)
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Year 2015 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
Average Temperature 4.9 5.6 9.4 15.6 21.2 22.8 27.2 28.3 22.9 18.1 14.5 9 16.6
Average Highest Temperature 8.4 9.9 14.8 20.5 27.7 27.5 31.7 33.6 27.5 23.9 18.4 13.2 21.4
Average Lowest Temperature 2.2 2.3 4.9 10.9 15.8 18.9 23.8 24.6 19.5 13.3 11.2 5.3 12.7

Sapporo (Hokkaido) Monthly average temperature, ave highest / lowest temperature (℃)
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Year 2015 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
Average Temperature -1.5 -0.8 3.8 8.7 14.2 16.7 21.3 22.4 18.4 10.8 5.4 0.8 10
Average Highest Temperature 1.2 1.9 7.3 13.7 19.6 21 26 26.4 22.5 15.2 8.6 3.7 13.9
Average Lowest Temperature -4.6 -3.6 0.7 4.6 9.7 13.5 18 19.4 14.9 6.7 2.2 -2.2 6.6

Fukuoka (Kyushu) Monthly average temperature, ave highest / lowest temperature (℃)
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Year 2015 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
Average Temperature 7.3 7 10.6 15.9 20.5 22.6 26 27.2 23 18.4 15.7 9.8 17.3
Average Highest Temperature 10.8 10.6 15 20.8 25.3 26.4 30 31.2 27.4 23.5 19.7 13.4 21.3
Average Lowest Temperature 3.2 3.1 5.8 11.5 15.9 19.6 22.9 24.1 19.5 13.1 11.8 5.9 14.1

Okinawa Monthly average temperature, ave highest / lowest temperature (℃)
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Year 2015 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
Average Temperature 16.6 16.8 19 22.2 24.9 28.7 29 28.7 27.8 25.5 23.8 20.1 23.6
Average Highest Temperature 19.1 19.5 21.8 24.9 27.7 31.3 31.6 31.3 30.4 28.2 26.5 22.5 26.2
Average Lowest Temperature 14.3 14.4 16.8 20.1 22.9 26.9 27 26.6 25.7 23.3 21.6 17.9 21.5

What to wear??

Recommendation for clothings in Tokyo
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March  April    May     June     July   August
Spring & Summer Need coats.There are days which you will need scarfs and gloves. It is best to wear clothes in layers with sweater, cardigan, and coats. Need long sleeves shirts or thin cardigan / vest. Need long sleeves or short sleeves shirts. Short sleeves will be fine. Short sleeves will be fine.
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September October November December January February
Autumn & Winter Need short sleeves or long sleeves shirts. Need long sleeves shirts or thin cardigan / vest. Need jacket or sweater.There will be days that you will need coats. Need coats.There are days which you will need scarfs and gloves. Need down-jackets or coats.Need scarfs and gloves. Need down-jackets or coats.Need scarfs and gloves.

In Japan, the temperature could vary a lot during the day and after sunset. So it is recommended to have a light jacket or a cardigan with you during spring and autumn season. Depending on the area you visit, winter could be very cold and full of snow as well; so it is recommended to do enough research before you pack your luggage.

Wi-Fi, SIM Card

Since smartphone is so popular around the world now, there are a lot of options for getting Wi-Fi / internet service while you travel.

The best two ways are:

Rent a pocket Wi-Fi

  • The portable Wi-Fi are available to rent at the airports. There will be a number of different shops for you to choose from. It will also depend on which airport you are traveling to, but the main airports such as Narita, Haneda, Kansai, and New Chitose airport would all have them. You just have to return them at the airport again when you are leaving Japan.
  • The nice thing about pocket Wi-Fi is that most of them are available to use for up to 10 people at once. If you are all going to be moving around together, one pocket Wi-Fi may be more cost efficient than a pre-paid SIM card.
  • A lot of the countries also have portable Wi-Fi for rent for you to bring to Japan and use them while you travel. You can return them after you get back home; which may be a better choice for some people especially if you are entering and leaving Japan at a different airport or if you are going to be in a rush when flying out.

Here are some sites that you can take a look:

Rent / buy a SIM card

  • The phones / Wi-Fi stores located at the main airports would have pre-paid SIM card available for you to buy after you arrive to Japan. Some of them are even sold by vending machines at the airports!
  • Big tax free stores such as Bic Camera and Laox would also have pre-paid SIM card available for sell. You can also find them at convenience stores.
  • Some hotels would also have pre-paid SIM cards for you to buy, but the prices may be a bit more expensive.
  • There are various types of SIM card by different service providers and different data plans to choose from; try to look and compare them before you make a decision. Choose the one that fits you the best.
There is another option which is to use public Wi-Fi; it will not cost you money.

Use public Wi-Fi

  • Most hotels would have Wi-Fi for you to use. Depending on the hotel it could be free or paid. If you do not need internet service when you go out, this would be the least you will need.
  • A lot of the train / subway stations would have Wi-Fi for you to use. Also the coffee shops, restaurants, convenience stores, and even on the street there may be free Wi-Fi spots for you to use the internet. The services would not be as good comparing to a pre-paid SIM card or portable Wi-Fi; but you can use them to find your way around.
There are some specific free Wi-Fi that we would like to introduce:

Japan Connected free Wi-Fi by NTTBP

This free Wi-Fi is provided by one of the main internet provider in Japan. Their free Wi-Fi spots are located all over Japan.

  1. In order to connect to their Wi-Fi, you will have to first download their smartphone app.
  2. Once you have the app, you can use it to search for Wi-Fi and connect to them and start using it right away.

The application supports 13 languages including English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, and Japanese.

Free Wi-Fi & TOKYO

The Wi-Fi spots for this provider are spread all over Tokyo, you just have to find one and connect to it. They are available in train / subway stations, on the buses, and at certain museums and areas. Look for the Wi-Fi named “FREE_Wi-Fi_and_TOKYO.”

  1. Once you connect to it you will have to open an internet browser to register. It is usually easier to open the registration page by opening popular pages such as google.
  2. For registeration you can choose to register with your email or with your SNS account such as Facebook, Google +, and Twitter.
  3. After registering once you would not have to register again when using the Free Wi-Fi & Tokyo and also their partner services.

The partner services include:

  • “JAPAN-FREE-Wi-Fi,”
  • “Metro_Free_Wi-Fi,”
  • “Shinjuku_Free_Wi-Fi,”
  • “Taito_Free_Wi-Fi,”
  • “TNM_Free_Wi-Fi,”
  • “Toei_Subway_Free_Wi-Fi,”
  • “Toei_Bus_Free_Wi-Fi.”
They also provide connection through smartphone apps; they share the same app with Japan Connected free Wi-Fi by NTTBP. If you use the app you can connect to both providers’ Wi-Fi at any time. Please see here.

Wi-Fi PASSPORT(Soft Bank)

This is another free public Wi-Fi which you can use, it is provided by a main phone and internet service provider, SoftBank. There is no need to download an application; you only have to call the number to obtain the log-in password.

  1. First call the following number: English*8180, Chinese*8181, Korean*8182
  2. Get the password through the audio guidance.
  3. Go to a hotspot and connect to the internet. The Wi-Fi name is “FREE_Wi-Fi_PASSPORT.” Once you are connected you will need to enter your ID (your country code + your cell phone number) and password (the one you got from the audio guidance) and start enjoying the Wi-Fi service.

For the Wi-Fi hotspots, please see here.

To find the Wi-Fi spot for SoftBank,
look for the stickers looking like this
Softbank wifi
source: Softbank

There are a few things you need to be aware of before choosing this Wi-Fi service:

  • You must have a Global Roaming contract in order to use this service.
  • The service may not be available depending on your network provider in your home country.
  • Your mobile device will have to be able to support W-CDMA.
  • Depending on your phone contracts, it may not be available to use; for example, pre-paid contracts.

For details of this Wi-Fi service, please refer to here.

Voltage, Water

The voltage in Japan is 100v. Plug type is type A (looking like the picture). You will need an adapter if your country uses a different type of plug. For voltage, most electronics such as mobile phone / smartphone, computer, tablet, camera; all the common electronics’ charger are useable for all type of voltages, just double check before you travel, it will be written on the charger.

Japan’s tap water is safe to drink, and the water is low of calcium content. If you are okay with it, you won’t have to spend money to buy water while you travel in Japan.

Exchange Rate

The exchange rates of 2017/03/09 (This rate is NOT real time) are as following:

Currency (Unit = 1)
EX) 1 USD = 114 JPY

USD($)0
GBP(£)0
EUR(€)0
TWD($)0
RMB(¥)0
HKD($)0
KRW(₩)0
AUD($)0

If you want to know real time rating please check here.  Japan has an image of being expensive. But if you are not too picky with hotels or restaurants, you will be able to travel with a lower price.

It is always better to bring cash with you before you come to Japan but if you need to exchange money in Japan, here are some places that you can do so:

Bank

The three major banks in Japan are Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFJ), Mizuho, and Sumitomo Mitsui. The banks operate from 9:00 to 15:00, Monday to Friday. Some banks will have exchange machines as well which would be operating from 9:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday.

Post Office

Most post offices would be able to do money exchange as well. It is open from Monday to Friday and operates between 9:00 to 16:00.

Travelex

Travelex stores have several locations throughout Japan, including the airports; it usually gives a better rate than the banks. Every location has a different operating hour; please check the website for the details. (Please click the address and check the working hours on Google map.)

Exchange machine

There are various exchange machines located at hotels, airports, department stores, and much more. It may be the most convenient way for you to exchange money.

For people who are planning to stay in Japan for a longer period of time

For people who are planning to stay in Japan for the long term or students coming for a few months, the most inexpensive way to transfer money would be using TransferWise. The commission for transferring money is much cheaper comparing to the banks. The more amount you transfer the more money you will be saving, that is why it is a good option for people who are going to be staying in Japan for a longer period of time; especially when you are going to open a Japanese bank account.

Credit Card, ATM

Japan, comparing to other western countries, has ess places that accept credit cards. It is quite a rare case for such a developed country, but it is how it works. Make sure to bring enough cash with you or bring a card that can withdraw money from a foreign ATM.

There are many ATMs located in Japan; such as at post offices, at the stations, and at the department stores. There are also ATMs in most of the convenience stores where you can withdraw money. We would recommend you using the ATMs at the convenience stores because their ATMs usually accept the most types of cards. For withdrawing with a foreign credit card we will recommend 7-Eleven or Lawson.

Business Hour

Bank

It varies between the branches, but the business hours for the banks would usually be Monday to Friday, from 9:00 to 15:00. For money exchanges, the windows are usually open only until 15:00. The ATMs at the banks would be open for a longer period of time.
For ATMs, the ones located at the convenience stores are available 24 hours.

Food and Beverage

There are a lot of restaurants in Tokyo that are open 24 hours so you do not have to worry about not having places to eat late at night or early in the morning.

Shopping

The shops and department stores are usually open from 10:00 to 21:00. It all varies between the stores so it is best to double check before you visit a place. The ones that would open later will be till 23:00, which are usually drug stores. On the other hand, convenience stores are open 24 hours and it has a wide variety of products for you to choose from. For food and toiletries, you can always find them at the convenience stores.

Leisure

Most leisure facilities are open from 8:00 to 23:00, but karaoke and bowling facilities in Tokyo are open until early morning. But it is always best to double check the websites before visiting, there may be a sudden day off at the places you are planning to visit.

Holiday

National Holidays in Japan in 2017

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Date Weekday Holiday name
Jan 1 Sunday New Year’s Day
Jan 2 Monday New Year’s Day Observed
Jan 9 Monday Coming of Age Day
Feb 11 Saturday National Foundation Day
Mar 20 Monday Spring Equinox
Apr 29 Saturday Shōwa Day
May 3 Wednesday Constitution Memorial Day
May 4 Thursday Greenery Day
May 5 Friday Children’s Day
Jul 17 Monday Sea Day
Aug 11 Friday Mountain Day
Sep 18 Monday Respect for the Aged Day
Sep 23 Saturday Autumn Equinox
Oct 9 Monday Sports Day
Nov 3 Friday Culture Day
Nov 23 Thursday Labor Thanksgiving Day
Dec 23 Saturday Emperor’s Birthday

There are three main vacations in Japan which includes Golden week in May, Silver week in September, and the end and begging of year breaks. Depending on the business, some of them may have a smaller vacation in August for the summer. The main vacations, depending on how the dates lay out, may range from 5 to 10 days. During that time a lot of the business may not open or there may be more tourists everywhere because a lot of Japanese people are on holidays as well. When you are planning the trip, it is best to double check online so you can avoid the crowds and shops’ closure. During the vacations, including the end of year and beginning of year holidays, the public transportations and the convenience stores will operate as usual, but it would not be the best time to visit Japan because most places including restaurants would be closed as well.

Is Japan Safe?

Overall, Japan is quite a safe place for visiting and living, but you never know what may happen, so here are some emergency numbers that would be good to know when traveling in Japan.

110 = Police
119 = Fire department + ambulance
118 = Japan coast guard (for accidents on the sea)

Calling any of the numbers is free and calling for ambulances are free as well.

If your things got stolen or you got picked pocketed, go to the closest police station and report it to them. There are a lot of police stations located in Japan and often times they will be located close to the train / subway station.

When Entering Japan

For most countries, there is no need to get a visa prior to entering Japan. But for some countries including China, Russia, and Philippines; don’t forget to apply for the tourist visa before coming to Japan.
For more details, please see here.

When entering Japan, there are two forms you will have to fill out to give to the customs. One is the landing card; the other is the customs declaration. The forms are straight forward and simple to fill out. Ask your flight attendants for help instead of waiting till the airport otherwise you will be at the end of the long line for customs.

Credits for images

Updated: 2017/03/09