Information on Everyday Life


Bank: There are a great variety of banking institutions in Japan, ranging from big international and domestic banks to small regional ones. Several online banks offering Internet banking services have recently gained popularity. They provide customers with services such as cash deposit, withdrawal, transfer, foreign currency exchange, bill payment, etc.

Foreign guests can open bank accounts as long as you hold Residence Cards. Japanese diver’s licenses may be accepted in lieu of above cards at some banks. Minimum deposit would not be required to open an account, nor any fee for maintenance.

Most bank counters are open from 9:00 to 15:00, close on weekends and national holidays. Automated Teller Machines (=ATMs) have longer operating hours, available on days counters are closed. While 24-hour ATMs are increasing in number, many of them keep their business hours.

Postal services: Post offices work as postal and banking institutions. Their services therefore include international/domestic shipping of post cards, letters, parcels and registered mails, door-to-door delivery services as well as savings and insurances.

Small offices are open from 9:00 to 17:00, close on weekends and national holidays while large ones are open until 19:00 on weekdays, available on weekends and holidays. Please note that this is for postal services only – their banking operations are similar to banks. Counters in charge are normally closed at 15:00. ATMs are equipped at most post offices.

Wide residential areas have several red-colored mailboxes. Some business entities accommodate post offices. When you need postal mailing, it is better to appear in person at the nearest, larger offices where English-speaking clerks are often available.

Telephones: Numerous telephone services are widely available. Private phones are found in almost every home and office, while pay phones (grey-colored ones for international calls) are easy to access in public. Mobile phones have nearly replaced conventional landline phones these days. Since not all foreign mobile phones would work within Japanese networks, it is recommended to get rental ones or internet phone services during your stay.

Rental phones typically require your Residence Card (or passport for temporary visitors) and credit card. Many companies have shops at the airports, while other ones would mail a phone to your accommodation. Rental fee and usage fee will be charged. One-day and/or discounted, longer-term reservation is available. Please be very careful that cost for international calling from mobile phones can easily skyrocket – internet based services, such as Skype, would be therefore the most reasonable option when you need to contact your home country. Providers offer better rates if you register for their international programs.


Transportation: Reliable public transportation network covers four major islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. Railways, approximately 70% operated by Japan Railways (JR), are well-known for the punctuality. They work as commuter trains within metropolitan areas while between large cities, JR shinkansen (=bullet train) and night trains are admired for the superb services.

Highway buses would be an inexpensive alternative to trains for mid- and/or long-distance travel. They are slower than trains. Sometimes traffic jams cause delay. However, if a bus stop is nearby your place, buses could be quite convenient. On competitive routes, to/from Tokyo for example, discount fares have dropped toward very low level.

Driving: Except from metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, public transportation tends to be infrequent – you may have to rely on cars to get around. Many foreign guests are allowed to drive with International Driving Permits (IDPs) for a maximum of one year, regardless of the duration of your IDP. As to countries under bilateral agreements with Japan, official Japanese translation of your driver’s license would be recognized for up to one year. If your stay would be longer, it is recommended to acquire Japanese driver’s license.

We drive on the left side of the road. Driver’s seat is set on the right side of Japanese cars. Speed limits are 100 km/h on expressways, 40 km/h in urban areas, 30 km/h on side streets. Most roads are good in condition, yet side streets can be rather narrow or even impassable for bigger vehicles. Drinking before driving is strictly prohibited.

Bicycles: As an inexpensive means of getting around, bicycles are widely available. The most common type is simple, for everyday use, called mamachari (meaning mom’s bicycle). It is typically equipped with a basket and/or a child seat, a lock, a kickstand and just one gear. More advanced models with multiple gears or electric assistance are becoming popular these days. In cyclist-friendly areas, your accommodation might provide staying guests with mamacharis for free.

Rental bicycles for tourists can be found at many train stations. Some shops require a deposit and/or photo identification, while others might ask for the address and phone number of your accommodation. Rental fees are 100 – 300 yen per hour, 400 – 800 yen for half a day and 1,000 – 1,200 yen per day. Please be careful that cyclists are supposed to go on the streets, not share sidewalks with pedestrians. Please also park at dedicated spaces for bicycles only. Illegally parked bicycles may be removed by local authorities, can be retrieved by paying a fine.


Joy of Shopping

Department stores: typically operate in buildings of 5–10 stories, provide for various shopping experience. Famous brands and deluxe products are available, that accordingly leads to higher prices.

Now, which story you would go? It depends on what you would like to purchase.

Foods are almost always in the basement. Japanese and international cuisines are served in ready-to-eat style. Fresh fruits and vegetables are skillfully displayed. Sweets might be the most attractive, while alcoholic drinks are joy for those of over 20 years old.

On the ground floor are cosmetics, perfumes and accessories. Moving up, several stories are allocated for women’s fashion followed by men’s. Further above are sports, furniture, kitchen ware, stationery, book, toy, kimono and jewelry floors. Restaurants are usually on the top of the building. Some department stores have rooftop gardens.

One of the distinguished features of Japanese department stores is ever-smiling service  by the staffs accompanied by bowing, which represents their hospitality. Another is the handsome wrapping of products. Made-in-Japan products are already packaged neatly, yet at the time of payment, they would ask if the purchase is for yourself or a gift. If you would reply “for a gift”, an additional layer of packaging would be given. Using wrapping paper on which the logo of the department store is printed, colorful ribbons and stickers, remarkable techniques will be demonstrated. That could inform the person who receives the gift that it had been obtained from a reputable source.

Supermarkets: organized in a kind of informal way compared to department stores: prices are set cheaper. Normally, various agricultural products are sold on the ground floor of buildings with just one or 2-5 stories. Fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, tofu, pickles, dried and canned foods, beverages, bread, dairy products, sweets and ready-to-eat meals are displayed in order while clothes, home electronics, kitchen wares and stationeries are on upper stories.

Current cashier system is quick and efficient, yet automatic ones are increasing in number these days. Besides, it is recommended to bring your own shopping bag: white-colored, plastic shopping bags would cost 3-8 yen.

In a tough competition with convenience stores, some supermarkets operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They take full advantage of merchandise variety and reasonable prices. Some of them occupy a corner of big shopping malls.

Convenience stores: are helpful when you need something in a hurry. Most of them are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, found along main streets across Japan. Major operators such as Seven Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart never stop competing to reach genuine convenience.

The key products sold are ready-to-eat foods including rice balls (=onigiri), lunch boxes (=obento), sandwiches, salads, bread, cup noodles, fried chickens, steamed buns (=chukaman) and simmered fish dumplings (=oden). Potato crisps, sweets and beverages are also available. Some stores offer alcoholic drinks. Other goods on shelves include stationeries, batteries, cosmetics, umbrellas, newspapers, magazines and comic books (=manga).

Services listed below are offered:

  • ATMs: work for banking system with a little bit higher commissions. They also serve as multi-purpose terminals. Foreign credit/debit cards could be recognized only at Seven Eleven stores.
  • Copy/Fax: if not any ATM, the copy machine with fax function plays the role of multi-purpose terminal as well.
  • Ticket Reservation: tickets for sport events, concerts, theme parks, highway buses and other travel services can be purchased at ATMs or copy machines. Photo printing service is also available, though you may have to come back later to pick up the prints.
  • Bill payments and delivery (=takuhaibin) application can be made at cashiers.

100 Yen Shops: sell a wide range of products for just 105 yen (5 yen=current 5% consumption tax). This roughly corresponds to one U.S. dollar per item, making big convenience for shoppers. You would be able to enjoy amazing variety of products at prices often below the actual value.

100 yen shops have been spread across Japan. The market leader Daiso operates over 2,000 stores nationwide, ranging in size from multi-story “100 yen department stores” to small corners in shopping malls.

May 2023
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