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Tokyo, Japan City Info
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Kyoto Osaka Tokyo




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Population: 8,280,000.

Languages: Japanese. English is spoken by many people in Tokyo and is considered a language necessary for international business. Most people in the hotel and travel industry will speak some English. Very few taxi drivers or people working in restaurants and stores will understand it. Many signs in the Tokyo area also list the roman spelling (romaji) of Japanese place names as a courtesy to visitors.

Predominant Religions: Buddhist, Christian, Shinto.

Time Zone: 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+9 GMT). 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time. When it is 12:00 noon EST in New York City, it is 2:00 in the afternoon of the following day in Tokyo. Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Weather

Average Temperatures:

Month

High

Low

January

47F

29F

February

48F

31F

March

54F

36F

April

63F

46F

May

71F

54F

June

76F

63F

July

83F

70F

August

86F

72F

September

79F

66F

October

69F

55F

November

60F

43F

December

52F

33F


The temperate climate brings dry and mild to cold winters, warm and humid summers and pleasant springs and autumns. Rainfall is common March-October. The best times to visit are April-May, for the blooming cherry blossoms and pleasant weather, and October-November for changing leaves and similarly enjoyable weather. It can get hot and muggy in August. Winter seldom brings snow, but temperatures usually drop below freezing for a few days.

What to Wear
Very few places have a dress code. When visiting a shrine or temple, it's best to dress in a respectful manner. T-shirts are OK, but don't go in cutoff jeans or shorts. Take along warm socks in winter, because shoes are removed when visiting many places, and central heating is not common. Hotels may provide slippers, but they're tailored for smaller people, so you may be more comfortable if you bring your own.

Holidays

O-Shogatsu - New Year's day and the first few days of the New Year are the most important Holidays of the year. They are filled with customs and traditions to make sure that the year ahead will be a good one.

Golden Week - several days at the end of April and/or the beginning of May which include observed holidays and other celebration days that together make up a full week of holidays.

O-Bon - the Buddhist summer festival to honor the dead or welcome the spirits of the dead on their annual visits to the earthly world (July 13-16 in Tokyo and parts of eastern Japan). O-Bon can also coincide with O-Chugen, the annual summer gift-giving time.

New Years Day - January 1st.

Coming Of Age Day - January 15th, in honour of all those who have their 20th birthday in the new year. All 'new adults' are legally allowed to smoke, drink and vote after this day.

National Foundation Day - February 11th, in commemoration of the founding of the Japanese nation. Said to be the day the first Emperor ascended the throne.

Spring Equinox - March 20th or 21st, an important period in the Buddhist calendar for paying respect to one's ancestors.

Greenery Day - April 29th. The late Emperor Showa's birthday was left as a national holiday.

Constitution Day - May 3rd. Commemorating the establishment of Japan's present constitution in 1947, based on democratic principles and peaceful provisions outlawing the possession of armed forces or military power.

Children's Day - May 5th, in celebration of the children of Japan. Huge carp streamers are hung from flagpoles outside of houses and appear to be forging their way upstream. The fish represent the courage and perseverance that young boys should have in life.

Respect For The Aged Day - September 15th. To honour the elderly and pay respect to their knowledge and experience.

Autumn Equinox - September 23rd or 24th and similar to the Spring Equinox in its festivities.

Health - Sports Day - October 10th. To promote health and physical development. Also in commemoration of the 1964 Olympics which were held in Tokyo.

Culture Day - November 3rd, established in 1948 as a day for appreciating peace and freedom and to promote culture.

Labour Thanksgiving Day - November 23rd. A day to appreciate and thank all those who support society by their work. Originally, it was a thanksgiving for the harvest.

Emperor Akihito's Birthday - December 23rd, the birthday of the present Emperor.

It should be noted that holidays may not be observed on the actual date, and for example, if the holiday falls on a Sunday, it may be observed on the Monday following.

Voltage Requirements: 100 volts AC, 50 cycles. Outlets require the type of plug used in the U.S. Appliances designed for use in North America usually can be used with no adapter; however, the difference in cycles means that they'll run about 15% slower. Many of the larger hotels have a choice of electrical outlets or can supply adapters.

Telephone Codes: 81, country code; 3, city code (dial 03 within Japan).

Money

Japanese Money is called Okane. [pronounced oh-kah-neh]

The Yen is the basic coin in Japan just as the cent is the basic coin in America.

The 5 Yen coin has a hole in the middle of it as does the 50 Yen coin. [In times past, men carried these coins with a hole in the middle of them around their necks tied together with a string] There is also a 10 yen, a 100 yen, and a 500 yen coin. Japanese paper money usually comes in 1,000 yen and 10,000 yen amounts. urrency Exchange
Although foreign currency can be used for some transactions at shops and restaurants that cater to foreign tourists, the yen is preferred. The most convenient place to exchange money is at the exchange desk in your hotel. The next easiest place is at a bank displaying the "Authorized Foreign Exchange Bank" sign. Most banks in Tokyo can exchange your currency quickly and with minimum hassle. Many of the larger stores have their own foreign-exchange counters offering competitive rates. Passports usually are required when converting currency.

You can extract yen at the going rate of exchange, using either a bank or credit card, at an ATM. All of Citibank's ATMs are tied into the CIRRUS network. They have English-language menus and operate 24 hours a day.

Remember to choose a numerical PIN: There are no English alphabet keys on Japanese cash machines.

Taxes
There is a consumption tax of 5% on all purchases. Technically, foreigners are exempt from the tax, but if you're not dealing with a shop that has a rebate counter for foreign tourists or you don't have your passport with you, you' will have to pay the tax.

Tipping
Tipping isn't practiced. However, restaurants add on a 10%-15% service charge. Porters aren't as common as they once were, but expect to pay a few hundred yen per bag. Taxi drivers don't charge extra for handling baggage.

Communication

Telephone
Public telephones are common, and you'll see many that have data ports. Some will only accept coins, but newer models take prepaid phone cards, too. Buy phone cards at vending machines or kiosks.

If you're calling a number in Tokyo from inside Japan but outside the city, add the Tokyo area code (03) to the number. If you're calling Tokyo from outside Japan, you'll need to dial the country code (81) and the area code (3) without the leading zero. Toll-free numbers begin with 0120 or 0088.

Internet Access
Surfing the Internet is expensive because of high telephone charges. For that reason, Internet cafes aren't that common in Tokyo. You'll notice special phone booths on the city streets that provide high-speed data lines: You plug your laptop directly into them.
Mail and Package Services
Japan has an extensive and efficient postal system, and all hotels will provide mail and package service

Transportation
The subway and surface train system is the most efficient way to get around Tokyo. It is a much better option than taxis, which are very expensive and get caught in traffic. The secret to the rail system is knowing the color code of the line that stops nearest your destination. Just point out your destination on an English- and Japanese-language map or show fellow passengers your destination (written out in Japanese by your hotel staff). They' will almost always help you buy your ticket and direct you to the right platform.

Air
All international flights to Tokyo, except those of China Airlines, land at New Tokyo International Airport (NRT) in Narita. Narita is located some 41 miles east of Tokyo, but because of the heavy and unpredictable traffic, it takes about 90 minutes to get into the city. During heavy traffica drive to or from the airport can take three or more hours. Always plan four to four-and-a-half hours between the city and Narita to ensure catching an international flight, or book a room near the airport for your last night. Most domestic flights and China Airlines' international flights land at Tokyo International Airport (HND) in Haneda. Haneda is conveniently located between Tokyo and Yokohama, about a half-hour bus or monorail ride from downtown Tokyo.

Connecting Transportation

Travel between Tokyo and Narita is using the commercial shuttle buses (called limousines). The Limousine Bus Service counter is in the arrivals lobby, and the staff speaks English. Destinations to all major hotels, train stations and the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT) and Yokohama City Air Terminal (Y-CAT)—actually bus terminals—are displayed prominently.

Car

Driving is not convenient in Tokyo. Traffic jams that back up 20-30 miles, lasting an entire day, are not uncommon, especially during peak travel seasons.

Bus
Few foreign travelers use the intercity buses in Japan. Tokyo can be reached by bus from most major cities on Japan Railways (JR) highway buses. These leave distant cities in the evening or late at night, arriving at Tokyo station and a few other locations around the city early in the morning. For information in English, phone 3423-0111.Public Transportation
Tokyo's public transportation is fast, clean, safe and convenient to use. Most of the yellow and black directional signs are in both English and Japanese. Start with good maps of the rail and subway systems. You can pick them up from the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) or in most subway and train stations.

Taxi
Taxis are clean, safe and readily available everywhere in Tokyo. Most hotels and all train stations have a taxi stand. You also can flag down a taxi by holding out your hand. However, the taxis may pass you by to pick up Japanese people—most drivers do not speak English, and they're afraid of communication problems with foreigners. Because traffic moves on the left-hand side of the street, enter and leave the taxi using the left-hand door. But don't open it yourself—it's operated automatically by the driver.

Train
Japan has some of the best train networks in the world—fast, safe, efficient and clean. The main network is operated by Japan Railways (JR), and there are many other privately operated lines. Stations in the city include Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Yurakucho.