General

Other Stuff

Electricity

110V with 2-pin type A plugs (dual flat pins). Sockets will only take two pins. U.S. appliances will work

Language

While it is true that the level of English in Japan is quite low, it is improving and day-to-day life in Tokyo is becoming less of an issue for those who do not speak Japanese. Today most signs at stations and on the street are written in both Japanese and English, and multi-language menus are increasingly common in restaurants and cafes. Perhaps more importantly, Japanese are extremely friendly and patient, and some make it a personal mission to help you out if you are stuck. Stand around looking confusingly at a map and the chances are someone will approach and ask if you need directions.

Money

While it is always advisable to change a little money before arriving, you don’t need to worry about access to your funds as ATMs are easy to find (there is one in almost every convenience store). Despite its image as a city of the future, the use of cash is still prevalent and some restaurants do not take cards.

  • Coins: ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, ¥500
  • Notes: ¥1,000, (¥2,000), ¥5,000, ¥10,000

Incidentally, if you do change money overseas you may be given a ¥2,000 note. They are extremely rare in Japan—for some reason only in circulation abroad—so you might get a look of surprise when you hand it over.

Exchange rates (updated daily) for some of the major currencies are given below.

  • 1 USD = ¥112.59 ★ ¥1,000 = USD 8.88
  • 1 EUR = ¥132.36 ★ ¥1,000 = EUR 7.56
  • 1 GBP = ¥150.00 ★ ¥1,000 = GBP 6.67
  • 1 AUD = ¥86.09 ★ ¥1,000 = AUD 11.62
  • 1 NZD = ¥78.70 ★ ¥1,000 = NZD 12.71
  • 1 CNY = ¥17.06 ★ ¥1,000 = CNY 58.61

Earthquakes

Japan experiences 1,500-2,000 earthquakes every year. About 75% of these are minor tremors that do not register over 2.0 on the Richter scale (most people would not notice any movement at this level). Tokyo feels 150-200 tremors each year with 1-3 earthquakes registering above 4.0 (at which point they would be felt by everyone and indoor objects may rattle). Because of this seismic activity building regulations are extremely strict and modern structures are designed to withstand much stronger earthquakes than those that usually occur within the Japanese archipelago.

Safety

Compared with any other major city, Tokyo is extremely safe. While the usual advice about keeping your belongings secure still applies, theft is extremely rare (some Japanese will even save seats with their smartphones and handbags at cafes when they go to use the restrooms).  If something is lost or stolen you should file a report at one of the 24-hour manned police boxes (koban). The only word of caution is for single females to avoid the less reputable districts such as Kabukicho in Shinjuku during the early hours, and use the female-only carriages during rush hour. Sadly, chikan (groping on trains), although rare, is not unheard of.

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