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September 07 2014


Gaijin-Tip! Update on SIM cards

Recently there are some new options. Just a short preface: Data SIMs are easy to get, and activate. However, SIMs that also support voice requires an ID check by law, that usually takes some days.

If you are a visitor (tourist), you can get either 14 day visitor data only card, or one with voice (but needs scan of your immigration stamp from your passport) from b-mobile. The former can be ordered ahead and picked up at the airport or sent to a hotel. Both are pricey though.
There is a one month 1GB data only prepaid from b-mobile that requires activation by another Japanese mobile phone. Ask your host or someone you know, it is just an automated system that accepts an activation code and free of charge.

If you are a (temporary) resident, you have all the options of an Japanese citizen. However the big carrier only offer multi-year contracts for data or data+voice.  BIC Camera (a electronics chain) recently announced their own MNO (in cooperation with IIJ) which offers 1GB starting at about 1500 Yen/Month: You can have it all, only voice, data+voice or data only; from 1GB upwards. The only catch: the minimum contract length is one year (at least if you have the voice option). For each month you cancel earlier you have to pay 1000 yen.

b-mobile offers data+voice from 1GB to 7GB with a minimum contract length of 3 or 4 months. BIC SIM and b-mobile are all payable via credit card, but need a scan of your residence card and an address verification (they sent you a postcard with an activation code to your home). This might take up to a week. 

September 02 2013


Gaijin-Tip! Get an data SIM cards for your smartphone

SIM cards are hard to get for visitors: the big companies only offer 2 year contracts and the state regulators requires extensive registrations for voice access (a resident cards comes in handy).

However, there are small virtual network operators that offer a great variety of offers. Most notably b-mobile offers a 1 GB prepaid SIM-card for about 3200 Yen per month. Get them at Yodobashi Camera Akihabara (ground floor).

You will need to activate the SIM using an automated voice menu with another Japanese mobile phone. Simply ask one of your collages at your workplace to help you with that.  
Reposted byRekrut-Kschaaf

Gaijin-Tip! Don't forget your VISA pin number!

Mastercard/Maestro is currently (since April 2013) banned from all foreign ATMs in Japan. You can use them to pay, but not to withdraw money. So don't forget your PIN for your VISA card or you will be stranded without cash.
(International ATMs can be found in post offices and 7eleven stores nationwide)
Reposted byRekrut-Kschaaf

Gaijin-tip! Don't bring an umbrella

Spare the valuable space and weight in your language. You can get one here at any 24/7 convinience store for ~400 Yen (3€). Even the stylish transparent ones.
Tags: gaijin-tips

June 17 2013


Google Maps keywords for your Japan visit

As mentioned before, Google maps is a wonderful help in Japan, however, it is very picky when searching using romaji. Below you will find the Katakana/Kanji search strings (cut'n'paste templates) that produce meaningful results.

Supermarket   スーパーマーケット
MOS burger  モスバーガー
Daiso ダイソー
Starbucks スターバックス
Wendy's ウェンディーズ
Watami Restaurant 和民
Reposted byRekrut-Kschaaf

June 16 2013



Tissues are a very popular advertising present in Japan. You will find them in your mailbox, as well as handed over on the street. When offered, you should take a package. They have two major applications: 1. While public toilets are exceptionally clean, they sometimes lack toilet paper. 2. Napkins in many restaurants are of such bad quality, that they are very close to being completely water repellent.
Tags: gaijin-tips
Reposted byp856 p856

June 10 2013

Ohayoo gozaimasu.   Good morning.
One can also say just "Ohayoo".
This is casual, and should not be used with one's boss.
From Japanese Greetings

June 08 2013


June 03 2013


Should I learn Hiragana or Katakana first?

Hiragana is the letter system used for all Japanese words. Unless you know the words or have a dictionary by hand they are not of much help. Katakana is used for foreign words (and there are plenty of them!) and many (company) names. For a foreigner the latter is of much more use.

May 03 2013


Where the Streets Have No Names...

Streets in Japan rarely have names. Only some very big streets have that privilege. To specify an (postal) address, a hierarchical system is used in Japan. After the name of the prefecture, the municipality, and the name of the ward, a number code is added in three parts. First the number of the Chome (丁目) which is a kind of district in the ward and the numbers are assigned in the order of proximity, more or less clockwise. Than the number of the city block "Banchi" (番地) - also ordered more or less after proximity. And finally the house number go 号 inside of the banchi, assigned chronologically. Apart from the city center in Tokyo, chomes are divided by a chaotic net of small streets, and banchis often have a irregular shape. There is also an additional postal code 〒.

People unfamiliar with the location therefore have to circle around before they can find a specific banchi and then search inside the banchi sequentially.

The system is also very confusing for Japanese. Business cards, websites, and advertisements often include small maps or descriptions including a nearby subway or rail station. People use subway station names when talking about a location of the city. Some GPS navigation computers and delivery services also allow the entrance of land-line phone numbers as target.
Reposted byp856 p856
The most important translation tools for your Japan stay:

Google Translate - better than nothing, when dealing with Japanese websites or short electronic texts (the obvious choice).

Google Translate for Android - You can enter Kana and Kanji characters by drawing them on the screen, however the stroke direction and sequence is sometimes important and must be guessed. The second feature is groundbreaking: You can simply photograph the Japanese text and it translates it for you: crude grammar, but you get the idea.

Rikaichan - Is an extension for Firefox/Thunderbird that gives translation-popups as soon as you move your mouse over Japanese text. Very handy!

April 19 2013

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ATMs that support international cards are rare in Japan - the Maestro ATM finder only lists the ATM post offices and 7eleven supermarket chain. Both decided on very short notice, to discontinue support for Maestro (the leading European ATM card, in Austria the only one "Bankomatkarte") as well as Cirrus (the leading US ATM card). 7eleven ("sevenbank") claims, it is due to one sided contract changes by MasterCard/Maestro which they cannot accept.

I hope this resolves soon - otherwise I will run into serious cash problems.

PS: Branches of international banks (e.g. CITIbank) also stopped accepting Maestro/Cirrus/MasterCard.
Reposted byjarlaxle jarlaxle
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