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Japan Travel Guide

Japan Media and Communications

The Japanese feel the need of being in touch, but for a nation with high-tech in communications infrastructure can at times seem rather old-fashioned. It's not unusual, as an example, to see post office staff counting on an abacus.

There exists public telephones in the most improbable places, including on top of of Mount Fuji during the climbing season, but only some persons will be able to make international calls, and Internet cafés are thin on the ground outside the major urban centers.

Almost all convenience store has a fax machine for public use, and at all the main stations and top bookstores in the cities you can buy English-language newspapers and magazines.

Mail service in Japan

This country has an efficient and fast mail service, with post offices (yubin-kyoku) established all over the country, easily identified by their red-and-white signs of a T with a parallel bar across the top, the similar symbol that you'll find on the red letterboxes. Letters posted within Japan should get to their destination in one to two days, and all post can be addressed in Western script (romaji) provided it is clearly printed.

Central post offices usually open their doors at Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 9am to 12.30pm, with most other branches opening Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm only. A few larger branches may also attend the public on a Saturday from 9am to 3pm, and may work after-hours services for parcels and express mail. The Tokyo International Post Office, next to Tokyo Station, is open daily 24 hours for both domestic and international mail.

Poste restante (tomeoki or kyoku dome ypbin) is accesible at the central post offices in the big cities, but mail will only be held for thirty days before being returned. The same goes for American Express offices (which only receive mail for card holders); unless it's marked "please hold for arrival". American Express provides offices in Tokyo.

Mail & Telephone Glossary

Mail & Telephone Glossary
Post yubin
Post office yubin-kyoku
Express train kyuko
Stamp kitte
Postcard hagaki
Courier delivery service takkyubin
[restante Poste] Post Restante tomeoki/kyoku dome yubin
Telephone denwa
Mobile phone keitai-denwa
Phonecard terefon kado

Telephone cards in Japan

Most of pay phones in Japan use coins and "Telephone Cards" Telephone cards can be acquired in every convenience store, train station shops and many times the cards are also sold in a sale machine inside or near the telephone. The card's tariffs are 500 yen and 1000 yen units. A 500 yen card has 50 units. One unit is worth 10 yen of talk time. The 1000 yen card has 105 units. You get 5 bonus points with the 1000 yen card. You will need insert your card into the card slot and solely make your call. The charge of current on your card is displayed on the phone. When your phone card is empty during a phone call the phone will beep to let you know and then you have the option of inserting another phone card or coins. At the end of your phone call the phone card will always be returned, even if it is empty.

Japan is considered as a leader in mobile phone technology and usage with about 80% of the population owing one. Mobile phones are very popular, and their products always getting new features such as internet browsers, games, cameras, televisions, electronic wallets/train passes, gps/navigation and music players.

The largest mobile phone companies in Japan are AU by KDDI, NTT Docomo and Softbank (formerly Vodafone, and before that J-phone). Docomo is the most famous company with about 50 million subscribers. AU is next with about 30 million subscribers, while Softbank has about 15 million subscribers.

Faxes, Email and the Internet

Several hotels and youth hostels provide services of fax for a small charge, while if you are invited generally the fax is free. Instead, most central post office or convenience stores (often open 24 hrs) have public fax machines.

The Internet and e-mail grew slowly in Japan, but several main cities now have many Cybercafé, and Web sites are booming. The free access at NTT offices and other places are fast disappearing; in an Internet cafe you should assume to pay around ¥500 or less per hour.

If you wish to get your emails, however, and you're not having your own computer, you might want to set up an account with a Web-based email service, such as Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, before leaving home.

Cybercafés are fast, although the copyshop Kinko's is very reliable and possesses branches in several main cities, and the general store chain Lawson is to install computers with Internet access into its 7000 outlets nationwide.

The Japanese Media

If you know Japanese, Japan is a world with full notices, with 166 daily national and local newspaper companies printing some 70 million papers a day, more than triple the amount for the UK and even topping the US and China, despite both having much larger populations. The Yomiuri Shimbun sells approximately fourteen million copies daily, making it the most extensively read newspaper in the world. Lagging behind by about two million copies a day is the The International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun , seen as the intellectual's paper, with the other three national dailies, the Mainichi Shimbun , the right-wing Sankei Shimbun and the business paper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun , also selling respectable numbers.

The Time and Newsweek are English-language magazines most extensively available. Bookstores such as Kinokuniya and Maruzen Bookstores stock extensive (and costly) ranges of imported and local magazines; in Tokyo and Osaka, Tower Records is the economical place to buy magazines. Local titles to look out for include the weekly Tokyo Classified (free), Tokyo Journal (¥600) and Kansai Time Out (¥300), well-written listings and features magazines for their respective areas. With more a fanzine feel, The Alien and The Outsider are published in Nagoya and Hiroshima respectively.

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