Preparing for your move to Tokyo


It is important to have health insurance to cover your stay in Japan. If you are entering Japan on a tourist visa it is your responsibility to ensure that you have adequate coverage since the state medical system is only intended for Japanese residents and nationals. See the section Private medical insurances for more information.

Bear in mind that annual worldwide health insurance can cost as little as 75 euros, so it might be best to invest in that rather than a short-term policy. If you are in possession of a student visa then you are eligible for the Japanese National Health Insurance plan. This is cheap (about 15,000 yen per year) and covers 70% of any medical costs you may incur during your stay. Japan is a modern, highly developed county, so it’s not necessary to bring a large supply of toiletries or other such items, everything can be found there.

Few Japanese speak any European language, even English, so it would be worth your while learning a bit before your start your journey, especially if you’re planning to travel outside Tokyo. The Japanese writing system includes three systems of characters: two phonetic alphabets called hiragana and katakana, and about a thousand Chinese characters called kanji. Hiragana and katakana are relatively easy to learn and memorise and would be worth trying to get familiar with before you leave, especially since katakana is always used for foreign (usually English) names and words. It’s not very hard to learn basic grammatical structures in Japanese since there are no genders, no articles, no personal pronouns, all verbs are regular, and verb tenses are quite simple. You should definitely memorise some of the most common basic greetings and courtesies, such as “sumimasen” (excuse me) and “kon nichi wa” (hello/good day) and so on. There are many English words used in the Japanese language, but remember that you must pronounce each syllable clearly, for example if you just say “internet” in a normal way you probably won’t be understood, you have to say “in-ta-ne-tto”.

Many doctors advise getting vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis. This is an extremely rare condition however. Before travelling it’s always a good idea to make sure your tetanus inoculation is up to date, as well as Hepatitis A and B when travelling in Asia.

If you're planning to travel around Japan for a week or more it’s worth considering a Japan Rail Pass. You can ONLY buy the pass outside of Japan, so make sure you get it before you travel. The pass offers unlimited travel on almost all the Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), JR express trains, JR local trains as well as JR local buses. You must be a foreign tourist with temporary visitor status to be eligible for the pass, although Japanese nationals who are either legal residents of another country or married to a foreign resident are also eligible. See the ‘Transport’ section below for more details.

Japan’s policy regarding importation of live animals means that if you want to bring your dog or cat you will need to have it micro-chipped and have an official document from a vet stating that the animal had its rabies booster at least 180 days prior to the time of travel. Advance notification of your arrival must be sent to the Animal Quarantine Service at least forty days before you travel.

Update 20/03/2008


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