Japan move

  • I just finished reading the TGA thread regarding the trip to Japan in a couple weeks, and hadn't realized that some of the members here had spent time there. This will be my first time, but will be there for what seems like an eternity at the moment. Currently, it's being projected as two years. However, I have no real travel/tourist plans established other than the obvious mandatory Akihabara and Nakano day trips. I'll be working smack in the middle of those two (Shinjuku), so those are absolute necessities which I'll probably be seeing on a regular basis. I'm also hopeful to make it to Nikko to visit Toshugu, the Tokugawa Ieyasu shrine, for the New year visit since I'll be on a break at that time. One other aspect of my hobby is studying Japanese history, so I'm really psyched about making this one happen. There's also Meiji shrine only a short distance away, literally behind the Harajuku station, so I can do that one on any given Sunday and will likely visit within the first two days there since I don't start work till then. I have obligations which only allow me the one day each week to really get a feel for the environment.

    My question to the community at large is what else I should make an effort to explore which isn't going to require me to travel across the entire country. I'm limited in the amount of spare time I will have, or the travel wouldn't be an issue. Therefore, I'd appreciate any advice from those that have already been of things to see, social activities, places to avoid, etc… in the Ikebukuro, Harajuku, Nakano, Akihabara, Shinjuku area. It's not as massive of an area as it looks when typing it, but it's kind of what I'm thinking is essentially a base of operations for the next long while. I don't want to end up bored to tears with nothing else to do after the first few weeks, so I'm hoping someone here has some words of wisdom to pass along.

    BTW, I'll be arriving in Narita on October 4th, and heading straight to my room in Shinjuku if that is of any help regarding events.


  • @pleco_breeder:

    One other aspect of my hobby is studying Japanese history, so I'm really psyched about making this one happen.

    I'm surprised to not see any outright mention of Kyoto anywhere in your post.

  • @darthrutsula:

    I'm surprised to not see any outright mention of Kyoto anywhere in your post.

    "Nobody" cares about Kyoto; it's overated, and most of the "real" stuff of Japanese Histoey occured outside. Mostly because, most Emperors had no effective power, the Shogun/Imperial Court/Daimyo did.

    Anyways if you want something interesting to do in Tokyo history-wise, the "Edo-Tokyo History Museum" is a must. Designed for foreigners, and is quite large: It has everything you probably want to know, and then some.


    I can go on to talk about other stuff, but that would rewire a /walloftext, and poking it all out on this cell phone screen would take 4ever…

  • It's definitely a want, but I only have a single day a week to do as I please. I'm thinking of Kyoto as something to do next September when I have another long break available to me. This post is more intended toward things to do to help pass the time on my day off, aka in the area local to where I'll be staying. I've been studying the language, culture, and history for almost four years as a hobby, and it's driving me nuts to realize some of the things I want to do and won't have time for. However, there's also a lot of stuff to do and see in that area which will pass some of my time. I'm also aware that I'm likely to run out of sites within a couple of months without some outside input. Most of the people I'll be working with are also Gaijin, mostly other Asian countries, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to get much advice from them after arriving. Therefore, I've been hitting up everybody I can find with tourist experience in that particular area for a few weeks to get ideas of interesting things to do which don't require 6-8 hours on a train. Everywhere I listed in the OP is within 30 minutes on the train, but does require that I brave the infamous Shinjuku station in order to do it. In case anyone doesn't know, Shinjuku station is the busiest station in the world and it's not uncommon for it to see 3.5 million people in an hour. I've already got an app loaded on my phone which provides directions to the various platforms, and even the digital tour is a bit intimidating when you think about the shear size and number of people passing through.

    This is my first time, and even though I'm quite confident in my language skills, I worry about how well I'm going to be able to continue thinking in Japanese to properly communicate if I find myself in the middle of some problem. I had nightmares about that when it was initially confirmed that I would be going. It's one thing to speak confidently and clearly when in a level-headed situation. It's completely different when you want to tell everyone around you to go kick rocks, or that you've fallen and broken a bone.

    Anyway, back on topic, I'm really looking for things in that area which may appeal to the otaku history buff.

  • TGA, any advice you have would be more than appreciated when you have more time.

  • @pleco_breeder:

    TGA, any advice you have would be more than appreciated when you have more time.

    In the meantime, since this is…

    …few things. As evidenced by a CNN show "Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Tokyo", your brain will fell like "being on acid" when you get off the plane. You, if going solo, absolutely must know where it is your loggings are, and what you have to do to get there. I am serious... as I have had likewise issues myself over the last 5 times I have been there.

    "Jet Lag" or whatever isn't the problem; as you can be fully rested and have the same issues. Tokyo city are is so just damn big; like if all of LA were skyscrapers or something, and thus Tokyo is the definition of "an urban jungle".

    Have maps, good ones (paper only), and hopefully a real GPS (or something on your phone that works offline). Or you get lost fast. Especially Shinjuku, because that "West Gate" at the JR station (O wait there is more then one? Different floors, goes to 2 completely different streets?) is a b****, no ******* doubt about it.

    Don't worry about it too much though... once you live there for awhile, such as I have for 9 months now, you will figure it out. I suggest you again, get a good paper map of Tokyo (bilingual map is key). Go wander around different city blocks around each rail line every day. Make a "mental map" of the city. Then you will have no further problem.

    It will probably take you 5 months to do this properly, but it can be done. By such time, you should have "walked the streets of Tokyo, and know what there is to know", as it were.

  • TGA, you mention having something on my phone that will work offline. Is the service there that untrustworthy? I'm already set to have service when I come off the plane, so had planned on using that to work my way to the station, out of Shinjuku station, and to get to the hotel (I'm arriving a couple days prior to my apartment being ready/beginning work for sightseeing and adapting to the area). Beyond that, I had planned on using the local rail lines to get from one area to the next. I've looked at the location of my hotel, and work, and both sit within 10 minutes walking from Shinjuku station, so I'll have no choice for daily travel once I move into the apartment in Ikebukuro. I just don't want to be in that jungle any more than necessary.

    Back to the question, is there a reason you said to use paper maps rather than phone?

    Also, I will be alone on this one, so it's definitely going to be a bit of an adventure while getting things settled.

  • @pleco_breeder:

    Back to the question, is there a reason you said to use paper maps rather than phone?

    Probably because it's self-sufficient, unlike your phone that depends on its battery, the availability of the telephone/wifi service, the reliability of the app, etc. I have never been to such place but I think it's a good idea to at least have a paper map with yourself in case your phone fails you.

  • Yes, and because apparently offline maps for Japan are illegal (for non-Japanese anyways), as an attempt to make like harder "for their Mexicans"/Visa overstays, if you have no Internet, you have no map.

    I only recently learned of this, because was trying to get some myself. No matter… Furthermore, online maps are unreliable. Bing maps (my phone is Window) have basic layout, but are basically void of specific location info (most places/business are unregistered). Google is better with this regard, but their white/white color layout is very hard to use; especially on small screen, when trying to find streets. Remember, the hardest thing is trying to figure out what street you are on, and unlike a neatly laid out NYC, theys are everywhere (like EUrope).

    Finally, you are going to Shinjuku. That place is reaaaaaly confusing if you have explored it yet. Maps won't help either. And if you do not have a sense of "which way is North", you get lost real fast.

    If you want, you could tell me where abouts you will be, and I can "rate" how hard it will be for you to get their. Before when I goto Japan in the past, the first stops would always be in Shinjuku, because that is where the apartment agency (Sakura-House) is.

    But yes, out of all the places in Tokyo, Shinjuku is definitely the #1 hardest place to navigate if you have never been before. Other places in Tokyo are more, "linear", to say the least...

  • I'm fairly lucky with regard to the necessary locations (hotel and work) are located. The hotel where I'll be spending my first three nights is practically straight out the from the west side of the train station. Work will be a bit more difficult as it is completely the opposite direction, and I'll have to work my way to the other side of the station to get there. I did nightly "walks" on google earth for a couple months to try to adapt to the area, and just happened to find the building while going through an alley which I would have never bothered to take if I were actually there. It's rather surprising, to me at least, that you can look at some of these alleys and think there couldn't possibly be anything there. Come to find out, the main entrance to a skyscraper will be down that alley.

    With regard to the map think, you mention that offline maps are illegal? I didn't see anything about that in the visa paperwork, although I have seen other things which did strike me as being a bit unusual which are more company policies than law. With maps being illegal for non-residents, knowing that I have to report to customs for my visa as soon as I get off the plane, it doesn't seem that having a paper map is going to be a realistic possibility.

  • @pleco_breeder:

    With maps being illegal for non-residents, knowing that I have to report to customs for my visa as soon as I get off the plane, it doesn't seem that having a paper map is going to be a realistic possibility.

    *Internet/Digital maps are supposedly, not paper ones. I wish I could refine the source of this claim of mine, but it was part of some anti-illegal immigration law supposedly years ago; in Japanese, so on so forth. May be more of a Ministry of Justice post-regulation then a law, so "hush-hush". In either case, you cannot download GOOGLE/BING JAPAN maps for offline use, go ahead and try.

    BTW, you get a few weeks/months grace period to register as an "alien" with a local Japanese district office, so no rush. No need to get your "Alien Registration Card" right away. But don't take too long…

    EDIT: I admit this source is a bit sketchy, but it is the best I can come up with at the moment



    There's some law in Japan that prohibits offlining maps of Japan. You can't offline it in Google maps on Android either, at least not in the official app


    It's probably allowed in cars and stuff, given that it's difficult to leave the island, but they restrict offlining on mobile devices. Apparently Google even denies the user access to the map data cache for it to be compliant with local law.

    Imho pure silliness


    Can confirm it's an issue with Japan maybe the law etc. your not even allowed to buy a SIM card there. You have to bring residential papers to rent one. I recently tried to get offline maps on my windows phone and I phone using lots off different map providers and it was not possible.

  • I can confirm the info about sim card and resident papers as being true. I hadn't heard about the map stuff prior to this conversation though. You're also not allowed to open a bank account without your alien resident card. As for my alien registration and such, I have to have them prior to reporting for work. I'm being registered with the district through their agent, but do have to make sure all my paperwork is in order as a resident alien prior to reporting. Living in assigned housing simplifies that step since everything will already be waiting for me to arrive.

    This basically means having my visa stamped and showing proof of additional insurance beyond the Japanese national plan. While I'm covered under the national medical plan, if anything serious happens I'm expected to have extradition insurance back to the states for treatment.

  • I don't know if anyone else is going to read this, but thought I would pass along a useful piece of info regarding phone use I've managed to work out by doing a bit of research. I did this only because of my own concerns, but it has been a real pain in the @$$ to figure all the intricacies of the cellular system in Japan. First, and foremost, Japan is a lot more divided in the network type than we are in the US. They only have one major provider which uses GSM networking, so most of the phones we have are going to be useless, including my old phone. Knowing that, I bought a new phone, the other one was pushing 5 years anyway, in order to have one that will work regardless of the network type. Most providers in the US can offer international roaming, but that's going to cost an arm and a leg, so it was important to have a phone which I can get switched onto their networks as quickly as possible. Because my new phone is unlocked on both the major bandwidths, it should be as simple as switching my sim once I get everything settled.

    I won't advertise the carrier I'm using, but there is a US carrier which has a home network established in Japan which allows up to 3 months on a US plan before disconnecting because of the majority of time being spent on that Japanese network. For most people, this would be the maximum they would be staying anyway as their tourist visa expires in 90 days.

    In order to avoid international roaming charges on calls, I went a small step further. The new phone is set up for data only. I'll be in Japan for approximately six weeks prior to my resident visa becoming available. There were a lot of hang-ups in the paperwork, so there's not much can be done for that. However, I'm not about to pay what the tourist vendors want for a day of rent on a sim/phone for six weeks.

    To that end, I know I'll hear about how it's still unreliable tech, I'm simply going to use VOIP on the data plan. For those that are looking at this as a feasible option, most hotels and apartments ( know that all those through Sakura House) include an internet connection, so simply connecting a router will power both phone and computer at home. A lot of other businesses, just like here in the states, in metro areas also have open wifi. This really only cuts the data usage, but could make a difference if you're a heavy user.

    I'm really only posting this because I know it was a concern of mine, but it seems that I'm not the only one on the site which goes over, and thought it may help somebody else if I spread the word of what is working.

    BTW, this is only a short term fix, and if you're going to be there long enough to get on a regular plan, by all means do so.

  • I'm not going to Japan anytime soon but thanks for the information, I'll keep that in mind when the time comes.

  • Don't wast your life on Japanese cell networks; use Wi-Fi and Skype.


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