- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
We’ve met Michaela Z. (26), a German currently living in Shinjuku, Tokyo. She is in Japan for a Working Holiday and a little more than half a year ago she had the opportunity to job for a scuba diving school in a city in eastern Shizuoka prefecture. Michaela was working as the diving teacher's assistant for almost two months before coming back to Tokyo. She told us about her time in Shizuoka. Michaela, how did you land this job? I have been planning for quite a long time to travel to Japan. As I wanted to really immerse myself in the Japanese culture, I decided to come for a long Working Holiday, because working naturally gives you a deeper insight into a foreign culture than, for instance, a short trip. Due to the fact that I wanted to start my adventure on a short notice, I felt safer being supported and therefore decided to use the service of World Unite!. They also helped me to find the job in the scuba diving school in Shizuoka. I simply informed them about my wishes: with a university degree in Hotel and Tourism Management I wanted to find a job related to this area, prior to my departure to Japan. I was introduced to the scuba diving school and got hired for the summer. From when to when have you been working for the diving school? And what were your general working hours? I came to Japan in summer 2016 and after a few days of living in a share house in Tokyo and getting used to the new thermal environment I took the train to Shizuoka to start my work. My new Japanese boss, the diving school's owner and teacher, welcomed me warmly. Originally I was asked to work there for one month, but as I liked the job and my boss was pleased with how I was supporting him and felt that I was a reliable worker, I could stay a few more weeks. After that I went back to Tokyo. There were no fixed daily working hours. But usually the working day started at around 7 am and ended at around 3 pm. Before, during and after the diving lessons the customers had to be taken care of. As long as that was assured, everything was fine. Once a week I could take a day off. But also on working days I had quite an amount of free time, too. When my boss had time, he took me on short trips into the hinterland of Shizuokas. One time a neighbor, the owner of a hotel, took me with him for a hike in the Japanese alps. What kind of demands came with the job? Special skills or previous knowledge about diving or anything weren't required. I was taught everything I needed to know within the first few days of working. During these days I have been assistant and student at the same time. I even made my diver's licence after three days. Although, I also have to admit that it was a plus to already have made experiences in the hotel and restaurant business back in my days as a student. My boss didn't need to explain everything to me twice, as I kind of knew what needed to be done. Not only during the diving courses, but also when it came to care for the customers who stayed at the school owner's guest house. The house is located right next to the ocean. It was such an amazing view! How much did you earn? Was it enough to cover your living expenses? Instead of a salary I received free accommodation at my boss's house and free catering during my whole stay. Also entry fees for several locations such as museums and hot springs were covered. But I had to pay for my first diver's licence. Therefore I had to come to Japan with a little bit of savings. Luckily I could do my second diver's licence for free, though. In late summer, when the diving season came to an end slowly but surely and the diving school became less busy, I started to help out at the neighbor's Hotel for a few days. I received 10,000 JPY a day for that. What were your duties at the diving school? I was basically assisting the owner of the school with his daily work. For instance I needed to prepare the equipment for the diving lessons, explain essential rules to the students and look out for them during the diving. My boss isn't only running the school, but is also lending his boat to his customers for day trips including BBQ and water sports. My task was to welcome the customers and accompany them during their boat trip. While the diving teacher has been snorkeling with some of his students, I needed to watch out for the safety of the on the boat remaining customers. Besides the main business of diving lessons and boat trips, the school's teacher is also running a guest house. My tasks were to prepare the breakfast, do the laundry, clean the house or make the beds. As it was a traditional Japanese house with wooden floors, a lot of windows and tatami mat floors in the guest rooms, the maintenance asked for a careful treatment. Sometimes I did some gardening, too. Did you enjoy the job? And what didn't you like about it? I was enjoying my time in Shizuoka to the fullest. Supporting my boss with his work was a lot of fun and I loved the location. The only disadvantage I saw was that I didn't have a driver's license or a car. In the area the school is located, you really need a car to get somewhere. But well, I had a bicycle, so I often used it for rides along the promenade. Day or night, I could always use my free time to relax at the sea side behind the house. Doing so I had the rare chance to see the blue marine phosphorescence at night. Do you think Working for the diving school helped you improving your Japanese? My boss spoke English fluently, therefore it wasn't difficult to communicate with him. When we both had spare time he taught me some Japanese. During the breakfast with the guests he even asked them to practice their English on me. And the other way around, I was asked to try to speak in Japanese to them. Most of the guests were girls of my age, so we spent our free time together, too. They enjoyed teaching me new words. That helped me to improve my Japanese a little bit. We used to speak in a mix of Japanese and English. In addition, my boss's girlfriend, a Japanese language teacher, visited us quite often on the weekends. She used to live in Austria some years ago and knows some German, so she helped me understanding Japanese grammar and words. Besides the language aspect, what did you learn doing the job? I was working and learning at the same time, because I had never used any kind of diving gear before. I had the chance to complete two diver's licences and also a first aid course. Preparing the breakfast, sometimes alone, sometimes together with he guests, I learned a lot of traditional Japanese recipes, which I'm planning to use even after going back to Germany in a few months. Besides that I had the opportunity to attend Japanese traditional tea ceremonies several times, as my boss is a trained tea ceremony master. I got to know a lot about not only the famous Japanese green tea, but also about Moroccan tea making we even presented the country Morocco on a tea festival in Hakone, where we were handing out mint tea to the visitors in traditional clothing. As I was in charge of arranging our booth, I could live out my passion for decorating. What brought you to Japan to in the first place? What are you doing now back in Tokyo? I've been interested in Japan's culture and tradition since I've been a teenager. I guess most people start being fascinated by Japan in the first place through anime and manga, Japanese cartoons and comics, but for me it has been Japanese rock, pop and also traditional music that is captivating me since then. Listening to all kinds of Japanese music also made me fall in love with the Japanese language. I'm hoping to improve my language skills by doing this Working Holiday. I've actually been in Japan before once in 2009 for a short term cultural exchange program. During this time and also during the time in Germany when I was studying Japanese on my own, I got to know some Japanese people who became close friends of mine. Therefore I'm also using this Working Holiday as an opportunity to meet those people again. Right now I am living here in Shinjuku, Tokyo. While working as a part-timer, I'm trying to meet new people and old friends, as well as attending concerts of musicians that I most likely can never see live back in Germany. On the weekends I usually make short trips to cities nearby. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Comic Market or Comiket as I will call it from here on out, to the west usually is merely a mystical event. A place you've heard stories about, seen referenced in Anime and Manga, seen pictures of and fanart from. It's something that the majority of people in the western world have relatively little chance of experiencing, after all, it is on the other side of the world and there really is no comparable event anywhere in the world. During my one-year stay in Japan, I had the chance to visit Winter-Comiket and it made it for an absolutely fascinating experience I'm unlikely to forget all too soon. For starters, let me explain what Comiket in itself is about for those who aren't familiar with it. As aforementioned, the name "Comiket" stands for "Comic Market". It's a bi-annual event focusing on what the west generally dubs "Otaku-culture". This includes pretty much anything from Anime and Manga, Doujinshi, over music up to things like fanfiction or self-published web novels. The possibilities are near endless. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]The difference to your average foreign con is the actual focus of the event. Although a huge amount of companies are represented at Comiket and depending on their popularity can attract absolutely massive crowds, the event itself is mainly about fan created content. This manifests itself in several gigantic halls, packed to the brim with booths of different artists trying to sell their work over the course of the day that rotates each day in order for as many people as possible to be able to put their work on display. Being generally handled as the biggest convention in the world, it should be no surprise that Comiket is not friendly to those who dislike large crowds. The 91st iteration, the one I visited recently, listed over 550.000 visitors over the 3 days in its after report, more than any other convention in the world. A crowd this insane of course also brings with it quite a few negatives. It's incredibly hard to get your hands on a lot of the popular doujinshi and company merchandise due to the sheer amount of people streaming into the halls, making it absolutely necessary to get into Tokyo Big Sight as early as possible. These circumstances have sparked people to start lining up at absolutely impossible hours to get their hands on the things they want the most. So guess what I did. On the first day of Comiket, I woke up at 3 am (Seeing as the Shiohama Sharehouse is relatively close to Tokyo Big Sight, this would mean that if I walked I'd arrive before the first train and with that a big majority of the people attending Comiket). There was a particular, relatively popular company selling a lot of things I wanted to get my hands on, so I did the thing a lot of Comiket attendees will do for their favorite merchandise and woke up around the time I would usually go to bed. Packed with entertainment to pass the time, Food to feast on once I'd eventually get hungry and a good amount of caffeine to keep me awake throughout the day I made my way to Tokyo Big Sight, trying to mentally prepare for the more than five-hour wait I had ahead of me. I'm sure this must sound like absolute hell to most people and that was absolutely what I was thinking it would the evening beforehand, but as it turned out the waiting time was much better than expected. This was partially thanks to my luck of finding someone I would end up being friends with shortly after arriving but also thanks to the general organization of the lines. Although incredibly full from the start the lines don't feel nearly as cramped as one would think, you can leave the line at any point in order to get food or drinks at nearby vending machines and stands and even bring your own blanket or chair to sit on as you wait. In the end, the hour-long wait outside of Tokyo Big Sight in the morning may not be comfortable, but it's certainly not something that will make the entire con experience any less worth it. To me in fact, it only made it all the more memorable. The incredibly long waiting time only ended up building up my anticipation for the event even more and made getting to the booths I wanted to get to and buying the things I was planning to get all the more satisfying. If I were to go to Comiket again I would undoubtedly do it the same way again. Of course, if you don't have any specific, popular things you want to buy there's little reason to go through anything like this. Comiket's organization is absolutely impeccable and makes for one of the smoothest line experiences I've ever had. Of course, it helps that the convention in itself is 100% free meaning no ticket-checking is required, but around an hour after the convention opens there's already close to no need to wait in line anymore. Sadly, that means with all of the people that were originally waiting outside inside already the halls are absolutely cramped and, even worse, the lines for popular artists can be endless. Lines often have to be either led to the outside to continue lining there or have to be cut into several smaller parts so people can continue walking through the already relatively small corridors in between booths. 50 years of experience in holding Comiket, however, make all of this a surprisingly smooth ride as both the people working on site, as well as a lot of the visitors already know the general drill. The event feels chaotic, but it still at all times seems to be under people's control. It's an overwhelmingly odd experience, but for something as gigantic as this to work at least just as well as every smaller foreign con is fascinating to me. So would I actually recommend you to go to Comiket? Absolutely. Even if you aren't hugely into Anime and Manga, I do believe that at the very least the experience of the event is something that'll stay with you for quite a while. I do urge you, however, to think beforehand about how you would like to enjoy the event. Having done both the Hunting after things I wanted to have and the casual strolling around the artist's alley to find things to spend my leftover money on, I can say that both of them are incredibly fun in very different ways, but the former does have a lot of effort put into it beforehand. Doing research via the guidebook available in Akihabara the weeks beforehand, looking up your favorite artists, planning out the best routes for buying your stuff, getting up extremely early etc, is quite exhausting but extremely worth it. On the other hand simply strolling around the convention does, of course, have its own merits. The experience can be extremely calming and is a lot easier especially in its preparation. Instead of the constant running around it allows for a lot more actual looking through things and surprise artists you might not have found otherwise. Regardless of what you chose to do, Comiket is an absolutely insane experience and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you go through it!
Isabel (19) from Germany: "What I find so great about karaoke is that you don't have to be a great singer to have fun with it. You always go with friends as a group and it is particularly fun if you cannot sing, because everyone will join singing and bawling out, especially in case of songs everyone knows such as famous anime openings. It's always super fun. My favourite songs are the songs of Nishino Kana. The Karaoke shops always have some of her songs. Sometimes they also have some Western songs that you can sing in English. I also enjoy to sing Anime openings. There are plenty of Karaoke shops all over Tokyo. Just around the corner of our share house in Kiba there is a Karaoke place. In Shinjuku and Shibuya you find at least one Karaoke shop at every corner. Many of them belong to a chain of Karaoke shops. Choosing them you'll be on the safe side to have a fun time. However, there might also be cheaper non-chained places that are also good. Often you will find karaoke + a drink, or "All you can drink + karaoke", which is always the option that is most fun!" " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Most people connect Ebisu, the major district of Tokyo’s rather famous ward Shibuya, with its restaurant and bar scene. After all it was developed around a beer brewery in the late 1920’s. But you can find several quiet and homey spots in Ebisu, too, making it a popular residential area nowadays. There we’ve met Jessica A. (27) for an interview. She is working at Sesame International Preschool, founded in 2000 and located right in the heart of beautiful Ebisu. Jessica, can you tell us how a typical work day at Sesame looks like? Well, we are having various programs, based on the seasons, on the age of the kids etc. But in general it can be said that there is a structured daily plan. As the kids are coming from 9am, all staff members have to be here at latest 8:30. We are changing into our school staff uniform first and then welcome the arriving kids. After this, two times a week I’m cooking lunch for the kids and the other three times a colleague is doing it. We are actually serving fresh lunch with vegetables and rice for the most kids. There are some who bring their own lunch, too. At the moment I'm assistant teacher which means I’m responsible for the group of 3-6 year olds at the first floor. The group of the younger ones (1-2 years old) is located at the second floor. As an assistant I’m learning how to lead the group on my own so that my colleagues can take their holidays. Daily activities of my group are: 9:45am: morning circle time, where we sing a morning song and explain what will be done on that day; 10am: the kids take a snack and have play time; 11am: we visit a local park; noon: we have lunch; 1pm: math; 1:30pm: we do a big activity, which includes stationary at most times; 2pm: the kids take a snack and have play time again; 2:45pm: we sing a good bye song, talk about what we have learned today. Around 3pm the kids will get picked up. In the afternoon, I have different duties. There is an other special program, called extended care, for kids that stay longer than 3pm or come later. The staff then will be divided into the late shift who has to take care of the extended care kids, and the rest, who is in charge of making preparations. For example documents, seasonal decoration and of course the activity calendar have to be prepared. The activity calendar shows which daily big activity will be done in the current month. These activities are all educational, but are still supposed to be fun. For instance we are learning letters, numbers, seasons or read from a book and then do some handicrafts with the newly learned information. All activities should stimulate the kids thinking skills while also exercise their motoric capabilities. The goal is for the kids to be able to do minor maths, read and write the ABC and maybe even short sentences before attending elementary school. And at the same time we want them to have a enjoyable time at Sesame. Of course, where 1-6 year olds are around there is always a lot to clean and tidy up. That’s also each staff member’s duty, especially in the evening after 6pm, when all the kids have been picked up. What are your general working times? I’m working Monday to Friday. Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays are generally off, with some rare exceptions such as the yearly Christmas party on a Saturday. All staff members are having New Year holidays and summer holidays, plus 10 freely choosable days off. I’m starting my shifts in the morning at latest 8:30 and can leave shortly after 6pm. My shifts during myWorking Holiday were shorter. At that time I could leave around 4pm. So this right now is not your Working Holiday? Correct. I’m here with an actual working visa, valid for three years. Originally I started this job at Sesame in March 2014, when I came here for a Working Holiday. I didn’t search for a job right after arriving, because I wanted to enjoy some free time and get used to the country before starting a hard work life. But in April it was about time to find a job. Although I studied Japanese Studies in Germany, I didn’t have much confidence in my Japanese. I was thinking “What job can I do without knowing a lot of Japanese?“. An acquaintance of mine then told me that international schools are always searching for foreign staff. I started researching about international kindergartens and preschools on the internet. The website of Sesame International Preschool looked the most appealing to me, so I sent them an unsolicited application via email. They invited me for a job interview, which I had in May. I didn’t even expect that, but the school director asked me to start my ten days of test work on the same day. Of course they need to test you for some days before really hiring you, as they want to find out, if you will fit into the team and can deal with the children. I passed the test! After ten days I got hired as a part time worker, being paid hourly. I worked there until the end of my Working Holiday, so round about nine months. I went back to Germany and graduated university, aiming to go back to Sesame afterwards. And they also wanted me to come again. I went back to Japan, and now here I am in my eighth month as a full time employee in a permanent position. Which language requirements came with the job? You have to speak English fluently. I sent my resume and application in English, too, because the job was advertised in English at Sesame’s homepage. Also, it’s the rule of our school to speak English with the children. Of course you can make an exception, when a kid is new in school, or you can’t calm down one of them and need to try it in his or her mother language. Most of them are Japanese, but we have some foreign kids, too. After all it’s an international school. It’s not necessarily needed to be able to speak Japanese, but it’s definitely a plus if you can understand and speak at least a little bit, because some parents, which you have to communicate with, aren’t fluent in English. And of course the kids aren't neither. Most of them can’t express themselves in English, yet. Do you think working at Sesame helped you improving your Japanese? To be honest, there are jobs out there that are better for learning Japanese, because our school is leaded to around 95% in English. That’s just the school's concept. BUT, in some parts, yes, the job helped me to improved my Japanese. Especially because most of the kids are still speaking more Japanese then English. Although we remind them of talking in English, them speaking Japanese is something that can’t be avoided, after all they are living in Japan. But still, because of them speaking Japanese, I learned a lot that I haven’t learned during my Japanese studies. I’m still interested in learning more. And when asking my Japanese colleagues about what a kid just said, they are happy to help me understand. Would you let us know some more requirements? You definitely need to prove that you have worked with children before. I personally have worked three years in Germany as a homework assistance for immigrants elementary school kids. And also as a private tutor. In addition to this, Sesame told me that I would need to do an internship in a kindergarten or elementary school after my Working Holiday. Back in Germany I did a three months internship in a elementary school and provided a certificate about it to become a full time employee at Sesame. It also can be said that the time I worked here during my Working Holiday has been kind of a training for what I am doing now. Without having done that training, I’m sure they would have never sponsored the working visa for me. There are some high hurdles. Sesame makes pretty sure you are actually able to work with children and are a good teacher. The school takes very good care of their kids and searches for staff members that they can trust and that they can place responsibility on. One more requirement is to be a punctual person. Coming to late for work is not an option, because everything has to be prepared as soon as the first kids are arriving. I commute to work around 60 minutes from door to door, which means I have to leave the house at 7:15am latest to ensure not coming too late. In case there is a problem with the train, for example it is delayed because of an accident, you can receive this practical evidence paper at the station you get off the train. If you hand this to the school director, coming to late will be excused of course. But you need to think about the weather, too. You always should check the next day’s weather, because it might be windy or even snowy. Then you should take an earlier train. That’s just out of question. In case of a typhoon the whole school will be closed of course, for everyones safety. This will be announced the day before. Are you enjoying the job? And what don’t you like about it? I love my job! Every day is different. Although you have to follow a certain plan everyday and have repeating duties, it’s never the same. Thanks to the kids. Their behaviour changes everything. That’s what makes the job diversified and exciting. Also, I love children. And my colleagues. I know that I can always rely on them when I have a problem. There is a very familiar atmosphere here at Sesame. That makes it easy to come to work with a smile of your face every day. Looking back, the only thing that I see as a small disadvantage of a Working Holiday in general is that you have a very tight working plan. In the evening I used to come home exhausted. It was hard to follow the main part of “Working Holiday“: the holidays. It was hard to discover Japan, because I worked 5 times a week. When being paid hourly, you have no chance to take a day off without losing money at the same time. Now as an employee in a permanent position that’s luckily a bit different. Have you done other jobs during your Working Holiday, too? No. At the beginning of my Working Holiday I applied for a job in a German restaurant, too, because I felt that I needed more money. But in the end I didn’t take that job and instead Sesame’s director offered me to work longer shifts. That helped me a lot. Actually, my Working Holiday helped me learning to live with the amount I’m receiving, while still having a small amount left at the end of the month. I try to spend my money more responsibly, but still enjoying my time in Japan doing the things I like to do, such as attending concerts and meeting my friends. Can you give us a resume about your impressions and feelings about your job? My current job taught me that I definitely need a job in my life that keeps me moving. Where every day is different. I couldn’t sit in front of a computer all day long. I’ve learned for my life that a job needs to make you happy. It makes everything in life easier, if you love your job. In case I should go back to Germany some day and search for a new job, I know it must fill my heart more than my wallet. I really think that I could do this job forever. If it only was located closer to my loved ones in Germany, I wouldn’t have to think twice about that. Would you recommend doing a Working Holiday in Japan to others? Yes! I can recommend it to EVERYONE who is interested in Japan and also into getting to know the real Japan. With all it’s ups and downs. You have the chance to try out living in an other country, but are not forced to stay forever. In the end that one year of Working Holiday turned out to be one of the best years of my life. And it led me to my current life and job in Sesame. I learned a lot about myself, about being more independent and an adult. BUT it’s also important for you to know that you need to be open to a new society, to new things. You have to be eager to work very hard. And if you do so, your Working Holiday will be fantastic.
What are cultural differences? Culture, the way Intercultural Coaches usually define it, is describing the way how the people belonging to a certain group, such as a nation, think. The thinking is influenced by values and norms that the people belonging to the group share. Of course not everyone of a certain country thinks the same way, indeed there are big differences from one individual to another, but tendencies definitely exist. They exist because the people around oneself are influencing each other: in their childhood, children learn the values, the way of thinking and behavioural norms from their parents, educators and teachers. Later, through every interaction, in social life, in work life etc. people adapt their thinking and behaviours to the people around them - resulting that they are a little similar to the people they interact with or they have grown up with. Japan is still a relatively closed society. As an isolated island with still today, very few foreigners, a culture has developed in Japan, which is indeed unique and in many aspects very different from all the other cultures in the world. Most people in Japan are proud of their culture and want to preserve it. There is not so much the urge to adapt cultural features from other nations. Being unique, however means that there are considerable differences between Japanese culture and the rest of the world. If you are not familiar with these differences and you closely interact with Japanese people, for instance living with them in a host family, or working with them at your Working Holiday job or internship, can result in difficulties for both sides. It is therefore definitely recommendable to learn about Japanese culture prior to your trip to Japan. Once you have are familiar with it in theory, you will be sensitized and able to understand certain behaviours you can observe in Japan, and you can adjust your own behaviour accordingly to avoid possible pitfalls. Japan Explained Through Cultural Dimensions A very useful analytical tool to study cultural differences is Hofstede's 6D model of culture. The model identifies six key dimensions by which cultures differ and through comparison, serves as a good representation of differences. The dimensions described are power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, pragmatism vs. normative and indulgence vs. restraint. The Hofstede Centre has a powerful tool on its website, allowing you to compare your own culture with Japan. You will notice in which dimensions you can possibly expect bigger cultural differences and learn how people in Japan would typically position themselves: https://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html You can also book an online intercultural skype training session with World Unite! (available in English and German), which takes around 90 minutes, and where you can learn from and also ask your questions to an experienced academic consultant (intercultural coaches, japanologists) about anything related to Japanese culture and/or living and working in Japan. To join is 45 USD/EUR. The sessions are usually offered 1-2 times per month to a group of around 4-10 participants, most of which go to Japan on a Working Holiday or Internship. It would be good to contact World Unite! latest around one month prior to your proposed journey to Japan. Even if you are already in Japan, it might make sense to join the session. Yes, I want to book an online intercultural skype training session about living and working in Japan!
You can buy most things in Japan. However, some items might be considerably more expensive than back home, or if you only need them occasionnaly (such as formal clothes for job interviews) not worth to buy again, if you already own them back home. Here's our Working Holiday Packing list: Passport with Working Holiday Visa Credit Card and some cash for the first month(s) Insurance documents Vaccination record Photocopies of your documents (in case of loss) Casual clothes for all seasons Formal clothes for Job Interview. For males this should be: black or dark blue fabric pants, long-sleave conservative shirt, tie, dark conservative leather shoes. A suit including the jacket is not an absolute necessity, but if you have one, better bring it, but only if it is plain black or dark blue - no fancy colours or patterns. For women: black or dark-blue knee-long skirt with black or skin-coloured tights (alternatively it is also acceptable to wear a dark, conservative fabric pants - no jeans!), white/neutral formal blouse. For job interviews, women should NOT wear colourful make-up, attention-catching accessories or have fancy hairstyles. Also men should not have unusual hairstyles or beards. It is possible to buy even large sizes of clothes in Japan. Shoes (particularly if have large sizes they are difficult to find in Japan) Towels (usually not provided at share houses) Western brands of cosmetics, toothpaste etc. that you prefer over Japanese brands. Western brands of cosmetic products are not widely available in Japan. If you need certain prescription medicines, better bring supply for your whole duration of stay. Also bring the prescription to proof that it is for your personal use if asked for at customs. Cell phone which is not sim-locked by your domestic provider with charger Maybe (for the beginning) some durable Western food (e.g. sweets, chocolates, bread, pasta). Remember that it is not allowed to bring fresh fruits and meat products to Japan. Using foreign electrical devices in Japan Japan uses the same AC sockets and plugs as in the US and runs its electrical network on 100 V/50 Hz. For eletric devices from other parts of the world, e.g. Europe, you need AC adaptors. It is not necessary to bring AC adaptors from home, as you can cheaply buy them at all electric goods shops. Salespeople at shops of your home country often recommend the wrong type of AC adaptor for Japan. Please note that due the 100 V low voltage of the Japanese electrical network, flat irons, hair dryers, kettles and most other heating devices from countries of higher voltage (e.g. Europe uses 220-250 V) won't work in Japan, even when using an adaptor. So don't bring them. Notebook computers, smartphones, electric shavers etc. can usually deal with a high range of voltages (100-250 V) so you can use them. Check the label on your electrical device for clarification.