ONLINE GUIDEBOOK FOR LIVING IN JAPAN
This document is currently being updated-please check back for the most recent version. (Most recent update: September 5, 2014)
- Introduction / General Conditions of the Grant / Final Report
- Preparing for Departure / Visa / Handling your Stipend
- Arriving in Tokyo / The International House of Japan / Orientation / Artists’ Forum / Setting up House / Going about Your Work
- The Language / The People / Travel / Medical Problems and Health Insurance / Coming with Children / Miscellaneous Notes
- Appendices: Books about Japan / Periodicals / Helpful Telephone Numbers and Web Sites / Japan’s National Holidays
- Outline of the responsibilities of the I-House toward the USJFC Creative Artists Program Fellows
In this fellowship program, five US-based mid-career artists are chosen to spend three to five months in Japan immersing themselves in the Japanese culture and meeting artists from their particular fields. This program is sponsored by the Japan-US Friendship Commission (JUSFC) with in-kind suppport from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho) provides visa sponsorship and the International House of Japan provides logistical support in Japan. If you are not on this program, but would like more information about the program and how to apply, please refer to the JUSFC homepage here.
General Conditions of the Grant
These are the conditions of the grant, a copy of which you have or will receive.
- Grantee agrees to spend three months in Japan without lengthy interruption except for unforeseen emergencies. If Grantee is to be absent from Japan for more than seven consecutive days, Grantee must first seek clearance with the Commission’s office in Washington. If Grantee spends a period of longer than three months in Japan, it is mutually understood that that time will be the responsibility of the Grantee.
- A grant award in the amount of $20,000 will be provided to each artist to cover housing, living, and professional expenses. Artists will be responsible for converting their dollar award into yen. Disbursement of the grant and financial responsibilities of the grantee will be outlined when awards are made and are included below under “Handling your Stipend”. Fellows are strongly encouraged to discuss management of funds in Japan with his or her bank well in advance of departure. Up to $2,000 for round-trip transportation will be reimbursed to the artist to cover the cost of airfare.
- The activities financed by this Fellowship are expected to be carried out for exactly three months, beginning from the Grantee’s arrival in Japan.
- The Grantee shall use United States flag carriers or code share affiliates for international travel for all travel supported under this agreement.
- During the period of this Fellowship, the Grantee may not be concurrently receiving any other fellowship award.
- The Grantee shall submit a program report describing and evaluating the activities undertaken pursuant to this Agreement within sixty (60) days of the completion date of the Fellowship, or at such times as requested by the Commission. The format of the report is up to the artist.
- During the period of this Fellowship, the Grantee may not work for pay.
- No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, political preference, labor organization/or non-affiliation, marital status, or parental status be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program receiving Commission assistance.
All Fellows must submit a final report on his or her fellowship within 60 days of the completion of the grant. This report is vital to the continuation of this unique fellowship. It is the testimony of each individual artist that speaks to its success and helps ensure that funding will continue. The form or style of the report is up to the individual artist, but we urge you to be as specific and thorough as possible. The inclusion of photos, drawings, journal entries, blog reports or other media that helps to document your experience is welcome. Please send the report to the Japan-US Friendship Commission in Washington DC, the NEA and the International House of Japan, by e-mail. If you have materials that are too large to attach to an e-mail, you may choose to give us a link to download the materials.
Preparing for Departure
The amount of preparation you undertake before arriving and the effort you make upon arrival can have a profound impact on the quality of your stay. We urge you to undertake as much research on the country and culture as possible before your departure. The majority of artists coming to Japan choose to stay in Tokyo, which is the center of most artistic activity, both contemporary and traditional. Furthermore, the International House of Japan, which acts as advisor and curator of this fellowship, is located in Tokyo and is best able to assist those artists who remain in that city. Nonetheless, this fellowship contains absolutely no strings or conditions on location, and artists should determine for themselves where to stay.
Tokyo is the political, cultural, and artistic capital of Japan. As such, many artists choose to spend their residency in Tokyo. The International House of Japan, which acts as advisor and curator of this fellowship, is also located in Tokyo and is best able to assist those artists who remain there. Nonetheless, this fellowship contains absolutely no strings or conditions on location, and artists should determine for themselves where to stay. While Tokyo is the urban capital of the country, the rest of Japan is home to a wide range of traditional as well as contemporary art, and artists are strongly encouraged to research their interests well in advance of their arrival.
The suggestions and hints given here are more or less applicable throughout Japan. For those who have lived previously in other countries or traveled extensively, these notes may seem redundant, but these pages were designed to make your transition easier and to lessen the intimidation of moving to Japan.
For books and periodicals relating to Japan, please see the Appendix at the end of this file.
*In the Appendix, you will find a list of some books you may find helpful.
- When shipping to Japan, you can send your articles C/O the Arts Program, International House of Japan and we will hold them for your arrival.
- The Japan Post has an English-language website here. (http://www.post.japanpost.jp/english/index.html)
- In addition to FedEx, DHL, and UPS, some Japanese shipping companies include Yamato Transport Company, Japan Luggage Express, Economove Japan, (for your reference only – we do not recommend or attest to any of these companies).
- You might also weigh the difference between shipping materials, or paying for extra baggage on your flight. When arriving at the airport, there is a package delivery service that can ship your boxes to your final destination the following day.
If you are flying into Tokyo, Haneda Airport is much closer to central Tokyo than Narita, so you will find that it is faster and less expensive to come through Haneda.
As a Japan-US Creative Artists Program Fellow, your work here involves cultural exchange. Therefore you must obtain, before coming to Japan, a visa enabling you to engage in “cultural activities.”
- Your Cultural Activities visa will most likely be valid for 3 months, but some artists get a visa lasting 6 months, depending on the local consulate.
- The Commission and Bunkacho (Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs) will provide the necessary papers for obtaining the cultural visa, but you need to begin the process at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to your departure.
- On this grant it is not possible for you to enter the country with a Tourist Visa, nor will you be eligible for the Japan Rail Pass.
- The grant does not provide airfare for spouses or partners. If you arrive in Japan with family, they will have to enter the country on a Tourist Visa (available at the port of entry) and their stay will be limited to 90 days. (NOTE: this means that there is the possibility of a slight discrepancy between the 3 months of your Cultural Activities visa and the 90 days of your partner’s tourist visa.
- Immigration at the airport should give you a Residence Card. If your visa is for 3 months, then you do not need to register at the local ward office. If you have a longer visa, however, you will need to take the residency card to the local ward office at the place of your residency within 14 days to register your address.
- If, for some reason, they do not give you a residency card at Immigration, they will stamp your passport stating that you will be given the card later. You will then have to go to the Tokyo Immigration Office to get this card before you can register your address.
Handling Your Stipend
- The best way to access your stipend funds is to use an ATM card to access your US-based account.
- Japan is more of a cash-based society than the US, though in many stores, internationally recognized credit cards are accepted.
- We recommend you consult with your bank regarding foreign transaction fees, international ATM withdrawal fees, and daily ATM withdrawal limits.
- Some fellows choose to create an account with a bank especially for this purpose. Some banks used by recent fellows include Capital One 360 Online Bank, and Charles Schwab Bank.
- Many Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign ATM cards, but many visitors with foreign cards have been able to withdraw cash from ATMs in 7-11 convenience stores, as well as the Japanese post office ATMs.
- For safety reasons, we strongly advise you to limit the amount of cash you physically carry to Japan.
- Some links with more information regarding money in Japan: Japan: the Official Guide , japan-guide.com
- We recommend you bring enough cash to tide you over for your first few days in Japan. You might change a few hundred dollars at the airport upon arrival, and then change more later – the exchange rate is the same throughout the country.
- Although you will not need to pay Japanese taxes on your grant, you will have to report your grant income to the IRS.
- Regarding the handling of receipts, please refer to the “Policies and Procedures” file you received with your Conditions of Offer information.
- There is no tipping of taxi drivers, waiters, or bell-persons in Japan.
NOTE: Please do not wait until the last minute to consider this aspect of your fellowship!
Arriving in Tokyo
If you are flying into Tokyo, Haneda Airport is much closer to central Tokyo than Narita, so you will find that it is faster and less expensive to arrive through Haneda.
- Ground transportation from Haneda (Tokyo)
- Arriving at Narita (Tokyo) Ground Transportation: Narita Express (NEX) is a fast and comfortable way to arrive at Tokyo station, taking just one hour and costing about 3000 yen. Trains leave on the average every 30 minutes during the day. You need to buy a reserved ticket before you board, but there is a JR desk at the arrival lobby where you can obtain schedules, reserve a seat and purchase a ticket. Keisei Railways operates the Skyliner, which runs from Narita to Ueno in less than 40 minutes. Ueno is a little further away from Roppongi than Tokyo Station, and for this reason we recommend the Narita Express. If you go to Ueno, however, you can take the Hibiya subway line to Roppongi. If you prefer buses (or arrive at off-hours when the train doesn’t run), right outside the customs door is the Airport Limousine desk (with signs in English) where a bus leaves for the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) every 15 minutes. The fare is slightly less than JR, but if the traffic is bad (and it usually is), the bus can take over 2 hours to reach Tokyo. Whether you arrive at the TCAT or Tokyo station, you should take a taxi to the International House in Roppongi. Hand the driver the map that is reproduced here, or, if you don’t have the map, just say “Kokusai bunka kaikan, Roppongi.” The taxi fare should be around 3000 yen. Don’t worry about being cheated. Most taxi drivers, and most Japanese as well, are very honest and conscientious.
- If you can read and speak Japanese, you might also consider these low-cost bus options, summarized here
The International House of Japan
The International House of Japan (IHJ) is a highly respected, private non-profit membership organization dedicated to furthering understanding between Japan and the rest of the world. With its own endowment and support from foundations, corporations and individuals, the I-House sponsors various academic and cultural programs and activities, fellowships, scholarships, conferences and research. The grounds contain a hotel, conference rooms, a beautiful, all-purpose hall, a stunning Japanese garden, restaurants and a very extensive English language library, all of which are available for exchange scholars, researchers, artists and members. The library maintains an excellent collection of recent English language works on Japan in the area of the social sciences, humanities and arts. As a Creative Artists Program Fellow, you are eligible to join as a library member. The librarians will help you locate any books which may not be at the I-House library. The area around the I-House, Roppongi, is high-fashion and a mecca for models, thrill-seekers and night clubbers. Not exactly quaint old Japan, but it is convenient to the rest of the city and a good place to start.
In order to show its support for the artists who arrive on the Japan-US Creative Artists Program, the IHJ will offer two nights of free lodging (single room) for all the artists. You may prefer to use the first night upon arrival and the second night on the night before departure, or combine both nights for use at either the beginning or end of your residency. Any additional nights can be made available at a 20% discount (member’s rate) for the duration of the fellowship. Rooms can sometimes be scarce, so we urge you to make reservations as soon as your arrival plans are confirmed.
The IHJ Program Department, which is in charge of your fellowship, is open only on the weekdays during regular office hours and is closed on national holidays (see Appendix). It will be helpful if you keep this in mind when planning your arrival.
- Address: 5-11-16, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan
- Phone/Fax Numbers:
- URL: www.i-house.or.jp
- Directions: Subways 1) Hibiya Line, Roppongi Station (Exit No. 3) 10 minute walk. 2) Nanboku or Oedo Lines, Azabu Juban Station (Exit no. 7), 3 minute walk.
Buses: From Shibuya or Shinbashi, take bus No. 1 Get off at Roppongi; 10 minute walk
The International House, or IHJ, is your host and ‘window’ into Japan and will help with the mundane but necessary aspects of life and getting started with your fellowship. IHJ Arts Programs Advisor Sawako Nakayasu, and Arts Programs Coordinator Manami Maeda help the artists in both professional and everyday matters. Although the I-House has built up an extensive network of artistic connections, thanks in large part to the contacts made by previous fellows, it is helpful if you can bring names of people you specifically want to meet or have had previous contact with. The day after you arrive (depending on the day of the week), you will have an orientation with the I-House artists’ assistance staff. They can help you with business cards (meishi), letters of introduction, housing, and other questions you may have. This is also a good opportunity to discuss the Artist’s Forum. Please refer to the Appendix for a description of the responsibilities of the I-House toward the artists (e.g. what we can and cannot do for you).
Since 1987 the I-House has sponsored an Artists’ Forum series where the fellows can show/ perform/read their work and meet their local counterparts. The I-House will, upon request, arrange a forum for you during your stay in Japan, as it will help you make contacts and share your work with other artists. The Artists’ Forums have presented such diverse artists as film-makers, musicians, mime artists, video artists, computer musicians, poets, visual artists, and craft-artists. Be thinking of the kind of presentation you might want to make. Participation in the forum is not mandatory, but it is a good way to widen your contacts. Past example of Artists’ Forum events can be found here.
Setting Up House
Your first order of business, if you haven’t already arranged something, will be to find a place to live. This usually happens smoothly, but it takes some time and effort. Many artists choose to live in Tokyo, but many also choose to live elsewhere–Kyoto, Kyushu, or in the countryside: it all depends on what you want to accomplish during this fellowship and what environment will be most conducive to your research. Some fellows have used the grant to do extensive traveling around the country, but even in such cases they have found a need for a place to return to and store baggage while away. Most of the housing contacts the I-House maintains are centered in Tokyo, so if you decide to live outside the greater Tokyo metropolitan area you will be mostly on your own.
Tokyo apartment prices vary according to location, space, building quality and environment. Prices within the center of Tokyo are understandably expensive but become cheaper further out from the city center. Some artists have found wonderful, spacious places in nearby suburbs which are reasonable and not too far away from Tokyo. You will have to consider how often you need to commute into Tokyo.
Most fellows now arrange housing before arrival through their own contacts. Searching apartments through a Realtor is not really feasible for this fellowship, since most landlords require at least a year-long contract.
Some options and avenues for inquiry include short-term furnished rental apartments (called weekly or monthly manshon), Air B&B, and Craigslist. See the Appendix for more recommendations. If you have any questions or need guidance on the housing situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us; the sooner the better. It will depend upon where you stay, but you should budget about 20 to 25% of your stipend money for housing.
One resource in Kyoto is the Kyoto International Community House. This center, run by Kyoto City, offers various resources for the foreign visitor, including information on housing, reference services, Internet service and rental halls. Their web site also has a housing search feature.
If there are any household items that you need, they are often found cheaply at 100 yen shops
- There are various options available, depending on your current phone plan as well as your interest in researching the many possibilities. Because these conditions and options change quite rapidly, we are unable to provide definitive information here, but below are a few points to consider:
- If you have a 3G handset as your phone in the US, it may be possible to use it in Japan.
- If you have an unlocked phone you might look into purchasing a local SIM card.
- If you are interested in setting up a proper phone line (as opposed to a data-only plan), the phone companies will require that you are officially registered as a Japanese resident.
- There are companies that can rent you a phone that is ready to use, like rentafone: http://www.rentafonejapan.com/ – some of these you can find at the airport.
- Some artists in recent years have opted to rent a portable wi-fi device, then used a VoIP service like Skype or LINE to make calls.
- Public wireless access in Japan is not as common as it is in the US, though many hotels, including The I-House, will offer wireless access in the lobby and LAN service in the guest rooms. You should confirm with your general accommodations regarding this point as well.
- Teishoku-ya are small, locally owned restaurants that cater to students and singles. These tend to be inexpensive.
- For vegetarians: while there is a wide selection of vegetables available year-round, many Japanese dishes are cooked using fish stock.
- Smoking: an increasing number of restaurants include non-smoking tables, but often it is impossible to guarantee that there will not be smokers at a nearby table in the smoking section. Some good options for smoke-free venues include family restaurants, hotel restaurants, and chain restaurants. No Smoke Tokyo provides a list of no smoking restaurants.
Going about Your Work
While on the fellowship, you’re essentially on your own when it comes to meeting people and getting on with your work. You were chosen for this fellowship partly because you appeared independent enough to get things done without a lot of support. Although the I-House and its staff will help arrange meetings and facilitate your work, and the Bunkacho or American Embassy might take an interest in your work, no one will act as your manager, promoter, or secretary. If you are interested in meeting a lot of people here, try to find out as many names as possible before coming. While the staff at the International House will share whatever contacts they have, there may be none in your particular field. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to lay this sort of groundwork. Leave no stone unturned, because, more so than any other country, Japan runs on a “whom you know” basis. Most Japanese artists are warm and open, and once contact is made and trust established, they are usually willing to open their world and acquaintances to you–though it might take more time than you initially suspect. Tell your Japanese friends the things you would like to see and do; they are understandably proud of their culture and will go out of their way to help you.
The arts scene in Japan is somewhat of a paradox. The highly refined and artistic aspects of the traditional culture give rise to a fertile avant-garde art scene, but public and private support of artists and musicians, especially young, contemporary artists, is almost non-existent. In spite of this lack of general support, however, there is a very thriving arts scene, both traditional and contemporary. Grantees have taken classes in Noh, Butoh, traditional dance, tea ceremony, calligraphy and shakuhachi; just to name a few. Most teachers are more than willing to share their time and expertise with a foreign artist, but one can’t expect to go too far with any of the traditional arts in Japan during a three-month visit, and very few artists or performers, especially those in traditional fields, speak English. The experience of taking lessons in a traditional art or craft can be invaluable, however, as an integrating part of your own work.
If you want to collaborate with a Japanese artist or theater group with whom you have a connection, try to arrange it before you come. Some artists have been disappointed because their time here is too short to arrange extensive collaborations. On the other hand, many of the artists have laid the groundwork for future collaborations during their three-month stay.
You cannot work for profit while in Japan, but you are encouraged to give readings, performances, or showings of your work (you may accept travel and per diem remuneration from the sponsoring institutions). When you come, you should bring portfolios and examples of your work in as many media forms as possible: CDs, DVDs, slides, publications, reviews, etc.
The American Cultural Attaché and the staff of the US Department of State at the American Embassy are always interested in knowing about visiting American artists, and you should consider making contact with them soon after you arrive. They may be able to arrange performances, exhibitions, or presentations at the American Centers in Tokyo and other major Japanese cities. If you are interested, mention this early since planning can take a while.
While knowledge of the Japanese language will give depth to your experience of the Japanese culture, for many people, Japanese can be a difficult language to learn. However, any effort that you make to speak Japanese will be met with the utmost kindness, if not somewhat overabundant praise. At the very least purchase a phrase book and try to remember the basics greetings, but if at all possible take some Japanese classes at your own expense before arrival. Continuing your language studies while in Japan will have the additional benefit of reinforcement from daily life.
- Spouses or partners can often join a private lesson for a reduced rate. Continuing your studies of the language once you come here is highly recommended.
- Learning the katakana and hiragana syllabary alphabets before you come will make it much easier to read signs and generally get around.
- As you get farther away from Tokyo and other urban centers, there will be less signage in English.
- Many Japanese people are better at reading or writing English than at speaking or listening, so at times it may help to write things down.
As with travel to any foreign culture, you can expect to experience a fair amount of cultural differences. Perhaps the most meaningful way to experience the culture and pick up the language is to make friends. This may seem elementary, but it is the creation of personal relationships with individuals in Japan that will determine the quality of your stay. You will meet people through your work, at your favorite eatery or drinking place, or through introductions.
The general notion is that the Japanese are a homogeneous race. That is false. There are important minorities of other Asian nationalities (Korean, Chinese, etc.), and even minorities of other races (the Ainu, for example). The official dialect, culture, education system, and central government are very homogeneous and centralized, however, for both good and bad. The trend toward homogeneity makes anyone who isn’t Japanese feel like an outsider, even though people may be very friendly toward you. Japan is very much an “insiders” culture, consisting of groups and cliques who have created a network of relationships with each other. The feeling of being excluded is not only felt by foreigners, but by many Japanese as well.
On the other hand, the Japanese artists you meet may seem more open and international, which might or might not be the case. Nonetheless you will probably feel uncomfortable from time to time; just accept that as part of the process and try to avoid the critical, judging habit which is so easy for Americans here to fall prey to: “Why do they do things this way? It would be much easier to…”
Asian Americans, although racially like the Japanese, will experience different problems, but will still be considered as gaijin, or outsiders. They might be expected to speak the language better than a non-Asian American, however.
- This is a wonderful country to explore. The train system is superb, with frequent, on-time service to almost anywhere you might want to go. JR (Japan Railways), the former national rail system, is divided into six corporations: JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR West, JR Shikoku, JR Central and JR Kyushu, each one serving a different geographical area of Japan.
- Tokyo and the Northeast are serviced by JR East, which also runs the numerous JR commuter trains in and around Tokyo. The main commuter line, the Yamanote sen (sen=train line) makes a complete circle around Tokyo, taking about an hour. Generally, the subways are within this circle, and the private lines operate outside the loop.
- Tickets for both train and subway are sold at machines, near the entrance. First, you find on the systems map your destination and the fare. You put your money in (any amount) and push the appropriate amount. Your ticket and change, if any, will automatically come out.
- You must pay separate fares for the different lines (one fare for JR destinations, one for subway destinations, one for private line destinations, etc). Life is much easier if you carry English subway maps with you. If you are uncertain on which track to board your train, ask any station attendant. Wickets are automated and will read your ticket when you enter the system and collect it when you leave. Even the Japanese get confused about fares, so if there’s doubt, buy the cheapest ticket and pay the remainder when you get off. There are automatic fare adjustment machines near the exits that will tell you how much more to pay. A single pre-paid IC card can be used to ride all the JR lines, private lines, subways and buses in Tokyo. This card, called PASMO or SUICA, is available at any station for a refundable 500 yen deposit fee and can be recharged whenever it runs low. The PASMO is highly recommended, since you won’t have to fumble for change or try to figure out the byzantine fare structures each time you ride.
- For longer distances, buy tickets at the “green” window (Midori no mado) or a travel agent. The easiest way to do this is to write down your destination and indicate whether you want katamichi (one-way) or ofuku (round trip). Express trains (kyuko) and limited express trains (tokkyu) require special surcharge tickets, as does the Shinkansen super express. At large JR stations there are automated ticket machines–with English guidance–where you can purchase reserved, long distance train tickets. Sometimes discount excursion tickets to certain areas of Japan are available as well. Although on a cultural activities visa you cannot purchase the Japan Rail Pass, you can purchase an Inter-Japan Air Pass from Star Alliance that will allow you to add extra destinations in Japan to your round trip ticket. If you need help in making a reservation, or anytime you’re stuck and need English language help in a hurry, you can call the Japan Travel phone service between 9:00 am and 5:00 PM, every day (see listing at end of pamphlet). They are very helpful and will go so far as to tell you exactly what to say to get the ticket, or even talk to the station master themselves.
- There are many types of accommodations in Japan, from high-class Western hotels to tiny, family-run Japanese style inns called minshuku. The minshuku are very economical and a nice way to experience rural Japan. In the larger cities there are inexpensive hotels called “Business Hotels,” which are small, simple, and reasonably priced. Japan Travel Bureau can also help you locate accommodations fitting your budget and needs.
- Generally, you pay per person, not per room in Japan.
- You do not have to be a ‘youth’ to stay in Japanese youth hostels, so if that appeals, get a membership card from the Youth Hostel Association before you come, or get an international guest card from the national headquarters in Tokyo.
- Only the more expensive hotels provide towels for their guests. It is best of you bring your own. Neither are washrooms are equipped with paper towels. That is why Japanese always carry clean handkerchiefs.
Medical Problems and Insurance
Terms of the fellowship require that you are covered by some sort of medical insurance while in Japan, and you must submit proof of coverage. Sometimes your own health plan can be extended to include overseas coverage, but it may be you have to purchase separate coverage. Below are some companies that offer travel/overseas health insurance. This is a listing for your convenience only: we can’t recommend a particular company nor can we be aware of what they offer. You may also want to do an Internet search on your own. And be sure to read the details-often the coverage is limited.
International Medical Group (IMG)
Interglobal in Japan
Legend Travelers LLC
Global Health Insurance
In order to qualify for the Japanese National Health insurance coverage, you must possess at least a six month visa (most of the artists on this program arrive with visa good only for 180 days). You can access information in English about the national plan here:
Over the counter medicines, including vitamins, are readily available in Japan, but they are labeled differently from the US, and imported items, like aspirin, antihistamines, Alka-Seltzer and body lotions, are much more expensive than in the US. Some over-the-counter drugs in the U.S. require a doctor’s prescription in Japan. If you are taking prescription drugs, it is best you bring everything you need during the fellowship.
On the positive side, medical services here are good and reasonably priced. Consultation with doctors, especially in the larger hospitals, usually involves long waits, however, and you need to search to find hospitals whose staff can speak English.
The staff at the I-House will be able to introduce you to doctors or hospitals should the need arise. A clinic nearby the I-House, Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic, is staffed by doctors and nurses who speak fluent English. They will complete your insurance claim forms without charge and sent to you within a week after the consultation.
In addition to hospitals and Western medical practices, there are many traditional Eastern health practices available; shiatsu, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. These alternative practices are not covered by insurance.
HIV infection has spread in Japan, as in every other country. Since the condom is the main method of contraception in Japan, high-quality condoms are readily available.
Coming with Children
Although your grant won’t cover the expenses of bringing family members and three months is relatively short, some fellows bring along their children to share the experience of living in Japan. We are often asked about the availability of Japanese schools, either international or local, where children can enroll for short periods. There are a number of International Schools in Tokyo and other large cities that will accommodate the needs of short-stay students, but tuition tends to be expensive. Some public schools will allow temporary matriculation, but in such situations language can be a problem. The International House cannot take on the responsibility of locating or contacting schools for the fellows, but if you are interested in enrolling your child in an international school, you may want to refer to the following publication: Guide to International Schools in Japan. The site Japan with Kids also has a section on international schools and much other practical advice for living in Japan with children.
If you search enough, you can probably find anything you want or need in Japan, but some Western goods tend to be quite expensive. Listed here are some items that previous artists wished they had brought and other information of which you should be aware:
- Stationary for writing thank-you notes is important particularly for those planning to engage with traditional art communities in Japan.
- Small gifts. Gift-giving is an integral part of the workings of this society. The gifts needn’t be expensive, but be prepared to give and receive a variety. Souvenirs with local color, liquor, T-shirts, novelties are all appropriate, as are prints, postcards, tapes, CDs. or other examples of your work.
- Voltage here is 100 v, which means that any American appliance will run on Japanese current without a transformer, albeit somewhat slower. The plugs are the same shape. Personal computers (Macs etc.) can also be run here just as you do at home, and spare parts are readily available.
- If you want to rent a car here, you will have to obtain an international driver’s license from the AAA before you come. The steering wheel is on the right, and driving on the left side of the street, as in England. If a child is riding, child seats are mandatory. Car rentals are reasonable and all necessary insurance is included in the basic price.
- The Japanese postal system is highly efficient and fast. They have a wide range of services from letter and package carrying, banking services, international money transfers and various insurance plans. Their informative website in English details their services and prices: http://www.post.japanpost.jp/english/index.html
- Bringing pets to Japan. With a three-month residence in Japan it is not possible to bring pets to Japan.
- Tokyo, A Bilingual Atlas, Kodansha Inc. A detailed map of Tokyo written in both in romaji (Romanized letters) and kanji (ideographs). The index contains addresses and telephone numbers of embassies, hotels, etc. There is also a version for the whole country: Japan, A Bilingual Atlas (Nihon Nikakokugo no Atorasu).
- Your Life in Japan, (Volume 1 Daily Life, Volume 2 Leisure) Japan Times, Ltd. This book gives basic but important information for first-timers in Japan.
- Japan, The New Official Guide, The Japan Travel Bureau. A revised edition of one of the most respected and complete guidebooks.
- Japanese for Busy People, Association for Japanese Language Teaching, Kodansha Int. A thorough yet easy to use introduction to the basic of Japanese speaking, reading, and writing.
- Japanese Literature, An Introduction for Western Readers, Donald Keene, Tuttle Books.
- A Reader’s Guide to Japanese Literature, Thomas Rimer, Kodansha International.
- A Lateral View, Donald Richie’s collection of essays providing a sensitive insight into the workings of the Japanese society and interpersonal relationships.
- A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics, Donald Richie’s musings on Japanese aesthetics (by the way, any book by Donald Richie on Japan is worth reading).
- Japanese Aesthetics and Culture, A Reader, edited by Nancy Hume, SUNY. This collection contains 12 essays by leading scholars covering literature, noh, kabuki, martial arts and modern sensibilities.
- Art Space Tokyo–an Intimate Guide to the Tokyo Art World, Chin Music Press, Seattle–Tokyo. As the title suggests, this book provides detailed information to a number of distinctive Tokyo galleries through interviews with the gallery directors and art critics.
- G 12 Twelve Gallery Owners, Interviews written by Hiroyasu Yamauchi, Tokyo Chizu Publishing Co. Ltd. This guidebook, also taking the form of interviews with gallery owners, covers some of the more avant-garde galleries that the above book leaves out.
- The Tokyo Journal is a quarterly magazine that, along with interesting feature articles, lists important cultural events in Tokyo-music, movies, theater, etc. The Kyoto Journal is its counterpart
- The English language dailies: Japan Times and The Japan News can be found online or at news-stands.
- Metropolis and Tokyo Notice Board and are free magazine given away for free in areas where foreigners congregate.
- Tokyo Craigslist is often used to advertise apartments for rent, garage sales, moving sales, and other items for sale or give-away. It is a good way to find cheap, used items like appliances and furniture to use during your stay. There are also personal and commercial ads that can be helpful in locating services or goods.
Helpful Telephone Numbers and Sites
- International House of Japan 03-3470-3211
- United States Embassy 03-3224-5000 US Embassy Cultural Affairs Office 03-3224-5235
- Japan-US Friendship Commission
- Fire/ambulance (24 hrs, toll-free) 119
Police (24 hrs, toll-free) 110
- Japan Hotline (broad-base information service) 03-3586-0110
- Tokyo English Lifeline 03-3968-4099. Counselling available for all personal problems
- Foreign Residency Advisory Service (Tokyo) 03-3211-4433
- Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic 03-3436-5024
- Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho)
- Immigration Office (03) 5796-7112
- Japan Postal Service English Help Line 03-5472-5851
Online museum, art, music guides:
- RealTokyo A general guide to arts exhibits, concerts, events in Tokyo.
- Artist in Residency Programs A site, compiled and sponsored by the Japan Foundation, listing all of the artists in residency programs available in Japan.
- Association for Corporate Support of the Arts The official website of Mecena, an organization that helps corporations support the arts.
- Japan Information Network As the name indicates, a variety of information on Japan.
- Tokyo Food and Architecture Architecture, arts, restaurants, shops, etc.
- Artscape Japan An informative site in English with interesting articles on arts related activities in Japan. The site has an extensive data base of Japanese museums and galleries as well as reviews of current exhibitions and shows. They also offer a free monthly mail magazine.
- Tokyo Travel Guide This rather funky site provides some suggestions for a few walking tours of Tokyo.
Tourist & Living Information:
- Metrohomes is an inclusive housing site that automatically sifts through dozens of realtor sites to help you find the right apartment. It then directs you to the realtor.
- Sakura House A monthly efficiency apartment rental agency.
- Monthly Chintai A monthly efficiency apartment rental agency.
- Kimi Information Center a site with reasonable apartment and accommodation listings for many areas in Tokyo, some without key money.
- Leopalace A monthly efficiency apartment rental agency with units in Kyoto, Osaka and around the country.
- Vivre le Japon A French agency that lists spacious and reasonably priced short term apartments available in Kyoto. The information is all in French.
- Fontana, Inexpensive, clean apartments for rent throughout the city.
- Azabu Court, A bit higher end, located in the posh Azabu district, close to Roppongi and the I-House. Several of our artists have stayed here.
- Tokyo Tourist Information Center (TIC) 03-3502-1461, 03-3201-3331
Kyoto Tourist Information Center (TIC) 075-371-5649
Narita Tourist Information Center 0476-34-6251
- TIC Outside Tokyo or Kyoto (toll-free, from Western Japan) 0120-444-800
TIC Outside Tokyo or Kyoto (toll-free, from Eastern Japan) 0120-222-800
- Escapeartist.com This site is geared towards those coming to work in Japan, but it contains a lot of basic information and useful links.
- Hyperdia Japan Homepage This amazingly helpful site will give you the departure and arrival times between any stations in Japan, along with the quickest routes, fares and platform numbers. It is invaluable for planning travel within Tokyo or around the country. Searchable in both English and Japanese. Some other sites which do the same are:
- Tokyo Subway Map is a very useful subway map for Tokyo and general information about the reticulated rail system underneath Tokyo.
- Japan Travel Bureau 03-3201-3331
- Narita Airport
- info-japan An English telephone directory (yellow pages only) for Japan
- Guide to Japan
-About 200 pages with illustrated, general information about most aspects of modern and traditional Japan. Sections include: Arts and Crafts, Computer, Current News, Entertainment, Etiquette, Food, History, Language, Living in Japan, Politics, Regional, Religion, Sports, Tourism, Tradition and Transportation.
- Japan Postal Service Answers any question you might have about the Japan postal service and provides rates, weight limits, etc.
- Yahoo Japan has a very good map interface (though mostly in Japanese), and of course if you have a smart phone you can usually enter the address (in English or Japanese) and get a readout. There are also other online maps available. While they are only provided in Japanese, it is fairly simple to use if you know the address of your destination. In addition to a Japanese Map site.
- Mapion In Japanese
- When traveling overseas, you may find Time Zone Converter useful.
- Japan with Kids
- Tokyo Food Page. A complete guide to Japanese cuisine and eating in Tokyo, with recipes, culinary travel tips, restaurant listings and more.
- Tokyo’s no-smoking restaurants. In spite of the fact Japan is still in the dark ages concerning the health risks and rights of non-smokers, more and more restaurants are providing non-smoking sections.
- Foreign Buyers Club of Japan. Importer of products from the U.S. from books to food, catering to expats seeking goods otherwise too expensive, or difficult to find, in Japan. Catalog and home delivery available.
Japan’s National Holidays
- When the holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes the holiday
- The New Year’s Holiday (around the first week of January), “Golden Week” (the week that includes the National holidays on 4/29, 5/3-5), and Obon holidays (a period concentrated around the weekend closest to August 15), are the three main periods of time when the pace of life changes – there may be increased vacation-related travel during Golden Week, while urban dwellers tend to return to their ancestral homes during the Obon period. During the New Year period, many regular operations may shut down for the week.
January 1 (Ganjitsu) / New Year’s Day
Second Monday in January (Seijin no hi) / Adult’s Day
February 11 (Kenkoku Kinen no hi) / National Founding Day
March 20 or 21 (Shunbun no hi) / Vernal Equinox Day
April 29 (Midori no hi) / Greenery Day (Late Showa Emperor’s birthday)
May 3 (Kenpô Kinenbi) / Constitution Memorial Day
May 4 (Kokumin no Kyûjitsu) / National People’s Day
May 5 (Kodomo no hi) / Children’s Day
Third Monday in July (Umi no hi) / Marine Day
August 15 (Obon) / This is not an official holiday, but many Japanese take several days off during mid-August to visit their ancestral homes.
Third Monday in September (Keirô no hi) / Respect-for-the-Aged Day
September 23 or 24 (Shûbun no hi) / Autumn Equinox Day
Second Monday in October (Taiiku no hi) / Sports Day
November 3 (Bunka no hi) / Culture Day (Former Emperor Meiji’s birthday)
November 23 (Kinrô Kansha-no hi) / Labor Thanksgiving Day
December 23 (Tennô Tanjôbi) / Present Emperor’s birthday
Outline of the responsibilities of the I-House toward the USJFC Creative Artists Program Fellows:
The fellows on this program are basically on their own, and our main objective at the International House of Japan is to help facilitate the fellowship and make sure that artists have the support and assistance they need to work smoothly in this culture, but there are limits to what we can do. Previous fellows have mentioned that it would be helpful if the I-House’s responsibilities toward the fellowship artists were made clearer so they could know exactly what to expect. We enjoy the interaction with the artists and try to do as much as we can. For that reason, each individual artist is treated on a case-by-case basis, according to their needs and time. However, below are listed some examples of what the I-House can and cannot do for the artists who come to Japan.
- Answer specific questions or concerns before arrival. Make reservations at the I-House and hold parcels or cases sent in advance to Japan.
- Provide a comprehensive orientation upon arrival, including assistance in alien registration and opening a bank account (if necessary), application for I-House library card, explanation of Artists’ Forum, respond to any questions or provide advice on living in Japan and ordering business cards for the artist.
- Assist in the search for housing. Provided the artist has contacted us in advance with his or her needs, we will do what we can to help find suitable housing and try to line up several possibilities before the artists’ arrival.
- Provide general letters of introduction, in Japanese, explaining the nature of the grant and briefly introducing the artist.
- Assist in making contacts and introductions. Although the artist should do their best to make contacts on their own, oftentimes it helps to have an official organization, like the I-House request meetings and interviews on the artists’ behalf.
- Set up an Artists’ Forum, if requested.
- Be available for consultation on matters ranging from the arts to daily living and respond to any emergency situations (personal, medical, etc.) and be available for emergency help.
- Act as agent or secretary for the artist, including helping the artist to set up any commercial contacts or profit making activities.
- Act as translator or interpreter on the artists’ behalf (except for official events like the Artists’ Forum).
- Guarantee housing. The I-House makes no promises or guarantees housing for the artist, nor can they act as guarantor for rental contracts (rentai hoshô nin). We cannot sign a housing contract on the artists’ behalf.
- Provide professional assistance or support to the spouse or partner of the JUSFC artist.
- Assume any kind of personal responsibility to the artist or provide legal support. In the event of an accident or legal problems on the part of the artists, all we can do is refer you to Citizens Services at the US consulate in Japan.
- This guide is based on previous versions written by former Artistic Director Christopher Blasdel (2013), as well as Susan Spencer and Nancy Karp (1986). The old version of this document can be found here.