Online Guidebook For JUSFC Fellows 2020

Planning Your Residency
Introduction / Visa & Legal Status / Shipping / Handling Money in Japan
Health Insurance and Medical Treatment / The Language / Cultural Differences/ Coming with Children / Traveling Within Japan / Services & Food / Important Points

On Your Arrival
Arriving in Tokyo / The International House of Japan / Orientation

Additional Information
Books about Japan / Periodicals / Helpful Telephone Numbers and Web Sites (Housing and Living Information)
Japan’s National Holidays

(Last update: Oct. 2019)

2016 Fellow Alex Dodge during his research on Japanese carpentry.

Planning Your Residency


This guide is meant to provide all participating artists with an outline of some of the particularities of living in Japan. We hope that the pointers it contains will help everyone prepare accordingly and make the most out of their months in the country.

In the present, while there is increasingly less information of all sorts that can’t be easily (and reasonably successfully) found on the internet, Japan is still a country where a large amount of data is only available in Japanese, and is mostly presented and found in ways that are particular to Japanese culture. This is especially true within the local communities that foster some of the art and crafts that might have led you to apply for this fellowship.

Hence, even more so than in many artistic projects you might have developed abroad, investing time in preparing the details of your stay well ahead, especially in terms of logistics, professional relationships and any technical details related to your work, becomes extremely important. When it comes to organizing all aspects of your stay, it can be said that you can never plan too early ahead in Japan. Most decision-making processes tend to take much longer, and many live events and exhibitions are often planned more than a year ahead.

Considering the cultural differences at play, as you build the framework needed to realize the plans outlined in your application, communicating through the appropriate channels in a way that is understood by your Japanese peers will surely help you deepen your experience and build lasting working relationships.

Visa & Legal Status

As a Japan-US Creative Artists Program Fellow, you must obtain a “Cultural Activities” visa before coming to Japan. The visa application must be completed by each individual Fellow.

  • Your Cultural Activities visa will most likely be valid for either 3 or 6 months, depending on your nearest Japanese consulate’s practices and the duration of your fellowship.
  • The Japan-US Friendship Commission and Bunkacho (Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs) will provide the necessary papers for obtaining the cultural activities visa, but you need to begin the process at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to your departure.
  • The grant does not provide airfare for spouses, partners or family members. For those who arrive in Japan with family, or have family members join them at some point of their stay, the most commonly used method is to have them enter the country on a Tourist Visa (currently available at the port of entry for U.S. Citizens) which limits their maximum period of stay to 90 days. (NOTE: this means that there might be a slight discrepancy between the stay period on your 3 months Cultural Activities visa and the 90 days granted to your partner or family member on their tourist visa.
  • If the people accompanying you do not hold U.S. citizenship, it is important that you confirm whether they are eligible for visa waiver on arrival, or need to submit an application for a tourist visa. Please check this link to confirm current policies.
  • Upon arrival, immigration at the airport should give you a Residence Card. If the length of stay stated on your visa is longer than 3 months, you will need to take the residency card to the local ward office and register as a temporary resident within 14 days of your arrival.
  • If you do not get a residency card at the airport, immigration officers will stamp your passport with a notice 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


This grant does not provide special funds for shipping your effects back and forth; therefore you may want to keep your baggage to a minimum. Whenever needed, previous fellows have used both the postal service and private shipping companies to send extra luggage to and from Japan.

  • When shipping to Japan, you can send your articles addressed to yourself C/O the Arts Program, International House of Japan and we will hold them for your arrival. (inform us in advance)
  • You can access Japan Post’s English-language website here.
  • 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’ reliability).
  • 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 service that can usually deliver your boxes to your final destination by the following day.
    Both of Tokyo’s airports provide it.
    Please see the following links:
    At Narita
    At Haneda

Handling Money in Japan

  • As banks will usually give you a better exchange rate, one of the best ways to access your stipend funds is to use an ATM (or credit) card to withdraw them from your US bank account through Japanese ATMs.
  • We recommend you consult with your bank regarding foreign transaction fees, international ATM withdrawal fees, and daily ATM withdrawal limits.
  • Many Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign ATM cards, but ATMs at Seven Eleven convenience stores are all equipped to do so. They also have an easy-to-use interface in English. Many ATMs at Japan Post offices also handle international withdrawals. In case you would like to open an account expressly for this purpose, recent fellows recommend Capital One 360 Online Bank and Charles Schwab.
  • Despite of the fact that many places have begun accepting international credit cards, Japan is still much more of a cash-based society than the US. This is especially true of many local bars and restaurants, as well as smaller family-run businesses of many kinds. Outside of the larger cities, most local businesses won’t take them. We recommend you bring enough cash to tide you over for your first few days in Japan. Although the country is well known for its uncanny safety, we would like fellows to avoid carrying large amounts of cash on their daily routine. Even if you are almost certain of where you might have dropped a valuable item, language limitations might highly complicate its retrieval.
  • 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.

Health Insurance and Medical Treatment

We encourage all JUSFC fellows that are currently undergoing any kind of medical treatment or suffer from allergies, to prepare in advance so that they can protect their wellbeing during their prolonged Japanese stay. Most forms of medication and therapy offered in Japan, as well as their pricing and the laws regulating them, are markedly different from those available in the US.

The 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.

Here is a brief list to get you started on your search:
International Medical Group (IMG)
Interglobal in Japan
Legend Travelers LLC
Global Health Insurance

Bringing Over Medication
We cannot provide legal advice on the matter, but will do our best to help you navigate the bureaucratic steps involved. If you have any medications, vitamins & supplements you need to bring, please begin by reading the link below and prepare accordingly.

Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use
(U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan)

Some over-the-counter drugs in the U.S. require a doctor’s prescription in Japan, and others are simply unavailable. Hence, in some cases it might be in your best interest to bring a sufficient dosage of any medication you might be taking, but be sure to check if local legislation allows you to do so.

This advice also applies to any toiletry items you depend on (which might be hard to come along, available in different forms modified for the local market, or much more expensive) as well as most kinds of contraceptives and prophylactic devices, which might also be hard to come by or greatly differ in shape and format.

Healthcare & Ongoing Treatments
Regarding healthcare, medical and dental services in Japan are excellent and reasonably priced, the only barrier being that most providers will not be fluent in English. The staff at I-House will be able to introduce you to English speaking doctors or hospitals should the need arise, but most are located in Tokyo and the country’s larger cities, so that should be a consideration if you happen to choose the countryside as your base.

These two links can be very helpful in locating English-speaking clinics and doctors:
The Expat’s Guide / Hospitals & Clinics (in Tokyo)

In addition to hospitals and Western medical practices, there are many traditional Eastern health practices available; shiatsu, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine. These alternative practices are not covered by insurance.

English language counseling or psychotherapy are not easy to come by in the country, but like many other services, there has been an increase in recent years. One of the best places to find out more about it is TELL, an NPO dedicated to providing support and counseling services to Japan’s international community.

The Language

Knowledge of the Japanese language will give depth to your experience of Japanese culture but it is a difficult language to learn. Japanese people really appreciate visitors’ efforts to learn it and will warmly encourage you as you study.

  • If at all possible, take some Japanese classes before arrival. Continuing your language studies while in Japan will have the additional benefit of reinforcement from daily life.
  • Memorizing the basic greetings will be of great help.
  • 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.
  • Recent developments in instant translation technology have finally rendered it usable. Look into the options.

Cultural Differences

As with travel to any foreign culture, you can expect to experience a fair amount of cultural differences. It is good to brush up your knowledge of the most obvious ones: removing your shoes while entering some spaces, sitting on the floor when in traditional tatami rooms, Japanese eating etiquette, as well as the proper way to use Japanese toilets and communal baths.

Avoiding generalizations and premature judgement is very important in order to harmonize with the locals. Contrary to widespread bits of misinformation, Japan is much more complex and plural as a society than it might seem at first sight. However, many cultural references and ways of doing things that you might understand as universal are simply absent in this environment.

In many cases, even for long-term residents, Japanese hospitality can make it very hard to distinguish the boundaries between mere politeness and reciprocal feelings of friendship and/or professional interest. Often, the same perceived vagueness can influence the logistics involved in putting together live shows and exhibitions. Be sure to confirm carefully whether you are on the same page with people you meet during your stay, and double and triple check crucial details.

Coming with Children

Although your grant won’t cover the expenses of bringing family members and the fellowship’s length 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 several 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 main complication might be the school’s location and student drop-off & pick-up times.

The International House of Japan 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.

Recently, websites like Tokyo Urban Baby have specialized in the topic, and others like The Expat’s Guide to Japan have sections on international schools among other practical advice for living in Japan with children.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in a local public school, you may want to refer to the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) site first.
Guide for foreign students to start school by MEXT

Traveling within Japan

  • It is not possible for Creative Artist Fellows to enter Japan on a Tourist Visa;
    therefore, they are not eligible for the Japan Rail Pass.
  • JR (Japan Railways) runs a vast majority of the country’s train lines, which are divided regionally. You can check their English site here.
  • Tickets for both train and subway are sold near the entrance to each station at automatic machines that usually look like this:
  • It might not be apparent at first, but most companies’ machines have a way of accessing an English version of the interface on the main screen.
  • In Japan, companies will almost always calculate the fares according to the distance you travel and not the number of rides.
  • Every time you change to lines that belong to a different company, you will be charged for the trip you made up until that point and will need to buy a new ticket before you board the next train. In most cases, the difference between services is clear as each company’s station at a given place will have separate entrances and turnstiles, but it is also quite common to change from one service to the next within the boundaries of a single station without exiting it.
  • When in doubt about fares, buy the cheapest ticket, get on the train and pay the remainder when you arrive. There are automatic fare adjustment machines(精算機 Seisan-ki) near the exits that will tell you how much more to pay when you insert the ticket.
  • Considering the difficulty implied in figuring out the byzantine fare structures each time you ride, using a pre-paid IC card instead of individual tickets is the best option. This card, called in Tokyo PASMO or SUICA (or other names depending on where you purchase it), is available at most stations for a refundable 500 yen deposit fee and can be easily recharged at the same machines that sell the tickets whenever it runs low. Getting a PASMO or SUICA card is highly recommended, since they can be used to ride all the JR lines, private lines, subways and buses in Tokyo. These cards, however, are not universally accepted, as many smaller local lines accept only their own tickets.
  • For longer distances, buy tickets at the “green” window (Midori no madoguchi) or a travel agent. Each line’s website offers seasonal promotions that might suit your itinerary. Be sure to check them out.
  • Even though you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of a Japan Rail Pass, local airlines offer similar deals. You can look at them here.

Services & Food

Mobile Phones & Internet

    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:

  • Recently some companies in the United States have begun offering unlimited data-voice plans that include international roaming for a fixed cost. Check with your service provider if such a solution is available and feasible.
  • If you have an unlocked handset as your phone in the US, it may be possible to use it in Japan. You might look into purchasing a local SIM card. One of the best places to do so is the airport as most local companies have set up small stands with bilingual staff. Be sure to carefully confirm the service terms, especially regarding speed, data transfer limitations and areas that offer good signal strength.
  • In recent years, many fellows have chosen to rent a portable wi-fi device, using a VoIP service like Skype, Whatsapp or LINE whenever they need to make voice calls. Given the current prevalence of smartphones, this might be the more sensible option, as it requires no SIM exchange or unlocking, and the module may be used with many other wi-fi compatible devices as well, besides possibly providing a much faster connection than international roaming options.
  • Also, there are companies that can rent you a phone that is ready to use, like rentafone. You can find others at the airport.

Wi-Fi Availability:

Many hotels including the I-House do offer wi-fi access in the lobby and guest rooms.
Though be aware that the wi-fi access in rural areas is not as common as it is in Tokyo.


  • Inexpensive Eating: Japanese Teishoku-ya are small, locally owned restaurants that sell freshly made set meals that are a great showcase of Japanese home-cooking. The country also has many inexpensive restaurant chains which usually offer nutritious options made with locally sourced ingredients.
  • For vegetarians/vegans: While there is a wide selection of fresh and pickled vegetables available year-round, many Japanese dishes are cooked using fish stock and other products of animal origin, so many seemingly acceptable meat-free choices might still contain meat derivatives. If your diet requires your meals to be 100% free of dairy products and meat, we suggest you prepare meals at home or visit vegetarian/vegan restaurants in case you choose to stay in larger cities. The internet offers updated lists of safe products such as this one.
  • Food Allergies: As of 2018, Japan is quite far from matching the awareness many retailers in the U.S. have about food allergies. As in the case of animal
    products, many seemingly “safe” dishes might still contain traces of allergen
    products or gluten.
  • 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. Restaurant review sites like Bento, sometimes provide updated lists of non-smoking restaurants.

Important Points

If you search enough, you can probably find anything you want or need in Japan, but some imported goods tend to be quite expensive. Listed here are some considerations of which you should be aware:

  • Stationery for writing thank-you notes can be very useful, particularly for those planning to engage with traditional art communities in Japan.
  • Small gifts or Omiyage. 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, and novelties are all appropriate, as are prints, postcards, 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, but mostly lack a third (ground) pin. Personal computers (Macs etc.) can also be run here just as you do at home, and spare parts are readily available.
  • Due to certain historical reasons, electrical current supply in Japan has regional differences in terms of frequency. Basically, electricity from Tokyo and its vicinity up to Hokkaido runs at 50 Hz (not the same as the United States) and in Western Japan, starting at Nagoya and continuing south all the way into Okinawa, it runs at 60 Hz (same as in the United States.) In the case you depend on precision equipment (musical instruments, appliances, healthcare devices) be sure to inform yourself on how the frequency difference might affect their functioning. The difference is of particular importance in any equipment that relies on motors. Many devices will run slower and others (i.e.: hair clippers) might not properly function at all.
  • 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. Their informative website in English details their services and prices. Access it here
  • Bringing pets to Japan: Given the length of this program, it might be difficult to bring pets to Japan. Some details about the quarantine process can be consulted here.

On Your Arrival


Arriving in Tokyo

If you are flying into Tokyo, you will be using either Haneda or Narita Airport. There are many transportation options, including:

  • Trains from Haneda: The airport can be accessed using either of two local lines: the Keikyu Line and the Tokyo Monorail.
  • Trains from Narita: There are more options, the fastest being the Narita Express (NEX) and the Keisei Skyliner, click on the links for detailed information about each.
  • If you prefer buses (or arrive at off-hours when the train doesn’t run), right outside the customs door you will find the Airport Limousine desk (with signs in English)The fare is slightly lower than that of the trains. This company is one of the most reliable and popular : Friendly Airport Limousine
  • Whether you arrive at the TCAT or Tokyo station, you should take a taxi to the International House in Roppongi. You can use this Google Maps link, or hand the driver the map found in this guide. If you don’t have the map, just tell the driver you are going to “Kokusai bunka kaikan, Roppongi.” The taxi fare should be around 3000 yen.
  • If you can read and speak Japanese, you might also consider these low-cost bus options, summarized here
  • As Narita Airport is quite far from central Tokyo, we do not recommend hiring a taxi, as the fare might get incredibly expensive. There’s a flat rate service onUberfor 27,000 yen (28,080yen for van) which takes you anywhere inside of Tokyo 23 Wards.
    Haneda is located much closer but the fare might still be much more than you would be willing to spend. If you do choose to use a taxi, make sure you figure out the fare before you board it.

The International House of Japan

The International House of Japan (IHJ) is a 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, I-House hosts and sponsors various academic and cultural programs and activities. Please visit our site here to find our activities and facilities.

Our grounds contain a very extensive English language library with an ample collection of recent as well as classic English language works on Japan. As a Creative Artists Program Fellow, you are eligible to join as a library member. Interlibrary loans are also possible, so librarians will help you locate any books which may not be at the I-House library.

In order to show its support for the artists who arrive on the Japan-US Creative Artists Program, the IHJ offers all participants two nights of free lodging (single room.) 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. Additional nights are offered 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 Arts Program Department, which is in charge of your fellowship, is open only on 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.


Orientation on Arrival

The day after you arrive (depending on the day of the week,) you will receive an orientation session with I-House’s Arts Programs staff. They will provide you with business cards (meishi) and letters of introduction, which will be vital when approaching Japanese institutions and individuals. They will also assist you regarding housing options, as well as any other questions you may have.

The International House, or IHJ, is your host institution and “window” into Japan and will help with getting started with your fellowship. Although the I-House has built up an extensive network of artistic connections, thanks in large part to the contacts made by previous fellows, IHJ Arts Programs Senior Coordinator Manami Maeda and Arts Programs Coordinator Risa Nikaido, advise the artists in both professional and everyday matters.

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.

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.

Things we can do for the artist:

  1. Answer specific questions or concerns before arrival. Hold parcels or cases sent in advance to Japan at I-House.
  2. Provide a comprehensive orientation upon arrival, including assistance in alien registration and opening a bank account (if necessary), respond to any questions or provide advice on living in Japan and ordering business cards for the artist.
  3. 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.
  4. Provide general letters of introduction, in Japanese, explaining the nature of the grant and briefly introducing the artist.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Things we cannot do:

  1. Act as agent or secretary for the artist, including helping the artist to set up any commercial contacts or profit making activities.
  2. Act as translator or interpreter on the artists’ behalf (except for events and visits we organize).
  3. 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.
  4. Provide professional assistance or support to the spouse or partner of the JUSFC artist.
  5. Assume any kind of personal responsibility to the artist or provide legal support. In the event of an accident or situations that might require legal assistance, all we can do is refer you to Citizens Services at the US consulate in Japan.

Books about 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


Online museum, art, music guides:

  • TokyoArtBeat and KansaiArtBeat are the most frequently updated and easy to navigate online directories of art-related events happening in Tokyo and the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area. Both sites have developed very helpful apps that locate nearby venues using your device’s GPS and keep track of event details like opening times.
  • 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 Mécénat, 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.
  • Japanese Architecture and Arts User System (JAANUS) is a free dictionary of specialist terms used in Japanese Art and Architecture and might aid you in your research.
  • Onmarkproductions has been keeping for many years a very straightforward reference database that is of great help when decoding the large amount of religious (Buddhist, Shinto and otherwise) art and sites you will encounter in Japan.

Tourist & Living Information:

  • Tokyo Monthly Navi by Residence Tokyo
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Japan Experience A French agency that lists spacious and reasonably priced short term apartments available in Kyoto.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

Online Maps:

  • In recent years, Google Maps has taken their coverage of Japan very far, which makes their service the first choice for non-Japanese speakers.
  • Yahoo Japan has a very good map interface (though mostly in Japanese), and of course if you have a smartphone 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


  • Expat’s Guide. A frequently updated guidebook in English. Highly recommended.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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 everyday routine 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 whole week.
2020 National Holiday Calendar
January 1 Ganjitsu (New Year’s Day)
January 13 Seijin no hi (Adult’s Day)
February 11 Kenkoku kinen no hi (National Founding Day)
Feburary 23 Tennō tanjōbi (Emperor’s birthday)
Feburary 24 Compensatory Holiday
March 20 Shunbun no hi (Vernal Equinox Day)
April 29 Midori no hi (Greenery Day)
May 3 Kenpō kinenbi (Constitution Memorial Day)
May 4 Kokumin no Kyūjitsu (National People’s Day)
May 5 Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day)
May 6 Compensatory Holiday
July 23 Umi no hi (Marine Day)
July 24 Sports no hi (Sports Day)
August 10 Yama no hi (Mountain 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.)
September 21 Keirō no hi (Respect-for-the-Aged Day)
September 22 Shūbun no hi (Autumn Equinox Day)
November 3 Bunka no hi (Culture Day)
November 23 Kinrō kansha-no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day)


This guide is based on previous versions written by former Artistic Director Christopher Blasdel (2013), as well as Susan Spencer and Nancy Karp (1986).