Online Guidebook For JUSFC Fellows

2015 Fellow Katie Cercone’s “PRAY WILD” workshop and parade.

About the Fellowship

Planning Your Residency

On Your Arrival

Starting Your Fellowship

Additional Information

(Last update: July, 2020)

About the Fellowship

About the JUSFC Creative Artists Program

In this fellowship program, five U.S.-based mid-career artists are chosen to spend three to five months in Japan getting immersed in the country’s culture and meeting artists from their particular fields. This program is sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) with in-kind support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho) provides visa sponsorship, and the International House of Japan (I-House) provides local support and assists in making introductions with the appropriate Japanese artists and artistic organizations as needed. For more information, visit  JUSFC website.

Final Report

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 ensures that funding will continue. The form or style of the report is up to the individual artist, but we encourage 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-U.S. Friendship Commission, the NEA and the International House of Japan via email.

2016 Fellow Alex Dodge during his research on Japanese carpentry.

Planning Your Residency


Given the open-ended nature of this fellowship, every artist will arrive in Japan with their own unique expectations in terms of how their stay in the country will help their artistic practice and their research. This online guide provides an outline of some of the particularities of living in Japan. We hope that this guide will help everyone to prepare accordingly and make the most out of their months in the country.

Japan is still a country where the majority of first-hand information is provided only in Japanese, and often it is particular to local manners and customs. This is especially prominent within the rural communities that foster some of the arts and crafts that might have led you to apply for this fellowship.

Especially in terms of logistics, professional relationships and any technical details related to your work, we encourage fellows to research and prepare well ahead of your arrival. You can never plan too early ahead in Japan, since most decision-making processes tend to take much longer, and many live events and exhibitions are often planned more than a year ahead. In addition, while you build the framework needed to realize the plans outlined in your application, considering cultural differences and communicating through the appropriate channels will surely help you to deepen your experience and to build lasting working relationships.

Visa & Legal Status

As a Japan-U.S. Creative Artists Program Fellow, you must obtain a Cultural Activities Visa before coming to Japan. The visa application must be completed by each  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-U.S. Friendship Commission and the  Bunkacho (Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs) will provide the necessary papers for obtaining the Cultural Activities Visa. You need to begin the process at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to your departure.
  • The grant does not provide airfare for your spouses, partners or any family members. For those who have a plan to stay  in Japan with their family, or to join them at some point of the stay,  a Tourist Visa (currently available at the port of entry for U.S. Citizens) is the most common visa, which limits their maximum period of stay to 90 days. (NOTE: Be aware that a Tourist visa is effective for exactly 90 days, not for 3 months. This means that the expiration dates of your Cultural Activities Visa and the Tourist visa of your companion could differ. There were cases in the past that this became an issue when fellows tried to depart from Japan. ) If you have any companion who does not have U.S. citizenship, make sure you confirm whether they are eligible for a visa waiver on arrival, or need to submit an application for a Tourist Visa. Refer to  this link to confirm the current visa 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 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 a card later. You will then have to go to the Tokyo Immigration Bureau to get this card before you register at the ward office.


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.

  • If you inform us in advance,  the I-House staff can hold your shipped items until your arrival. You can send your articles addressed to yourself C/O the Arts Program, International House of Japan. Reference: Japan Post
  • In addition to FedEx, DHL, and UPS, there are Japanese shipping companies including Yamato Transport Company, Japan Luggage Express, Economove Japan, (this listing is for your reference only – The I-House does not recommend or attest to any of these companies’ reliability).
  • You may also compare the price between shipping cost and extra baggage fee on your flight. When you arrive at the airport, there is a shipping service counter which will deliver your baggage to your final destination, usually by the following day. Reference: Narita / 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 from your U.S. bank account through Japanese ATMs.
  • We recommend consulting with your bank regarding foreign transaction fees, international ATM withdrawal fees, and daily ATM withdrawal limits.
  • Many Japanese ATMs do not accept international cards, except for ATMs at Seven Eleven convenience stores. Those machines also have an English-firendly  interface. Many ATMs at Japan Post offices also handle international withdrawals. In case you would like to open an account for this purpose, recent fellows recommended Capital One 360 Online Bank and Charles Schwab.
  • Major franchises usually accept  international credit cards. However many small businesses, especially in rural areas such as local bars, restaurants, grocery stores and guest houses, only accept cash. We recommend bringing enough cash to tide you over for your first few days in Japan; however fellows should stay cautious and  avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items in their daily routine. Although Japan is well known for its uncanny safety, don’t let your guard down. Mainly because of the language limitation, It is highly complicated to retrieve the items you have lost in a public area, even if you are clearly aware of where you lost it.
  • 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.
  • Tipping for drivers, servers, or hotel services  is not customary in Japan.

Health Insurance and Medical Treatment

We encourage all JUSFC fellows with allergies or any kind of medical treatment, to prepare in advance protecting  their well-being during their prolonged Japanese stay. Most forms of medication and therapy offered in Japan, as well as its pricing and the regulatory laws, 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 the proof of coverage. Sometimes your own health plan can be extended to include overseas coverage, but it may charge you extra. Below are examples of companies that offer travel/overseas health insurance.

Bringing Over Medication

The I-House cannot provide legal advices on the matter, but will do our best to help you navigate the bureaucratic steps involved. If you have any drugs 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. Bring a sufficient dosage of any medication, however make sure you check beforehand if the local legislation allows the medication or not. This advice could also be applied to specific sanitary items, contraceptives and prophylactic devices you depend on. Although general items are available in most drug stores or convenience stores, their forms and prices could differ from the ones in the U.S, and their options could be limited.

Healthcare & Ongoing Treatments

Regarding healthcare, medical and dental services in Japan are excellent and reasonably priced.The only issue is that most providers are not fluent in English. The I-House staff would introduce you to English speaking doctors or hospitals in case of needs. Be aware that most of those hospitals are only available  in Tokyo or any other urban area.Following links can be helpful in locating English-speaking clinics and doctors:

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

English language counseling or psychotherapy services are still minor but have been increasing in recent years.  TELL is an NPO dedicated to providing support and counseling services to Japan’s international community.


Knowledge of the Japanese language will give depth to your experience of Japanese culture, however as many of you are already aware, it is a difficult language to learn. Japanese people really appreciate visitors’ efforts to learn it and will warmly encourage your 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 signages 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 are remarkable. Look into the options such as Google, DeepL, or Pocketalk.

Cultural Differences

The same as your travel to any foreign country, you should 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 the crucial details.

Coming with Children

Although your grant won’t cover the expenses of bringing family members and the fellowship’s term 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 an issue. In this case, pick your school district carefully when you move in, because some schools offer Japanese classes and support with their homeworks, and some schools have no support at all. 

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.

Tokyo Urban Baby specializes in this topic, and  The Expat’s Guide to Japan has 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) instruction first.
Guide for foreign students to start school by MEXT


  • It is not possible for Creative Artist Fellows to enter Japan on a Tourist Visa;
    therefore, you are not eligible for the Japan Rail Pass.
  • JR (Japan Railways) runs a vast majority of the country’s train lines, which are organized by each region.
  • Tickets for both trains and subways are sold near the entrance to each station at  vending machines. The interface first appears in Japanese but most major companies’ machines have language switches. 
  • In Japan, train fares are mostly calculated according to the distance you traveled, 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 has 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 you are 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 prepaid IC card instead of individual tickets is the easiest option for commuting.  There are several IC cards depending on the area, but if you are in the Tokyo (Kanto) area, PASMO or SUICA are the most likely option to purchase.These are 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 local lines accept only their own specific IC cards or tickets.
  • For long distance travels, buy tickets at the “green” window (Midori no madoguchi) or from a travel agent. Tickets can be purchased online as well. Each line’s website offers seasonal promotions that might suit your itinerary. 
  • Even though you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of a Japan Rail Pass, local airlines offer similar deals. Refer to an article in

Traveling Accommodations

  • 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 kind of lodging appeals to you, get a membership card from the Youth Hostel Association before you come, or get an international guest card from the national headquarters in Tokyo.

Services & Food

Mobile Phones & Internet

There are various options available, depending on your current phone plan and your specific interest. Because these conditions and options change quite rapidly, we are unable to provide definitive information here, but below are a few points that might help.

  • Recently some companies in the U.S. 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 U.S., 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, such as data transfer limitations/speed and areas receiving an adequate signal strength.
  • In recent years, many fellows have chosen to rent a portable wi-fi device, using VoIP services such as 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. It could possibly provide a faster connection than the international roaming options.
  • There are also companies that can rent you a phone that is ready to use, like rentafone. You can find others at the airport.


WIFI Availability

Many hotels/guesthouses 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 or in other Tourist spots.


  • Inexpensive Eating: Japanese Teishoku-ya (diner) are small, locally owned restaurants that sell freshly made set meals that are a great showcase of Japanese home-cooking. There are also various franchise options. 
  • 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 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 restaurants with vegetarian/vegan dishes. 100% vegetarian/vegan restaurants still tend to be available only around in the city area. Search on your own for more details.
  • Food Allergies: There is relatively less awareness of the seriousness of food allergies in Japan compared to the U.S., and only 7 core allergens are required to be labelled.  As in the case of animal products, keep in mind that many seemingly “safe” dishes might still contain traces of allergen products or gluten.
  • Smoking: Indoor smoking in restaurants was officially banned from a law that took effect in April 2020, however it excludes some small restaurants and bars. Check for signs before you enter. Major franchises such as family restaurants, cafes, or hotel restaurants are mostly smoke-free properties. Restaurant review sites such as Bento, provides updated lists of non-smoking restaurants.

Important Matters

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:

  • Stationeries 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 (souvenirs). Gift-giving is an integral part of the workings of this society. The gifts do not need to be expensive, but be prepared to give and receive a variety. Souvenirs with local color, liquor, and novelties are all appropriate, as are your own works such as prints, postcards and CDs.
  • The voltage provided in Japan is 100 V, which means that any American appliance will run on Japanese current without a transformer, albeit slower. The plugs are the same shape, but mostly lack a third (ground) pin. Personal computers (Macbooks,  etc.) can also run here just as they do in the U.S., and spare parts are readily available.
  • The electricity supplies in Japan have regional differences in frequencies.The electricity from Tokyo and its vicinity up to Hokkaido runs at 50 Hz (not the same as the United States)  in general, and in Western Japan, starting at Nagoya and continuing south all the way into Okinawa, runs at 60 Hz (same as in the United States.) In the case of using equipment requiring specific frequency  (musical instruments, appliances, healthcare devices) be aware that the frequency might affect its  functioning.  Some devices with motors run slower and others (i.e. hair clippers) might not properly function at all.
  • If you want to rent and drive a car in Japan, you have to obtain an international driver’s license from the AAA before you arrive. The most apparent differences are that the steering wheel is on the right, and that you have to drive on the left side of the street, as in England. If you have a child in your vehicle,  child seats are mandatory. Car rental fees are often reasonable and all necessary insurance is included in the basic price.
  • The Japanese postal system is highly efficient and fast.
  • Bringing pets to Japan: Given the length of this program, we don’t recommend  bringing pets to Japan. If you still wish to, go through the details of the quarantine process.


On Your Arrival

Arriving in Tokyo

If you are flying into Tokyo, you will be arriving at either Haneda or Narita Airport. There are many transportation options to get to the central city area, 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. Friendly Airport Limousine is one of the most reliable and popular limousine services. 
  • 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. Search on your own for more details.
  • 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 on Uber for 27,000 yen (28,080yen for van) which takes you anywhere inside of Tokyo’s 23 Wards.
    Haneda is located much closer but the fare might still be much more than you would be willing to spend. If you still choose to use a taxi, make sure you figure out the fare before you get in.

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 classic/contemporary books featuring Japanese history and culture.. 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.

The IHJ hotel offers 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

Each artist is expected to receive the orientation session at the I-House, soon after your arrival. (The I-House staff will coordinate the schedule before you board to Japan. Usually expected to be 1~3 days within your arrival.)  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.

Responsibilities of the I-House

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 the 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 list possible options up 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,  the I-House can request meetings and interviews on the artists’ behalf in case it helps.
  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.

Starting Your Fellowship


Artists’ Forum

Since 1987, the I-House has sponsored an Artists’ Forum series where the fellows can present their work and meet their local counterparts. Participation in the forum is not mandatory, but it is a good way to widen your contacts. Reference: Past Artists’ Forum.

The format of Artists’ Forum is quite flexible, and  the presentation does not need to be  limited to an Artists Talk. Many artists have used this opportunity to do workshops, as well as readings, screenings and live performances of their work. As the events are usually well attended and publicized, it would be very helpful if you start planning a presentation well in advance.

Where to Stay

Arranging your housing is one of the most important aspects in planning your fellowship, and we highly recommend figuring it out before your arrival. Many artists choose to live in Tokyo, but in some cases a fellow’s research or personal inclinations take them elsewhere such as Kyoto, Kyushu, or even deep 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.

If you are planning to stay in the central Tokyo area, the I-House has a list of housing contacts in the appendix. Nonetheless, this fellowship contains absolutely no strings or conditions on location, and artists themselves should determine where to stay. During the past 10 years, there has been a strong initiative from the private and public sector to revitalize rural Japan through a number of large scale international art events including the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, the Setouchi Triennale, the Nakanojo Biennale, the Aichi Triennale, and the Beppu Contemporary Art Festival among many others.
Reference: International art exhibitions held in Japan

Some artists have found wonderful, spacious places in nearby suburbs which are reasonable and not too far away from Tokyo. When considering such options, you will have to take into account how often you need to commute into Tokyo and how long each trip would take.

Searching apartments through a real estate agent  is not usually a feasible option for this fellowship, since most landlords require at least a year-long contract, and  a guarantor who lives or works in Japan. Reminding again that the I-House staff can’t act as your guarantor. 

Some options and avenues for inquiry include short-term furnished rental apartments (called weekly or monthly mansion), as well as Airbnb and other similar internet sites. Refer to the appendix for more recommendations.

Going About Your Work

While on the fellowship, you’re essentially on your own with general networking.k. Although the I-House and its staff arrange meetings and facilitate your work in case of needs, and occasionally the  American Embassy has given support, no one from those organizations can be assigned to act as your manager, promoter, or secretary. The I-House staff will share their contacts in response to your requests, though there may be none in your particular field of interest. If you are willing to meet a lot of new people, try to find out as many names as possible before coming. 

Make the First Move

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 happy to share their culture and will go out of their way to help you. 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 stay.

The Local Scene

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 limited. In spite of this lack of general support, there are thriving arts scenes, in both traditional and contemporary fields. In the past, grantees have taken classes for example in Noh, butoh, traditional dance, tea ceremony, calligraphy and shakuhachi.. Most teachers are welcoming to share their time and expertise with a foreign artist, but don’t expect that you can master the traditional arts in Japan during a 3-5 month visit, and very few artists or performers, especially those in traditional fields, speak fluent English. The experience of taking lessons in a traditional art or craft can be invaluable, however, as an integrating part of your own work.

Remuneration & Promotion

The fellowship does not allow you to receive compensation for your work while in Japan, but you are encouraged to present talks, readings, performances, or showcasing your work (you may accept travel and per diem remuneration from the sponsoring institutions).

 It is useful to bring portfolios and examples of your work in as many media forms as possible: website, CDs, DVDs, PDFs, printed publications, interviews, etc.

Additional Information


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 basics 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 magazines 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 Numbers and Websites



Online museum, art, music guides

  • TokyoArtBeat is 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 online 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 Reasonable 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 National Tourism Organization 03-6691-4850
  • Narita Airport
  • Guide to Japan 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 travels 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.


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)
May 3 Kenpō kinenbi (Constitution Memorial Day)
May 4 Kokumin no Kyūjitsu (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 Keirō no hi (Respect-for-the-Aged Day)
September 23 or 24 Shūbun no hi (Autumn Equinox Day)
Second Monday in October Taiiku no hi (Sports Day)
November 3 Bunka no hi (Culture Day)
November 23 Kinrū kansha-no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day)
December 23 Tennō tanjōbi (Present Emperor’s birthday)


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 older versions of this document can be found here and here.