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Topic: Japan traveling questions  (Read 5441 times)
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MyDestny
« on: June 05, 2007 09:58:46 AM »

Hi All,

My daughter is going to Japan on July 9th. She is 15 and will be traveling with People to People as a student embassador. I'm very stressed out about the trip because I won't be there with her.

None of the kids speak Japanese and they will be doing a home stay for 3 days. I guess I'm looking for any advice for her. Mostly I want to make sure that she does not offend her family by doing anything that they might think is rude. We've talked about not leaving lights on or water running. Saying please and thank you (in Japanese if she can memorize it in time), the proper way to give the gift at the end of the stay and throwing garbage away the right way (I understand there are recycling rules), and bowing and removing of shoes.

Can anyone give us some tips? Also, we are having a hard time to come up with gifts for the family she stays with. Any ideas?

Also, very important, People to People told us that there is no need for an adapter to plug in electronics like cameras and MP3 players. They said that Japan is the same as the US. Is this really true?? And if it is, is it just in the hotels or will the family also have the same watts?

Thanks so much for any help you can provide us...

Kim
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iggieb3t
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2007 08:46:39 PM »

Check this site - it includes everything from Japanes toilets to homestays (scroll down)  http://www.kananet.com/japanguide/hiroo-e.htm

A few more:
http://www.jetsetjapan.com/infozone.shtml
http://www.japanable.com/

The most appreciated gifts to the host family are products that are made exclusively in your country or locality - not necessarily expensive items. Items available through the internet or are mass produced (made in other countries even if they are sold as local souvenirs) are best avoided. It might also be a good idea to bring some special confections (local sweets & candies) made in your hometown in addition to a non-consumable gift.
Also gifts are handed over upon arrival not at the end of the stay. Additional hand crafted gifts made during her stay may be given at the end of the stay.

Electricity voltage here in Japan is 100 V  (US is 110 V) - so if a transformer is not that heavy, it would be best to bring your own for your own peace of mind. Maybe all your daughter needs is a camera.
If her stay is very short - I think she won't need an MP3 player. A good pocket dictionary is a better choice.

I also find that if you have difficulty communicating (especially with the different pronounciations) it is better to have a small pad of paper (or notebook) and pencil handy and write down the word or sentence you want to say. So if necessary they can look it up in the dictionary.

I hope your daughter enjoys her stay with her host family as well as her visit to Japan.

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HyakuYenKnitter
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2007 07:12:00 AM »

Nothing much to add to the links above, except to say that a couple I know are applying to be a host family for student exchanges and the screening process is very rigorous. I'm sure she'll be taken very good care of.
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MyDestny
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2007 08:46:12 AM »

Thank you both for all your information! I will definitely check out those sites.

We live in Minnesota so a lot of people bring Wild Rice because it's hard to find other places and I know we grow it here. I will have to think of other things too. We did buy a little ornament that's a little log cabin with Minnesota on it. It definitely looks like our cabins here so I thought it was a good idea.

How much do people usually give for gifts? My mom owns a bank so she thought it would be cute for my daughter to bring a piggy bank with the banks name on it. But I don't know if there are even coins and if they would fit in it. Are they coins in Japanese currency (that's probably a dumb question to some, but I have no idea)?

They told us to NOT give the gift at the beginning of the stay because they didn't want the families to feel they needed to buy gifts for them.

One more thing, how common are the cash machines? I will be getting her about $50 in Yen but she will have the rest of her money on a Visa card. Do you think it will be hard for her to find machines if she needs money for smaller shops or markets? The people who spoke with us made it seem like they would maybe only see a couple of cash machines during their stay. They will be there 16 days.

Thanks so much. I really appreciate all the help. I know this is probably way off topic.

Kim
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2007 09:03:35 AM »

First of all, ATMs are really scarce and not all of them will take all cards. The only place you can depend on to have an ATM is 7-11, and possibly the city's main train station. But Japan is so safe it's okay to carry around a huge wad of cash. The Japanese do.

As far as gifts, something Minnesotan or otherwise distinctively American would be great. And yes, Japanese currency includes coinage.

It's true, you don't need an adapter. I'm using an American-bought computer in Japan right now. It's a slightly lower voltage, that's all. Batteries take slightly longer to charge, etc. The only problem may be that in my experience, few Japanese sockets have three holes, so if her machines have 3-pronged plogs, she'll need an adapter for that, but those can be bought in Japan if necessary.

I've been in Japan one month and I speak about ten words of Japanese. Three good things to know:
1. sumimasen = excuse me/I'm sorry
2. wakarimasen = I don't know/understand
3. domo arigato gozaimasu = thank you very much (and don't pronounce the final u)

Usually if you approach people with a polite air, nod (implied bow), and start with sumimasen and finish with arigato gozaimas, you're fine. People don't expect you to know all the rules or the language (which is very kind of them). Oh, and the notebook suggestion is a great one--young people especially will know some English, but they aren't taught conversation, so writing it down helps a lot.

Judging by your concern for her behavior, she's been well brought up and will do fine.
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Pippienna
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2007 09:14:19 AM »

I've spent, cumulatively, three months in Japan as a teenage exchange student, with three different host families, so maybe I can help a bit.

1. yes, there are coins, and with the exception of the higher denominations (I think they still have 500 yen coins?) they're roughly the same size as ours.

2. as far as I recall the power outlets are the same.

3. I do recommend having yen and American money in case (American is always easy to change at banks) but I didn't find it hard to find a bank machine. I was in Tokyo a lot, though.

4. gifts can be a lot of fun. As mentioned, local things are a great idea; as a Canadian, I brought maple syrup and it went over very well. Coin or stamp sets are good if you know someone in the family is a collector.
With exchange programs, you are often introduced to large groups of people your age, and it's not a bad idea to have lots of American or state pins as little gifts; a custom when I was there (ten years ago, mind) was to give out little introduction cards like business cards with your photo, mailing address, and email on it so that you could stay in contact (I have a huge collection of them from people there).
Something fun with host siblings and their friends might be snack foods and candy. Japanese candy is really different, and potato chip flavours vary widely internationally - a popular one in Japan is soya sauce and mayo.

Don't stress too much about host families. Of my families, two were exceptionally friendly, helpful and supportive, and the third, though distant at times, was still a good experience. Most mistakes are excused because they know you probably don't know any better, and everyone appreciates attempts, like using chopsticks and trying to speak Japanese.
Absolute most important thing: tell her to try everything, barring allergies. Weird food and things you've never done before turn into awesome stories when you come back, and you'll only regret it if you turn down opportunities to try things.
If you or she has any other questions I'd be happy to help Smiley
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HyakuYenKnitter
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007 09:54:12 AM »

One more thing, how common are the cash machines? I will be getting her about $50 in Yen but she will have the rest of her money on a Visa card. Do you think it will be hard for her to find machines if she needs money for smaller shops or markets? The people who spoke with us made it seem like they would maybe only see a couple of cash machines during their stay. They will be there 16 days.

It would be best for her to take most of the money in cash - almost nowhere except the bigger department stores  takes credit cards! Post office savings ATMs can be used to make international withdrawals, but of course they are only open Post office opening hours (Mon-Fri 9-5) and charge a hefty commission.

The piggy bank is a cute idea, you see quite a few in the shops so they are obviously popular.

If you can get hold of charms/cellphone danglies from your town/state/country they may well be a hit Smiley

Another useful phrase - Ii desu (pronounced 'Ee dess'). It means 'I'm/that's OK' and comes in immensely handy, as it's used where OK would be in English (e.g. 'can I sit here?' 'OK',) and also like 'No thankyou' (i.e. 'I'm/it's OK as it is')
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kono ichidande
yoga akeru
(one more stitch, one more row. Ah, it's dawn?!)
my new craftblog - http://blog.hellokitty.com/stephstellar/
Yes, I do personal swaps!
MyDestny
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2007 11:05:23 AM »

Thank you all so much for your great answers!! With the help here and the websites above, I think we will be as prepared as we can be.

My daughter is a very polite girl I just know that as American's we are more wasteful and maybe not as mannerly as other places so I want to make sure she just thinks of everything she can to be helpful and gracious. She is 15 and sometimes they don't think at that age ;o) Plus they will be excited and I'm thinking loud like our teenagers can be so I'm just making sure that by telling her everything, they will all learn and won't go in like 'bulls in a china shop'.

She also is not a very picky eater and has already told me that she's eating everything. Well, she doesn't eat red meat but from looking at the cuisine, I think she will be okay. She loves fish/seafood and LOVES sushi so she's really excited. We eat tofu all the time too because I'm veggie. There is a girl in their group that has already called herself picky and said she probably won't eat much. Sad, but she will be missing out. When the leaders went previously, they said there was one girl that spent all of her money on chips and fast food. Oh well, some just lose out on that part of the experience I guess. I think I might try and make some miso soup or something before she leaves just to have a little fun bon voyage dinner!

Has anyone been to Fukui? That's where she will be doing the home stay. I can't find it on our world map so I'm not sure where it's located.

Thank you all for your help!

Kim (p.s. now I love Craftster even more!!!)
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2007 04:31:19 PM »

She also is not a very picky eater and has already told me that she's eating everything. Well, she doesn't eat red meat but from looking at the cuisine, I think she will be okay. She loves fish/seafood and LOVES sushi so she's really excited. We eat tofu all the time too because I'm veggie. There is a girl in their group that has already called herself picky and said she probably won't eat much. Sad, but she will be missing out. When the leaders went previously, they said there was one girl that spent all of her money on chips and fast food. Oh well, some just lose out on that part of the experience I guess. I think I might try and make some miso soup or something before she leaves just to have a little fun bon voyage dinner!

That's good that she's not a picky eater. When our family visited Japan, we were on a tour, so some of the food was good, some of them...not so good. I'm quite the picky eater, but the food wasn't all that bad.

In case she doesn't like that food, there's McDonalds. Cheesy
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iggieb3t
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2007 06:53:07 PM »

Thank you both for all your information! I will definitely check out those sites.

We live in Minnesota so a lot of people bring Wild Rice because it's hard to find other places and I know we grow it here. I will have to think of other things too. We did buy a little ornament that's a little log cabin with Minnesota on it. It definitely looks like our cabins here so I thought it was a good idea.

I don't think one is allowed to bring rice to Japan - this also applies to other food products such as fresh fruits and processed meat (including beef jerky and sausages) - do check out the Customs and Quarantine Regulations in Japan - http://www.maff-aqs.go.jp/english/ryoko/bp.htm and http://www.pps.go.jp/english/index.html.

How much do people usually give for gifts? My mom owns a bank so she thought it would be cute for my daughter to bring a piggy bank with the banks name on it. But I don't know if there are even coins and if they would fit in it. Are they coins in Japanese currency (that's probably a dumb question to some, but I have no idea)?

The piggy banks would be a good idea too if they are not too bulky or heavy to carry.

They told us to NOT give the gift at the beginning of the stay because they didn't want the families to feel they needed to buy gifts for them.

Yes that is quite true. Should that be the case - maybe she could at least bring a box of candies or confections or fancy cookies from your home city that is nicely packaged/ wrapped that she can hand over when she arrives.Then she can hand over the presents later when it is time to go. Somebody also suggested state pins or badges - they are small and easy to carry. Keychains, phone straps are nice too - but stay away from bottle opener key chains.

It might also be helpful if she carries a few name/business cards with her name, photo and contact info to hand over to people she want's to keep in touch with. I am pretty sure they will be walking around with ID tags too.

Tip: Should she find it necessary she can also keep in touch with you via email from mobile phones here in Japan. Usually host families would have at least one cellphone (if they do not have a computer) - short emails (like text messaging) can be sent from a Japanese mobile to your computer email. You can also send her back short emails - but be sure to use plain text - not HTML to avoid font complications.


One more thing, how common are the cash machines? I will be getting her about $50 in Yen but she will have the rest of her money on a Visa card. Do you think it will be hard for her to find machines if she needs money for smaller shops or markets? The people who spoke with us made it seem like they would maybe only see a couple of cash machines during their stay. They will be there 16 days.

Cash is OK - not a lot of machines take foreign cards although there are some machines at the airport. She can carry cash or travellers checks (make sure she has a photocopy of the full set kept separately). T/C can be exchanged at most banks and even some large hotels, with cheaper or no commission - safer too.

Fukui is in the Chubu region - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukui_Prefecture


Thanks so much. I really appreciate all the help. I know this is probably way off topic.

Kim


Lastly - she will be arriving during the rainy season - so a folding umbrella or a rain parka and an extra pair of footwear may be good to have.
As for shoes (I think this is one of the most important things to remember when visiting Japan) - make sure you have a good comfortable pair for walking and if possible wear slip-ons (get one with NO shoelaces - it takes too much time to tie & untie shoelaces everytime you visit a place, shrine, temple or  home - and you will be blocking everybody's path on the doorway).
I hope she enjoys the experience and that all these info will help ease your worries. Grin
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007 05:39:21 PM by iggieb3t - Reason: Added line on shoes... » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2007 05:06:26 PM »

I don't know how close you live to St. Paul, but the gift shops at the Historical Society are full of wonderfully unique Minnesotan items.  It would be worth checking out!

(shameless plug)
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PaperBag
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2007 10:32:59 PM »

What a great experience for your daughter. I am sure with an open mind like hers, she'll have a great time here. The suggestions that people have given are all so helpful and I really don't have much to add to the conversation- Just want to reiterate that cash is always great to have here. I've only been here about 6 weeks, but not once have I seen a local national use a credit card. Here, it's cash cash cash! Here's a good tip if she does use her card at a register though: They will ask you "1 or 2?" They're asking if you want them to swipe the card one time or twice. I have no idea why you'd ever want them to swipe it twice, but let her know that "1" is always the correct answer Smiley

She will notice that her curling iron will take a long time to warm up and that her blow dryer doesn't work as efficiently here (its takes almost twice as long to dry my hair here), but other than that, the plugs are all the same.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2007 10:34:28 PM by PaperBag » THIS ROCKS   Logged

xcrunnergirl
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2007 10:52:53 PM »

If you can get it in time, I would reccomend the Japanese Phrase Book and Dictionary by Berlitz. (ISBN 2-8315-6267-8) I speak some Japanese, but I borrowed this book from a friend and found it very handy. It has useful phrases and sentences in English, romanized prononciations, and Japanese script which she could show to someone if there are still misunderstandings. It has little color coded edges of sections like food, transportation, health (very important to be able to communicate; I found that out the hard way!)

I wish your daughter all the best of luck! I'm sure it'll be an amazing trip!
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2008 10:17:45 AM »

I'm just jumping in with this a really long time after the conversation, but this is just in case anyone else reads:

I've been to japan twice and here are my tips:

- The post office ATM's have never turned down my debit card and have a better exchange rate than (usually) your bank, AMEX or the exchange places at the airport.
- I have had some trouble finding places that take cards, but usually its the convenience stores and smaller family restaurants. Large department stores, tourist locations, or chains stores usually do take credit cards.
- make sure you call your credit card company and let them know you will be traveling so they don't decline your card. Make sure that your first purchase is a small amount or you will have to wait for them to call the card security number.
- A LOT more people than you think speak english (I have had no problem ordering food at a chain restaurant in english, like McDonalds). and they will all at least try to stumble through a conversation, just be patient. If they dont' speak english, they will usually ask someone nearby to help translate for you.
- pronounce the word for excuse me (sumimasen) as "See Ma Sen" - you will have a MUCH better response. people won't even look, they'll get out of your way.
- dont' be disappointed if the hawkers outside the subway stations don't give you samples of what ever it is they are selling - they normally won't.


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Dai-chan
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2008 10:20:45 PM »

i know this is old but how did your daughter like Japan?

I actually live in Fukui! <3
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