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Japan and Japanese: General

This page contains some hints for non-Japanese people who happen to move to Japan. I found and find that not all things are obvious, in particular not in advance and from abroad.

Things to bring and not to bring to Japan

This seems to be an inevitable question when shifting far away: What shall I/we take with me? Keep in mind that the following information refers to the place I live, that is Sapporo. Please also keep in mind that the following recommendations are subjective, they are not necessarily good for you.

Some things are trivial. E.g. don't bring electric appliances, unless they work with 100V or you want to use a power converter all the time. Another common advice is to bring your own computer, in particular notebook: this is a good advice, unless you want to install your own OS (or you don't mind to use a Japanese OS). There are less obvious things:

  • Bicycle. Sapporo is a very good place to use the bike for short distances (I have seen similar situations in other Japanese cities, but I am not sure about all of Japan). But don't bring your bike from far away unless you have a very good bike and plan to stay long. Cheap new bikes are typically cheaper than the transport would cost (about 50 to 200 US$, depending on the equipment).
  • Dishes and tableware. Bring that only if you need big and expensive tableware in order to feel comfortable. There are 100-Yen-shops (about one US$) where you can get incredibly cheap (namely 100 Yen) and very beautiful dishes - transport is more expensive. A similar statement holds for small cookware. However, you can consider to bring cutlery.
  • Furniture is sometimes very cheap and still very nice at second hand shops. (Japanese are rich and tend to throw things away quickly.) The decision to bring it or not depends on your demands.

Daily life

Also these recommendations are subjective and not necessarily good for you.
  • Get a rice cooker. It's probably much better at cooking rice than you are.
  • Getting a modem to work. This is tricky: the signals coming from the telephone line (dial tone, busy, ...) are different from those for instance in Europe. There ought to be a switch to tell the modem that it now has to expect different signals, otherwise it will not work properly. By the way: It's no problem to get an analog phone line in Japan.
  • Telephone calls are very expensive from Japan, at least from a standard phone line. For international calls, callback really seems to save money. For domestic calls, consider cheaper carriers such as J-Call.


There are almost too many web pages offering advice on learning Japanese. Of course, it is nice to surf a bit... however, in my opinion, there are relatively few essential points:
  • I own and have tried a couple of textbooks, of which I liked best Japanese for Everyone: A Functional Approach to Daily Communications by Nagara Susumu. However, the audio material seems difficult to obtain.
  • If you want to learn Kanji, I recommend the book by James W. Heisig, Remembering the Kanji (also available in German, Spanish, and French).
  • There is an excellent freely usable Japanese English dictionary edict by Jim Breen. If you are a German native speaker, Ulrich Apel's WaDoku dictionary is maybe the best Japanese-German dictionary currently available, it beats even commercial pocket dictionaries ("denchi-jisho") in my opinion. Since I wanted both English and German plus some extra functionality, I have created the Kangoroo software which runs on Sharp Zaurus, Windows, and Linux (and if you compile it, also Mac). However, tons of other good software is available, e.g. JWP for Windows.
Last update: Fri Mar 9 05:09:33 2007 GMT by Jan Poland, Page = "General"