Q. How much Japanese would a visitor need to know if he went to Japan? How much conversational Japanese would he be proficient in to get around Japan??
A. Travel from Tokyo to Major local city wouldn't be a problem because you can ride a shinkansen (limited express). In shinkansen there is an announcemnt about the next stop in English. In major station such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Sendai there
are sign boards in both Japanese and English.
As usual guide board is written only in Japanese. You should better prepare your favorite map of Japan.
Q. I was just informed that I need to set up a bank account in Japan to do my financial business. Can you suggest a good reliable Japanese Bank?
A. You can choose any major bank in Japan because the difference of the service between them are very small. I recommend you to check the bank office is near your dwelling or not, and the ATM (automatic transaction machine), too.
By the way, CityBank is very useful to have this account during travelling abroad, but their office is very few in Japan.
I recommend you to have an account with one of the major Japanese bank. They are called "city banks" (this is not a Citibank, subsidiary of Citicorp.). Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank, Sakura Bank, Sumitomo Bank, Asahi Bank, Sakura Bank, Fuji Bank.
They all have a branch in major cities, I believe. They are everywhere in Japan. The largest bank is Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank because this bank is the output of merge of Mitsubishi Bank and Tokyo Bank; they are large even before merging.
Q. I heard I cannot withdraw my money from the bank all day. Is it right?
A.Japanese bank never offers you 24 hour service.
You can withdraw cash from your account at bank's ATM with your cash card. Because of the recent deregulation on banks in Japan, the service hours becomes longer than in past years. Here is the example for one of the longest service hours at the bank.
Say, at Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank, which is top-rated bank in Japan, machine teller can be accessible from 7 AM to 11 PM on weekend. You can withdraw cash from 7 AM to 7 PM on holidays. It is charged extra 105 yen per withdrawal if at 7:00-8:45 and 18:00-23:00 on weekday, 7:00-9:00 and 14:00-19:09 on Saturday, and on all holidays. Please notice that the example above is the longest service at Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank, many their branches closes ATM earlier than above.
Q. How can I call you?
A.Nao is from my first name. In fact, we are not familiar with naming each other by their first names. (Me? I always use "nao" as my nickname when I am accompanying with foreigner. ;-) We usually call each other as "name + san", eg. Kameyama-san. "San" means Mr. or Mrs. or Miss.
Q. I have a question about your phone service. I heard that you are charge for every phone call in Japan? Also where do you get your Internet service from?
A.You should better know that everything is expensive in Japan. :-P NTT (same kind of phone company like AT&T) charges us 10 yen/3 minutes from home to the same message area. To the outside of message area is much more expensive than that, and international call too.
Internet provider service is growing rapidly in Japan, and its situation is like in a chaos. It is very hard to recommend you an actual provider. (I heard that glocom supports by English and friendly for foreigner, but I'm not sure. For me, I contract with bekkoame, it charges 20,000 yen per year without extra access cost.)
Anyway, you can find many independent providers here. If you would be are a student your school will provide you internet access, at least e-mail address.
Q.How much are service charges? For example the charges for depositing, withdrawing, writing checks etc?
A.Depositing and withdrawing are free of charge while thier business hour. Automatic Transaction Machines are also available, but it costs you 103 yen (including consumtpion tax of 3%) or more per one withdrawing if it is beyond 6 PM.
We don't use checks. Almost all the payment is by cash. And credit card is accepted at the major shop. But not personal checks.
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