USEFUL INFORMATION

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TIME

Despite the country's east-west span, all of Japan is on the same time zone (9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 9 hours ahead of London, 14 hours ahead of New York and 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles). The only major cities in the world ahead of Japan are Sydney (1 hour) and Wellington (3 hours).

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Japan does not have daylight savings time. Therefore, you must subtract one hour when calculating the time difference between Japan and places that use daylight savings time.

CALENDAR

To get into step with the rest of the world, Japan switched from the lunar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. Official holidays are dated according to the Gregorian calendar, but traditional festivals and events still follow the lunar calendar.

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Moreover, years are counted according to two systems. In addition to the standard western system of counting years from the birth of Christ, the Japanese Imperial system calculates the year from the accession of each emperor. The reign of each emperor is also assigned a special name. The reign of the current emperor, the Heisei era, began in 1989. Because of these two systems, the same year is referred to in two different ways.

CURRENCY AND BANKING

Japan's currency is the yen. Banknotes can be found in denominations of 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000, although 2,000 yen banknotes do exist (but are seen only rarely). Coins in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen. The 5 and 50 yen coins have a hole in the middle.

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Mitsubishi UFJ Bank

Cash is still the most common way to pay for goods and services in Osaka, although credit cards are becoming more common. Most shops and restaurants will not accept travelers checks. Carry sufficient cash at all times, because you may not always be able to use your credit card.

Major banks, post offices, department stores and hotels offer foreign currency exchange, including the cashing of travelers checks, between Japanese yen and the following currencies: U.S. dollar, Australian dollar and Euro. Such institutions are labeled with an "Authorized Money Exchange" sign in English. Banks are open weekdays between 9am-3pm and closed on weekends and public holidays. Please allow yourself ample time to change money at a bank. You'll most likely be required to fill in forms, show your passport and sometimes wait until your number is called. The entire process could take up to 30 minutes.

Please note that you're more likely to get a better exchange rate when withdrawing cash from ATMs than when exchanging cash or travelers checks. However, many banks place a limit on the amount of cash which you can withdraw in any one day. ATMs can be found all over Osaka. However, most of them don't accept foreign issued cards, even if they display Visa or Master Card logos. International ATMs that do accept foreign-issued cards can be found near the Osaka Hilton Hotel in Kita and at the Citibank in Shinsaibashi.

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ATMs in Japan

A more convenient way to get cash is at post offices. The Japanese postal system, which also offers banking services, has recently linked its ATMs to the International Cirrus and Plus System cash networks, as well as some credit card networks. Postal ATMs are located in most large post offices. Most ATMs operate between 9am-5pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

POST OFFICE SERVICES

Post offices are easily recognized by a sign with a double-bar red T on a white background (〒). Office hours are between 9am-5pm on weekdays. The Osaka Central Post Office, located in front of Osaka Station in Umeda, is open from 9am-7pm daily. Red mailboxes can be found on many street corners. Shops that display the 〒 sign in their front window sell stamps and post cards.

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Japanese Post Box

PUBLIC PHONES

Although the number of public phones has decreased due to the spread of cell phones, pay phones that accept both pre-paid cards and 10 or 100 yen coins can be found in hotels, department stores, train stations and other facilities. To make a call, pick up the receiver, put in a coin or telephone card and press the number. A local call of approximately one minute costs 10 yen. Public phones that allow callers to make international calls are labeled as such. For international calls, the caller must first choose an access number from one of many international phone companies. After pressing the access number, press 010, followed by the country code, area code and telephone number.

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Public Phone in Japan

ELECTRICITY

Please note that the Japanese electrical current is 100V AC, a voltage that is pretty much unique in the world. However, the country is split in half when it comes to cycles. Osaka and the western part of Japan are on 60 Hz, while Tokyo and the eastern part of the country are on 50 Hz. Plugs are identical to the two-pin type in North America. Appliances with three-pin plugs will require an adapter.

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