Category Archives: GENERAL INFORMATION

St. Patrick’s Day Parade- Tokyo

Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in the heart of Tokyo’s Harajuku district. A section of Omotesando Street is closed to traffic for the parade and you will see everything from marching bands to the Tokyo chapter of the U2 fan club. It is a lot of fun! Also, don’t miss the I Love Ireland festival held in neighboring Yoyogi park, for food, entertainment and fun! The date varies every year, but this year (2016) the parade is being held on March 20, and begins at 1:00pm. (A quick google search will tell date and time for subsequent years).- Jamie Cowan March 20162014-03-16 13.37.00

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DIRECTIONS: Take the train to Harajuku station. Yoyogi Park and Omotesando are a quick walk from the station.

Daruma Doll Festival-Haijimadaishi Temple

Looking for a fun New Year’s activity? Look no further than the Daruma Doll Festival, in nearby Akishima. A visit to a shrine, within the first few days of the new year, is  very important aspect of Japanese culture, known as hatsumode.
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The lines to get to the front of the shrine will be very long,  but we bypassed the line and had a great time wandering the festival. Daruma is a good luck doll for the upcoming year. You buy a new Daruma doll each year (there were many to choose from of all sizes), and color in one eye when you make your wish. If your wish comes true during the year, you color in the other eye.2015-01-02 13.57.15
You bring last year’s Daruma to throw in the fire, which is part of the Japanese approach to the new year, “out with the old, in with the new”.
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Also look for the kabura-ya, or arrow with a “turnip” shaped tip, for a fun souvenir. These are modeled after arrows that the samurai used, to attach messages to and shoot them into a fortress or other enclosure. Now, they are sold at Shinto shrines at the new year, as protection from evil spirits.
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Of course, as with all Japanese festivals, there will also be FOOD! There were many vendor stalls set up selling your favorite Japanese street food; yakisoba, yakiniku, takoyaki, etc.2015-01-02 13.50.28

The festival is held at the Haijima Daishi temple every year on January 2nd and 3rd. Parking is extremely limited. The website recommends taking the train, closest station is Akishima station (which is the Moritown station), then it is about a 20 minute walk from Akishima station. Jamie Cowan, December 2015

Website:http://haijimadaishi.com/daruma-ichi/
Hours: 0900-1600, January 2nd and 3rd.
GPS to the shrine: 35.7056997,139.3449119

Fukubukuro- New Year’s “lucky bags”

2015-01-01 08.09.13New Year’s Day is the most important Japanese holiday, where many “firsts” are celebrated. Some of these special firsts include; first prayer, first sunrise, and first …SALE! The Japanese phenomenon known as fukubukuro, (orlucky/happy bag”), entails heading to a store on January 1-3 and buying a bag with unknown contents for a set price. The only guarantee is that the bag will be worth more than you paid, sometimes several times more, but it’s a gamble.

If you are a risk taker at heart, you will love this custom! Some stores show the contents of the bags, but most do not, it’s a complete surprise. Opening your lucky bag has all the anticipation of Christmas morning, and possibly some of the disappointment. Was it money well spent, or not?2015-01-02 08.49.17-1

For example, I spent Y3000 for this bag at a kitchen wares store, and this was its contents; a  small roasting pan with rack, frying pan, spatula, “pig” microwave lid, utensil holder, and two fish shaped kitchen sponges. This bag was definitely worth more than what I paid.

 

Head to your nearest mall, specialty store or grocery store January 1-3, to join in the fun. But, beware, if you don’t act fast you’ll miss your chance! Lucky bags are only around while supplies last. Jamie Cowan, December  2015

How to ride the train

The Tokyo train system can be very intimidating to a newcomer, but it’s not that bad when armed with the right tools. There are two train systems, the above ground lines and the underground lines (subway). I was terrified the first time I saw the train system maps below! But, don’t spend too much time with the maps, the best way to navigate is with a smart phone.
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There are many apps to choose from, but my favorite is called Hyperdia. (**TIP- Just google Hyperdia.com on your phone and bookmark it rather than buy the app. It’ll save you money and I actually found the app not as efficient.) Then follow a few easy steps.

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STEP 1 Type in the station you are leaving from, where you want to go, and the time you wish to leave.

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STEP 2 A lot of different routes will display. Look them over and select your favorite.

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STEP 3 Each route will tell you how long the trip will take and how much yen it will cost. Also, which station and line to transfer to. For example, when you arrive in Shinjuku station, look for a sign that says “Yamanote line”, and go there to wait for the final leg of your trip.

***TIP- See under the Tachikawa station where it says “special rapid”? This is a faster train that does not make as many stops, so your travel time to Shinjuku will only take about 35 minutes. There is also a “rapid” which is not quite as fast, and then the “local” line, which will make every stop on the line. This will add at least 15 minutes to your trip.

When you enter the station, you will need to know where you are going in order to buy the correct fare. This is where having a Suica card comes in handy becuase the signs are not always in English. (Learn how to buy a Suica card here: http://yokotatravel.com/how-to-buy-a-suica-card/)2015-06-25 09.57.16

Enter through the turn style and proceed to the platform.2015-06-25 10.11.25

Watch for the signs directing you to the correct track.2015-06-25 10.14.34

Now, its time to wait.2015-06-25 10.09.41 HDR

 Look for the electronic sign above, it switches between Japanese and English and will tell you if you are waiting in the right place. It also indicates if it is a Special rapid, rapid, or local train.2015-06-25 10.10.15 HDR

When you reach your destination, look for the map near the exit and it will tell you landmarks in the area, and also which exit to take to get you where you’re going. Some of the train station’s are massive, so this is really helpful.   2015-06-25 09.56.57

And, that’s about it! The best way to get started is to JUST DO IT! Plan a trip that is nearby, like Tachikawa, and go for it. The more you challenge yourself, the easier it will become. Also, don’t hesitate to ask people for help, you will usually always find someone with enough English to point you in the right direction. And if you miss a train? No worries, another one will be along in a few minutes. Now, get out and see something! Jamie Cowan, July 2015

How to buy a Suica card

Train travel in Japan can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, the sky’s the limit! Yes, you can purchase an individual fare ticket, but life is so much easier with the Suica card. It is a re-loadable card that allows you to simply scan the card at the station, and it will deduct the money as you exit at your destination, just like a debit card. Here’s how you do it in a few easy steps!

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STEP 1 Find a ticket machine at the station with the Suica banner above. (Not all machines sell new Suica cards.)

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STEP 2 In the top right corner of the machine, there will be an “English” button, first select that, then choose the blue button titled “purchase new Suica”.

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STEP 3 Select the middle button titled Suica. (NOT the one called My Suica).

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STEP 4 Select how much money you would like to load onto the card. (Keep in mind, the purchase of the Suica card is Y500, so that will not count towards your balance.)

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STEP 5 Insert your money (cash only) into the proper slot at the bottom of the machine.

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And your card will dispense from the slot below. It’s that easy! (Remember, losing your card is just like losing cash, you will not be refunded any balance.)

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You are good to go! Approach the turn style with the green “in” arrow.

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Place your card directly over the blue window and the gate will open. And that’s it!

***Don’t forget- this card is re-loadable. To check your balance, simply insert your card into any machine, and it will display your balance. Then, add more yen if needed.

A children’s Suica card is also available for purchase, but you must go to the window with the child’s passport and purchase directly with an agent, since children travel at half fare. Not every station sells children’s cards , but depending on which side of base you live on, Akishima (at Moritown mall),  and Haijima,  are the closest options.2015-06-25 10.14.08

***Children under 6 years of age do not need train fare. Simply swipe your own card and walk through the turn style together. There is usually a wider lane with no turn style doors for strollers or wheel chair use. (The rules regarding children’s fares can be a bit confusing, but 6 years of age is when the child is considered school age, therefore needing train fare.The Japanese school system begins in April, so if your child turns 6 prior to April, 1st of the current year, you must buy a card. If your child turns 6 after April of the current year, you are good until the next April. Hope that makes sense!) Jamie Cowan, June 2015.

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and SightsIf you are new to Yokota, or been here for years, this comprehensive guide can help you find new and exciting things to do year-round. Created with the seasons in mind, simply click on the link and find out what’s happening. Time to work on that Japan To-Do list!! Click on the links below to be able to zoom in and start your adventure! Created by Linda Bell, May 2015.

PDF: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

Excel: Guide to Japan, Seasonal Activities and Sights

 

 

Bullet Train – Shinkansen

bullet train by kelly odonnelSo you want to ride the famous Bullet Train but have no idea how to go about it? It’s easy— after you take out a large loan from the bank, especially if you intend to bring the kids. Seriously, be aware that traveling on the Shinkansen is about equal to the price of flying. The easiest way to buy a ticket for the Shinkansen is to get a Japanese friend to help. Since that is not always feasible, there are other ways. One is to go to Tachikawa Station to the Shinkansen reservation office and buy your ticket with the help of an English-speaking agent. While you may not want a Green Car (first class) seat, you may prefer reserved seats in nonsmoking.     Tickets are also available for purchase at automated ticket machines at major stations like Tachikawa and Tokyo station, and there is an option to conduct the transaction in English.   From there choose your departure and destination stations, as well as time and date of travel, reserved/nonreserved ticket, and number of travelers (adult and child fares are different amounts).  Be aware that you must use cash to pay at the ticket machines! The smart foreigner avoids traveling during the big Japanese holidays: Golden Week or April 29 – the first week in May; Obon which is usually the magical midweek in August when everyone heads home or abroad; and New Year’s, when Japan closes down and everybody heads for the hills. One last caution: never wait until the last minute!  And allow plenty of time to get to the station before your departure time: eating is not only allowed on the Shinkansen but encouraged, and half the fun is choosing an elaborate “ekiben”, which is a fancy train bento box, from one of the many kiosks to eat during the ride.

bulelt train by kelly odonnellComments and photos by Kelly O’Donnell, May 2013 –  With so many of my friends planning to take the train to Kyoto this spring and summer I thought I would do a quick write up of some tips that I wish I had know before I rode the “Shinkansen” (Bullet Train) for the first time.

First of all, just riding the train itself is worth the journey. Even if you have no great destination in mind I recommend at least riding the Shinkansen at least once while in Japan, even if you only go a short distance. It goes up to 200 miles an hour! It would leave Amtrak in the dust!  It’s safe too.  Over the Shinkansen’s 49 year history, carrying nearly 7 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions. It’s so riding bullet train by kelly omuch safer than driving and you see so much more! On my trip to Kyoto I had great views of Mt. Fuji.  The ITT office offers package deals so I purchased our Shinkansen tickets right on base along with a package that included the hotel. It just made it easy because I didn’t have to fiddle with the machines once at Tokyo station. We simply took the train from Fussa to Tokyo Station and then just walked a couple of gates down to the Shinkansen gates, which are well marked by both the word “Shinkansen” and a blue picture of a bullet looking train. We had no trouble finding our gate on our first try. Here are a few more tips below. Enjoy your ride!

  • Line up by car number. You can not just enter the train at any location. Your ticket will have both an assigned gate number and a Car #. Once on the platform look for a sign overhead with your car number and up there.
  • Mind the gap! I was surprised to see a very large gap between the platform and the train door. Even a 5-6 year old child could easily fall through this. Please be careful, especially when taking the train with young children. I recommend holding their hands while boarding.
  • Don’t dilly dally! The train makes very quick stops at stations, only a few minutes. When traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto for example, Kyoto is not the last stop on the train. It will stop only very briefly. Do NOT wait until the train stops to try and collect your belongings from overhead. You need to be waiting at the door for your stop. They will announce each stop in advance so be prepared.
  • Hold onto your tickets! Unlike Amtrak, you will need your ticket to depart the train station. Once underway, a ticket agent will come around to view your ticket while you are seated. You must keep this ticket handy because you will need it again to depart the station gate once at your destination, in my case to exit in Kyoto station. I didn’t know this had it buried in my purse as a souvenir and wasn’t ready to present it again when I was leaving the station.
  • There are plenty of vending machines on the train and food carts will even come down the aisles selling sandwiches, coffee, and snacks and souvenirs.
  • I had heard a rumor that children under age 6 ride the Shinkansen for free. This is only half true. Children under age 6 may ride for free if they sit on your lap. I don’t know about you but I don’t want my 5 year old sitting on my lap for 3 hours. Here are their guidelines for children:   A person of age 12 or over is considered an “Adult,” and a person of age 6 to 11 is considered a “Child.” If a child under age 6 is going to use the same seat as an adult (in other words, sit on the lap of the adult), that child can ride free of charge.  * In cases where the number of children under the age of 6 who are accompanying an Adult or ticket-bearing Child exceeds 2, Child tickets are needed for the third and any additional child.  * If a child under age 6 is going to sit on a seat, that child will need a Child ticket.

For more information see:  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/routemaps/tohokushinkansen.html

For more about train travel in Japan see: Japan by Rail

 

Sayonara Liz Ruskin

The week has come when Liz Ruskin is PCSing back to the states.  This webpage exists thanks to Liz.  Starting with the 200 page Yokota Travelog, Liz transformed the document into this informative, interactive, and growing webpage.  Once online she continued to generate new and update old entries herself, adding GPS coordinates and checking directions.  In addition she encouraged us Yokota residents to report on our experiences and she edited our travel reports for inclusion on the webpage.

Then she took the project further by creating the Yokota Travel facebook page and she began taking people on field trips to some of her favorite places.  With her passion for the project, dedication to accuracy and good writing, and encouragement for all of us local travelers, Liz has made a great contribution to the Yokota community now and into the future.  Plus, Liz is such an all around cool person, she will sorely be missed.

Liz has recruited four of us to take her place when she is gone, and it will take all four of us to keep up with her!  Thank you Liz for all your hard work on this project.  It is a wonderful asset to the Yokota community!
 – Sarah, Meg, Anna and Deborah

A Note for Newcomers to Yokota

Welcome to Japan! We know how you feel. You want to get out and see the area but you can’t retain any Japanese place names. Tachikawa, Ishikawa, Kamakura — they all run together in your mind. You see other Americans speak a few words of Japanese — asking for the bill, getting directions, speaking to shop clerks — and you think you’ll never be able to do the same. You’re nervous about driving off base. Rest assured: We’ve all been there. It goes away. Here are a few tips to get you started.

•Go to the Yujo Center (across from the Chapel) and talk to the resourceful guys who work at the information desk. They are unbelievably helpful and patient, not matter how specific or vague your quest.

• Sign up for the free “Survival Japanese” course at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the building behind Chili’s, by the Commissary. Take it as many times as you like, or just use it to get comfortable with a few phrases.

•Buy a set of flashcards to learn Katakana. This Japanese alphabet is used almost exclusively for English words, so if you see these letters on a sign or a menu, chances are you will know the word once you’re able to sound it out. You can learn Katakana in a few hours. Smartphone and iPad owners:  Buy a Katakana flashcard app and you’ll never be bored on a train again.

•Use Hyperdia or Jorudan to plan a train trip.

•Buy a Suica card for the train. It’s so much easier than using individual tickets. Read how here.

•Find a copy of the train map in English. They’re available at some English bookstores. Here’s an online version.

•Get a road atlas in English before you set out on a driving trip. The base library has several.

•Learn how to use GPS technology — either on your wireless device, a navigator or on your desktop computer — to find your way. Read about it here.

•Make sure you have the base switchboard number — 042-552-2511 — in your cell phone or in your wallet. That way, if you’re lost off base, you can call a friend on base for help without making an international call.

 

Taking to the Roads

ORIENTATION

Major Roads Near Yokota
•Route 16 which runs between Yokota and Yokosuka, and near Zama
•Route 7 (Itsukaichi Kaido) along the south fence of Yokota
•Route 20 (Koshu Kaido) along both sides of the Tama River.
•Route 5 (Shin Ome Kaido) to the north.

These roads extend from out past Yokota to Tokyo proper. To orient yourself locally, check on online map, like this one.

The major expressways nearby are the Chuo, which runs from Tokyo to Nagoya, and the Kan Etsu, which travels through the mountains to the other side of Honshu. The Ken-O Do is also useful when heading north to connect the Kan-Etsu to the Tohoku and other expressways.
These English-edition atlases are useful (sometimes available at the BX bookstore, the New Sanno, etc.).

  • Road Atlas Japan
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Atlas
  • Metropolitan Expressway Guide

Free maps, including the Japan Expressway map in English, are sometimes available on request at larger rest areas in the expressway system.

Tokyo Expressways
Simplified, the expressways are laid out like a wheel with spokes. The C1, or Shuto Expressway, is the wheel. Most of the other expressways are the spokes and are numbered consecutively around the wheel. Therefore, when driving into Tokyo on the Chuo, Expressway #4, you will go into the wheel and follow it until your desired expressway takes you away. The numbered expressways (or spokes) run clockwise around the wheel, starting at the southeast section of Tokyo.
Exceptions include Expressway #1, which runs north and south on the east side of Tokyo. Expressways 1-South, 2, and 3 are south of the Chuo and 5, 1-North, 6, 7 and 9 are north of the Chuo. So, if you’re driving to the New Sanno, you will take #4 (Chuo), which will run into C1 (Shuto), and follow the #2 signs which will take you to the New Sanno exit, which is Exit #201. If you’re going to Narita, you will still follow the Chuo and Shuto, but will follow #7 signs directly to Narita. One easy place to get lost is in the Chiyoda Tunnel. This is where you will either take the right fork for Expressways 1-South, 2 and 3, or the left fork for Expressways 5, 1- North, 6, 7 or 9. If you take the wrong fork, you can just continue around on the Shuto and pick up the correct expressway again, although this might take some time.
For specifics and updates, check with the information desks at the Yujo Community Center or New Sanno. Judy Harvey, Sherri Park

Hachioji Bypass & Chuo Expressway
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate, setting your trip meter to zero, and carefully follow the signs for Route 16 until you see the signs for the Hachioji Bypass. At 3.2 km, Route 16 will take a left. At 4.7 km it will take a right. You will pass the big round bathhouse on your left and continue on the bridge over the river. If you are going to the Hachioji bypass, a sign will direct you to take a left at 7.4. Continue straight for a short way further to enter the Chuo Expressway on the left. Brian Marriott 6/02

Shortcut to Route 16 from the East Gate:
Turn right out the East Gate/0K, turn right at the first or second light 0.6K/Family Mart and follow the base perimeter road, turning right again at 2.5K/NishisunaNakasato. Stay on this road (Rt 220) past the South/Golf Course Gate, through 4 lights (over railroad tracks, then through an underpass under another set of tracks until the road ends), turn left at the T (3.7K/Akishima Fire Stn). Turn right at the third light, 5.2K/ShowaKaikan Kita, and stay on this road through another light and over tracks. Bear left at the second light. The next light will intersect at Route 16 before it crosses the Haijimabashi Bridge.

If you live on other sides of Yokota, there are other shortcuts, some via Rt 29/ShinOkutama Kaido parallel to Rt. 16. All these shortcuts may eliminate 20-30 minutes from traffic jams on Rt. 16.

Want to use your GPS navigator in Japan? Read about it HERE.

Japan by Rail

Using GPS to navigate Japan

Maybe you already own a Garmin or TomTom GPS navigator that has served you reliably all over the world. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just download Japan maps for it? Unfortunately, neither Garmin nor TomTom — the two most popular U.S. sat-nav companies — make car navigation maps for Japan.

You can buy a Japanese sat-nav that will speak to you in English. The BX and the Auto Hobby Shop sell them. The most popular ones allow you to search by phone number. Users love that feature. (But they say you have to be careful that the phone number you have is actually linked to the location you’re trying to visit, rather than to a central office or a cell phone.)

You can also buy apps that will turn an iPhone or an iPod Touch into a GPS navigator. I have a friend who swears by Gogo Japan. It’s $49 — steep for an app, but he says it’s better than his stand-alone navigator. (It works without mobile Internet, so this may be a use for your U.S. cell phone that won’t work on a Japanese carrier.) It also allows you to search by phone number.

I opted for a third approach.  An outfit called Up Up Down that sells maps of Japan that will work on an American version of a Garmin navigator. You can download maps from their website. They only work for Garmin navigators, not any other brand. They cost about $250, so they’re not cheap, but they cover all of Japan, they’re in English and they work well most of the time. (Mine, though, has the annoying habit of telling me I have to exit expressways every few miles, even when I expect to be on the same road for hours.) As far as I know, this is the only company that makes Japan maps for an American Garmin. If you know of other third-party maps, please put it in the comment section below and tell us what kind of navigator they work on.
One caveat: You can’t search the Up Up Down map by address the way you would in the States. The Japanese address system is entirely different. (Read about that here.) You can search by pre-programmed Points of Interest or by a creating a Favorite to get back to a spot you’ve already located.

The most versatile search, though, is by GPS coordinates. Plug them into your navigator, your iPhone or Googlemaps on your computer and you can direct yourself to the exact entrance of the parking lot. Just be aware that there are different formats. Here, for example, are three different ways to describe the location of Fussa Gate:

35°N 44′ 32″, 139°E 20′ 17″  (Degrees, minutes, seconds.)

35°N 44.5440, 139°E 20.2859  (Degree, minutes.decimals)

35.7424, 139.3381  (Degrees.decimals)

In this guide, we’re opting for the third format because we think it’s simplest: Degrees and decimals thereof. If you use a navigator, make sure to change to this format in the settings. You can map a spot just entering the coordinates — i.e. “35.7424, 139.3381″ — in Google Maps. (You may not need to use North or East. That’s implied by the positive number. If it was Southern or Western Hemisphere, it’d have a minus sign in front. Also, the exact number of digits after the decimal point is unimportant. Your navigator requires five digits after the decimal but you only have four? Just add zeros at the end. “35.55” is the same as “35.5500”.)
Want to find the coordinates of any spot on Earth? If you can find it on Google Maps, you can get the coordinates. Just right-click on the map (or option-click if using a Mac) and select “What’s here?” The coordinates will automatically pop up in the search box. Need to convert to another format? Here’s a converter.
One last warning: The roads on the base are probably “non-routable” for your navigator. The device may come up with a route for you, but it will likely be a crazy one. Wait until you reach the gate to press “Find Route.” Likewise, do not set your on-base home as “Home” on your navigator. Sure, it’ll show your location on the map just fine, but it will likely build an insane route to it. Liz Ruskin, 2012.

 

 

 

Getting your car fixed

Auto repair shops

  • AAFES garage: On Yokota’s West Side, Bldg. 1293. (Sometimes called the BX Garage or the Auto Care Center.) Does JCI inspections and some repairs. 1-214-261-2114 or DSN 976-2114. Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-5pm, Sat 9-5. Sun Closed
  • Ushihama’s Garage: A number of people recommend Ushihama’s. It is across Rt. 16 from the base, between the Fussa and Terminal gates. It’s at the Shorin Dori intersection, by George’s used car lot. The owner speaks English. Tel. 042-553-0350
  • Auto Skills Center: 30-minute oil changes, minor repair services, parts ordering, do-it-yourself auto repairs, and auto repair classes. Located near the high school. Building 4086. DSN: 225-7623.

Auto Parts Stores

  • Autobacs: Autobacs is a chain of automotive parts stores. The closest can be reached by turning left out the East Gate then turning right at the first light. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn right. Autobacs will be before the next light on your right.
  • Driver Stand: On Yanagi Dori, two lights past Do-It. Drive straight out the Fussa Gate. Bear to the right at the “Y”. Turn right at the second light past the “Y.” Go straight for about 4.5 km. It will be after Sabaecho 2 Intersection, but before Sabaecho 1 Intersection. A second Driver Stand is on Shin Ome Kaido, just before the Yellow Hat (see below).
  • Yellow Hat: On Shin Ome Kaido, just beyond Outdoor World. Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light turn right. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn left. Drive straight through three lights until the road ends at the fourth light (Shin Ome Kaido, Mos Burger on the left). Turn right onto Shin Ome Kaido and drive for about 3.5 km. Yellow Hat is on the right with a large English sign, just past Drivers Stand.

Brian Marriott. Updated 2011.

How to buy a car from a private individual
Once you’ve agreed to buy someone’s car, start by getting insurance. Take the car information, including serial number, or the entire packet of documents if the owner will part with them. Two of the most convenient places to buy insurance are the agency in the Yujo Center and George’s Insurance, right next to Blue Seal ice cream shop (go out the Supply Gate, turn right on Route 16 and it’s on the corner at the first light.)
Next, the buyer and seller should go to Pass & Registration, at the Supply Gate. The owner will have to scrape the round sticker off the windshield. The folks behind the desk will give the new owner  a temporary base pass. Now, you bounce like a pingpong ball between Pass & Reg and your insurance agents. It’s easy enough. Just follow their instructions. They’ll tell you where you need to go.
Remember, as you’re withdrawing cash for the purchase, to get a few hundred dollars more than the purchase price to cover insurance, registration and fees. Liz Ruskin, 2012.

 

Japan by Rail

The Yujo Community Center is a great place to start your adventure on the rails. It has English versions of the train and subway maps that are invaluable. The Airman and Family Readiness Center also offers a one-day train-riding class  – more of a field trip, really – for those who want expert coaching.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll find these two websites invaluable:

www.hyperdia.com/cgi-english
www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae

Both have free online route planners to plot your optimal itinerary.

Also, this train system map, showing JR East trains, is helpful.
Yokotans usually catch the train at Fussa Station, on the Ome Line of Japan Railway (JR East). There is a closer station at Higashi Fussa on the Hachiko Line but it is not the quickest way to Tokyo. Many of us park at the Fussa Gate and walk to the station. It takes about 15 minutes. Parking is limited near the station. The closest is the garage at the Seiyu, which charges ¥150 per half hour. (Store purchases of ¥3000 or more gets you a maximum of four hours free parking). Some of the other lots are run by Times Parking which charges up to ¥1000 per 24 hours. (East Side residents sometimes prefer parking at Moritown Shopping Center to catch the train at Akishima, a few stations closer to Tokyo on the Ome Line.) Underground bicycle parking is available for ¥100 per day via the ramp outside the grocery entrance of Seiyu.
DIRECTIONS TO FUSSA STATION: Walk out the Fussa Gate, cross Rt. 16 and continue straight. Cross the tracks and continue walking. Veer right through a “Y” intersection. Go through one traffic light and continue walking until you come to the second traffic light. The cross street at this intersection is called Yanagi Dori. Turn right. Up ahead on the left you will see Seiyu department store. The train station is also on the left, just before Seiyu. To reach it, turn left at the first street intersecting Yanagi Dori, and follow it as it curves around to the right.

Getting Your Ticket
You can still get an old-fashioned ticket, but for a slicker travel experience, you’ll want a Suica. These are rechargeable plastic cards you wave over a sensor at the turnstiles, coming and going. You can use it on trains, subways and some buses in Tokyo. You can buy one from the ticket machines at Fussa station. Press the button for “English” and follow the instructions. The cost, as of late 2010, is ¥2000 for a card that comes with ¥1500 credit already on it. You can recharge the card at the tickets machines, on both sides of the turnstiles, but you have to use cash. For full details: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html – category02.
But let’s say you need to buy an old-fashioned ticket. When you get to the station, go up the stairs and you will see the ticket booth and ticket machines, just past where the attendant sits. Look at the charts to the left of the machines to figure out the fare to where you are going. The map will show the Ome Line leading into Tachikawa, the seventh stop from Fussa. It becomes the Chuo Mainline after Tachikawa and continues into Tokyo. Once you have found your fare, go to the ticket machine and put your money in the coin slot or the bill feed. The buttons will light up, indicating the tickets you can purchase for that amount. Push the button for the fare that you want. A ticket will come out of the machine along with change. Now go to the turnstile to enter the station. Insert your ticket and it will come out the slot at the other end. Keep your ticket because you need it to exit at your destination.

Riding the Train
Walk down the stairs to the train platform. You will find that one side of the platform has trains that go toward Ome or Okutama, into the mountains away from Tokyo. The other side is for trains to Haijima, Tachikawa and Tokyo. A train schedule is posted on the platform and the electronic sign will tell you when the next train arrives. Some trains terminate at Tachikawa. Others continue on to Tokyo, but you probably want to change at Tachikawa to a faster train.
Two types of trains leave Tachikawa station toward Tokyo. One is Rapid (Kaisoku), which stops at almost every station and takes about 50 minutes to reach Shinjuku. The other is the Special Rapid (Tokubetsu Kaisoku), which makes about four stops before Shinjuku. It takes about 35 minutes to reach Shinjuku. On the schedule, the Special Rapid train times are highlighted. Some things to keep in mind: smoking is not permitted on the trains, and it is impolite to eat or drink. Don’t play music without headphones, talk loudly, or disturb the people who are reading, sleeping or meditating. Posted signs request you put cell phones on silent mode and refrain from talking on them.

Getting Back to Fussa Station

Returning from Tokyo isn’t too challenging. It takes about an hour and a half. If you are anywhere near Tokyo Station, consider going there to catch the train. It is the beginning of the line and you can usually get a seat. Go to tracks 1 and 2 to catch any train to Tachikawa, Toyoda, Takao or Ome. Unless you happen to get the Tokubetsu Kaisoku Special Rapid for Ome (about one per hour 10am-5pm), you will need to transfer at Tachikawa. When you arrive at Tachikawa, go to Tracks 2 or 3 and catch a train for Ome, Okutama, or Kabe, all of which stop at Fussa. (Ome trains sometimes arrive and depart from Track 7; when changing trains, look up at the platform guides showing the trains coming in for the next train to Ome.) Remember the last train from Tachikawa to Fussa leaves about 12:40am. You will need to leave Tokyo in time to catch it or be prepared for a long walk, large taxi bill or long wait. The next train for Fussa leaves after 4am!

Higashi-Fussa Station
The Hachiko Line is accessible from the Higashi-Fussa Station and train schedules are available from the Yujo Community Center. You can use this train to get to Hachioji, Kawagoe, Yokohama or Yokosuka. It also connects with the Sagamihara Line to get to the Tama area. DIRECTIONS: Walk out the Fussa Gate and go right. At the first light, turn left. At the first street, Waratsuke Kaido (before the tracks) turn right. The station is half a block ahead on the left. This station is small. There’s no actual turnstile, but there’s a Suica reader you need to flash at the stairs down to the platform. Pay attention: There are separate machines for exiting and entering. Or, if you need to buy a ticket and the ticket machine is often turned off, just get on the train and buy your ticket either from the conductor, or from the fare adjustment window. They will figure your fare for you. When you return home, the conductor usually collects tickets as you leave the platform.

Some Helpful Kanji – Hiragana
TOKYO
____________東京_____とうきょう_________________
SHINJUKU
____________新宿______しんじゅく________________
TACHIKAWA
____________立川______たちかわ____________(aka “shake and fries”)
HACHIOJI
____________八王子____はちおうじ__________________
FUSSA
____________福生_______ふっさ_______________
OME
____________青梅_______おうめ_______________
OKUTAMA
____________奥多摩_____おくたま_________________

One-Day Tickets & Prepaid Cards
If you are going to be traveling all day in Tokyo, you might want to buy a pass for unlimited riding. You can get the pass at Fussa Station and it costs ¥1600 for adults and ¥800 for children. Ask for the Tokunai Free Pass. There are also One Day Free tickets for the subways that cost ¥700 for adults and ¥350 for children. You can get these passes at Shinjuku, other large subway stations, and the New Sanno Travel Desk. You can also check with the Yujo Community Center to get more information about these passes. If you owe some on your last ride, you will be told so by the fare-adjustment machine near the exit.

Seibu-Shinjuku Line

More adventurous souls might try taking the Seibu Shinjuku Line from Seibu Tachikawa or Haijima stations. It costs about half the fare of the Chuo/Ome Line. The station names appear on signs printed in romaji (English) along most of the route. Be warned, however, the trains themselves are usually labeled only in kanji. The train stops at Takadanobaba on the Yamanote Line. When you get off the train, follow the signs for JR Yamanote Line. Go upstairs and walk over, and across, to the next platform. Turn in your ticket at the window at the top of the stairs and tell the clerk your destination on the Yamanote Line to get a transfer ticket. Or you may decide to ride the train to the end of the line at Seibu Shinjuku Station. This station is separated by a short, slightly complicated walk from the west exit of the main JR Shinjuku Station. To get to the JR, use the underground tunnels and follow the signs in English. The Seibu Tachikawa station offers Kyuko rapid service in the morning before 9am, which only takes 45min to Seibu Shinjuku. The regular trip takes about one hour, just a bit faster than the Ome and Chuo Lines. If you get off before Shinjuku at Takadanobaba you can catch the Yamanote easily without transfers at Tachikawa. Takadanobaba also gives access to the Tozai subway.
DIRECTIONS: To get to the Seibu Tachikawa Station, go out the East Gate and turn right. At the first light, turn left. The next light you come to will be a five-way intersection. Take a hard right and continue down this street until you cross the train tracks. Turn right just past the tracks and follow the little lane into the train station parking lot. Warning: There is no parking at this station, so have someone drop you off. Motorcycle, scooter or bicycle parking is available and Seibu Tachikawa Station is a close ride from the East Gate. You can always walk, if you are active. It takes about twenty-five minutes from the gate. If you are biking, there is a free place to park and a shorter walking route by going out the East Gate and turning right. Stay on this route until the road narrows and becomes one lane as you cross the Seibu Shinjuku line tracks (about seven minutes). Just after the tracks, you will see the bicycle parking on the right. Just before the tracks you could park a scooter with no problem. Then, to get to the station, follow the paved path parallel to the tracks on the outside of the fence. If someone is dropping you off, get out just before the tracks and the driver can turn around easily. Returning to Seibu Tachikawa can be tricky. Trains for different destinations depart from the same platform at Seibu Shinjuku or Takadanobaba station. Always get on one of the two front cars because the train sometimes splits at Kodaira or Hagiyama stations. The front part always goes to Haijima, the back part may go elsewhere. As with all trains, if you make a mistake, you can always get off, turn around and come back, so no real damage is done.

Taking the bullet train

Taking to the Roads

Space-A Travel

Japan by Air

Getting to the Airport

Getting to Narita Airport
You’ve got a number of options. You can:
•Drive, either your own car or a rented van from Services.
•Take the shuttle from the Kanto Lodge or the New Sanno Hotel.
•Take a commercial Shuttle from Tachikawa
•Take the train.
The shuttle is the easiest and probably the cheapest. If you choose train, you could take a Japan Railway (JR) Train to Shinjuku, Ueno or Tokyo stations and then catch the JR Narita Express, Tokkyu Wing express, or Keisei Skyliner trains. Reservations may be needed for the express trains and fares are about ¥3,000 per seat from Shinjuku.  The Narita Express train  leaves twice a day from Tachikawa, both times early in the morning.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS:
Before you venture off to Narita for the first time, consult your maps and check with the helpful people manning the Yujo Community Center desk about new roads and road closures. They produce a handy flyer showing expressway routes to Narita. It’s a long trip, between two and five hours one way. Follow the directions to the Chuo Expressway, and enter the expressway towards Shinjuku. Familiarize yourself with the Expressway number code. Follow #4 all the way into Tokyo. Ten km before you come to the actual turnoff you will start picking up another expressway, #7.Keep changing to stay in the lane marked #7. A number 7 will be posted directly over the lane you must follow. Expressway #7 will take you straight to Narita International Airport, making this route comparatively uncomplicated.
Another sometimes scenic route is via #3 and #2 across Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge toward the Higashi Kanto Expressway. Once at Narita, follow the signs for inbound passenger traffic. All parking is paid parking. Once you have met the arriving party and gathered the luggage, you may bring your car around to the entrance for easier loading. Retrace your steps to return to the base, or follow #7 to #4 and drive to the Hachioji exit, no. 5. You will see a sign telling you the exit is 8 km farther. Next, you will pass a rest stop on your left.
The next sign will tell you the Hachioji exits are in 1 km. There are two exits, 5 and 5-2. (Exit 5-2 is the exit for Yokota.) Stay on your left and follow the offramp around to the tollgates and pay your fees. Immediately after the tollgates, you will come to a fork, marked Hachioji to the left and Akishima to the right. Go right and follow the ramp around, where it runs into Rt. 16. Follow Rt. 16 back to the base. The toll for the round trip will be over ¥5000.

Meeting Arrivals at Narita
If meeting outside customs, confirm whether the arrival is at Terminal 1 or Terminal 2.
Narita International Airport Info: (0476) 32-2800; 0476345000
http://www.narita-airport.jp/en.

Narita Shuttle Bus
The simplest way to get to the airport is to take the shuttle bus that goes from Yokota to Narita International Airport every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Three buses depart Yokota’s Kanto Lodge at 9am, 11am and 1pm (starting from the East Side 30 minutes before). They arrive at Narita at about 12:30pm, 2:30pm and 4:30pm. They return from Narita at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. A one-way trip for leisure travelers costs $40 per adult and $30 per child. You may sponsor a visitor to ride the bus, even if you cannot be there to pick them up in person (check details in advance and note you may need to meet your visitors at the Fussa Gate to sign them onto base). Look for an up-to-date schedule at the Kanto Lodge or the Yujo Center. For more information: http://www.yokotasupport.com/wp-content/uploads/shuttle-schedule-jan15.pdf.

If those times don’t work for you, consider taking a commercial shuttle from Tachikawa to Narita. The Airport Limousine Bus is convenient to the train station. Or, if you have a ride, you can pick it up at the Palace Hotel in Tachikawa. Buy your tickets (¥3500 per adult) and make reservations the day before. Details are on the Airport Limousine Bus website. Liz Ruskin, 2011.

Haneda Airport
If you fly within Japan, chances are your flight will originate at Haneda Airport. Haneda is on the southeast side of Tokyo, along the bay. The easiest way to get there is by shuttle bus from Tachikawa, but you can also go by train.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome/Chuo Line to its end at Tokyo Station. Transfer to the green Yamanote line and go three stops to Hamamatsucho Station (toward Shinagawa) and change to the monorail, which ends at Haneda Airport. Keikyu Railways also operates train service from Shinagawa Station to Haneda Airport. Note there is also more than one terminal at Haneda.
SHUTTLE DIRECTIONS: You can catch a shuttle to Haneda from Tachikawa. Details are on this website. Or try the Keihin Kyuko Bus, http://hnd-bus.com/route/haijima.html.

Looking around

Local Tours and Maps

Tours are conducted by Services/ITT Travel, Outdoor Recreation, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, various sports clubs, etc. Some are overnight trips; most are day trips. Stop by the Yujo Community Center and pick up the latest brochures on its trips, plus driving and/or train maps for other adventures. Check the Horizons magazine for outings. Need more information? Visit www.yokotasupport.com and/or contact the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at 225-8725.

About Yokota
www.374th-services.org, www.yokota.af.mil
www.yokotasupport.com
The library’s webpage, with an online catalog and the ability to reserve and renew books via the Internet: http://yokotalibrary.ad.umuc.edu

http://myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil
www.facebook.com/pages/Yokota-Air-Base-Japan/131001683600206

More Tourist Information and Websites
Free maps and information on Tokyo and Japan can be found in several locations including the arrival lobby at Narita Airport, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku, and the Tourist Information Center (03-3201-3331) on the 10th Floor of the Kotsu Kaikan building opposite Yurakucho Station on the Yamanote Line one stop south of Tokyo Station. As hours for specific locations vary, check www.discover-japan.info/generalinfo_tourist.htm
www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp
Japan National Tourist Organization: www.jnto.go.jp.
www.japantimes.co.jp – an online version of the Japan Times newspaper
www.metropolis.co.jp – Metropolis Magazine showing events, cultural news, restaurant reviews, etc.
www.udo.co.jp/english/ – calendar of concerts coming to Tokyo, listed by artist.

The Japanese Postal Service 〒

The red, double-crossed capital T is the symbol of the postal service. It is used on maps to indicate the location of post offices. It is also displayed at places where stamps are sold. If you live off-base, you can pay your electric and telephone bills at any Japanese post office or convenience store.
If you send mail through the Japanese postal system, the post office on base requests you use your Japanese address, not the APO address. Your Japanese address looks like this:

Your Name
PSC Box Number Here
Yokota AB, Fussa Shi
Tokyo 197-0001

If you have the correct postage you can mail postcards and letters through the orange Japanese mailbox outside the post office

Postal Dimensions
The sizes of Japanese cards and envelopes are different from American standards. If you send something the wrong size, you may get your posted item back with a note showing the amount of insufficient postage. For delivery at the standard rate, postcard dimensions must be between 14-23.5 cm long and 9-12 cm wide. Envelopes should be 14-23.5 cm long and between 9-12 cm wide and not more than 1cm thick. The ends of American business envelopes can be folded over and taped.

For the rules in full, see www.post.japanpost.jp/english/fee/domestic/letter.html

Post Offices Near Yokota
•Main Fussa Post Office
DIRECTIONS: Go straight out the Fussa gate, cross the tracks and veer left at the ”Y”. Cross the next set of tracks and on down to Okutama Kaido. The post office is on the far right corner. The post office has a tiny parking lot inside the walls, to the right of the building on Okutama Kaido.

•Higashi Fussa
DIRECTIONS: Make a right out the Fussa gate onto Rt. 16 and then a left at the signal for Higashi Fussa station. Cross the tracks. At the traffic light, go straight ahead you’ll see the post office on the left, just before the next set of traffic lights. There is parking available in a dirt lot on the left just before the Post Office. Since there are only two designated spaces, it’s sometimes easier to park on the side street near the intersection before the post office.

•Matsunaka-Danchi
DIRECTIONS: Turn right out the East Gate, left at the light, then hard right at the five-way intersection. Go several blocks down the tree-lined avenue with apartment buildings on either side. There’s a tiny post office on the far right corner of the second large intersection.

•Akiruno Post Office
This one is a little further but it is where you may have to go if someone sends you registered mail through the Japanese post and you get a Non-Deliverable Notice in your PSC box. Address: 3-2-1 Akigawa, Akiruno-shi. GPS: 35.731550, 139.285394. DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate and right at the first light. Stay on this road across the Tama River. When you reach Akigawa Station, turn right onto the divided road in front of Tokyu Department Store. Turn left at the light near the end of the block. The post office will be on your right.

For more information on deciphering Japanese addresses, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_addressing_system

American Embassy

DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and change to the Chuo Line for Tokyo. Get off at Kanda Station and exit by the middle staircase. Find the orange Ginza Subway Line. Take it toward Ginza and Shibuya. Get off at Toranomon, 3 stops after Ginza. Take Exit #3 out of Toranomon Station. Look for the Mitsui Building. To the left of the Mitsui Building is a wonderful temple and garden in the midst of all the skyscrapers. You will see Alitalia and Lufthansa offices on your left. When you see the NCR sign, turn left and cross the street. You will see the U.S. Embassy straight ahead with its flag outside a bronze building (opposite the Hotel Okura). Carol Davis
Embassy Office Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30am-5:30pm; closed Saturday, Sunday and holidays.
Embassy Operator (off-base) 03-3224-5000 or (DSN) 224-5000
Passports 224-5170     Visas 224-5125

How to Phone in Japan

Emergency phone calls

  • If you’re on base, at a landline, dial 911 to get the Yokota ambulance.
  • If you’re on-base dialing from a cell phone, call 042-552-2511 (STORE THIS IN YOUR CELL PHONE NOW!)  to get the base switchboard, then dial 911.

Off-Base Emergencies
Ambulance 119
Fire 119
Police 110

Itching to get a cell phone?
The major carriers are Softbank and DoCoMo, plus AU. They offer comparable two-year contract plans, with per-minute charges in addition to the monthly fee.
Softbank is in the Yokota Community Center, down the hall from the Commissary. It was the sole official iPhone carrier until AU jumped into the game with the iPhone 4s.  An iPhone contract in Japan runs $50 to $90 a month. If you want to save some yen, consider a prepaid plan. Softbank and AU have them. They allow you to purchase a cheap phone and buy minutes — online or at a convenience store — as you need them, with no monthly payment. This is an inexpensive route for people who don’t talk much – or who answer but rarely dial. (In Japan, only the caller pays. Receiving calls is always free.)

Amazon, we’ve read, will soon be offering prepaid phone service on SIM cards. The cards will work in DoCoMo phones, and maybe in American cell phones, too. (The phone, though, has to be of the kind that takes a SIM card. So AT&T phone and T-Mobile phones should work if they’re unlocked. Verizon phones won’t.)
Prepaid phone service is fairly rare in Japan. Even rarer, though, is prepaid phone service that includes mobile Internet. Most carriers don’t offer it. But everyone offers texting, and in Japan the service is far more valuable than it is in the U.S. That’s because in Japan texting isn’t limited to cell phones. You can send texts from your phone to email addresses, and people can send emails to your phone. With Softbank’s prepaid service, you can add texting for a flat ¥300 a month.
If you don’t require the latest model phone, you can often find used Softbank prepaid phones on www.YokotaAds.com and Yokota Swap. The major drawback to Softbank is reception. It is generally believed that DoCoMo and AU have a stronger, more reliable signal.
The people at the Softbank store in the YCC can explain all their plans to you in English, of course. On the web: http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/military.
For DoCoMo, you can pick up an English services guide at one of its shops. There’s one in central Fussa with designated English-speakers on staff.
WALKING DIRECTIONS to DoCoMo in Fussa: Go out the Fussa Gate, cross one set of tracks and stay left at the “Y”. Keep going straight as you cross another set of tracks. Turn left at the next light, onto Rt. 29. (Beware: Several streets in the area are labeled 29.) The DoCoMo shop is about a block and a half from the light, on the corner at a “T” intersection. GPS 35.738310, 139.327307 On the web: www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service.
DoCoMo’s English line: 0120-005-250.
To read more about AU: www.au.kddi.com/english. It has ardent supporters on base who swear they get better reception at lower cost. It is also one of the official iPhone carriers in Japan.

iPhones
Already own an iPhone? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your U.S. model working as a local Japanese phone? If your phone is not locked to a U.S. carrier, go right ahead! Drop in a Japanese SIM and you’re ready to go.  If you got your phone on a U.S. contract, chances are you’ll need to unlock it. This is tricky. It’s no job for a technophobe, but you can read more about it here. Liz Ruskin 2010. Updated 2012.

Calling the base
To call the Yokota operator from off-base, or from your Japanese cell phone, dial 042-552-2511. ENTER THIS NUMBER NOW IN YOUR CELL PHONE DIRECTORY! Why is this so important? See the “Emergency” section above.

Toll-free numbers begin with 0120 or 0088. Most cell phone numbers begin 080 or 090.

Medical Treatment Service: 03-5285-8181 9am-8pm (weekdays only). To find out which hospitals have foreign language translators.
First Aid Translation Service: 03-5285-8185  9am-8 pm every day (including weekends). If you have a language problem in the hospital, they can assist you.
Tokyo English Life Line: 03-5721-4347. 9am-4pm & 7-11pm. For counseling on suicide, domestic abuse, etc.,
Japan Helpline (24 hrs): 0120-46-1997

Other U.S. Bases in Japan
Camp Fuji (0550) 89-1062
Camp Courtney (098) 972-6700
Iwakuni MCAS (0827) 21-4171
Kadena AB (098) 938-1111
Misawa AB (0176) 53-5181
New Sanno (03) 440-7871
Sasebo NB (0956) 24-6111
Yokosuka NB (0468) 26-1911
Camp Zama (0462) 51-1520

Public Telephones
The green and digital telephones accept both coins and prepaid telephone cards sold at train station kiosks and convenience stores. Local, long distance and international calls can be made from the green phones.
For directory information in English, dial the NTT Information Service at 03-5295-1010 (0900-1700 Mon-Fri, 0900- 1200 Sat; 3 minutes cost ¥10). For an operator-assisted overseas call, dial 0051. Another source for business listings is Tokyo Doko at www.tokyodoko.com.

Japanese National Holidays

Watch out for these dates at you plan your travels, because they are official holidays in Japan and you’ll be traveling with the throng.

January 1 – New Year’s Day
Second Monday of January – Coming of Age Day
Feb 11 – National Founding Day
March 20 (or 21) – Vernal Equinox
April 29 – Showa Day
May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day
May 4 – Greenery Day
May 5 – Children’s Day
Third Monday of July – Marine Day
August 11 – Mountain Day
Third Monday of September – Respect for the Aged Day
September 22 (or 23) – Autumnal Equinox
October 10 – Health and Sports Day
November 3 – Culture Day
November 23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day
December 23 – The Emperor’s Birthday

Japan has several seasonal vacations when children are out of school and companies close down. These are periods of heavy travel. Prices increase and hotel rooms are in short supply. On the other hand, these are great times for sightseeing around Tokyo since everyone else is out of town!

New Year’s break: Many merchants and companies close around December 28 and reopen about January 5. Governments and banks take a shorter vacation, from about the 3lst to the 3rd.
Summer vacation: School summer vacation runs from about July 19 to around September 1. Watch out for O Bon, usually the week of August 15 but held in some places in mid-July, when Japanese often travel to their hometowns to be with family and friends.
April and “Golden Week”: Japanese schools break for two to three weeks in April, when their academic year ends. This often coincides with the American spring break.  Then, from the end of April to the beginning of May, there is a period known as “Golden Week.” It incorporates three national holidays: April 29 (Green Day), May 3 (Constitution Memorial Day), and May 5 (Children’s Day). Companies often give employees the days between the holidays off. Since the weather tends to be good, many Japanese visit resorts, or travel abroad.
During the summer and winter holidays, especially at the beginning and end of the mass exoduses to the beach or ski resorts, stay home! Listen to the news to find out when the outgoing and return traffic rushes are expected and avoid travel during those times. Teresa K. Negley 2010

Religion

Shrines and Temples – Etiquette

Shrines are places of worship in the Shinto religion, an ancient faith indigenous to Japan. Shrines usually have torii gates (two pillars with two cross bars) at the entrances to their grounds, and jagged paper emblems or symbolic ropes in front of the altars. Temples, on the other hand, are Buddhist. They are often marked on maps with a symbol resembling a backward swastika. Sometimes, both are present on the same grounds. These are places of worship, so dress appropriately (no bare shoulders or short shorts), and behave respectfully. When entering certain locations, visitors may be asked to take off their shoes. Look for signs requesting this, or shelves where shoes may be left. Some temples and shrines allow photography. Others do not. Check for signs. If unsure, be courteous and ask before taking pictures, especially of interior areas. Louise McCormack

If you like, you can participate in the rituals worshippers practice when they go to a shrine:
Pass under the torii gate and walk through the ‘sando’ or approach to the shrine. At the hand-washing (or purification) stone basin, wash your hands thoroughly. With a dipper, pour water into the cupped hand and then bring the water to the mouth, gargle but do not swallow. Do not bring the dipper directly to the mouth. Advance before the god enshrined. Throw coins or paper currency into the offering box. The worshipper then bows deeply two times. After that, they clap their hands twice and then make a deep bow once more.

Worshippers at a Temple will often burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. They are purchased in bundles, then lit, allowed to burn for a few seconds and then the flame is extinguished by waving the hand rather than by blowing them out. Finally, the incense is put into the incense burner and some of the smoke is fanned towards the worshipper as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.

Area Churches with Services in English

Check at the base chapel for more services and points of contact.
Kanto Plains Baptist Church     042-551-1915
New Light Fellowship         042-553-8040
Tokyo Baptist Church         03-3461-8425
Yokota Baptist Church         042-553-2577
Apostolic United Pentecostal Church     042-553-1159
St. Alban’s Anglican/Episcopal Church     03-3431-8534
Yokota Christian Center         042-551-4772
Yokota Church of Christ         227-6028
Calvary Conservative Baptist Church     042-557-0654
Saint Anselm’s Benedictine Priory (Roman Catholic)     03-3491-6966
St. Paul International Lutheran Church, Tokyo         03-3261-3740
Independent Church of Deliverance             042-552-9679
Franciscan Chapel Center (Roman Catholic)         03-3401-2141/2142
Tokyo Union Church                     03-3400-0047
Tokyo International Church of Seventh-day Adventists     03-3402-1517