General

Dining Out

I don’t speak any Japanese. Am I going to be able to dine out?

Your first time dining out may be a bit of a difficult experience, but not an impossible one. One can always resort to pointing at what they want on the menu. If possible, try to bring a Japanese friend or classmate with you to see how the process works.

I’ve heard that Japanese people slurp their noodles.

Yes they do. Please don’t be offended by this, as it’s not considered rude here, and by all means, give it a try yourself.

How do I pay at a restaurant?

At a Japanese restaurant, you usually cannot pay at the table. Please note that cash is still king in Japan. It’s very likely that the restaurant you’re dining at does not accept credit cards, so make sure to have cash on hand unless you’re sure they do.

Friends

What should I do if I want to make Japanese friends?

There is any number of different ways to make friends, and it’s entirely up to you how to choose to do so. There are a number of websites, where Japanese people are interested in making friends with foreigners or doing a language exchange. After you arrive, try asking other students who have been here for a while how they made friends.

General

Are there any websites that have general information about living in Japan?

While there are many websites that offer information about living in Japan, such as those by people who have lived in Japan before, below are links to the US Department of State and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth websites. While some of the information is specific to US and UK nationals only, both websites offer good information in English on Japan as a country, and things you may need/want to know before coming.
http://travel.state.gov/travel/japan.html
http://www.fco.gov.uk
Another widely used site for information on living and traveling in Japan would be Japan section on about.com.
http://gojapan.about.com

Shopping

What is shopping like in Japan?

Shopping in Japan can be an interesting experience for westerners. Sales people generally will not approach you while you’re shopping; especially foreigners, as they’re unsure whether or not you can speak Japanese. Don’t take offense to this. If you have a question, ask.

Can I pay by credit card when shopping?

As mentioned above in regards to paying at a restaurant, credit cards are not the prevalent form of payment in Japan, so be sure to bring cash with you when you shop. ATMs are located in a lot of shopping malls and the like, but remember, if you’re using a foreign issued card, they will not work at ATMs other than the ones at Post Offices.

Another thing to know in regards to paying when shopping, Japanese people in general don’t pass cash or coins by hand. You’ll almost always see a small tray on the counter, by the register or affixed to the register. This is where you should place your money or credit card, and where the sales clerk will return your change and receipt.

What are Point Cards?

Point Cards are a type of rewards card for the specific store that you’re shopping at. They are very popular in Japan, and can be found at almost any major and even smaller size stores, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. Once you acquire a certain amount of points, which always varies by store, you can receive things like discounts off your next purchase, prizes, etc.

Where can I find a good bookstore?

For the most part bookstores only sell Japanese language content. Magazines, maps, dictionaries and such are also available in most of the shops. For foreign books, the best options would be to go to a bookstore in Nagoya such as Maruzen, Kinokuniya, etc., or order online from amazon.co.jp, which is usually faster in terms of delivery than amazon.com. If you can’t read Japanese, use amazon.com first to find your book, then copy the ISBN number to the Japanese site. The actual ordering pages (i.e. credit card details, confirmation, etc) can be displayed in English.