Preparing for Travel
Japanese summers have a reputation for being hot and humid, but with smart travel they are more than manageable. The ISS strategically travels north as the summer progresses, and transportation, accommodations, and most venues will be air-conditioned. In addition, we'll arrive in Yamagata as its famous safflower fields bloom! This chance to participate in the once-a-year harvest and prepare beni-mochi safflower dye cakes will be a unique and very special experience.
Average High and Low Temperatures in Late June / Early July:
Inland Sea 19°C - 28°C (67°F - 82°F)
Kyōto 18°C - 32°C (65°F - 89°F)
Nagoya 20°C - 29°C (68°F - 84°F)
Tōkyō 19°C - 30°C (66°F - 85°F)
Yonezawa & Yamagata 15°C - 28°C (60°F - 82°F)
Passport & Visas
Make sure your passport is valid and has at least two blank pages. Check with your country of origin for specific passport recommendations.
Make copies of your passport ID page (and Japanese visa, if applicable) and leave one with a trusted individual (preferably your emergency contact) at home. Carry one copy with you separately from the original passport. Email a third copy to the ISS organizers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Advance visas are not required for visitors from most European countries, Australia and North America (you will be issued a 90-day "temporary visitor" tourist visa upon arrival). Check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan or your nearest Japanese consulate or online information to see if you need to apply for a visa. If you do need to apply for a visa, you should apply for a "temporary visitor" tourist visa.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor, but routine vaccinations should be sufficient. Food, water, and health standards in Japan are comparable to the United States.
You must secure your own insurance in case of loss or emergency. You may want to check with your home or life insurance agency to see if they offer travel insurance or if your policy covers you while traveling. Some credit cards also offer complimentary travel insurance for trips related to purchases made on the card. More advice on buying travel insurance →
Traveling in Japan with dietary restrictions is possible, but much easier with advance preparation. The ISS prepares vegetarian options for its provided meals (please indicate on your registration that you are vegetarian). Registrants with dietary restrictions should prepare in advance by researching recommended foods and restaurants, and bring along snacks to supplement.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Vegetarianism and veganism is not well understood in Japan. Dairy and red meat are quite easy to avoid, but many dishes may contain a fish-based dashi broth. Listed below are some resources for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Japan. There are also many useful blog articles online accessible by a simple Google search.
Travelers on a gluten-free diet will want to avoid a traditional food made of pure wheat gluten called fu. Also be careful of soy sauce, barley in tea or soup, noodles, and miso. More advice for gluten-free travelers →
There are a small number of halal food producers and halal restaurants in Japan. There are some restaurants that label themselves as "halal" or "Muslim-friendly" and offer a halal menu in addition to their regular menu; however, their dishes were likely prepared in the same kitchen as non-halal dishes. Travelers should exercise personal discretion. Restaurants may require advance reservations to allow for the preparation of halal meals. More advice for Muslim travelers in Japan →
While credit cards can be used at major stores and restaurants, Japan is still largely a cash society and you will need to carry cash to shop at smaller stores and local restaurants, not to mention festival vendors, artisan shops, and markets you may encounter along the way. Thankfully the country is very safe and carrying cash with reasonable caution is completely commonplace.
Be sure to notify your credit and debit card companies of your upcoming travel to avoid issues using your cards while abroad!
Post offices’ Postal Bank ATMs and 7-11 convenience stores’ Seven Bank ATMs service foreign bank accounts. These ATMs are conveniently located in large cities we travel to; especially in Nagoya, Kyoto, and Tokyo. There are also ATMs you can use at the airports. You may want to plan ahead and pull out more cash in preparation for day trips or overnights to more remote locations such as Yonezawa.
In general, tipping is not a common practice in Japan. You do not tip waitstaff at restaurants.
In general, Japanese people dress elegantly and conservatively when out and about. Jeans, pants, and knee-length or longer skirts are more acceptable than shorts and short skirts. Bring layers such as a light sweater or scarf and jacket - although daytime will be warm, it can get cool at night and in air-conditioned buildings and vehicles. If you have visible tattoos, cover them as much as possible. Shoes should be practical and comfortable for walking, and easy to take on and off. One or two more formal outfits are good to prepare for nice restaurant dinners in Tōkyō or at Benesse House in the Inland Sea.
We encourage you to wear and show off your artful shibori, natural dyed, sashiko and patchwork, or handwoven wardrobe at the symposium!
What not to wear:
- Short skirts or shorts
- Low-cut tops
- Clothing that looks worn or ragged, or has holes (especially socks!)
- Swimsuits, unless you plan on going to a pool (public baths forbid swimsuits)
- Water bottle
- Handkerchief / hand towel
- Paper towels in public restrooms are uncommon and napkins in restaurants are very thin.
- Photocopy of your passport
- Name/business cards
- Small collapsible tote bag(s)
- You may find yourself hungry at odd hours between meals as you adjust to the time difference.
- Coffee and herbal teas
- Green tea is readily available. If you need full-bodied coffee, decaf, or herbal tea, it’s most convenient to bring your own. Starbucks and Peet’s coffee in the U.S. sell single‐serving instant coffee. All hotels have electric hot water kettles in their rooms.
- Good pair of walking shoes/sandals, easy to repeatedly take off and put on
- You will need to take off your shoes when entering Japanese households, buildings inside temples, and some restaurants.
- Socks or slip-on foot covers to cover bare feet
- Electricity converter