On arrival in Japan, you are instantly confronted by the utter foreignness of its language, customs and aesthetics. In a world that is becoming increasingly homogenized, this culture shock can be wonderfully exhilarating. Although the size of the Japanese archipelago is roughly equivalent to that of California, most of the terrain is mountainous, and there is very little usable land. The close proximity in which people are obliged to live has famously resulted in an elaborate code of conduct designed to promote social harmony. Allied to this is a highly evolved concept of hospitality: Hotel employees are exquisitely polite, and shopkeepers greet you with gracious formality.
To phone hotels and restaurants in Japan, dial 011 (international access) + 81 (Japan code) + city code and local numbers in listings.
Because of the length of the archipelago, Japan has a variety of climates similar to those of the east coast of North America from Nova Scotia to Georgia. The north is cool and temperate, while the far south is subtropical. Summer/early autumn brings the typhoon season.
13 hours ahead of New York (EST). (Time listed is for DST in the West. Difference is one hour more November to mid-March.)
Tokyo, Tel. 3-3224-5000. Consulates: Naha, Tel. 9-8876-4211; Osaka, Tel. 6-6315-5900; Fukuoka, Tel. 9-2751-9331; Sapporo, Tel. 1-1641-1115; Nagoya, Tel. 5-2581-4501.
Yen (JPY). Fluctuating rate valued at JPY104.86 = US$1.00 as of October 2016.