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Guide to Japan and Teaching English in Japan

January 07, 2009


Calling International Phone numbers in Japan are preceded by an area code (a two-, three-, or four-digit combination beginning with zero) and followed by a local number (up to eight digits). Area codes are only needed when calling from one area to another. A number beginning with " 0120" is toll-free from anywhere in Japan. As an example let's look at a number from Tokyo: 03-1234-5678. The two-digit combination "03" is Tokyo's area code and the remaining eight digits are the local number. Now how do you call or fax Japan from overseas? It's as easy as 1..2..3..

1. Dial your country's IDD (International Direct Dial) prefix.
2. Add "81" after that number.
3. And finally add the number in Japan you wish to call. Be sure to dial the area code before the local number but DROP the leading "0" in the area code.

In the example used above, if an individual wanted to call Tokyo, Japan from Canada they would dial: 011-81-3-1234-5678. Canada's IDD code is "011" and that the "0" in "03" was dropped.

The Home Telephone
(Please note that these details are subject to change. NTT's stranglehold on the telecom market has been loosened in the last few years and competition is the name of the game at last.)

Now you know everything and more about placing a call from outside your home. If you've just moved to Japan, getting a phone line for your home (a better description is small room with LOW ceilings) is quite easy. Just visit a Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) office with your alien registration, driver's license (or other proof of your address), and 76,440 yen ($700)!

This fee contributes to maintaining and upgrading NTT's equipment. You may need to pay an additional fee if wiring work is required. NTT's basic fee runs about 1,600 to 1,800 yen/month. Local calls in Japan from your own phone are not free. Calls within your own area code are roughly 9 yen for 3 minutes. The further away you phone, the less time 9 yen will get you (eg. from Nagano, calls to Tokyo are 10 yen/16 secs).

Fear not though, NTT has been generous enough to give a discounted rate. Regular rate is from 8:00am - 7:00pm Mon - Fri, discount rate 1 is from 7:00pm - 11:00pm weekdays and 8:00am - 7:00pm on weekends. Super discount rate (approx. 60%) is from 11:00pm - 8:00pm everyday. Trust me, after your first phone bill "burning the midnight oil" will have a whole new meaning! Now that you're entirely up to speed on the corruption with the phone system in Japan take note on some of these KEY services.

* ITJ - is the overseas telecommunications service of choice for those with connections back home. ITJ offers international direct dial access from a private or public phone. When dialing an overseas number simply stick 0041 in front of the country code. That's it. Use 0045 and an operator will call you back and tell you the charges. There is no need to sign up for any of these services and they'll save you about 12% on your international phone charges. Don't get too carried away though. ITJ certainly won't forget about you and once a month you'll get a bill along with NTT's.

* IDC - offers a similar service. Instead of 0041, use 0061. Original eh? This company claims to have a 23% late night discount rate.

* AT&T - has started an Internet telephone service. This service is for both domestic and international calls. There's no need for computers, modems or the internet. For more info, see their web site.

* Many other subscription services exist. TeleMatrix, Passport International, and Dynatec to name a few.

Think your phone bills are out of hand now? You ain't seen nothing yet. Connected to the internet too? All I do is shake my head and laugh. It gets even funnier when you call NTT to vent your anger. NTT employs only Japanese speakers, I'm sure of it (I bet there's only English speakers for the Japanese customers!). The best thing to keep in mind with the phone is not to use it. Period.

The Payphone
Japan is wired for telecommunications. One quickly gets used to being able to call from any street corner, anywhere, anytime. The popularity of keitai (cell phones) is quickly making the public pay phone go the way of the dodo. But they're still around and here's what they do:

* Pink phones are "private" pay phones and are usually found in restaurants and coffee shops.

* A first cousin, the red phone, is popular with rural grocers and tobacconists. Both pink and red phones accept only 10 yen coins.

* Yellow phones take 10 or 100 yen coins.

* Green, green with gold and gray phones all take either coins or prepaid phone cards. Phone cards are readily available in 500 and 1000 yen denominations at convenience stores, tobacco shops, and the occasional vending machine. I strongly suggest picking one up. Green with gold and gray phones both allow international calls, but gray phones also provide digital and analog jacks.

The keitai
Cell phone, mobile, miniature camera/pDA - whatever you call yours, you just have to have one. One in every two people in Japan already does and you don't want to be left out, do you? And once you have one, you wonder how you ever survived without one. Increasingly powerful and multi-featured, many now come with a built-in camera and most are email and internet-enabled.

NTT's DoCoMo, KDDI's au and Softbank are the big players in the market and they each have their own system (i-mode, EZweb & Softbank respectively). When you go to sign up for one of these services, be prepared to handle eveything in Japanese, though the phones themselves usually have bilingual functions (but no English manual!). Older or more basic models can be had for next to nothing. If you want to keep up to date on the whole wireless media world, check the Mobile Media Japan web site.

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