January 07, 2009
I already know what you're saying, "I'm too cheap to buy a laptop. Now how am I going to get this desktop to Japan?" That's a tough one. If you're really creative I suppose you could smuggle it on the plane with you. If you're like the rest of us you'll have to wait till you get yourself settled and have someone ship it over to you (depending on how you ship it expect to wait a couple of months).
One thing to point out here. What do you do if the thing breaks down? Most computer companies don't offer an international warranty on desktop models. It may be worth trashing and buying a Japanese model rather than paying shipping both ways! I suppose if your Japanese ability is strong enough you could take it to a local repair center but I'll bet they're not "Compaq, Acer, AST" certified.
What I'm trying to say here is that maybe you should consider a laptop or purchasing a desktop once you've arrived. Prices are comparable to those in the US. English-language models are available from Toshiba DirectPC. Gateway had a Japanese operation but closed it down in 2001.
One final note on computers is the voltage. The standard electric voltage used in Japan is 100 volts with a cycle range from 50 to 60 Hz (cycles vary depending on what part of Japan you're in). Most new computers (notebooks) come with an 'universal power adapter' that automatically adjusts internally and allows usage anywhere in the world. Macintosh (Japanese people love 'em) computers are among them. The best way to make sure is to put that 1-800 number to good use and call your manufacturer.
Given NTT's astronomical phone rates, your first concern is proximity to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or availability of a special nationwide access system (mentioned below). Using a local Japanese provider is often the cheapest but usually the most difficult option. Japanese ISP's do not require a Japanese-capable system but you may need some kind of working knowledge with them in order to configure your own system.
It never hurts to call (or get someone else to do it if you don't speak Japanese) as they may have English papers or setup guides even if none of their staff speak English. If you don't speak any Japanese and anticipate needing extra help setting up you connection, you should consider using a provider which offers English language support (links provided below).
These three major domestic ISP's offer English support and have provisions for access from pretty much anywhere in Japan. If you are a member of a major information service such as CompuServe, AOL or The Microsoft Network, you should contact them about access points in Japan. These options are often good for beginners, since they usually provide preconfigured connection software.
Once you've become comfortable dealing with these things in Japanese or have some one to help you get organized, it's worth investing in a flat-rate high-speed connection. The options seem to change by the day and vary from region to region. Look into such options as cable access (possibly as aprt of your cable TV plan), fiber-optic and ADSL.