The fifth annual Ethereum Developers’ Conference will be held this year from October 8–11 in Osaka, Kansai, Japan.
Ethereum France would like to share some tips and tricks to make your life in Japan easier.
This guide should be considered as a complement to OFFdevcon’s excellent series of guides and articles, which will give you more precise information about the event.
If you want to join the Telegram group for the Osaka Blockchain Week events link is Here
The Japanese language
Although easier to access than Vietnamese (Asian languages final boss), Japanese is a complex language, quite distant in its structure from Western languages and of a rare subtlety, to which are added the Kanji characters and different Kana systems which can materialize a completely opaque language barrier to foreigners.
In other words, the Japanese language requires years of assiduous learning before you can develop the necessary skills to initiate and conduct a conversation.
However, some very useful basics can be quickly mastered, we recommend the free Memrise application and its “Japanese without writing — beginner” courses.
If this is less and less the case, it is still true that English is not yet particularly widespread in Japan, so it is highly likely to meet people who do not speak English during your stay, especially in the Kansai Area, so having the minimum knowledge of Japanese can make your life easier.
To avoid issues in communication with locals, try to learn a few keywords even if that makes you sound like a 5-year-old child or write down in advance a few sentences on your smartphone that you can show to help facilitate the communication.
The Google Translate application is far from perfect but can also help a lot!
Arrival at the Airport and first trips
The first thing to know is that what we call the “Osaka” Airport (KIX) is not in Osaka! Indeed, Kansai International Airport (KIX) that would most probably be your destination airport as an international visitor is an hour’s train ride from Osaka city, the Japanese rail system is an example of efficiency, most stations have information offices (look for the JR ticket office) and signs written in Romaji (Latin characters of the alphabet).
As the Airport is quite far from the City, skip the Taxi option, as it’ll be quite expensive and not as efficient.
Disable your roaming Data!
Japanese telecom companies do not partner with most Western operators to date, a few seconds on Google Maps or a Youtube video will quickly turn into a big bill.
If the Japanese authorities did quite an amount of effort to deploy Free-Wifi spot across Japan for the Olympic Games (170k spots across the country),WiFI is not “everywhere” yet in Japan.
A safe bet is the Starbucks, Mcdonalds and the 7Eleven that always provide some Wifi.
Forget the “Wifi-spot” that will be offered to you at the airport, you will pay a very high price for a 4G key with a limited speed. (You can also buy a 4G sim cards at 7/Eleven. See below.)
The JR PASS
If you wish to extend your visit to Japan to several cities, traveling is very expensive, we can only recommend the acquisition of a Japan Rail Pass from JR company which will allow you to travel freely in the JR company network for 7, 14 or 21 days. The Japan Rail Pass is to be purchased from abroad, you will then receive a voucher to exchange at the airport or at JR stations. The pass is valid for the specified period from its activation in Japan.
The price is quite the same across all websites so here’s a link, but feel free to compare any website.
Leaving the airport
Joining Osaka will cost you about 12 USD, for the exact route corresponding to your accommodation we recommend the excellent and free Hyperdia application, Google Maps works in Japan but still lacks precision.
Here is an example on Hyperdia that will take you directly to the Devcon from the airport:
You can also download a Map of the Osaka Subway here before your trip and save it on your smartphone.
Where to stay?
Classic hotels: Traditional applications such as Booking.com/Expedia offer a wide choice, hotels present on Booking have the advantage of being used to receiving an international clientele.
As in many countries, in Japan, hotel prices vary according to the number of people staying, so the same room will cost a couple more than a single traveler. Fortunately, DevCon is a developer conference, so you’ll save money!
Traditional Hostels or Ryokans: This type of traditional Japanese residences are a fairly expensive experience and luxury, if you are interested in this experience but do not speak Japanese at all, we recommend that you find your Ryokan on a Western website and find out if your hosts speak English beforehand.
Airbnb: very present and quite well organized in Japan.
Japanese specificities in terms of accommodation:
Capsule hotels: If you are interested in the experience of sleeping in a tube or if your budget is limited, capsule hotels are easily available on booking applications, remember to bring earplugs, sound insulation is often limited and snorers are always positioned in the capsule next to yours.
Love Hotels: Although the very principle of these hotels is quite clear, it is an option not to be neglected because often the rooms have quality equipment (sauna, large bath, king size bed and even karaoke!) and this type of hotel also often has a discreet and impeccable room service all for very affordable rates.
Japan’s national currency is the Yen (JPY), 1 yen is equivalent to just under one cent of USD, if Japan has the reputation of being an “expensive” country, this is true for housing and travel but not really for food and daily life.
Japan is a Cash Culture, only the largest retailers accept card payments, cash is simply essential in Japan.
More and more retailers also start accepting “Digital Cash” with apps like Line, Rakuten Pay or the Chinese WeChat unfortunately it’s reserved to Japanese or Chinese bank accounts holders.
Many Japanese ATMs refuse foreign cards and those who accept them will be happy to charge you a fairly high currency conversion fee. The exchange offices at the airport will also offer you uncompetitive rates.
An alternative is the ICOCA cards, you will find it in any airport or train/subway stations, you can charge it with some money (minimum of 1500 JPY, so around 15USD) and then use it for the subway, konbinis, vending machines and most venues.
You can return your ICOCA card at the end of your trip and get back any remaining money and the 500 JPY deposit or keep it as a souvenir!
While the number of Japanese people who know or have invested in cryptocurrencies is particularly high compared to other countries, we must note that cryptocurrencies remains quite confidential as a payment method, cryptocurrencies are more considered as an investment asset there.
This makes it difficult if not impossible for you to spend your cryptos outside of specific conference related events.
So leave all this aside and head for your best friend on every street corner, the Konbini.
7Eleven, Your best ally in Japan
7Eleven is a network of Conveniences stores throughout Japan, the term Konbini is a deformation of “Convenience” and these venues will make your life easier.
7bank ATM: almost all 7Eleven have a 7bank ATM, which accepts foreign cards, does not charge withdrawal fees and offers an acceptable conversion rate.
SIM Card 4G: the 7Eleven offer telecom packages for foreign travellers at much more accessible prices than at the airport, different packages corresponding to the duration or quantity of Data you need are available.
Wifi: all 7Eleven offer a free Wifi spot.
Smartphone and electronics: All 7Eleven will provide at decent rates smartphone chargers and international power outlet adaptors or power Banks, They also have genuine Apple accessories. If you have a business meeting, they also sell SalaryMan White shirts for less than 20 USD.
Tobacco and drugs
While smoking is quite widespread in Japan, recent laws severely limit the freedom of smokers to poison their surroundings, for example, it is not possible to smoke on the street outside the smoking areas provided for this purpose an app is available to map out smoking-friendly areas.
Alcohol is sold 24/7 to anybody older than 20, you can find it openly at any Konbini, most popular drinks are the Highball (Whisky and soda) and Beers.
If you do not know where it is possible to light a cigarette, it is most of the time tolerated to smoke next to the Konbini garbage cans or next to the vending machines.
If in doubt, point your finger at your (unlit) cigarette and say “Doko desu ka?” politely to a passer-by, who will point you in the right direction.
Drugs are banned in Japan and the penalties are particularly severe, our advice is simple, do not use drugs in Japan.
Japanese cuisine is rich and offers a wide variety of dishes that will suit everyone, but the Vegan lifestyle is not very common in Japan, this type of traveler is strongly advised to check before arriving on Vegan-friendly dishes and places such as the very local Natto or the excellent aubergine with miso Nasu Dengaku.
Other travelers from all over the world, from vegetarians to carnivores, will easily find suitable options, eating is not particularly expensive in Japan and there are many local specialties other than sushi.
Send parcels, Delivery and Coin-lockers.
Every year at the Devcon a popular side event is witnessing a ballet of Event Managers from various projects, running around with T-Shirt boxes between Ubers and the conference rooms.
Distinguish yourself, each station or airport has a “Kuro Neko Yamato” office that will manage your packages for an affordable price and impeccable service.
Each station and airport also has a “Coin-Locker” service to store your belongings at an affordable rate.
🛬in your plane, flight attendants will ask you to complete immigration paperwork, such as for a trip to the USA, answer “no” to most questions and indicate the address of your accommodation. Take the time to do it calmly on the plane to avoid having to do it at customs.
👷🏼 Japanese are generally respectful of the rules and expect the same respect from others, when you wait for your train or subway, for example, respect the markers on the ground and stand in line. If you cross the yellow line, the station steward will point out your failure with a remarkable whistle!
⏰ being on time in Japan means being at least 10 minutes early, if you have an appointment with locals, be prepared to have them respect this advance, it is part of Japanese etiquette.
🚅⏰ This rule also applies to trains, be present on the station platform 10 minutes before the train’s departure because the train’s doors close 1 minute before the departure and it will leave the station at the exact time.
🥳 The people of Kansai, Osaka Region, have a reputation for being more relaxed and friendly than other Japanese people, even if it has some truth in it, keep in mind that you are invited to a country and try to show the best of yourself
🚭 If smoking is banned almost everywhere and even on the street, some restaurants and bars (especially those open at night) are smokers-friendly, if you are annoyed by the smoke, please ask in advance.
🚯 You will be surprised to see how clean Japan’s cities and public spaces are. However, you will not find garbage cans on the streets: you are supposed to bring your garbage with you and throw it home. Another specificity of Japanese culture! Yet, you can easily find garbage cans at each konbini (for people who eat snacks they have bought there), and sometimes near vending machines (for canned drinks and bottles). It is forbidden to throw garbage on the street and this act is punishable by a fine.
⛔ Japan is a no-Tip Culture, perfect service is the norm, trying to leave a tip will be politely refused...
🤝 Also, Japon is not very big on physical contact, try not to shake hands or hug locals without their direct consent.
🚻 The Japanese toilets are a unique and surprising experience. If most public places now have indications in Romaji (thanks to the Olympic Games!) here is a small illustration that could be useful in a strategic moment!