Japan is situated in northeastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan. The area of Japan is 377,873 square kilometers, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined or slightly smaller than California. Japan consists of four major islands, surrounded by more than 4,000 smaller islands.
There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many Japanese are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education.
Even if you don’t understand Japanese, you can still certainly enjoy Japan. But if you know a few everyday Japanese phrases then it will make your trip even more memorable. A few words make a big difference.
|Useful Japanese Phrases:
Japanese < > English
|Ohayou gozaimasu||Good morning|
|Oyasumi nasai||Good night|
|Gomen nasai||I am sorry|
|Wakarimasen||I don’t understand|
Japan is known for its clean, safe urban areas and for the quality of its healthcare and public safety infrastructure. Still, as is the case with travel in any unfamiliar place, it always pays to exercise common sense, and to be familiar with the resources at your disposal should you experience problems or need assistance. The links below will take you to information that may be useful should something unexpected happen while you are in Japan.
The Police Box (“Koban”) System
To report a crime, accident, or other emergency, dial ‘110’ from any telephone. In Tokyo, an English-language line to the Metropolitan Police is available from Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., at 03-3501-0110.
Your best resource for contacting the police, getting directions if you are lost, or for reporting a lost or stolen item, is your nearest “Koban”, or police box. This network of mini police stations is unique to Japan, and they can be found in virtually every neighborhood throughout the country, there are over 1200 Koban in Tokyo alone. While not all Koban are staffed 24 hours a day, most of the police boxes located in heavily populated areas will have an officer on duty. In the most popular tourist areas, Ginza, or Shinjuku, for example, there may be someone who can help you in English, and they may have forms and other documents available in English as well.
Look for the KOBAN sign, with its distinctive red light, whenever you need police help with:
- Reporting a loss, theft, or other crime
- Reporting an automobile accident
- Directions to businesses and attractions
- Other emergency-related questions
If you are unable to find a police box, ask at your hotel or other local business, most people will know where the nearest one is located in their neighborhood.
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