Q and A about getting about in Japan

In this post:

Q: What services can I use at Osaka university? What services for foreigners are there in Osaka?
Q: I came to Japan but I don’t speak Japanese. What can I do to get about or to start learning Japanese?
Q: What about money issues? How much do I need per month to survive in Japan? Can I use credit card when I shop?
Q: How can I save money living in Japan?
Q: How can I search for an apartment? What should I know about finding a place to live in Japan?
Q: How do I find part-time job in Japan?
Q: I want to keep fit and spend my free time actively. Any suggestions?
Q: Where can I swim in summer?
Q: How do I plan a fun and cheap trip?
Q: Where can I go if I feel sick?
Q: What is important to keep in mind when dealing with the Japanese?


Q: What services can I use at Osaka university? What services for foreigners are there in Osaka?

A: Here is the list of services that may be of interest to you..

Services In Osaka University (OU):


Place Type of services Notes
Library Learn about library services. We strongly recommend that you join library tours for newcomers organized in April. The library may have exactly what you need for your research or study. Later when you write your paper you can save a lot of time if you know how to use the library resourses well.
Read and download online journals, newspapers  and books. In the library website choose 提供元別リスト/コレクションから探す to access the list of online recourses. If you have trouble using the online library service, you can ask TA (teacher`s assistant) in the library.·         図書館より世界の新聞閲覧  LIBRARY ONLINE NEWSPAPERShttp://library.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/ja/viewer.aspx
Borrow books. Including ordering books from other campuses, interlibrary loan (for further information, ask the staff).To search for books as well as to order books from other campus libraries, use the online OPAC service.
Use intercampus and interlibrary loan. You can borrow books from the libraries in other campuses. To do so use OPAC service. In 1 day (usually after  3 p. m. the day following the day of your order) the books will arrive to the campus closest to where you live. To use interlibrary loan, inquire with the staff of the library.
Work in groups. You can do that in Learning Commons-ラーニング・コモンズ- a place on the first floor of the libraries. It has orange chairs and tables.
Book a room for group study. If, for example, you are working on a project with, say, 5-10 people, you can order a room in the library for you to work.
Use the PC. Once you have the OU ID and password you can use the PCs for free during the opening hours of the library. If you forget the library card or don’t have it yet, you can still use the PCs with Internet. Just call the library staff and get a one-time ID (however, you can`t borrow books if you don’t have the library card with you).
Use wifi There is free wifi inside the library.
Printing and copying. You can print out materials if you have the OU COOP card (you can get one in COOP, see below).
Cyber media Center. Printing out for free and using the PC. You can use PC rooms in cybermedia center if you have OU ID and password. You can print out 150 copies in Suita and Toyonaka combined and an extra 300 copies in Mino campus cybermedia center.
COOP Book shop, cafes 大阪大学生協 OSAKA UNIVERSITY COOP NET http://www.osaka-univ.coop/You can use the COOP cafeterias on the university territory. For further information, see this homepage http://www.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/guide/student/general/welfare.html
Travel agency If you want help planning your trip home, just abroad or in Japan, you can COOP travel agency. They will charge you around 5000 yen as service charge. But the price varies depending on the price of your trip.
Apartment search agency マイルーム You can use university service for searching for an apartment if you are moving out of the dormitory. They will charge half of your monthly rent (plus 8% consumer tax) for their service. You can get free magazine with apartments that they offer there.
Online service koan Search for events If you have OU ID you can use koan. In koan you can find information about upcoming events such as trips, talks by famous scientists and politicians, scholarships, camps for students and many more.
OU Lang Learn Japanese and teach your mother tongue. Register and find a partner for language exchange. http://oulang.org/
Check your timetable. Once you log in to koan, you can check your school timetable as well as register for classes before each semester.
Iris. (office for international exchange,IC ホール) Advice for international students. ·         大阪大学国際教育交流センター CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION AND EXCHANGE, OSAKA UNIVERSITYhttp://www.ciee.osaka-u.ac.jp/ (日本語) http://www.ciee.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/(English) 

In iris you can find out about services for international students, events for international students (parties, school visits, sports festivals, hiking, etc.). You can also get advice about your life in Japan from friendly and experienced staff.

Meeting international friends. Iris is a place where international students gather and have fun. It is a place for international exchange and for having fun.
Host families. Iris organizes home stay programs with Japanese families for international students. You meet your host family about once in two months. You teach them about your culture and learn about Japan with them.
COGOO Bicycle rent Free rent of a bicycle in suita campus.
Intercampus bus Free bus between campuses. It runs between campuses about once in 30 minutes. You can check the timetable at the bus stops. Download the application 阪連絡バスto check the bus schedule from your phone.
Gym Free gym use You can use the gym in Suita and Mino campuses for free.

Apart from all of the above, there are many international events organized by OUISA and BSP (both are clubs that foster international exchange). You can find out about them in Iris. You can also join their facebook pages to learn about parties, hiking, flea markets, etc.

You can also join clubs for the Japanese students (music instruments,sports, art., etc.), esp. if you know some Japanese. There are club orientation events every September and April. Please note that there is a difference between sakuru (a club for people who share a hobby) and bukatsu (a club which aims to be really good at sth, requires devotion and loyalty of its members).

Services In Osaka:

Osaka Information Service For Foreign Residents (multilingual) http://www.ofix.or.jp/life/index_e.html

Osaka Employment Service Center (mainly in Japanese) http://osaka-foreigner.jsite.mhlw.go.jp/e-toppage.html

This center organizes career guidance for foreign students every month on one of Thursdays http://osaka-foreigner.jsite.mhlw.go.jp/home/ryugakusei/_97888.html

Q: I came to Japan but I don’t speak Japanese. What can I do to get about or to start learning Japanese?

A: To learn Japanese, you can go to classes for beginners if you are, say, a research student in science, etc. There are also Japanese volunteers who teach Japanese on a one-to-one basis. If you speak some Japanese, you can visit Japanese cafes, which are organized by Osaka University students.All of the information on the facilities listed can be found in Iris (center for international exchange) in your campus.

Besides, there are Japanese courses at Osaka International House (note: you should inquire there about the price). For further information, see here http://www.ih-osaka.or.jp/english/international/post_8.html

Recently, a special network was started in Osaka University. It is called OU Lang (http://oulang.org/). You register there and find people who can teach you Japanese and who want to learn your mother tongue. The idea is that after you exchange mails you can meet up in a cafeteria and talk 50% Japanese 50% your mother tongue, which your Japanese counterpart will want to learn.

The main problem for you in the very beginning will probably be reading kanji. If you have a smartphone, you may want to download Yomiwa application ($2) or Pocket Kanji (free). With these apps you just place your camera to the unknown characters and they`ll translate into English.

Regardless of your level of Japanese, many people find the Anki software (for PC and smartphones) great for memorizing Japanese characters.


Q: What about money issues? How much do I need per month to survive in Japan? Can I use credit card when I shop?

It is estimated than you need at least 100.000 yen monthly to live in Japan. Nevertheless, people vary greatly in how much they spend.

You will always need cash to pay in the supermarkets as well as other shops. You can buy train tickets with cash. However, you can buy Icoca prepaid card (e. g. at JR Osaka Station), which costs 1500, some of which go to charge your card. With it you can pay for trains (Hankyu, JR, etc.) and buses. You get the advantage of moving faster because there is no need to count your money all the time. It is indispensable when you are in a hurry. You can pay with Icoca in most convenience stores.

To pay for trains you can also use Pitapa card. It takes about 1 month to make and it is a kind of credit card.

Even though you need cash to do regular shopping, a credit card from a Japanese bank can be useful. You can use it for online shopping, buying plane tickets, etc. You can make one in any Japanese bank. For students, they are usually free. However, it takes some time to do it because the bank will do 審査(shinsa), i. e. check your credibility. One of the best and easiest options would be COOP TUO card (you can apply for it at a coop office in the university coop).

Q: How can I save money living in Japan?

²  Point cards

You can get point cards in convenience stores, electrical appliance shops, bars, restaurants, etc. It is of course best to get those cards if you can make them for free, which is the case for some supermarkets and cafes. However, you may need to wait for campaigns in convenience stores, otherwise a card will cost you 300 yen. Usually for every 100 yen of your shopping you will get 1 point, which entitles you to 1 yen discount when you will wish to use the points on your card. Yamada Denki (LABI Senri), Yodobashi Camera have a point card with 10% of your previous shopping off your next shopping.

²  Coop card

Osaka University COOP (organization that runs private courses,  university cafes, book shops) offers coop card for 3000 yen, the amount that will be returned to you after you graduate. The system is 1 point per 100 yen for convenience stores and cafes within the university. Then again, if you have this card you will get 10% discount for books in the uni bookshops.

²  Special discount railway passes (see the section on trips)

²  Second-hand shops. Flea markets, Bookoffs

Q: How can I search for an apartment? What should I know about finding a place to live in Japan?

A: Some students have to find an apartment after 6 months or 1 year of living in the university dormitory. The university can help you find an apartment. There is a マイルーム (my roomu) shop inside the university convenience stores (Mino campus – in the bookstore in the cafeteria building, Toyonaka campus – on the second floor of Don Don cafeteria, Suita campus –     ). Other main agencies include Apaman shop and Minimini shop. University shop (My-roomu) as well as Apaman shop will ask for half of the monthly rent in the apartment you chose to live in as service charge (so, say, you chose to live in an apartment with a monthly rent of 40.000 yen; so you pay the agency around 21.000, namely 20.000 plus consumer tax). The apartment-finding agencies will show you into several apartments of your choice (provided that the previous owner has already left), contact your future landlord, etc. However, university shop can only show you around the apartments around the campus area. So you may need to contact the agency in the campus around which you wish to live. My advice would be to find apartments on the internet (on the homepages of those agencies or the free magazine published by my-roomu which you can get near the office and circle the apartments you like). Do that in advance with your tutor and you`ll save your time. Also, ask a good sempai or teacher to explain what is included in the apartment cost. Here is a brief explanation.

家賃(yachin) the rent itself. Depending on the area, it will range from 25.000 to 60.000 or more. But for those living alone (so-called hitorigurashi) in small apartments (e. g. in heights-haitsu ハイツ) it will be around 40.000

共益費 (kyouekihi) around 5-7 thousand per month. These you pay for your landlord to repair your apartment if need be. If you choose an apartment where you do not pay those fees you will pay on your own if something breaks.

敷金 (shikikin) a kind of deposit. You pay it when you move in. If you leave the apartment in good state when you move out, the money will be returned to you. Some people say it is recommended to find an apartment with shikikin.

礼金 (reikin) the money you pay as gratitude for your landlord. These are paid when you move in. Range from around 10.000 to 100.000 depending on how luxury the apartment is. Cheaper apartments often do not have reikin. Most students prefer to choose apartments without reikin.

When you move into a new apartment you can use Sagawa express to transport your luggage. They will deliver things on the date you ask. However, it is not cheap and I am afraid it is one of the cheapest delivery services.

Based on experience, I would say it is easier to find an apartment for a single person than it is for several to share. Such as, renting a two-room apartment for 4 people may take some time. However, there are many types of places to live in Japan, including shared houses or flatting (シェアハウス), mansions (mansions for women have better guard, family mansions, etc.), dormitories (for men looking for cheap housing the dormitory above Kansai supermarket close to Suita campus may be an option).

It is easier to look for an apartment at the end of fiscal year in Japan (i. e. February-March), when many people move out as they graduate, etc. You can start around the end of January to get better deals. Finally, moving can be very costly: you are often required to pay the first month rent in advance plus agency service charges plus transporting luggage charges plus furniture and kitchen utensils as well as other stuff, etc. can really hit your budget. It is a great idea to find a good sempai who would give you furniture as s/he moves out. Or visit Osaka University flea market in toyonaka at the end of March (ask in iris or get iris letter for details).

Your electricity, gas and  water bills will amount to approx. 10.000 or above. Note that for those living near Mino campus gas charges are higher than average (though the rent is generally cheaper there).

Q: How do I find part-time job in Japan?

A: You should ask the university first. If you are getting scholarship, you may not be allowed to work. At the moment students who get scholarships can get work permits if through the immigration office (if you go to the immigration office directly it will take 1 week to get; you can also go to the university student affairs division-教務係-kyomugakari, and they will get it for you in about 1 month ).

The most common part-time job for students will probably be teaching English, or,  a way less probably teaching their mother tongue. Apart from `official` part-time jobs there is a lot of volunteer work to do, such as introducing your country to Japanese schoolchildren. In some cases you get a couple of thousand yen for it. If you want to teach privately, you can register on mysensei.com or findateacher.net. Registration on those sites is free. Students who speak good Japanese can also work as shop assistants, etc. (however, it proves to be easier to get such a job for Asian students than to Europeans – that is an observation). In some cases you may be asked to work as a TA (teacher`s assistant). Some people earn money writing blogs, etc.

Q: I want to keep fit and spend my free time actively. Any suggestions?

A: There are groups in Osaka university that work with international students and organize sports activities as well as cultural exchange activities. Here are things for you to choose.

 Amigo hiking. This group organizes hiking for international students once a month on a weekend. To join the activities, join ‘amigo hiking’ group on Facebook and get updated on the upcoming activities. Usually you only need to pay for transportation. The tour itself is free and a lot of fun.

OUISA and Bsp. Bsp organizes picnics in cultural places in Kansai. Ouisa makes beach parties, sports days, mountain climbing etc. Such events are organized once in a couple of months. To get information, join our Facebook groups, ask an Ouisa or bsp member (or just come to iris in your campus).

大阪大学留学生会  Osaka university International Students Association http://www.ouisa.info


Finding on your own. If you feel like doing something casually, one way would be to find a free (cheap) and fun activity for a special day. The Kansai Scene magazine ( you can get it for free in Iris) publishes monthly events ( the magazine is in English). Many of them are free. If you know Japanese, you can type in the search engine 大阪3月25日イベント(any date you need). The first link will be to a list of events in Kansai area, including: free events, cultural experience events, etc. However, some of the events publicized on that homepage are quite small-scale events, and you may need some time to find the place in some cases.


Q: Where can I swim in summer?2

A: Option 1: public pools (市民プール). Entrance fee is around 200 yen for 2 hours. You can renew it if you want. There is Kitasenri pool, Ibaraki pool, etc.

Option 2: Beaches. The beaches closest to Osaka are Sumo (JR Sumo station) and Maibara (JR Maibara station).

Q: How do I plan a fun and cheap trip?

A: There are lots of places in Japan to visit. However, transport in Japan costs a lot. Luckily, there are several things you can do to have a cheap and pleasant trip.

Use hyperdia or other related sites to plan budget and time:

Once you`ve decided where you want to go, you can use hyperdia.com service. Using this homepage, you can choose the cheapest means of transport. Just type in your departure station and arrival station. You can use either English or Japanese. Another benefit of using this service is that you can know the time of departure and arrival, which can help you be in time all the time, which is useful in dealing with the Japanese people.

Use special tickets:

There are a number of special discount tickets. You should look for campaigns on the Internet or search for notes inside the trains, etc.

  • Seishun 18 kippu

The most common discount ticket is the so-called seishun 18 kippu. This ticket package (worth 11.500 yen) includes five days worth of travel. One person can enjoy the Seishun 18 for five days, or it can be split for use by up to five people. You can use one on any JR train except for shinkansen. You can buy it on main JR stations at the Midori-no-madoguchi, the green window (if lost, just ask the station worker).  Seishun 18 is usually sold during February-March, as well as July-September, the time when students have breaks.

  • 3-day pass, 1-day pass, etc.

Hankyu (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto train line) and often offer passes for several days. You can travel for, say 3 days in a row or 3 separate days using decided means of transport. You can travel as much as you want for the given time period for a fixed price. It is always a good deal.

If you are planning an overnight trip, you may want to stay in a net cafe (another name for it is manga cafe) (インターネットカフェ, 漫画カフェ). It is a type of hotel where you can find places to sleep and have access to the internet. One mini-room is about the size of a bed. They charge you by the hour. Eight hours costs an average of about 2500 yen. You have to pay extra fee if you stay longer. In such places you can also get drinks and sometimes ice-cream for free. You can use the shower (around 300 yen for 30 mins), get a toothbrush (50 yen). Besides that, there is usually a registration fee of 300 yen if you are visiting the cafe for the first time. To search for net cafes you can use this Japanese site: http://mobile-netcafe.com/. For further information see http://youinjapan.net/sleeping/internet_cafe.php.

Finally, do use Trip Advisor and other services to find campaigns in entertainment places, get ideas for your trip, etc. Don’t forget to use lonely planet guide or other guides not to miss fantastic destinations. When you arrive at a station of your destination, always go to tourist information center. They can often tell you about bargains that are probably there for visiting museums and other tourist spots. They will often have information in English.

Q: Where can I go if I feel sick?

A: The first place to go is hoken center (Health Center).

Most hospitals in Japan are private. If you pay insurance, you will need to pay 30% of the cost ( i. e. less than 1000 yen if the normal cost is 3000). It is advisable to have about 1500-4000 yen in cash and your medical insurance card if you visit a doctor. Usually the cost will be around 2000 yen or less. You don’t need prior booking, but you may wish to make it.

Note also that most Japanese hospitals are small and highly specialized. You need to find a hospital that specializes on the treatment you want to get. To make it easier for you, we have created the following database.

To find hoken center in your campus, click here (database link).

To find a dental hospital close to you, click here.

Find other hospitals in the area, please use the following database. It gives you options and you can choose where (please choose Mino, Ikeda, Suita etc. depending on where you live). Choose also the language and the specialization of the hospital.


Q: What is important to keep in mind when dealing with the Japanese?

A: There are several cultural as well as linguistic points.

  1. Japanese people love it when things are predictable and happen on time. So your Japanese friends will have a very good impression of you if you arrive on time and are quick in responding to mails, etc. Japanese people plan their time about a month or two in advance, so if you plan an  event with them, notify them several weeks or even a month before.
  2. Many Japanese people are unused to foreigners. It is not surprising if you know that over 95% of the population is comprised of native Japanese. When you meet a Japanese person or make a Japanese friend, you will be asked about your country of origin, how long you have lived in Japan. Also, your beauty and/or Japanese ability will be praised, etc. Some people like it, others find it boring or even annoying. However, it is important to remember that most of us certainly come from a society much and much more diverse than the Japanese one. We probably had friends of different country of origin since we were children. In contrast, you may be one of a few foreigners your Japanese partner has met. So be prepared for such questions. If you don`t like them, the good news is that Japanese people who deal with foreigners a lot are less likely to ask them, meaning that as Japan becomes more globalized you will be seen by the Japanese as a more daily phenomena.

Cultures can be compared by several criteria. Below is a brief description of Japanese culture by 3 of the 4 criteria provided by a Hollandite culture expert G. Hofstede.

  1. Uncertainty avoidance. Japanese people love harmony and feel very uncomfortable when something out of place occurs. An attempt to follow the rules and to fit in your role as a researcher, English camp leader or whatever it might be, as precisely as possible, will make the Japanese feel safer and they will appreciate it.
  2. Distance of power. Social hierarchy remains very strict in Japan. That can be seen, for example, in the sempai-kohai relationships, etc. For foreign students that means using polite expressions with superiors and older people. It is advisable to master keigo (polite expressions) if you are planning to find a job in Japan, etc. Keigo (e. g. the verb meshiagaru, etc. ) is better than masu-form (e. g. tabemasu). If you are a beginner, masu-form (tabemasu, ikimasu etc.) is preferable to dictionary form (taberu, iku, kau, etc.)
  3. High-context cultures vs. low-context cultures. As you can imagine, Japanese culture is a high-context one where many things are inferred. The Japanese themselves separate tatemae (the behaviour you are supposed to show) and honne (true feelings). It is not common to express your opinion directly. For example, a Japanese `no` looks not like something like `I wish I could join your party but I can`t because I am busy preparing for an exam`, but more like `Well, I have to prepare for an exam too, it`s hard to decide you know`.



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