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Understanding Japan: Home

This guide provides useful information and links to resources on Japan.

At A Glance


The following information have been carefully selected for your reference. Some resources may have bias perspectives. Please approach the SMU Libraries ( ) should you have any doubts or need clarifications.

This video gives a brief introduction and the top things to do while you are in Tokyo.

  • Flag of Japan
    Find out more about the history of the Japan flag.

Learn more about Japan regions and prefectures through this educational video.



Get to know the history of Japan that explained in 8 minutes.

This Local Tokyo Guide will show you things to do in Tokyo that no one ever mentions in there guides. Some places are hidden secret Tokyo spots while other are famous Tokyo landmarks.

Need To Know

This section helps prepare an individual before visiting Japan, such as learning the cultural etiquette, basic conversational phrases, and even some useful local contact numbers.

Cultural Dos and Don’ts

Japanese culture is famous for its politeness. Observe the following etiquette for a great experience:

  • DO bow lower than the other person when bowing to older people or those of higher rank (ie your boss).
  • DO accept business cards with both hands and read them over thoroughly.
  • DO use someone’s title after their name, such as “sensei” for a teacher or doctor and “kaicho” for a company president.
  • DO try and use the limited Japanese you know – even a little effort is greatly appreciated.
  • DO put your palms together and say “Itadakimasu” before eating – it is a polite way of expressing “Thank you for the meal I am about to receive.”
  • DO put your palms together and say “Gochiso sama deshita” after finishing a meal – it is a polite way of expressing “Thank you for all the effort in creating this the feast”.
  • DON’T blow your nose at the table – do it in the restroom.
  • DON’T point at things with your chopsticks.
  • DON’T leave your chopsticks sticking up on other food – this is done to offer rice at family altar.
  • DON’T use chopsticks to move around bowls or plates.
  • DON’T drink until everyone has been served and the rest raise their glasses for a toast.
  • DON’T finish what’s in your glass if you don’t want another one – someone will fill it up.
  • DON’T be offended if the gift is not opened in front of you – Japanese traditionally don’t open gifts until the giver has departed.
  • DON’T open a gift until you leave, unless you are encouraged to do so.

Basic Conversational Language

Some phrases in Japanese that are handy to know when visiting Japan.

  • Ohayo Gozaimasu (Good morning), Konnichiwa (Good afternoon), Konbawan (Good evening)
  • Moshi moshi. (Hello?, greeting on the phone)
  • Onamae wa Nan desu ka (What’s your name?)
  • "ja ne" or "o-genki de" (Goodbye)
  • Genki desu ka (How are you?)
  • Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank you)
  • Sumimasen (Excuse me)
  • .....wa Doko desu ka (Where is…?)
  • Wakarimasen (I Don’t Understand)
  • Ikura desu ka (How much is this?)​​

Phone Apps

    Lessons are broken down into bite-sized chunks and it feels like you’re playing a game. Duolingo is a great introduction, but it can feel like you’re learning a random mix of information, often through repetition. The more you do, the more robust your vocabulary will be.
    The only way to become fluent in a new language is to speak it. Tandem is geared toward conversations with native speakers. The idea is that you can help one another learn new languages via text, audio, and video chat. The app vets you and then helps you to find a partner who shares your interests. They teach you and you teach them.


Japanese Yen (JPY)

More details on the exchange rate.

Dialing Code


Useful Numbers

  • Police: 110
  • Fire, Ambulance: 119
  • Emergencies At Sea: 118
  • Tokyo Fire Department: (24/7) 03 3212 2323
  • Tokyo Police (24/7, foreign language): 03 3501 0110
  • Tokyo Hospital Information: 03 3212 2323
  • Singapore Embassy in Japan: +81-3-3586-9111, 3586-9112
    • Emergency Tel (after hours): +81-90-3208-4122, 2435-5543

Local Media Source

This section links to the various local news media in Japan.

RSS News Feed

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What To Look Out

This section informs the common scams and crimes to look out for when visiting Japan.


Crime & Security

  • Overall Crime and Safety Report
    Find out more information on the common crime threats, areas of concerns, transportation-road safety, and even terrorism threat.


This section lists some recommended readings about Japan.


Useful Links

This section provides useful links to the Japan social media.

Social Media

Japan National Tourism Organization


Acceptable Use Policy

Electronic resources (e.g., databases, datasets, e-journals, e-books and streaming audio/video) provided by the SMU Libraries are governed by license agreements that restrict use to current students, faculty and staff of SMU and the Singapore Copyright Act.

The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy