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Hike Japan

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ImageThe Japanese archipelago stretches 3,000 km (1,860 miles) along the eastern coast of the Asian continent, covering an area of approximately 378,000 square kilometers (146,000 square miles). It consists of four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) and almost 4,000 smaller islands. Three quarters of Japan is mountainous and covered with forests; the highest peak being Mt Fuji at 3,778 m (12,388 feet). There is also a large number of hot springs throughout the country due to the several volcanic ranges that run through the islands.
Time Difference
ImageThe time difference between Japan and major cities around the world (not allowing for summer time) is as follows: Los Angeles -17 hours; New York -14 hours; London -9 hours; Paris -8 hours; Rome -7hours; Singapore/Bangkok -2 hours; Sydney +1hour.
ImageThe population is approximately120 million, concentrated in 3 percent of the total area of the country. The major cities have a high population density with 11 cities containing over one million inhabitants. The three neighboring cities of Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama alone account for approximately 20 million people.
Japanese is a phonetic language, meaning that the way it is written is the way of pronunciation. Written Japanese consists of hiragana (a basic script), katakana (a script for loan words) and kanji (Chinese characters). The majority of signs in the major cities, especially train stations also use Romaji (western alphabet). All road signs across the country are in both Japanese and Romaji. The number of English speakers is surprisingly low. It is not only very difficult for Japanese to pronounce many English sounds, but also to distinguish them when they hear them, e.g. "c", "f", "v" and especially the difference between "r" and "l". Remember to speak slowly and clearly when you speak and of course, be patient.
Japan has four distinctively different seasons; five if you include rainy season. Spring begins in March in the southern islands and April in the northern islands, with the blooming of plum and peach trees followed by cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms only last on average for about a week in any one area, so the parks are crowded with hanami revelers (cherry blossom viewing picnics) talking about the beauty of the blossoms and getting inebriated at the same time. The warm temperature in spring makes it perfect for traveling around Japan until June when the rainy season begins (ends mid-July). It is usually hot and humid through to the end of summer (late August or early September) making traveling in the heat uncomfortable. The typhoon season starts in September and although only a few of them come ashore, heavy rains are typical. The pleasant temperature and brilliant blue skies of autumn make this time of year ideal for traveling. It is especially beautiful in mid-November when the leaves change color. Siberian high pressure systems bring cold westerly winds, and with them winter. The Japan Sea coast and the mountainous areas receive heavy snowfalls throughout winter. Mountainous areas from the Japan Alps (central Japan) to Hokkaido become winter wonderlands, and the main destination for Japan's winter sports enthusiasts. The southern areas along the pacific coast receive little snow and temperatures rarely fall below freezing.
Business Hours
Stores:Department Stores are normally open from 10 am to 7:30 pm everyday (including Saturday and Sunday), with most stores closing once a week, (the day depends on the store.)

Banks:Banks are open from 9 am to 3 pm and are closed on weekends and public holidays. The ATMs are open until 9 pm every night and a few high street banks have 24 hour ATMs in locations throughout the major cities.
Telephone Services in Japan
ImageA local call costs 10 yen for approximately 3 minutes. The cost of long-distance calls varies depending on the city you call. You can use 10 and 100 yen coins in public phones but you do not get any change from a 100 yen coin. You can also use telephone cards which are available from news-stands, vending machines and convenience stores. The area codes are: Tokyo 03, Osaka 06, Kyoto 075, Narita 0476 and Yokohama 045. Note that all phone numbers in Osaka (06) had a "6" added at the beginning of the phone number as of January 1, 1999.

International calls can be made from specially marked "ISDN" public phones. You have to buy special international phone cards to make calls from these phone booths. International phone calls can also be made from hotel lobbies using normal Japanese phone cards too. When dialing overseas from Japan, first dial either 001 (KDD), 0061 (IDC), 0041 (ITJ) or 0078 (DDI) before the country code, e.g. for a call to Sydney (2) Australia (61) you dial, 001-61-2-1234-5678. Make sure you do not dial 0 before the area code, or your call will not be connected.
Good-will Guide
The Good-will Guide volunteer program was launched by the Japan National Travel Organization (JNTO) to help tourists having difficulties and there are more than 24,000 registered volunteers on this program. They wear distinctive blue badges and are happy to answer any questions you have in English and give directions.
English Newspapers
ImageFour English newspapers are published daily; The Japan Times, The Daily Yomiuiri and the Mainichi Daily are morning editions and the Asahi Evening News is an evening edition. They are sold at all newsstands, at train stations and major hotels. The Asian editions of international news magazines are sold at major hotels and bookstores.

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