Approx. Time Difference
Apr - Nov: + 16 hrs
Dec – Mar: + 17 hrs
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, health and safety, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Specialists advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
UCEAP Contact Information
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762
Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
A UC faculty member appointed as Study Center Director and local staff oversee UCEAP programs in Japan. In addition, local advisors and international student centers or offices are available at your host university. UCEAP staff and the Study Center Director will be available to help you with academic matters, assist with housing, and provide information about cultural activities.
Study Center of the University of California, Tokyo
International Christian University
3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka
Tokyo 181-8585, Japan
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-81-422) 33-3118
Cell phone (after-hour emergencies): (011-81) 90-9950-9411
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code . . . . . . . . . . . . . 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Japan country code. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Mitaka (ICU) city code . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422
Tokyo city code . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Approximate Time Difference
Add 17 hours (December–March)
Add 16 hours (April–November)
The academic program at Tohoku university offers a combination of coursework taught in English and a required research component.
Japanese language study is not required, but it is recommended.
- 21 quarter/14 semester UC units minimum each semester for year students. Tohoku does not have a maximum, but more than 27 units is not recommended.
- Research component (8 UC quarter units) each semester; letter grade recommended
Sample MyEAP Study Lists
Units for this program are calculated by multiplying the Tohoku University units by 1.5 (2 Tohoku University equal 3 UC quarter units). 14 Tohoku units eual 21 UC quarter units.
Japan is a country where courtesy and behavioral propriety are extremely important in all social interactions. Be respectful toward teachers at all times and sensitive to the cultural styles and ethics of Japanese society.
Your behavior is a reflection on both UC and the U.S. and may be taken as representative of all Americans. You are expected to make a good impression, enabling UCEAP to provide the program for future UC students.
Follow the example set by the Japanese students. Japanese students do not eat, drink, chew gum, or use cell phones in class. They are seated and quiet when the professor enters the room, and they remain seated until class is over. Student attire is casual but neat.
If you have questions about what is considered acceptable behavior in Japan, talk to the Study Center Director and staff. You cannot assume that Japanese people will correct you for unacceptable or offensive behavior. Japanese professors and acquaintances may not point out inappropriate behavior; however, any actions out of the ordinary will be noticed and can negatively impact you and the program.
You are required to attend all classes, mandatory field trips, and other academic events unless you are explicitly excused for a valid reason. Travel, family visits, relationships, and work responsibilities are not valid reasons for missing class. Many faculty members monitor and consider attendance when determining the course grade. In fact, it is common practice for Japanese students to quit attending class as a sign to the professor that they wish to be dropped from the course. This is called houki (renunciation). If you drop a class using the houki system—even if accidental—you will receive a grade of “F” for that course.
In order to be successful academically, you must take the initiative. Take personal responsibility for your education, formulate clear academic goals, and then pursue those goals with determination rather than depending solely on UC or host university requirements for direction. Japanese university courses typically have less structure than UC courses. Professors rarely provide syllabi and, even if they do, may change the content of the course during the term. Check with each professor about specific course requirements, paper deadlines, exam dates, and any other matters related to your academic responsibilities.
The UC unit value of courses offered in Japanese universities varies widely. Many courses carry low units (2 or 3 UC quarter units). In some cases, courses on a similar theme may be combined to fulfill a UC campus or major requirement.
Course registration procedures for both Tohoku University and MyEAP will be covered during your orientation in Japan.
If you have limited or no Japanese language background you will be in the Tohoku University Junior Year Program in English (JYPE
) where you will participate in laboratory research with Japanese students, conduct individual research projects, write reports (in English), and take coursework in English. JYPE is intended for juniors and seniors and many courses are advanced and earn upper-division UC credit, except for the language and culture courses.
Graduate students may participate in the Tohoku University Cooperative Laboratory Study Program (COLABS
Lecture courses meet once a week; Japanese language classes of various levels meet twice a week. The majority of your time will be spent in your lab. Students spend an average of 15 to 20 hours per week in their assigned labs. See the research section below for more information.
JYPE features additional coursework in fields such as geophysics, evolution and ecology, agricultural economics in Japan, and Japanese business. Local Japanese students are encouraged to take part in the classes offered in English and interact with the foreign students.
If you have the necessary language ability (near fluency), you may take Tohoku University courses taught in Japanese.
Whether you are in JYPE or are taking coursework taught in Japanese, all UCEAP students participate in a lab research group in this program. The lab program is overseen by Tohoku University faculty.
Discuss questions related to grades or other classroom matters and appropriate plans for handling them with the UCEAP Study Center. It is not the Japanese custom for instructors to give detailed comments on written work and final papers, and exams are not usually returned; the grade itself is generally considered appropriate and adequate feedback. You may inquire about your progress in a class, but do not discuss grades with your professors unless invited to do so; otherwise, it may appear that you are trying to negotiate your grade, which is frowned upon.
Beware of rumors about lenient grading at Japanese institutions. Some universities are notably similar to UC in their standards and grading system. Language courses in particular can be more demanding than at UC and the grading is often rigorous. In many cases, poor grades are the result of excessive absences, tardiness, missing assignments, and lack of communication between UC students and instructors. Grading is typically conducted by detracting points for errors, rather than rewarding points for correct work. If you experience difficulties with your language courses, inquire with the Study Center for tutoring assistance. Also beware of being influenced by the rigor—or lack thereof—with which Japanese students appear to be engaged in their studies. In contrast to UC students, Japanese students often place less emphasis on letter grades and more on merely passing their courses.
To avoid a failing grade for a dropped course:
- Keep the Study Center informed of any changes in course selection at the host university.
- Follow UCEAP procedures for dropping a course.
Final grades for this program are usually available in mid-October.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
This program has a required lab research component. During the fall semester all students participate in research for approximately 15 hours per week and earn 8 quarter/5.3 semester UC units. During the spring semester, students may either do the research like the fall or may participate in a more intensive research opportunity for approximately 30 hours per week for a total of 15 quarter/10 semester UC units. The intensive lab option is only available during the spring and requires the approval of the research supervisor.
Students will complete a research proposal (study plan) as part of the Tohoku University application process. The proposal is used to place students in research groups. If the proposal does not match up with a research group, a new proposal may be requested.
Internships are not common in Japan; however, you may find an opportunity to participate in an internship. Expect to locate an internship on your own, without assistance from UCEAP.
In the past, some students have found teaching internships, as well as corporate and governmental (Matsuda, Cannon, and the U.S. embassy). Internships at the U.S. embassy require application and security clearance with the Department of State prior to departure. Deadlines may be early, so begin these preparations well in advance of departure if you are interested.
As the Japanese workplace can be formal, plan to have appropriate attire if you are considering an internship.
You may be able to earn academic credit for various internship and volunteer service activities; however, credit earned during gap periods (between terms, on holiday breaks, etc.) will not count towards minimum unit requirements for any term.
There are many volunteer opportunities available in this program that will be presented during the onsite orientation.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites, such as Lonely Planet, are excellent resources. Take a preparatory course in Japanese history, Asian history, or political science.
The bookstore Kinokuniya
is a good source of Japanese literature; it has branches in San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles.
Some programs in Japan do not require previous Japanese language study; expose yourself to learning the language now so that you have an idea of what learning Japanese is like. Students with learning disabilities may find learning another language challenging. If this is the case, provide a letter from your campus Disabled Students Office to document your learning disability.
Recommended Newspapers and Magazines
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals:
"Don't feel that you have to be different because you're a foreigner. Try your best to blend in, learn customs and appropriate behavior, and you will learn much more about life in Japan." -UCEAP Student
Japanese culture is undergoing rapid change that can be seen in the younger generation. However, the more durable traditions include veneration of the elderly, subservience of women, and propriety. You may experience behaviors that would be considered discriminatory in the U.S. but are considered acceptable in Japanese society. Try to observe such behaviors impartially to avoid applying American standards and expectations to the Japanese in their culture.
"Watch the oldest Japanese people in the room; see how they behave and follow their lead." -UCEAP Student
Social conduct in Japan is regulated more by custom than by written law. For example, the Japanese have a distinct sense of what is proper to discuss. The Japanese will also ask many personal questions, merely out of curiosity. Do not take it as an insult. If you do not feel comfortable answering questions, politely sidestep them.
In Japan, American frankness can be interpreted as rude. Be conscious of this and respect Japanese social expectations.
The Japanese are a group-oriented society. Whereas the West emphasizes individualism, Japanese activities are often outgrowths of some group, family, profession, school, or community.
"Be conscious of your surroundings so that you can blend into the Japanese culture." -UCEAP Student
Japan is a country with a high population density. To function well in this society, Japanese people show great respect for the personal space of others. Shouting or speaking loudly is considered rude; communicate subtly. If noise can be heard outside of the walls of your room, it is too loud. Japanese culture uses many gestures to communicate, many of which differ in meaning from those used in California. Public displays of affection are an affront to many Japanese.
Punctuality is essential in Japan; it is rude to be late.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking
Drug use in Japan is serious and laws are stricter than in the US. Drugs like marijuana are not tolerated in Japan and you can be jailed.
Japanese authorities aggressively pursue drug smugglers with sophisticated detection equipment, "sniffing" dogs, and other methods. When entering Japan, you and your luggage will be screened at ports of entry. Incoming and outgoing mail, as well as international packages sent via DHL or FedEx, are also checked carefully. The Japanese police make arrests for even the smallest amounts of illegal drugs. Several U.S. citizens have been arrested, tried, and convicted after having mailed illegal drugs to themselves from other countries.
Alcohol use is common in Japan. You will see intoxicated people in late-night trains and at stations. Vending machines sell beer and sake.
Never feel pressured to drink. The Study Center can help you to devise polite and friendly ways to avoid drinking without avoiding the camaraderie associated with it.
Japanese law prohibits minors (under 20 years of age) from drinking alcohol. If you are of legal age, use your own judgment and do not display any intoxicated behavior in public places. Practice low-risk drinking, don’t leave your drink unattended, and use the buddy system to watch out for one another. Many students' risky behaviors are related to drunkenness and an associated lapse in judgment.
Students who abuse/misuse alcohol, behave in a disorderly manner, or cause problems for their housing or host university will face disciplinary action by UCEAP, which can include dismissal.
Anti-smoking campaigns are slowly spreading but smoking in Japan is common. Recently, some areas in central Tokyo have passed regulation that bans smoking in public places such as roads and parks. You will see many smokers inside and outside buildings, although many restaurants have nonsmoking sections.
The law prohibits purchase and smoking of cigarettes to minors (under 20 years of age).
Improve Your Language Skills
The more Japanese you know before departure, the more rewarding your time abroad will be. You are encouraged to improve your written and spoken Japanese prior to departure. The following are good methods to help you prepare:
- Read Japanese newspapers and magazines, using a dictionary as necessary.
- Read aloud (anything in Japanese) for 20 minutes at a time. Strive for correct pronunciation; read progressively faster, maintaining correct pronunciation.
- Become acquainted with Japan prior to departure. Keep up-to-date on Japanese current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals.
- Practice phrases picked up from conversation and reading aloud.
- Listen to Japanese language tapes or CDs and seek out people fluent in Japanese for conversation and vocabulary practice.
- Keep a journal of Japanese phrases, expressions, whole sentences, and structures that you would like to add to your vocabulary.
- Watch Japanese movies.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
You are required to attend all orientation activities, which cover such topics as:
- banking, transportation, health and safety, and housing;
- academic advising including academic requirements, which vary by program; and
- the specifics of your MyEAP course registration, which varies by program. You will register for courses after orientation based on the Study Center instructions.
Official UCEAP Start Date
You are responsible for making your own transportation arrangements to and from Japan (even if you will be receiving financial aid) and for arriving on the Official UCEAP Start Date. This includes reserving and purchasing airline tickets (purchase a changeable ticket). Standby tickets are not acceptable.
Program dates and arrival information are posted on the UCEAP website. Failure to appear on the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Student Conduct section). When traveling, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
The Official Arrival and Start Date can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications to your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for travel arrangements. To stay informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information (mailing address, e-mail, and phone number).
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Program Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
If you have Japanese citizenship you must enter Japan as a Japanese citizen, even if you have dual nationality with another country. You will be asked to provide the UCEAP Systemwide Office with a copy of your current Japanese passport.
Students with Japanese citizenship do not need a visa to enter Japan.
Summer-only program participants: U.S. citizens in possession of a valid U.S. passport can visit Japan without a visa for a duration of up to 90 days or less for study.
For the fall, year, and spring programs, you will obtain a Student Visa prior to entering Japan. A student visa is an endorsement placed in your passport by the Consulate General of Japan. The visa grants you permission to enter and reside in Japan for the purpose of study. In order to obtain the visa, you will first apply through your host university for a Certificate of Eligibility.
About two to four weeks prior to departure, you will receive the Certificate of Eligibility from the UCEAP Systemwide Office. With this document, apply for a student visa at the Japan consulate as directed in the online UCEAP Predeparture Checklist
Hitotsubashi, Keio, Osaka, and Waseda Intensive Language Program (ILP) participants
You will not be able to obtain a student visa before departure for the ILP portion of the program. U.S. citizens will enter Japan on a tourist visa, then apply to change your visa status during the summer ILP.
Japanese Resident Card
A Resident Card will be issued to foreigners who possess a Student Visa at the port of entry. The Tokyo Study Center will assist you with this process. Carry your Resident Card (Zairyu Kado) with you at all times so that if questioned by local officials, you can prove your identity, citizenship, and immigration status. Under Japanese law, the police may stop any person on the street at any time and demand to see identification.
It is easier to replace lost or stolen documents if you have photocopies. Make photocopies of all important documents, including passport photo pages, vaccination certificates, travelers check receipts, airline tickets, student ID, birth certificate, credit cards (front and back), etc., then leave a set of copies at home with a parent or guardian and pack a set in various pieces of luggage. Spending a few moments copying documents now can save time and energy if something is lost or stolen.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Students who are granted DACA are strongly encouraged to consult an immigration attorney to evaluate the risks of potentially being unable to re-enter the United States and any impact that participation in UCEAP might have on any deferred action application. If you are undocumented and have not been granted DACA, we strongly encourage you not to leave the country.
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
You can find almost everything you need in Japan.
- Dressy outfits (sport coat, tie, dress, etc.) for academic or formal events
- Small, lightweight gifts (see Gifts in this chapter)
- Warm clothing for winter
- Shoes that slip on and off easily
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Prescription medications (see the Health chapter of this guide for information on transporting prescriptions abroad)
- Travel guide with a detailed map of your destination
- Plug adapter (outlets in Japan have 2 prongs, not 3)
- Multivitamins, headache medicine, aspirin, and other analgesics
Climate and Dress
The climate in Japan is hot and humid in the summer and cold in the winter. During the early summer you will experience tsuyu, a rainy season characterized by overcast skies and frequent drizzle. The tsuyu ends in mid-July when the humid summer heat sets in and the number of mosquitoes increase.
Winter temperatures can fall below freezing with the chill factor from strong winter winds making it seem much colder. The best defense is to layer clothes and wear warm underwear, sweaters, scarves, socks, and slippers. If you are going to Sendai, be prepared for snow and cold conditions. Buildings are often cold, with the exception of major department stores or subways, where it is usually a little too warm for comfort.
Japanese people are generally well dressed, and stylish and formal trends are found particularly in downtown university areas. Women wear skirts and dresses more often than at UC. The typical UC wardrobe is fine for everyday wear on the suburban campuses. Clothing in Japan is often expensive and difficult to find in large and tall sizes. Women taller than 5'7" and men taller than 5'10" may have difficulty finding clothing in stores.
Shoes are very important in Japan. Japanese people take off their shoes every time they enter a home; therefore, it is best to have shoes that slip on and off easily. Take clean socks without holes.
You may find yourself walking a great deal more than you do at home. Take sturdy shoes that will last for your time abroad. Normally, Japanese shoes go up to size 7½ for women and 8½ for men. It is difficult, and often more costly, to find larger sizes.
It is customary to take small gifts when visiting people in Japan. In Japanese culture, the quality of a gift’s wrapping is as important as the gift itself. Inexpensive gifts may be balanced out by the special care you take with wrapping and presentation with nice paper, bows, special boxes, or gift bags.
- U.S. and hometown items (state, campus, team/sports)
- Pictures of UC or your hometown
- T-shirts with city, state, campus, or team logos
- Baseball caps with sports logos
- Something edible from California like See’s Candies, almonds, pistachios or dried fruits
- Postcards of California
Voltage in Japan is 100 volts, 50 cycles AC in the Kanto area and 60 cycles AC in the Kansai area. The voltage is slightly lower so electric motors (such as hair dryers) run a little slower than in California.
Three-pin plugs are not used in Japan; two flat-pin plugs are used instead. Purchase a plug adaptor beforehand (if needed).
Various brands of saline solution, daily cleaners, enzyme removers, and solutions for the heat method of disinfecting lenses are available in Japan. Take an extra pair of contacts or glasses and the prescription in case either is needed while abroad.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protections for your property, as in spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP's travel insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends you to examine the details of the UCEAP travel insurance benefits and to purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, MP3 players, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
You may decide to purchase additional coverage, especially for high-value electronics (e.g., computer, tablets, camera, etc.). If you decide to do so, purchase supplemental coverage before departure because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. You can safeguard your belongings from damage or theft by locking your room and securing money, travelers checks, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase a ticket that allows changes to the return date.
The estimated airfare amount in the UCEAP Program Budget is based on the cost of a changeable round-trip student ticket.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The official currency unit in Japan is the yen (abbreviated ¥ or JPY). Get used to carrying more cash in Japan than you would in the U.S. Checks are not widely used, and credit cards are not as frequently accepted as in the U.S.
"The price of food and everything else in Japan is very high!" -UCEAP Student
Since Citibank has offices in the U.S. and Japan, you can access your account in both countries.
Banking and financial customs in Japan are different from those in the U.S. Almost all purchases are made in cash, although credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are accepted at hotels and some restaurants. You can purchase yen at the airport (either in the U.S. or Japan). U.S. dollar-denominated and yen-denominated travelers checks are accepted in Japan at major banks.
Japanese Bank Account
One way to handle finances is to open an account at a Japanese bank, which is free of charge. Most banks have branches throughout the country and issue account holders an ATM card for use at the branches. In addition, you can use another bank’s ATM for a fee.
Most banks are open weekdays and closed on weekends and national holidays. ATM hours vary from bank to bank and branch to branch, but usually from 8:45 a.m. to 6 pm on weekdays, and there is an extra fee outside of those hours and on weekends. Convenience stores have ATMs connected to major banks. Verify this information with your bank when you open an account.
ATM Cards from the U.S.
"If you'd like to use an ATM card from a bank at home, there are Citibanks all around Tokyo that accept those cards. The post office usually has an international ATM that you can use." -UCEAP Student
Prior to departure, ask your bank or card company if you can access funds in your U.S. account in Japan using your ATM card and personal identification number (PIN). In addition, find out if ATMs are accessible in the area where you will reside in Japan. The cash amount you will be able to withdraw from an ATM in Japan is limited to the amount you can withdraw in America rounded down to the closest ¥10,000.
ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores across Japan accept many international debit or credit cards. According to 7-Eleven, most Plus and Cirrus cards should work, including Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, American Express, JCB, and UnionPay cards. The service charge differs depending on the card.
Another option would be a Charles Schwab account because they will reimburse you for any ATM fees incurred.
Post Office Accounts
Most campuses have a post office that also serve as a bank. Year students tend to open an account at a post office so that they can pay dorm rent easily. With this type of account, you can also withdraw money at post offices throughout Japan for free. Major post offices have facilities for exchanging cash and travelers checks. In addition, many post offices have ATMs. These ATMs are usually open longer hours than the bank, and you can withdraw money from these ATMs on the weekends for free.
Transferring Money Overseas
Money can be cabled from an American bank to your Japanese account in about a week. Money is first cabled from the American bank to the central office of the Japanese bank; the funds are then transferred by mail to the local branch, where they are made available. The process can be expedited by two or three days for an extra fee by having the money cabled directly to the branch office.
The basic charge for the procedure is set by the American bank, but an additional handling fee will be charged by the Japanese bank as well. Determine the charges before departure and verify that your American bank can transfer funds in this manner.
"Japan is pretty expensive, so bring more money than you think you will need. It is better to overestimate than underestimate." -UCEAP Student
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Japan at larger stores. The American Express card is seldom accepted by merchants.
Scholarships and Fellowships
The Japanese government and Japanese private foundations offer scholarship support to North American students studying in Japan. Special scholarships and fellowships are available to students nominated by their host university and approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbukagakusho) and the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO). These awards typically consist of a generous monthly stipend in yen. UCEAP recommends you apply for a scholarship where applicable. These scholarships are not available to students who hold Japanese passports.
JASSO scholarships replace, not supplement, financial aid funding. If you are a financial aid recipient, you must report all outside agency awards to your UC Financial Aid Office. The UC Financial Aid Office will include the outside agency award in your financial aid package and will adjust the original aid accordingly. It is important to understand that aid eligibility does not change, only the source of your aid. For further explanation of your financial aid packaging, contact your UC Financial Aid Office.
Internet access and computer facilities are available at all Japanese host institutions. You will receive additional information when you arrive. Take your own laptop if possible—UCEAP alumni report that they are useful.
Some U.S. cell phones work in Japan, but at a high cost. Check details with your service provider before departure. A fall 2015 UCEAP student wrote this cell phone information
for use by future students.
If you would like to purchase a cell phone, you are required to show your passport, resident card with the address registered with the local government, and student ID card. You can pay monthly charges with a credit card. In recent years, purchasing a cell phone has been expensive. You can purchase a prepaid phone or get a contract. There will be an explanation about cell phones during the on-site orientation. If you are under 20 years old, you will need a copy of a parent’s or guardian’s identification (a passport or state-issued driver’s license), along with a parental consent form.
If you enter Japan on a tourist visa, you will need to rent a cell phone from the airport until your student visa is processed.
EAP alumni report getting in touch with friends and family in the US using a variety of resources:
- International calling cards
- MSN or online messenger
EMS (Express Mail Service) is a common international mail service offered by the Japanese post office. You can also find international delivery companies such as FedEx and DHL in major cities throughout Japan. A letter to the U.S. can be delivered in about five days. Packages and parcels can be shipped to the U.S. using air mail in about a week.
Tohoku University Housing
UCEAP students in Tohoku will be placed at the University House Sanjo, International House 1, or International House 2. You can commute via campus shuttle, bus, or bicycle. University House Sanjo is a dormitory where Japanese and foreign students live together in 8-bedroom apartment units. The rooms are furnished with desk, chair, closet, and bookshelf. Shared shower and bathrooms are located in a common area of each unit. International House 1 and 2 have single rooms for international students and researchers. The single rooms have private kitchen, a desk, chair, bed, fridge, and closet; toilets and shower facilities are shared. It is a 15 minute bus ride from the dorms to Kawauchi campus (where Japanese classes are conducted) and a 30 minute bus ride from the dorms to Aobayama campus where a majority of the research labs are located. The campus shuttle is free of charge and runs every 15 minutes.
University House Sanjo: You must sign up with an Internet service provider on your own to use the landline in your room. You are responsible for all charges. Free wifi is available in the multi-purpose room.
International House 1 and 2: You must sign up with an Internet service provider on your own to use wifi in your room. You are responsible for all charges. Free wifi is available in the multi-purpose room.
At a Glance
- Tohoku arranges housing for you. Students enrolled in JYPE (Engineering Program) are required to live at the dorm assigned by Tohoku university.
- You pay the dormitory directly (in yen) when you move in. Utilities are paid separately. Be prepared to pay for a semester at a time. See the UCEAP Student Budget for estimated housing costs.
- You can purchase your own linens or rent bedding monthly.
Japanese universities have cafeteria-style dining halls on campus that are open to all students. Overall, the price of eating out in Japan can be as much as twice the cost of eating out in California. Major cities have numerous restaurants and fast-food establishments, including many American fast-food restaurants. Tipping is not expected.
The price of groceries tends to be high in Japan, especially for imported foods, meats, and fruits.
See the UCEAP Student Budget for estimated costs.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Tohoku University is located in Sendai, a city of one million in the scenic northern part of Honshu. Sendai is renowned for its natural beauty, facing the Pacific Ocean on the east with mountains to the west. Known as the "city of green" and just a two-hour bullet train from Tokyo, Sendai is the cultural, commercial, and transportation center of the region of Tohoku. You will be studying at Kawauchi campus, Aobayama campus, and/or Katahira campus. They are about a 10 to 20 minute bus ride from Sendai station. Students can use campus shuttles between campuses as well as between dorms and campuses for free.
All cities in Japan have excellent public transportation and students have no trouble getting around. The Tokyo area may be confusing initially because of its vastness and complexity. As with most major transportation systems, the biggest problems are the crowds and the expense, which can be minimized by avoiding rush-hour travel times and by using subway and private lines.
Most train lines in Japan have bilingual signs. Many of the subway and private railway stations in Tokyo are numbered, so if you don’t speak Japanese but enter a train at station N7 and need to go to N13 you can easily keep track of where you are and where you need to be. The same station will have a different ID from each train line that runs through it.
If you have a long commute, you might find a bike useful for travel between home and the train station. It is your responsibility to learn your rights and obligations as a cyclist abroad.
Operating Motor Vehicles
You are strongly discouraged from driving cars, scooters, or motorcycles due to serious legal and insurance issues. Trains provide exceptional transit in and between most cities. UCEAP assumes no financial or legal aid responsibilities should you be involved in an accident while operating a motor vehicle.
Besides the national holidays, you will have breaks during the year. Travel is an excellent complement to the academic program. Experiencing and hearing regional dialects will enhance your understanding of the Japanese language.
"Traveling is expensive but worthwhile. You can get a student discount, and it's eye-opening to see Japan." -UCEAP Student
You are required to inform Study Center staff about your travel plans, especially if you leave for more than a weekend. An emergency may arise at the Study Center or at home that may make it necessary to reach you promptly. For your convenience, there is a Sign-Out form in MyEAP.
"It's expensive to travel in the country, but I think it's really worth it because there's so much more to Japan than the big cities." -UCEAP Student
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community. Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
Extra efforts to socialize will greatly enhance your time in Japan. This is a one-time opportunity, so make the most of it.
Campus Club Activities
"Clubs offer the best way to meet Japanese students. But join just one club-you'll be judged on how seriously you take the commitment. Sign-ups occur during the first week of the term." -UCEAP Student
Club activity is an important part of student life in Japan. Club participation is taken seriously and regular attendance is expected. Each university offers a rich variety of student club activities. UCEAP participants have joined martial arts clubs (karate, judo, aikido, and kendo), sports clubs, sport teams, and clubs for tea ceremony, drama, music, dance, flower arranging, and international relations. While each club varies, most students find clubs to be friendly and feel that membership provides an excellent way to meet Japanese students and practice Japanese.
Whatever club you join, it is imperative that you respect the sempai/kohai relationship. You must accept the role of a kohai. Although you may be tempted to suggest a better way of doing something in a club, this would be a social and cultural blunder; such a suggestion may embarrass the sempai for being corrected by a kohai. However, once you have established yourself as a team player, diplomatic suggestions and input may be well received.
"I learned a lot of Japanese outside of the classroom through interactions with friends. Definitely do at least one homestay. You will learn a lot about Japanese culture and the families are great!" -UCEAP Student
Students with Disabilities
While in Japan, students with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they are accustomed to in the United States. Although Japan’s accessibility laws mandate that new construction projects for public use include provisions for persons with disabilities, older buildings are not likely to have been retrofitted for accessibility. At major train stations, airports, and hotels, students with disabilities should encounter few accessibility problems. Accessibility at other public facilities continues to improve through the installation of elevators and wheelchair ramps. Many smaller stations are inaccessible to those who cannot climb stairs.
Accommodations and services cannot be guaranteed and are individualized, based upon the student's documentation provided through the UC campus Disability Services Office (DSO). The letter must be on UC DSO letterhead and issued for the specific term and UCEAP program/country. Accommodations and services can be revisited as needed, but they are not retroactive and cannot be facilitated, if available abroad, if procedures are not followed with reasonable, advanced notice. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that any funding required for special services abroad is arranged in advance.
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Working while on the program is not recommended. However, you may work up to 14 hours per week, provided you receive the proper employment permits from the Japanese Immigration Office, the host institution, and the Study Center Director. It is illegal for foreign students on a student visa to work without this permit, even tutoring English. It is not permissible to miss a class, field trip, or other academic activity because of a job. Any student who does take a job must inform the employer that there will be times when he or she will miss work due to classes, field trips, etc. Remember that Japanese language courses, club activities, and dormitory activities are time-consuming and demanding.
Students living and traveling in Japan are highly unlikely to experience safety and security risks due to their sexual orientation. The U.S. Bureau of Democracy’s report mentions a legitimate threat of bullying, but such actions are generally limited to primary school settings. LGBT adults, particularly foreign nationals, are unlikely to be targeted. Violence towards LGBT individuals in Japan is much less likely than in many parts of the United States.
The Bureau of Democracy’s report indicates that LGBT individuals may face social alienation in Japan. Japanese society stigmatizes LGBT persons, often discouraging individuals from openly expressing their identities. Students should use their best judgment in determining whether it is appropriate to disclose their sexuality. In more professional environments, such as offices or laboratories, local counterparts my find open homosexuality discomforting.
For more information,
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term. Your UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy is not the same as your campus or private insurance and it is does not meet ACA requirements for domestic coverage as required by U.S. law
. Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by ACE American Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You can submit a claim for a refund of covered expenses to the UCEAP insurance carrier.
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is the patient's responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims
ACI at email@example.com.
Mandatory Japanese National Health Insurance
After arrival in Japan, all students (except summer only program participants) are required to apply for mandatory Japanese National Health Insurance (Kokumin Kenko Hoken). This insurance will give you access to the best medical treatment available in Japan and cover 70% of your medical costs on site. In addition, your UCEAP insurance will cover the remainder of your medical costs. During orientation, the UCEAP Study Center will provide more information about National Health Insurance and assist you in this process. The cost of the Japanese national health insurance is included in the “incidentals” line of the UCEAP Student Budget Worksheet. A few weeks after you apply, you will receive a bill in the mail and you will need to pay for this insurance out of pocket in yen. You may pay for this insurance in either a lump sum or monthly payments. If you are an ILP student, it is recommended you make monthly payments rather than a lump sum payment. The national health insurance is administered by each local government. So, upon moving to your host university you will need to reapply for the national health insurance at your new city hall, and reimbursement of previous overpayments may take considerable time.
Japan is highly regarded for its advanced level in medicine and medical technology. Hospitals and clinics use only the latest medical equipment. You have the option, depending on the seriousness and urgency of your illness, to choose the appropriate hospital (university hospital, general hospital or clinic).
When you visit a clinic or a hospital for the first time, you will need to fill out a registration form, present your Japan National Health Insurance card and sometimes pay a fee for the initial visit. Ask the Study Center or International Office staff for help.
Stay healthy and avoid lowering your body’s resistance. The change in diet and climate may cause an upset stomach until you adjust to the new environment. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. If you have allergies, sinus illnesses may be worse than in the U.S.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center immediately. Study Center staff can recommend a clinic to visit, guide you through the UCEAP claims process, and assist if arrangements need to be made with your professors due to extended absence from class.
The Tokyo Study Center recommends the Sanno Hospital
for students in the Tokyo Area. This hospital is located relatively close to the Keio University campus, and professional English interpreters are available at no additional cost.
UCEAP continually reviews information from the CDC
and World Health Organization
, works closely with medical experts on the UC campuses, and monitors local host university and country health resources to provide timely and current information, as needed. In the event of a pandemic, UCEAP’s ability to assist students abroad may be severely limited by restrictions on local and international movement imposed by foreign governments or the United States for public health reasons.
To prevent getting sick:
- Eat only thoroughly cooked foods.
- Avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces or fluids from poultry or other animals.
- Do not touch pigs, birds, or any other animal.
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid those that appear ill. Wear an FDA-approved respirator mask in crowded places during flu season.
- Stay aware of the situation.
- Drink bottled water.
- Refer to the UCEAP Worldwide Alerts web page for updated information on avian flu.
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
Refer to the Health
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Decisions on what medications or medical devices may be imported legally into Japan are made by the Japanese Government. Unfortunately the limited information the U.S. Embassy has available, does not include comprehensive lists of specific medications or ingredients. This information is available only from the Japanese authorities, and subject to change: Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use, U.S. Embassy, Tokyo
U.S. prescriptions are not honored in Japan, so if you need ongoing prescription medicine you should arrive with a sufficient supply for your stay in Japan, if allowed by Japanese law, or enough until you are able to see a local care provider. Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar but not identical substitutes for medicines available in the United States.
Generally, up to one month's supply of allowable prescription medicine can be brought into Japan. You must bring a copy of your doctor's prescription and a letter, on letterhead, stating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regime.
If you must carry more than one month's supply (does not apply to prohibited drugs and controlled drugs), or are carrying syringes (pumps) or a CPAP machine, you are required to obtain a "Yakkan Shoumei", or an import certificate in advance, and show the "Yakkan Shoumei" certificate with your prescription medicines to Customs.
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- Although you should always travel with a copy of your prescription from your U.S. doctor, many pharmacies in other countries will only fill prescriptions written in that country. If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor to get a similar prescription that a pharmacy will fill. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. It may be covered if you are insured through your campus health insurance plan. It will be critical to have a letter from a U.S. doctor during this appointment explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication prescribed by a licensed physician when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If intending to travel with prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician on letterhead indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging. Ensure that it is clearly labelled with your full passport name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage. Do not pack the medications in your checked luggage.
- Carry copies of all original prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country in quantities to last through your stay, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure, so you can have time to consult with your doctor on any resulting complications. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Plan for your Well-being
Studying in Japan can be an enriching experience. It can also be physically and mentally challenging one. Mild or pre-existing health conditions can become serious as you transition into an unfamiliar culture and environment. Speak with returnees and gather detailed information before you leave for Japan. U.S.-style and standard psychiatric care can be difficult to locate in major urban centers in Japan and generally is not available outside of Japan's major cities.
Life in Japan is fast-paced with large crowds, noise, and long commuting times. Entertainment costs and prices can be high. For someone on a tight budget and with limited free time, your time in Japan may need an adjusted lifestyle. You may feel unprepared for the impact that this experience can have on your emotional well-being, including mood, stress level, behavior patterns, or identity development. For diversion, students find that regular activities, such as involvement with an interest group like a chorus or hiking club, or study of traditional dance, archery, or calligraphy, offer a break from textbooks and opportunities to practice using Japanese. Ask locals for insight and acknowledge that this as a valuable learning experience.
Culture shock is a normal developmental phase of adjustment to a new cultural environment. It is not a psychological disorder. It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the vastly different environment. Culture shock reactions are usually transitory — lasting a couple of weeks — and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope.
- Eat balanced meals, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, build strong relationships, share concerns with the Study Center, and be open and accepting of the differences you encounter. It will make your stay more enjoyable as you adapt to the new environment.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit receipts to the UCEAP insurance company for reimbursement. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com. For information about the claims process, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Insurance chapter
Risk of travelers’ diarrhea is minimal throughout the country. Community sanitation is generally good, and health concerns related to food and beverages are minimal. Hand, foot, and mouth disease occurs May to December, and peaks between June and August. Frequent hand washing is recommended. Drink only bottled water from a reputable source.
If you have severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
- Ask for a waiter/waitress who speaks English to help you choose a safe menu item. Some restaurants will have menus in English, but it varies.
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Occasionally, women (and sometimes men) are inappropriately touched by men (called chikan or “perverts”) on crowded trains. This is a crime. The best way to avoid this is to avoid riding on crowded trains or seek out the “women only” train cars. If you encounter these criminals on the trains, firmly say yamete kudasai (stop it!) to the suspected person, or chikan loud enough that other passengers may hear. Men are advised to hold on to the handles of crowded trains with both hands and keep them in plain view to avoid accusations of being a chikan.
Follow Study Center advice on safety and security and take precautions as if you were in the U.S.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being.
Staying safe in another country is similar to staying safe in a large U.S. city. Understand the potential threats, know which neighborhoods to avoid, and remain vigilant (pay attention to your surroundings; do not walk around while talking on the phone or while listening to music).
If you will be traveling, think about how you are getting to your destination and/or any travel inside a country. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel. Be proactive about your safety. Be prepared.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and contracted with emergency service and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and avoid being a victim of a crime:
- Assess your surroundings.
- Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.
- Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Trust your "gut feelings"; if you feel threatened, leave the area immediately and find somewhere more secure.
- Research potential risks you can encounter while traveling.
- Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking.
- Practice the buddy system, which promotes safety. This system helps ensure that you, and a partner, will look out for each other. Choose your buddy wisely. The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is very important. If you are having a problem, your buddy can help to alert others and get you to safety.
- Have a communication plan. Who will you call on site if you are facing an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Know what to do in a possible risk scenario
Locate the nearest emergency exits. If evacuated in a group, remain in the center of the group with as many people around you as possible. Don’t take the lead or straggle behind.
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
The crime threat level throughout Japan is low. According to the U.S. embassy low-threat does not mean no-threat. Violent crimes, while rare, do exist.
Staying safe and secure on UCEAP requires you to be responsible for culturally appropriate behavior, exercising sound judgment, and abiding by UCEAP and host university policies and procedures. Understand that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for using good judgment to protect your health, safety and well-being. Essential behaviors include being aware of your surroundings, understanding how your conduct and actions may be perceived, and being sensitive to the impact that your behavior could have on your personal safety. Follow precautions against theft, robbery, and assault. Lock your apartment door and windows, and keep valuable items in a bank safe deposit box. Use the buddy system when out late in the evening. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
also posts updates on safety precautions in Japan.
Possession of a knife with a locking blade, or a folding blade that is longer than 5.5 cm (a little more than two inches), is illegal in Japan. U.S. citizens have been arrested and detained for more than 10 days for carrying pocket knives that are legal in the United States but illegal in Japan.
Watch your Drink
Drink-spiking has routinely led to robbery and has also resulted in physical and sexual assaults. In most drink-spiking reports, the victim unknowingly drinks a beverage that has been mixed with a drug, which renders the victim unconscious or dazed for several hours. During this time the victim’s credit card is used for large purchases or the card is stolen. Some victims regain consciousness in the bar or club; other victims may awaken on the street.
Sexual assaults are not frequent but do occur, and females may be randomly targeted. Some U.S. citizens report that Japanese police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a survivor's concerns compared to the procedures in the United States, particularly in cases of sexual assault or when both the survivor and the perpetrator are foreigners. Few assistance resources exist in major urban areas, and they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without female police officers present, and police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. If you are sexually assaulted, first, go to a safe place immediately. This is not the time to be alone. Call the 24/7 UCEAP Study Center staff who will help and support you.
Hate-related violent crimes rarely occur. Some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their nationality or their race.
You are subject to Japan’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States. American citizens are not protected by U.S. laws while in Japan. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those enforced in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines. If you are charged with such offenses, UCEAP would not be able to intervene on your behalf.
Demonstrations are not common in Japan. Those that occur are generally small, well-organized and non-violent. Even when large protests have occurred, they have been peaceful and orderly. Although protesters typically do not target Westerners or foreign interests, avoid demonstrations as a precaution.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
All roads in Japan are paved and marked. There are many reliable transport options available in Japan. Mass transit is most accessible in urban areas, but rail lines reach many more remote areas of the country and most roads are passable. Transit is generally safe even though the risk of petty theft exists.
Subway networks and privately run commuter trains serve Tokyo and Osaka. Subways, with the rail system, are the most convenient and inexpensive means for traveling throughout Japan. Subways are often very crowded, especially during rush hour, and jostling is considered normal. The Tokyo subway system has color-coded lines clearly marked with signs in English. Exits are numbered and maps are available in each station.
Rail travel in Japan is extremely efficient but it can be very crowded during rush hours on the most popular lines. Numerous regional passenger companies comprise the Japanese National Rail (JR) system. There is adequate police presence at the stations and on the trains to ensure passenger security.
To maximize the number of riders, white-gloved attendants physically push passengers into rail cars. Crowded trains provide opportunities for pickpockets and other thieves. Safeguard valuables and remain aware of your surroundings and personal belongings to avoid becoming a victim of petty crime.
Women may encounter chikans (perverts/molesters), who tend to be most active on public transit during the evening commute. To mitigate the problem, some trains now have female-only cars.
- Cross streets at a corner, using traffic signals where available and crosswalks.
- Stay on the sidewalk wherever there is one.
- Take overhead and underground pedestrian walkways when they are available.
- Stop before you start to cross the street. Look to the left, right, and left again. Cross when it is clear.
- When going out at night, wear brightly colored or reflective clothing.
- Where the view is restricted, stop and confirm whether it is safe to continue.
- Do not cross where there is a “Pedestrian Crossing Forbidden” sign.
Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. One of the first things you should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness.
Have a Plan
Japan is located in an active seismic region known as the “Ring of Fire” and often receives minor tremors and earthquakes. Historically, Japan has suffered from large earthquakes in major metropolitan areas. Fortunately, Japan has made great advances with buildings and major roadways being constructed to withstand seismic activity. Along the coastline, coastal cities are susceptible to tsunamis, which stem from earthquake epicenters located in the ocean and can arrive on shore within minutes with no notice. These tidal waves have caused destruction of property and life in varying degrees.
Develop your personal emergency plan. Know the location of evacuation sites.
Telephone services will be severely overloaded and the Japanese Government will restrict phone use to priority users. The Japan Meteorological Agency
(JMA) provides residents in Japan with earthquake early warnings. These are new rapid earthquake alerts to be issued immediately after the occurrence of early tremors, in order to secure time to protect yourself before strong tremors arrive. When accurate, these warnings may just give you a couple of seconds advance notice. Preparation is of critical importance. The JMA provides earthquake early warnings through several means such as TV and radio.
In the event of a major earthquake, the government will issue a declaration of warning (state of emergency). Everyone within range of the warning is advised to refrain from the use of cars and telephones. Emergency actions include:
- Turn off the stove and other heat sources.
- Open doors to ensure an exit; this is particularly important in a multi-level building.
- DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay indoors during the initial tremor until it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave. Once outside, protect your head.
If trapped under debris:
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
Fire - Dial 119
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Warning after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy voluntary departure on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP, is covered by UCEAP insurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Local Emergency Numbers Police are reliable and widely respected. Police boxes (koban) exist throughout the country at transport hubs and in residential and commercial areas.
The police may be reached by telephone at 110 (hyaku touban).
Emergency medical care, the fire department, the life squad, and ambulance services can be reached by dialing 119.
U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-8420 JAPAN
Phone (general switchboard): (03) 3224-5000
Phone (visa information): (03) 5354-4033
Fax: (03) 3505-1862
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