This page is designed to help address some of the practical issues of coming to Japan for aikido. It is designed for international aikido students wishing to train in Japan. It may also be useful to some people who already live here. For information relating to becoming a member please see Becoming a Member. For maps to specific locations please see Classes & Locations.
IMPORTANT: Please read this message before relying on the information presented here.
Getting around Tokyo can seem daunting at first, but it is actually easier than it seems. Due to the overwhelming traffic congestion and inconvenient / exorbitantly priced parking, driving is not usually a good option. Taxis also tend to be very high priced compared to similar distances / times in other countries, so are mostly only useful for very short ranges. This leaves mass transit.
Mass transit in Japan consists of trains and buses. Buses are often great for inexpensive longer trips and getting to and from airports conveniently, especially with a lot of luggage (see getting to and from Narita). There are local routes as well, but for the most part they are unnecessary unless one lives particularly far from a station.
The majority of transportation in Tokyo is done by train and on foot. There are many train companies in Tokyo, but the most important are the two largest systems JR (Japan Rail) and Tokyo Metro, as well as the public Toei Subway. While this may sound complicated there is a good deal of cooperation between these companies, all of the stations have English signs (although not always English fare information), and all of the ticket machines allow you to use English for the majority of simple functions. Two English websites, Jorudan and Hyperdia, can also be used to find routes in Japan and are much better than simple maps since they give the departure, transfer, arrival times, fares, and much more. Hyperdia is a little more comprehensive and also is available in Chinese, but may not be updated as frequently.
Tokyo’s major train systems work on a variable fare, paid zone system. This means that for the most part any ticket will let you into the paid zone for one of the major companies’ regular trains, and the fare is calculated at the station you depart the paid zone from. Do not lose your ticket you have to take it back from the ticket gate after you pass through! This system means that it is okay, and often easiest just to buy the cheapest ticket, and adjust your fare at the ‘fare adjustment machine’ (which is for that purpose) at your destination station before you try to exit the paid zone. This means you don’t need to calculate your fare in advance.
Changing train companies usually requires either exiting one companies paid zone and then entering into the second companies paid zone or entering directly from one company’s zone into another’s via a special ticket gate, providing you bought a ticket that allowed this. When transferring between lines of the same company, it is also sometimes necessary, especially for some Tokyo Metro routes, to exit the paid zone via a special orange transfer gate, which will give you back your ticket and to then re-enter after short walk to another paid zone.
There are local trains, rapid trains, and express trains. The local trains stop at every stop. The rapid and express trains don’t. Limited express, super express, kaiji, and asuza trains are for traveling long distances and require a special more expensive ticket. More detailed information about all of these train related topics is available including more pictures here.
This is can all seem a little complicated to someone new to Tokyo. We strongly suggest that you avoid the whole issue of tickets entirely, and also simplify your transfers using electronic payment. All of the major train companies in Tokyo, as well as most of the buses, accept a form of electronic payment called PASMO. Instead of buying a ticket you buy an PASMO card for 500yen (approximately $5 US) and charge it; both can be done at the ticket machines that show the PASMO or SUICA logo. Simply touch your PASMO card to the pad whenever you see a ticket gate you want to go through and providing there is enough money on your card you will be able to. Transferring between companies is easy and you can use any gate. If you don’t have enough money on your card the gate will beep loudly at you. Don’t worry PASMO cards can also be charged at the fare adjustment machines with the PASMO or SUICA logo.
Tokyo’s major international airport is called Narita Airport. Its international airport code is NRT. It is not located in Tokyo. The international terminal is approximately 80km from Tokyo station which can be reached via a JR rapid train in about 90 minutes for 1280 yen. It can be reached via the JR N’EX (Narita Express) train in about 60 minutes for 2740 yen. Depending on where you are planning to stay in Tokyo, it is sometimes faster and more convenient to use the independent Keisei line. A trip to Ueno which is about 70km takes between 70 and 75 minutes on a rapid express costing 1000 yen and just over 60 minutes on a skyliner class train costing 1920 yen. The N’ex and the Kesei Skyiner trains have reserved seats and are better equipped to handle luggage, which on the slower trains can be a problem since they are also used heavily by commuters and can get very packed. Non-reserved seat trains from Narita should be avoided in the morning from 7am till 9am and to Narita from 5pm till about 9pm. Even if you travel to Tokyo on a reserved seat train, it’s still probably wise to keep in mind the time of day you will be riding if you need to transfer to local lines once you get to Tokyo. During rush hour it would be extremely difficult to board some trains with any large items of luggage. If you decide to go by train then it is wise to look up your route in advance on the website Jorudan or on Hyperdia.
While a taxi ride at over 20,000 yen ($200 US) is probably out of the question for most people, the strangely named Airport Limousine is probably the best option. Airport Limousine is actually a bus line company that operates from Narita to a wide range of areas and to most of the more well known hotels or stops near them. Their website allows you to search by hotel name or area which makes it easy to check whether a hotel is convenient or not to get to from the airport. The price range varies depending on the destination but is approximately 3000 yen for most destinations in Tokyo. Airport Limousine is great if you have a lot of luggage and accepts two pieces per person up to 30kgs with a maximum size of 50cm x 60cm x 120cm per item.
There are several options for those who wish to train in Japan depending on the intended length of stay and other factors. Please confirm any of the information here with the visa section of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website or the Immigration Bureau.
For most people who wish to train in Japan for a limited amount of time, a tourist visa is the simplest answer. For citizens of many (but not all) countries a tourist visa allows entrants into Japan to stay for up to either 90 days or 3 months, depending on the country. In some cases it is possible to renew this once, if you have a good reason (using this form), or in the case of some Western European countries (and a of couple others as well) a stay of up to 6 months is allowed.
Also, for citizens from the over 60 countries with Visa Exemption Arrangements with Japan, applying for a visa in advance of arrival is not necessary. So in most cases for people from approved countries, getting a tourist visa simply means getting off the plane and walking to the immigration desk. If you plan on being in Japan longer than 30 days, it is advisable to explain your reasons to immigration and request the maximum visa duration available to citizens from your country BEFORE your passport is stamped. It is common for Japanese Immigration officials to stamp a 30 day visa in one’s passport regardless of the maximum stay permitted.
A tourist visa does not allow one to work. Showing a round trip ticket as well as giving the address of where you plan to stay, etc, is in most cases necessary. For citizens of countries without visa exemptions, a tourist visa is required before leaving your home country. Citizens of Russia and most of the former Soviet states will find information here. Information for the Philippines can be found here and for all other non-visa -exempt countries here.
Unless you have a Japanese spouse or are a foreign diplomat or member of one’s staff, staying in Japan for a longer duration generally requires a student or working visa. In principle all of the visa types discussed in this section are required before entry into Japan although a change of status to a work visa is sometimes possible and discussed below.
For those between the ages of 18 and 30, and from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Japan, one of the easiest visas to get and probably the most convenient is the working holiday visa. A working holiday visa is the only long term visa for regular people (non-diplomats, etc) that does not require a Japanese sponsor. It allows one to engage in a very wide range of part-time or full-time work and is for 6 months with an additional 6 months extension available or for one year depending on your country. Showing that you have enough money for your initial stay is required (currently at least$2000 US). More information is available here.
Receiving a working visa requires an employer that is willing to sponsor your visa and government approval. Visa’s are only given for a fixed set of occupations. In practice some of the official categories of visa are extremely difficult to get, while others tend to be easier.There are small number of companies that hire from abroad. This is especially common for English teaching positions. A few such companies are Aeon, Gaba, Geos, Berlitz, Shane’s. Jobs can also be found on job search websites such as Gaijinpot, Work in Japan or CareerCross. If you want to be able within traveling distance of Renshinkai’s Main Dojo, make sure you search for jobs in Tokyo.
Although, it is often possible to come to Japan on a tourist visa, find employment, and change ones visa status in Japan, especially for certain common jobs like teaching English or IT work, this requires finding a job quickly because changing one’s visa will take a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks providing there are no problems (better to plan on more) and over staying a visa in Japan is not advisable. Receiving a working visa requires proof of the pertinent official qualifications for each visa, for example an original of a University or College diploma for English teaching positions. Note: This approach is usually frowned upon by immigration officials.
A student visa is available to citizens of most countries who have been accepted full-time into a Japanese post-secondary institution and in some cases pre-college and certain Japanese language schools. There area number of requirements. For more information on schools, immigration procedures and more look here.
If you are a group of five or more people who are intending to come to Japan and the primary purpose of your trip is to study aikido at Renshinkai please let us know via the English Contact Page. We may be able help with advice or more.
This page is designed for informational purposes only. Whilst every attempt was made to present accurate information, there may be errors and/or omissions. Please contact us via the English Contact Page if you have any questions or notice any discrepancies. Thank you.