Japan: Looking for advice on logistics for a paranoid traveller
July 10, 2011 6:04 AM   Subscribe

I will be in Tokyo for 5 days next week. Since I will be arriving at Haneda airport close to 23h00, I will need to make a call to my airport hotel to collect me at the airport. How does one actually make a phone call in Japan? I know this sounds silly but not knowing how to read all those japanese characters is making me anxious. The hotel is situated in the Haneda area and the phone number starts with 03. I searched flickr for some pictures of payphones and this one indicates that it accepts coins and phonecards. I am now worried that due to the lateness of my arrival; no shops selling phonecards will be open. Any advice ?
posted by lahersedor to Travel & Transportation around Japan (18 answers total)
Not clear from your post if you've ever been to Japan before. I've flown in to Narita a few times, and our usual drill is to purchase a bus ticket. Taking the train was possible a couple of times, but we stuck with the bus mainly because the ladies working the bus counter are used to non-Japanese speakers stumbling up and showing them a printout of a reservation or somesuch.
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2011

Could you make arrangements with the hotel transportation in advance, rather than waiting to call when you're on the ground?
posted by olecranon at 6:49 AM on July 10, 2011

(This is what I have in mind...)
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2011

Is your pick up pre-arranged? As in, you call and they know to come and get you? In that case, see if you can change money (not much, maybe $10) at theairport you'll be flying out of. If there isn't a kiosk selling phone cards, there will almost certainly be a vending machine where you can break whatever bill you've got. If you're usig coins, the phone is just like any other phone. Dial the full number, with the 03 and everything. You should be fine.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2011

What's the name of the hotel? Perhaps a kind Tokyo MeFite can offer you more specific advice if that info's out there.

Also, what does your hotel's website advise?
posted by mdonley at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2011

There should be a vending machine by the phones that sell phone cards.
posted by Hazy Star at 7:31 AM on July 10, 2011

The hotel's homepage should tell you exactly what the process is so if it entails making a phone call just use your own mobile phone - roaming charges or not when I arrive late somewhere unknown after a long flight the last thing I want to do after a long flight is worry about finding a payphone and how to pay for the call etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2011

I don't know where you will be staying but the general drill at Haneda is to take the Monorail (470 yen) to Hammatsucho station. From there you can get a taxi to your hotel. If you want to taxi from Haneda, you can do that too, but depending on where your hotel is in Tokyo, it could be a decent amount (3-5000 yen-ish.)

If possible you should arrange pickup by the hotel in advance so they're waiting for you. I think only 5-star hotels will have such a service and the price will be commensurate with that hotel's level of service.
posted by gen at 9:06 AM on July 10, 2011

Oh, and I live in Tokyo and use Haneda many times a year for domestic and international flights, fwiw.
posted by gen at 9:06 AM on July 10, 2011

Sorry! I missed the part where you said your hotel is near Haneda. If that's the case, then you don't want to get onto the Monorail. If your hotel is near Haneda then just jump in a cab. (print out the hotel's website and hand it to the driver.)
posted by gen at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2011

The hotel's homepage should tell you exactly what the process is so if it entails making a phone call just use your own mobile phone...

Just be aware that network compatibility issues with foreign phones in Japan are pretty fraught, and there's a good chance that your phone won't work.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:09 AM on July 10, 2011

nthing taking a cab. If making a phone call has you this stressed out, it's worth the few bucks.
(FWIW phones work the same as everywhere else, but it can be frustrating if you get someone on the other end who speaks little-to-no English.)

For double extra plus protection print out the name and address of your hotel (in English & Japanese) so the cabbie doesn't have to translate the address.

Virtually all cabs take credit cards, but you can pull yen out of the ATM at the airport before you leave.

(And yeah, there's a small chance that your mobile will work in Japan, unless you bought it to work specifically in Japan.)
posted by Ookseer at 9:38 AM on July 10, 2011

Phonecard: As Ghidorah says, you won't need a phonecard, as long as you've got at least one 1000-yen note; vending machines in Japan are ubiquitous, and they take 1000-yen notes and return change in coins, so you can get a 120-yen drink and use your change for the phone.

But in any case, there's a 24h convenience store - a branch of Lawson - on the ground floor at Haneda, which will almost certainly sell you a phone card or break a large note for you.

Japanese ability: You don't need to be able to read Japanese to use a payphone - or a vending machine, for that matter. Prices and other numbers on both are always given in ordinary numerals (0-9), not in Japanese characters, and other than that, they're pretty intuitive, so it doesn't really matter if you can't read the instructions.

Vending machines (in case you do end up getting change from one) are dead easy to use. The button for each drink is under the drink in the cabinet, and the price is written directly above the button. The coin and note slots are clearly marked as such, and I've never known a Japanese vending machine to eat money or reject a note. Incidentally, if you see red as well as blue price labels, the red ones are for hot drinks, and the blue ones for cold.

Phones... I can't give you exact instructions (it's been more than four years since I last had to use one) but I know they're not complicated, because I know I had no problem using a Japanese payphone myself under similar circumstances. I had to make a call from Narita Airport the first time I landed in Japan. As well as my first visit to Japan, it was my first trip abroad by myself, my first time on a plane by myself, and my first ever business trip. What with the eleven-hour flight and the general state of stress I was in, I doubt my brain was even functioning. But I managed to operate the phone. That tells me it's not something anyone needs to worry about.

Tokyo's great! I hope you enjoy your stay.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:06 AM on July 10, 2011

I'm staying at the Haneda Inn. And yes the hotel specifically asks guests to call them for a pickup.

@RatSpatula This is my first trip to Japan.

@ManyLeggedCreature Great to hear of someone's experience & to know there's a 24h store nearby.

@Ookseer Taking a taxi would be a last resort; only if I cannot operate the pay-phone successfully.

Thanks everyone.
posted by lahersedor at 7:13 PM on July 10, 2011

Get a small amount of yen before you go to Japan. Use it for the payphone. Pick up the phone and dial the number. Problem solved.
posted by twblalock at 7:52 PM on July 10, 2011

If for some reason you can't make the call and don't want to rely on a taxi, there are Keikyu Line trains running from the international terminal to Ōtorii Station; the hotel is a 3 minute walk from the station's east exit. It's 280 yen.
posted by armage at 12:11 AM on July 11, 2011

You can also rent a mobile phone at Haneda.

It is not expensive (typically ¥300 to ¥500 per day for the handset rental + per minute charges for outgoing calls) and gives you the added security of a lifeline if you get lost.

You'll need a passport and credit card, but you don't need to reserve a phone in advance. It takes about 10 minutes to fill out the paperwork and the staff at the rental counters generally speak English.

Non-Japanese phones don't work in Japan unless they have the symbol for the Japanese telecommunications agency stamped on the phone's interior, usually the battery compartment.
posted by quidividi at 5:20 AM on July 11, 2011

Lots of great suggestions up there. MeMail me if you need help, I'm a native Japanese speaker from Tokyo. I can call the hotel if you need me to.

Most payphones accept 10 yen coins (and only accept 10 yen or 100 yen coins). Get some Japanese Yen, buy a pack of gum, get 10 yen coins (they are the only copper coins without holes in them, and look like this), and use the payphone.

Pick up the receiver, insert 10 yen, call the number. The difference between US payphones is that you need to insert money before calling.

Just so you know, this hotel isn't in the most convenient place in Tokyo.
posted by xmts at 5:35 AM on July 11, 2011

« Older How do you "business meeting"?   |   What are the ideal Relationships for my MS Access... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.