Q: Are there any immunizations that need to be done in advance?
A: No immunizations are required by the program, although Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for long-term (greater than 1 month) travelers to rural areas or travelers who may engage in extensive unprotected outdoor activities in rural areas, especially in the evening, during shorter trips. Two vaccines that are recommended for any traveler are MMR and Tetanusdiptheria vaccinations. For the MMR vaccine, two doses are recommended (if not previously given) for all travelers born after 1956, unless blood tests show immunity. Tetanus-diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all travelers who have not received a tetanus-diphtheria immunization within the last 10 years. Please consult your physician.
Q: What kind of documentation will participants be required to take with them?
A: Participants must take their passports, visas, and an alternate form of photo ID. In addition, participants must also take their completed paperwork for taxes. It is also a good idea to make copies of each and carry them in your luggage.
Q: How do I go about obtaining a passport?
A: You must apply for a passport in person at the Clerk of the Superior Court, Passport Services at 601 W. Jackson St., Phoenix AZ 85003. To apply for a passport, you must present a certified copy of your original birth certificate. A certified copy of your birth certificate may be obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where you were born. Hospital birth certificates are not accepted. The certificate is required to be submitted with the application and will be returned with the passport. Expired passports may be substituted for a certified copy of the birth certificate. Naturalized Citizens must present their original naturalization papers instead of their birth certificates.
- All applicants will be required to provide their social security number.
- You must present two passport photos when applying for a passport. These photos must be made especially for your passport. Please consult your yellow pages under photographers or passports to obtain appropriate pictures. Family snapshots, portraits or school pictures are not acceptable as passport photos.
- You must present valid, government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or military ID when you apply. Picture bank cards, school identification, temporary or expired forms of government-issued identification are not acceptable forms of identification.
- The standard passport application form (DS-11) and all other necessary forms are available at the Clerk’s Office or can be downloaded from the Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov.
- Please allow ample time for this process, as the normal processing time for a passport is eight weeks.
Q: How do I go about obtaining a visa?
A: Phoenix Sister Cities (PSC) will assist with the visa process. Participants will submit their passport, (2) passport-size photos, a completed visa application, and release of liability to the Japanese Embassy in Los Angeles. Visa applications will be given to program participants at their first mandatory meeting and can be completed upon receipt of paperwork by the Himeji Board of Education, which includes flight details. PSC can also assist with obtaining visas for family members accompanying you to Himeji.
Q: In order to have the Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Immigration office, what do participants need to submit?
A: Phoenix Sister Cities will submit the following information to the Himeji Board of Education to process the Certificate of Eligibility. The Certificate of Eligibility is required prior to processing the visa paperwork. Participants will need to present the following items due at the April meeting:
1) Two pictures per person (passport size)
2) A copy of original diploma
3) Copy of passport
4) Signed contract
5) Information sheet
Q: Do I need to become a member of Phoenix Sister Cities?
A: Yes, program participants are required to become members of Phoenix Sister Cities. Personal membership fees vary in cost; there are student, single adult, senior and family rates available. You will receive monthly newsletters, discounted offers, invitations and additional announcements on various Phoenix Sister Cities events and programs with your membership.
Q: How will I be taxed while I am in Japan? What is the process and or what are the forms that I will need to complete?
A: All participants will be exempt from Japanese taxes, but will continue to file taxes in the US. All participants should complete tax form 8802, an application for residency certification, to the US IRS in order to receive a 6166, the actual certificate of US residency form for tax exemption in Japan. These forms can be acquired on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. Individual tax questions can be answered by phone at 1-800-829-1040. Please allow ample time to receive these forms, as the application process may take up to a month. Once you have received the form you must take it with you to Himeji. You can turn it over to the Himeji Board of Education.
Life in Himeji
Q: What is the weather like in Himeji?
A: The weather in Himeji is generally mild, as it is surrounded by the sea. The summer (June through August) is warm 78-86F, and humid with a rainy season in early June. The winter is generally mild with occasional snow.
Q: What is the national currency?
A: The official currency of Japan is called the yen. Coins come in denominations of ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500, while paper notes come in denominations of ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥ 5,000, and ¥10,000. For a quick and convenient reference on exchange rates, please go to www.xe.com. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for Japanese yen at any bank with the “Authorized Money Changer” sign in the window. For more information regarding other currencies, contact your local bank prior to departure.
Q: What kind of electrical outlets do they use in Japan?
A: Voltage in Japan is 100 volts. A typical electrical plug in Japan is round with two flat, parallel, vertical blades. If a voltage converter is needed, they can be found at Fry’s Electronics or Amazon.
Q: When are the Banks and the Post Office open?
A: In Japan, bank and post office accounts may be used for savings; funds transfers; paying utility bills (electricity, gas, etc.), phone bills, and NHK television reception bills by automatic withdrawal from one’s account; paying credit card bills; etc. This is equivalent to what Americans refer to as automatic withdrawal.
Most banks are open from 9AM until 3PM Monday through Friday and most post offices are open from 9AM until 4PM.
Q: What is the food like in Japan?
A: In the city of Himeji, you can generally find any type of food. Some popular Japanese dishes include Sushi, Sashimi, Bento, Soba, Gyudon and Tempura.
Q: How do you order in a Japanese restaurant?
A: To order in a Japanese restaurant you usually either push a button that is on the table to signal to the wait staff or you say “sumimasen” which means “excuse me.” You do not ever leave tips. Everything else is about the same as in the United States.
Q: Can my family/friends send me mail and care packages?
A: Yes, your family/friends can send you mail and packages, but it is fairly expensive to mail packages overseas. The price is dependent on the weight of the package and the speed at which the package is sent. Some other items to be aware of are the international regulations on the types of things that can be sent. No food, alcohol, plants or medicine may be shipped overseas. For more information or to get price quotes you can visit www.fedex.com or ups.com.
Q: Do all participants have their own apartment?
A: Yes, all ALTs and ASEs will have their own single apartments with the option of acquiring a family-style apartment if they choose to have family members accompany them to Himeji. The cost for a family-style apartment is higher than that of a single apartment.
Q: Do all participants live within the same building?
A: Yes, all program participants live in the Shirasagi Residence Complex along with the program JTE participants from Australia, Britain, and Canada. The SRC is centrally located to most schools the program works with and near public transit.
Q: Will I have internet access in my apartment?
A: Internet access is not included in your apartment rent, although it is available for purchase.
Q: Can I take my pet(s) with me? Purchase them while in Himeji?
A: No, pets are not permitted in the apartment complex.
Q: What is the city transportation system like? Will it be necessary to acquire any other means of transportation?
A: Means of transportation in Himeji include Japan Railways (JR), Sanyo Electric Railway, City Buses, the Shinki Bus Company, and taxis. JR, the largest railway network in Japan, goes almost everywhere in the country. The shinkansen bullet train will take you to all the major cities in Japan in a very short time, though an extra charge for express train service must be paid. The Sanyo Electric Railway is a private rail service linking southern Himeji to Kobe and Sannomiya. Bus services provided by the city and Shinki Bus Company offer service to virtually every nook and cranny in Himeji. Buses and trains in Japan do a superb job of staying on schedule, so it is highly recommended that you take advantage of these efficient means of transportation. A Commuter Pass allows users unlimited use of transportation services within a certain area during a specific period of time (one-month, three-month or six-month periods). Participants will be given a transportation stipend to assist in commuting to and from school. The transportation stipend is to be used at the discretion of each participant. Program participants may purchase a commuter pass, a bicycle, both or nothing at all.
Q: Does Himeji have an international or English-speaking school for kids traveling with me?
A: No, Himeji does not. Kobe, a capital city of Hyogo Prefecture, has international schools. It takes about one hour from Himeji to Kobe by train.
Insurance and Healthcare
Q: What kind of insurance will be covered in the insurance package?
A: The Himeji Board of Education will prepare Health Insurance cards upon participants’ arrival in Himeji. All program participants are covered under four types of insurance:
- National Health Insurance
- Pension Insurance
- Accident Insurance
- Employment Insurance
Q: When does the Health Insurance begin?
A: The Health Insurance begins on the start date of the participant’s signed contract. It covers 70% of your medical expenses for illness and injuries and includes:
- Medical examinations
- Provision of medical supplies/medications (Please note, some medications common in the United States are not permitted or accessible in Japan.)
- Emergency treatment, surgery, and other treatments, including dental
- In-home hospital care
- Hospitalization and nursing
The insurance does NOT include:
- Preventative medicines
- Physical check-ups
- Cosmetic surgery
- Dental checkups or cleaning
- Eye exams or eyewear
- Pregnancy exams