More Words of Wisdom....
Hello again Rachele,
As I said I would, I am writing back to you with more detail of the JFMF trip.
Okay, to what you wanted info on. First of all, just to let you know where I am coming from, I am a 29 yo single teacher (math and science) used to walking about 1-3 miles a day. My small group went to Saitama City, about 1 hour outside of Tokyo. The hotel in San Fran we had a roommate from our home state (only 1 night), and the rest of the time except for the ryokan we had our room. The hotels were really nice, not sure where you are staying in Tokyo....we were at the Akasaka Prince Hotel.
1.) Get to know the subway system. This will be your best way to get around.
2.) Go to the fish market (tuna auction from 5-6am M-F)
3.) Don't take gobs of kleenex that they suggest.....unless you want to carry them around and bring them back.
4.) Don't worry about searching for western toilets. Most places had them available (even the schools).
5.) Make sure your clothes are washable, and bring laundry soap or extra shampoo to wash out underwear, bras, etc. in sink.
6.) I did not bring a laptop (one more thing to carry!), some people did. I am glad I didn't.
7.) Kinkos/FedEx are usually close or an internet cafe for email.
8.) AT&T phone cards are good for calls home, but they will debit 8 minutes from your card for every minute you talk. (that's a general international calling rule)
9.) Japan is mainly a cash economy...they don't depend on credit cards like we do. I took $800 in travellers checks, the front desk at the hotel exchanged it for yen w/o a fee. Some people brought yen with them, and they told us that they had paid exhorbitant fees. I only spent maybe $400-500 of my cash, b/c they give you yen for non-arranged dinners/lunches on the way from the airport to the hotel (about a 2 hour ride for us). SOOO...Bring a credit card..especially if you are planning on getting university credits from the program...they require you to show the card. I brought 2 cards....American Express (only a 2% markup), and VISA (3%). I used AmEx at Hard Rock Cafe for souveniers, and that was about it. CALL your card companies before you go and let them know when and how long you will be gone. When we were there, some people had VISA travellers checks, and that's when there was a problem with VISA and MC in the states....some numbers were released or something? The hotels wouldn't cash them, or the stores take the VISA card.
10.) Business cards are good, although there wasn't really a need to have them in Japanese. I did, however, have my name, school name, and title written in Japanese, but the rest in English. If anyone is going to email you or send you anything, they're going to have to write in English.
11.) The dress code for women wasn't as 'professional' as I expected. Most women wore pants/knit top to the meetings in Tokyo, and we dressed up a little more in Saitama when we went to the schools. Have at least one, possibly 2 pairs of jeans, though, for the evenings when you are on your own to find dinner, go to the 100 yen store (GREAT place for souveniers)---their version of our $1.00 store, etc.
12.) JFMF provides people who will help you with traveling, for your weekend off, and evenings. They even printed 'maps' and subway directions for various desired locations: Harajuku, Roponggi, and 100 Yen stores. They were displayed in our lobby for us to take a page.
13.) For baggage, as you know, you are allowed 1 checked luggage going to Tokyo (even though the airline's rules are different). This is because of the bus that takes you to the hotel has limited space, and when you return to the US, you are broken up into smaller groups. So....unless you don't plan on buying ANY souveniers, bring an additional CHECKABLE bag. You will be getting all sorts of things (handouts, books, etc.) from the presenters, so you will need some room in your bag. Be sure your luggage is in good shape. It will take a beating.
I can't think of much more now...when I do, I will write more.
If you have any other questions, let me know.
Have they set up a listserv for your group yet? That was a nice way to 'meet' people before we went anywhere.
Have a great school year!