Japan Survival Guide
Important Kanji To Know

So you can't read all that much Japanese, but you've still got to get around... not a problem! Here are some of the most common signs that a travelor will want to know about, and what they mean.

Bank - Police - Coin Lockers - Subway - Post Office - Stop Signs
Open/Close - Push/Pull - Coffee - Books! - Tabacco (Cigarettes)

All banks in Japan have the word GinKou [bank] in their titles; so if you can spot this double kanji, you're in business! This is a sign from a Sanwa Bank in Tokyo. Once you've spotted banks, you can then look to see if they have a sign offering currency exchange in their windows near their doors.

Police Box
A koban -- "Police Box" -- is a small police station with one to three officers in it. These tend to be located in shopping areas and tourist areas of towns, and are a good place to ask for directions when you get totally lost. The main thing to look for is the gold star on the signs... it's a police badge.
[The left picture is from a shopping area near the Ikebukuro JR Station, Tokyo; the right picture is from a koban in a park in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture.]

Coin Lockers
These are generally found in railway stations, though there are batches of coin lockers scattered around big towns in shopping areas as well. Less commonly, you may find lockers in a subway station or near a bus stop. These are all generally good for one day only, and are emptied out each night sometime between 11pm and 2am (it varies). What do you do if you forgot to retrieve something and it's gone? I have no idea yet... so don't do it!
[Both of these pictures are from the Ikebukuro JR Station in Tokyo.]

The stylized "S" on this sign is a symbol throughout Japan that points the way to nearby subway stations (not all the signs say "subway" like this one does, after all).
[From a subway station in Nishikasai ward, Tokyo.]

Bank - Police - Coin Lockers - Subway - Post Office - Stop Signs
Open/Close - Push/Pull - Coffee - Books! - Tabacco (Cigarettes)

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All illustrations in these pages are copyright (c)2002 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. To contact him Click Here!