WARNING WARNING WARNING: This is not meant to be a complete guide; it's just to get you started. By all means get a real travel guidebook.
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%(Note added in Oct. 2011 by M. Masuda: This guide was made by Megumi Harada for the international conference on Toric Topology held at Osaka City Univ. in May-June 2006. So some information is obsolete or inappropriate. But I hope you can enjoy reading. If you stay at Kansai Kenshu Center (KKC) or the Osaka City University Guest House, please also vist their websites Kansai Kenshu Center (KKC) or Osaka City University Guest House to get updated information. The Kansai Kenshu Center now accepts VISA and MASTER CARD, and towel and body soap are now provided at the Osaka City University Guest House but shampoo, toothbrush and detergent are not.)
Brief travel instructions from Kansai Airport (added in Nov. 2011)The trains operated by Japan Rail (JR) provide a fast, cheap, and convenient way to reach Osaka City University from Kansai (Osaka) Airport. The station for Osaka City University is called Sugimoto-cho. The KKC and the Osaka City University guest house are ten minutes walk from Sugimoto-cho Station. After arriving at the airport, follow the signs for the JR station. You will need some Japanese cash to buy the train ticket (either from a ticket vending machine or the ticket office). Buy a ticket for 860 yen. Then:
Well, for starters, here's a map of Japan that shows Osaka in context.
Osaka is one of Japan's major cities, known for its down-to-earth attitude and hearty working-class appetite (the Osakans are famous for their "kuidaore" attitude -- "Eat 'til you drop" -- and they eat well , and are proud of it). One of the major touristy attractions of Osaka is the Dotonbori, which is a hustle-and-bustle area in downtown Osaka where rows and rows of cheap eats, dives, noodle stands, and other no-frills but scrumptious eateries all loudly vie for your tastebuds. Osaka is on the main island of Honshu and is a few hours' Shinkansen ("bullet train") ride southwest of Tokyo.
Osaka is very close to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, so it would be very easy to "tourist around" these two ex-capital cities before or after the conference. (You can reach either Nara or Kyoto within an hour from Osaka.) Of the two, Nara is the older capital city, much more rural, and certainly less glamorous from a touristy point of view, but it has bucketloads of small hidden treasures if you take the time out to look for them; moreover, if you are a Buddhist-art and -architecture and -history buff, you really can't do better than Nara. Kyoto, on the other hand, is much more lively, has a red-light district, gives you a much higher chance of seeing a real geisha (I did, the last time I was there), is a truly urban environment but also has temples and shrines and museums on nearly every street corner (or so it seems), has an abundance of woefully expensive but utterly traditional Japanese craftwork shops, and its main Japan Rail train station alone is worth the visit (the train station is virtually a world unto itself).
Of course, there's always Tokyo. But for that you're on your own (but see the guidebooks below).
Naturally, you should just go to a bookstore and find what you like, but here are my recommendations. The most sensible, all-around guidebooks to all of Japan that I have recently seen are
NOTE: although Japan is a first-world, generally safe, industrialized country, if you are (say) a North American, you WILL find that traveling in Japan is NOT like traveling in (say) western Europe. In particular, Japan does NOT, as a whole, ``cater'' to Western travelers nearly as much as you might expect. And most Japanese do NOT speak English. And many Japanese signs (at train stations, roads, etc) are ONLY in Japanese, with no English or even any Romanization. PLEASE please read the cautions and preparatory material in the above guidebooks carefully and thoroughly while planning your travels and before arrival!
Probably, what I'm about to say will only apply to those of you living in major cities with a sizeable Japanese population. But, if you're lucky enough to live in such a place, it is absolutely worth your while to check your local Japanese tourism companies in addition to the obvious Internet travel sites; the specialized Japanese tourist places often have special discount deals for Japanese families going home to Japan for the summer holidays. For example, I often see such very low rates (sometimes nearly 40 percent off of the regular prices that one finds on-line) advertised in the Japanese-Canadian newspapers here in Toronto.
Many countries (62, in fact) have reciprocal visa-exemption agreements with Japan, so citizens of these countries do not need to obtain a "Temporary Visitor Visa" to Japan before arrival (you will be issued one upon arrival). The Japanese embassy explains that these Temporary Visitor Visas are "for sightseeing; visiting relatives, friends or acquaintance; attending conferences; participating in business meetings or atheletic tournaments and so on."
Here are some websites where you can obtain more information.
If you intend to tourist around Japan either before or after the conference for at least a week, then GET THE "JAPAN RAIL PASS" -- it's the best deal in the country. There are 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day options, and they give you unlimited access to all JR trains except the super-fast Nozomi Shinkansen ("Bullet Train") for the duration of your pass. This last exception regarding the Nozomi isn't a serious limitation, since you DO get unlimited access to the Kodama Shinkansen and the Hikari Shinkansen, the latter being nearly as fast as the Nozomi -- it just makes a handful more stops en route, making travel time an epsilon amount longer. Just one ride on a Bullet Train costs a bundle, so if you catch just a couple of rides, you'll already be saving loads of money.
To find out more about Japan Rail routes, maps, and other general information, check the Japan Rail homepage.
Note that you MUST PURCHASE an "Exchange Pass" for a JR Pass BEFORE arriving in Japan, because a JR Pass is only available overseas (it's only meant for tourists; your average Japanese person isn't allowed to buy it). You can buy it through most travel agencies. Then, upon arrival, you can exchange your "Exchange Pass" for the real thing at the JR office at the airport (such offices exist both at the Narita International and Kansai International Airports). You will need to present your passport in addition to your Exchange Pass in order to receive your Pass.
Find out more details about the JR Pass in any tourist guidebook, or check out this JR webpage.
Once again: you MUST purchase an "Exchange Pass" before arrival in Japan.
Japan has a long-standing reputation of being horrendously, inhumanely (?) expensive. No doubt about it, it's not like visiting a third-world country. Nevertheless, it IS possible to "do Japan" on a tight(er) budget, if you're willing to do a little research and a bit of extra legwork. (Also, keep in mind that Japan has been suffering from "deflation" for many years now, so Japan is much more affordable than it used to be in the heydeys of the Bubble.) To be more specific: for example, Youth Hostels in Japan usually have no age restrictions, so anyone can stay there, and they are usually well-kept, well-lit, clean, and comfortable places to stay. (But you should check beforehand whether the hostel requires an international hostel membership card.) Just as an example, check out the prices at Utano Youth Hostel, a hostel in Kyoto; an adult can share a room for one night for 2500 JPY. Also, the Japanese people's standards for food is such that even a bowl of street-vendor noodles, a plate of "fast-food" curry, or a "bento box lunch" that you can get at a train station, any of which you can get for about 400 to 900 JPY, are often above the quality of anything you'll find in (say) North America.
If you are a foreign participant, have registered in advance, and we have sent you a confirmation message regarding your participation, then NO, you do not need to make lodging arrangements for your stay. We will have reserved a room for you either at the OCU Guest House or the KKC (Kansai Kenshu Centre).
CAUTION: However, if you are a foreign participant bringing with you any family/partners or any other guests unaffiliated with the conference, it is possible that we will be in touch with you individually, regarding making separate arrangements to accomodate you and your guests. (The OCU Guest House and KKC are very limited in their family accomodations.)
Do NOT assume that your foreign plastic (i.e. credit cards) will be accepted anywhere except the absolute biggest of the hotels, the biggest of the train stations (and even then, only at restricted ticket booths), the biggest of the department stores, etc. Almost all mid- or small-sized restaurants and shops will only accept cash. Similarly, although your guidebook may say otherwise, do NOT assume that you can easily find ATMs. My personal experience is that it is annoying and time-consuming to try and find ATM machines in Japan that accept foreign ATM cards. (And I'm almost certain it will be annoying and time-consuming in the Osaka City University area.) Some do accept foreign ATM cards -- especially those at post offices -- but these are few and far between, and often have restricted hours.
My personal suggestion: do as the Japanese do, and just operate in cash. You should be able to withdraw cash at an ATM at the Kansai International Airport, or else exchange for Japanese yen at the airport.
Japanese bathrooms do not always have toilet tissue or paper towels available (they assume you have tissue and hankerchief with you). Warning: Japanese toilets are not all Western-style. -- some toilets are the old-school squatting kind (though most places do have Western-style toilets).
Our conference will be at the beginning of the ``tsuyu'' (= ``rainy'') season. Therefore, COME PREPARED FOR (LOTS OF) RAIN. Bring an umbrella or poncho -- whatever you think you want for walking around for days in a lot of rain. Also bring reasonably waterproof footwear. Personally, I would also recommend packing lightweight clothing that will dry easily -- I wouldn't recommend heavy denim such as jeans. (If we get nice weather, we'll consider ourselves lucky, but let's not count on it, shall we?)
The heat, rain, and humidity will also have consequences for laundry considerations, especially those of you who plan to ``tourist around'' Japan before or after the conference. For more details, see the sections on laundry in the ``Kansai Kenshu Centre'' section of this website.
This rule holds unless it's patently obvious that you're not expected to do so. Often, you'll be able to determine this by looking around when you enter the building; in public buildings where you're expected to take off your shoes, there will be a clearly demarcated area where shoes are to be stored, and there will be a row of guest slippers laid out for you for your use while indoors. (For instance, at the Kansai Kenshu Centre and at the OCU conference facilities, you don't need to take off your shoes; on the other hand, at the OCU Guest House, you should take off your shoes when entering your room.)
This is not a vegetarian-friendly society, and the Japanese are only very very recently getting used to the idea of someone being "vegetarian" (pronounced "be-ji-ta-ri-an" in Japanese). Japanese cuisine tends to use many more ingredients in one dish than Western-style cuisine; often, fish stock or other small portions of non-vegetarian items will be used in an otherwise vegetarian dish. Strict vegetarians can eat at the Kansai Kenshu Centre, where the internationally-aware cafeteria staff are careful to prepare truly vegetarian dishes. If you are more adventurous, go out to the vast array of Japanese restaurants, but ask carefully before ordering.
All that being said, Japan also does have a long tradition of strictly Buddhist (and therefore vegetarian) cuisine, so vegetarians need not despair and only eat cucumber sushi and tofu for the duration of their stay! You'll just need to do some extra preparation and research to know where to go and what to order.
This isn't exactly a cultural note, but, if you have a serious food allergy or otherwise serious dietary restriction, please please PLEASE let us know BEFOREHAND. To the extent possible, we will make arrangements with the Kansai Kenshu Centre cafeteria staff ahead of time. See the ``Kansai Kenshu Centre'' section of this webpage for more details.
This is not a non-smoker-friendly society either, although here too the culture is changing. There ARE non-smoking cars on trains (and make sure to request one when you buy tickets for assigned seats), which are clearly labeled as you enter the cars. However, in contrast to (say) North America, most public spaces are considered smoking zones (e.g. on train platforms and restaurants). Some restaurants have non-smoking sections, but they're often right next to the smokers.
There is no such thing as tipping in Japanese society. Waitpeople and taxi drivers will not know what you are doing if you give them extra cash and will simply give you the exact change. If you leave a little extra cash on the table at a restaurant, they will come running after you for several city blocks, exclaiming politely, "Excuse me, miss, you left some money on the table!"
It's Japanese etiquette to TURN OFF cellphones on all public transportation. Talking on a cellphone while waiting for a train at the platform is considered acceptable, but once you get onto the train, you should turn it off. (On the other hand, people turn off the sound and check their e-mail and get news reports on their cellphones all the time.)
Hotels sometimes operate on a pre-pay system, so don't be alarmed if you're asked to pay in advance when you check in.
Almost all subway, bus, and train tickets in Japan are pro-rated according to the distance that you travel, so you will first need to look at the route maps that are usually prominently placed above the vending machines to figure out (1) where you are, which is usually indicated by a separate color, (2) where you want to go, and (3) how much it costs. You can figure out this last item by looking at the number alongside the station where you wish to go.
Automated vending machines in Japan generally take up to 10,000 bills and take coins down to 10-yen coins (usually they won't take 5-yen or 1-yen coins). They do NOT take credit cards (see note above)!!!
Usually, this is completely straightforward -- put in your ticket, and out it pops out at the other end of the turnstile, like in any other civilized country. Except when you have a Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket (and you don't have a JR pass): in this case, you'll have two separate tickets, one for the basic fare and one for the super-express additional fare (this is for Shinkansen only). In this case, you have to put BOTH tickets through the ticket turnstiles as you go through.
If you have a JR pass, things will work slightly differently. You don't go through the turnstile; instead, just show the JR agent at the booth your JR pass.
Most local and subway trains have no seat assignments. On some express trains (including the Shinkansen), however, there are two types of cars -- one type for assigned seating and the other for unassigned seating. You pay a little extra (usually on the order of 500 or so JPY, but check the guidebooks to be sure) to get the assigned seat. (There are also the first-class cars called "Green Cars.'') Just read the signs carefully to be sure you're on the right type of car.
If you have the JR Pass, you can get an assigned seat at no extra charge, but to do this you have to go to a JR station ticket booth and have an agent issue you the extra seating ticket(s). If you get onto a train with a JR Pass without having gone to a ticket booth, you can take any seat in the unassigned seating area.
Many (though not all) train platforms in Japan will have electronic signs that tell you information about the next two trains, in order (the first train gets listed at the top, and the second train will be listed below). Usually the information given is the scheduled time of departure, the type (e.g. "Regular" or "Local express" or "Express"), and the final destination. Sometimes, though not always, parts of this information is in English, so you should be able to tell whether you're getting on the right train. However, even if there is no English information given, Japanese trains run on time, and they ALWAYS list the departure time of the next train, so you should be able to get on the correct train based on just this piece of information, if nothing else.
As I said in the above item, Japanese trains run ON TIME, and they only stop for literally just a few seconds (unless you're at the initial station), and you're expected to get on and off QUICKLY! You'll be very sad to miss your Shinkansen bullet train when your ticket cost you over 10,000 yen, trust me.
If you're traveling during a weekday, and if you're a male, then be aware of the "WOMEN-ONLY" cars on subways and trains, and (obviously) don't get on them. You can usually distinguish these cars by some special colours (white, pink, and other feminine pastel colours) or some other indication. The places where women-only cars stop are also indicated by some distinguishing sign directly on the platform, so be aware of where you're standing.
(These women-only cars were implemented recently in Japan because of women being sexually harassed on ultra-crowded subways during the rush hours.)
At the Kansai international airport (KIX), you will come out of the International Arrivals level once you clear immigration, get your baggage, and clear customs.
DO NOT take a taxi. Kansai International Airport is very far from OCU and you will pay an arm and a leg if you take a taxi.
If you haven't already obtained
some Japanese yen (JPY), now is the
do so. There should be ATMs in the area right as you come out of
Most ATMs in Japan don't accept foreign cards, but certainly the
ones at the Kansai airport do accept them, so get your cash now! Another
option are the currency exchange booths, which open at 06:00.
You won't need small change to get on the train; the ticket vending
machines will give you change for even large bills (such as a 10,000
JPY bill). The vending machines
do NOT accept credit cards!!! (See "Basics: cultural matters" section
regarding the Japanese preference for cash and the lack of credit cards
Note that you will be
receiving your travel reimbursements (if any) in CASH (see "Financial
Matters" section below).
You will walk across a pedestrian walkway connecting the airport to the JR station. (There will signs for the train station; follow these.) Once you get to the train station, you will see that there are two train companies operating; one is private, and the other is the Japan Rail ("JR") system. You want to take the JR system.
There are automated vending machines selling tickets, on your left as you walk into the vending area from the airport. Again, there are ticket machines for the private company and for the JR system; use the JR ticket machines. You want to purchase a ticket that will take you from Kansai International Airport ("Kansai Kuko") to Sugimoto-cho station, which is a small station en route to Tennoji (a slightly bigger station). (Note that what you'll actually be doing is to take the Rapid/Express ``Kanku Kaisoku'' train from KIX to Sakai-shi Station, and then transferring to a Local train that will take you to Sugimoto-cho Station, but this isn't relevant for purchasing the ticket.) Train tickets in Japan are sold according to the distance you travel, so be careful to pay the right amount. It should be 860 JPY.
Whatever you do, DO NOT take the ``Haruka'' express train.
If you are finding the automated vending machines difficult to navigate, another option is to purchase your ticket directly from a JR station agent. You will find agents if you go into the JR station office through the glass doors (which are to your right if you are facing the automated ticket machines). The agents should be able to speak enough English to help you. Tell them you need to take the Rapid/Express Kanku Kaisoku to Sakai-shi Station ("Sakai-shi Eki"), and then transfer to the Local train to Sugimoto-cho Station ("Sugimoto-cho Eki") to the Osaka City University ("Osaka Shidai") area.
Once you purchase your ticket, walk across to the JR Railway
and put your ticket through the feeder. Make sure to take and keep your
ticket as it emerges from the feeder. Go down the stairs to the
platforms and get on the next Kanku Kaisoku (there are other trains that stop
there, so be careful to get on the right one) going towards Sakai-shi,
Tennoji. In particular, do NOT take
the ``Haruka" train if you see one, and do NOT take any ``Local'' train
that leaves from the airport.
Haruka will take you to downtown Shin-Osaka (which is not what you want),
and some ``Local'' trains do NOT go all the way to Sugimoto-cho Station
. Since KIX is on an island,
trains leaving from KIX only go in one direction, you do not need to
worry about orienting yourself in that way.
Here is a rough map, which does NOT include all stations, of the Japan Rail system near Kansai International Airport and Osaka. It should at least give you a sense of where you are going. You want to take the "orange line" ("Airport rapid service") to Sakaishi, and then transfer to a local train. In particular, do NOT take the "blue" ("Haruka") train!
On the Kaisoku (Rapid/local express), you will get to Sakai-shi station from KIX in about 40 minutes. Get off at Sakai-shi and stay on the same platform. You are not transferring from one train line to another! The Kanku Kaisoku ("Rapid/Local Express" Train) only stops at certain major stations; now you need to transfer to a Futsu ("Local") train that stops at all stations, but you are going along the same route. Watch the signs above the platform to determine whether the next train that is stopping at this platform is a Rapid or a Local. Often, a ``Rapid'' train, which is different from the Kanku Kaisoku, will pass through the same platform before a ``Local'' (``Futsu'') train, so please pay attenion! (On the electronic signboard, the next train that is stopping is always listed first; the train listed second is the train after that. See also the "Basics: Getting Around" section of this website.) Get on the next Local train and get off after two stops at Sugimoto-cho station.
As you come out of Sugimoto-cho station, keep walking in the same direction as when you came down the stairs, pass the bicycle parking lot, and in a moment you will find yourself at a small (by North American standards) street. You should immediately see, to your right, the train tracks. Take a right and walk along this street, crossing the train tracks. The Guest House and KKC (Kansai Kenshu Centre) will be about a 10- to 15-minute walk from Sugimoto-cho station, and all you need to do is walk along this street, going straight. You will pass the campus of Osaka City University, e.g. the main entrance of Osaka City University, on your right as you walk. After passing one traffic light (keep going straight), you will pass 2 big OCU lecture halls on your right. When you pass the lecture halls and are walking past a somewhat large empty lot, then you are close to the Guest House. If you are staying at the Guest House, take a right on the next small street, and the Guest House is the first building on your right. There will be a small sign on the left side as you face the building that indicates that it is the Guest House. If you are staying at the KKC, keep walking straight until you get to the second traffic light. There is a small sign on your right at that street intersection for the KKC. Take a right on this street; the KKC is the first (big) official-looking building on your right. Here is a webpage where you can see what the KKC looks like from the outside.
NOTE: We will let you know before your arrival whether you are staying at KKC or the OCU Guest House.
Here is a Osaka City University campus map. The Guest House is building number 25 and the JR (Japan Rail) Sugimoto-cho station is clearly indicated on the right-hand side of the map. Unfortunately the KKC is not indicated here, but it is on the next street after the Guest House.
NOTE: There is no "front desk" at the Guest House, but there will be someone from OCU to greet you on Sunday afternoon, May 27. There is a front desk for check-in at KKC, so you should have no problems.
From the Shin-Osaka JR station, if you are coming out of the Shinkansen area, you will be looking for signs that say "Subway." Follow these signs. You will eventually come down a flight of steps and find yourself in the ticket-vending area of the subway. Even if you have a JR Pass, you will have to buy a ticket to get on the subway, since the Osaka subway is a separate system (run by the city of Osaka), NOT covered by the JR pass. (See also the ``Basics: Getting around'' section of this website.)
Here is a map of the Osaka subway system.
You need to get on the ("red") Midosuji subway line, going in the direction of Tennoji, Nanba, and/or Abiko. You will be getting on at the Shin-Osaka subway station, which is station number M13, and getting off at Abiko station (M27). The subway announcements will announce both the station name and the station number.
Once at Abiko station, come out of Exit Number 4. As you come out, you should be standing next to a "99 Shop" supermarket. The Kansai Kenshu Centre is actually one of FOUR such ``AOTS Centres'' distributed around Japan. You may therefore see signs for ``AOTS'' instead of ``Kansai Kenshu Centre.'' It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk from Exit Number 4 of Abiko subway station to the AOTS Kansai Kenshu Centre.
Here is a rough map of the OCU area, which indicates Exit Number 4 of Abiko Station and shows you how to walk to AOTS Kansai Kenshu Centre. WARNING: the side streets that are indicated are very small -- almost alleyways -- by north American standards. There are very few sidewalks to speak of, but cars, bicycles, and mopeds do come by (and one is meant to be mindful of them) so please be careful. The symbol that looks like a swastika is a Buddhist symbol and indicates a Buddhist temple.
In case of emergency, or if you are really lost, the organizer Megumi Harada, as well as Professor Yoshitake Hashimoto and Shintaro Kuroki of OCU, will all have cellphones and will be available to help you on Sunday, May 28, afternoon.
Cellphone numbers are as follows. Phone numbers are given
you would dial it from a standard payphone in Japan. (See the section
"Communications: internet, telephones, etc" for more on using pay
It is recommended that you carry this phone number with you at all times. The people at the KKC front desk do speak some English so they should be able to help you in an emergency.
When you register for the conference and receive your nametag, you will see that on the back of your conference nametag there is a list of emergency contact phone numbers (including those of the conference organizers above), the address (in Japanese) of the Kansai Kenshu Centre, and an explanation (in Japanese) that you are a foreign participant in a mathematics conference hosted by Osaka City University. In the event of an emergency, or if you are truly lost, if you show the back of your nametag to a Japanese person or police officer, they should be able to help you.
It is recommended that you carry your passport at all times while you are in Japan. This is a legal requirement, and the police will not overlook it (i.e. failure to produce your passport on request is likely to result in considerable inconvenience!)
Conference registration and financial support:
All financial matters related to the conference, including travel reimbursements, will be handled at the conference centre and/or KKC, starting on Sunday, 28 May 2006. ALL reimbursements and any provisions for local expenses (see below regarding meals) will be made IN CASH (Japanese yen).
If the conference is providing your local expenses, then your conference accomodations will be prepaid by the conference, so you will not need to pay anything when you check in at the Kansai Kenshu Centre or the OCU Guesthouse (whichever you are staying at). This includes breakfast, served at the KKC cafeteria. If you are staying at the OCU Guest House, you will still be having breakfast at KKC. For lunch meals during the week, you will be eating at one of two campus cafeterias or the Kansai Kenshu Centre cafeteria. For dinner meals, restaurant recommendations will be included in your registration packet.
If the conference is NOT providing your local expenses, then you will be asked to pay for your stay at the Kansai Kenshu Centre. You do NOT need to make your own arrangements for your stay; as long as you have informed us ahead of time of your participation, we will make the necessary reservations for you at the KKC. You will also be paying for your own meals.
If you are bringing family/partners who are not associated with the conference, then you will be asked to pay for their portion of your accomodations at either the KKC or OCU Guest House (whichever you are staying at) upon arrival.
Regarding electronic equipment that you may be bringing with you: the voltage throughout Japan is 100V, which is different from North America (110V), Central Europe (220V), and most other regions of the world. I have been told that North American equipment will work fine in Japan without an adapter and vice versa; however, if you are bringing expensive or otherwise precious equipment, I urge you to check with the manufacturer or otherwise use caution before plugging it in! Finally, it may be a good idea to pack an adaptor for the plug (some Japanese power outlets do not have three prongs).
There will be internet access available at the conference centre; please see the section "The conference center and amenities" for more details. Both the OCU Guest House and the KKC have internet connections available (you will need to bring your own laptop and LAN cable, however); please see the relevant sections on the OCU Guest House and KKC below for details.
It is my understanding that most cell phone plans from other countries are not likely to work in Japan, but please check with your service provider to be sure. You may also rent a cellphone at the airport (e.g. Vodafone has an office at the Kansai International Airport) for a fee of usually about 500 JPY per day. However, please read the section "Basics: cultural matters" regarding the etiquette of cellphone use in Japan (in particular, it is considered rude to talk on the cellphone on public transportation!).
There are several types of payphones in Japan, with different systems and (mutually incompatible) cards, unfortunately. However, the ones that are most standard (and these are for domestic calls only) are the light-green ones, which all accept a standardized thin ``telephone card" (pronounced ``terehon kaado'') which you can purchase at any convenience store or train-station convenience kiosk in various amounts (e.g. 1000 JPY). (The telephone cards most often sold at convenience stores, etc, ARE the ones accepted at the light-green payphones.) When you insert the card into the appropriate slot, the phone will display how many ``points'' you have left on your card, and as you make a phone call, the display will continually update to let you know how many points you have left.
There are public telephones on certain cars in the Shinkansen bullet trains; these usually have English instructions posted nearby. There are also public telephones in the lobby of the Kansai Kenshu Centre.
There are grey payphones, a little bigger/taller in size than the standard light-green payphones, from which you can make international telephone calls. These are much harder to find.
MY PERSONAL SUGGESTION: Make all international phone calls at the Kansai Kenshu Centre or OCU Guest House, either from the KKC ground-floor lobby area (where there are both vending machines for international prepaid telephone cards AND international pay phones), or from your own room at the KKC or Osaka City University Guest House. For more details, please see the relevant sections in the ``Kansai Kenshu Centre'' or ``OCU Guest House'' sections of this website, below.
The conference centre is the 10th floor of the OCU modern library. Here is a map of the OCU campus which indicates the location of the library as building number 11. One of the conference organisers, Megumi Harada, will also be staying at the KKC and will leave from the KKC lobby area to go to the conference centre at 08:45 on Monday (29 May) morning if you are interested in going with her.
There will be a bulletin board in the common room/tea room at the OCU conference centre for all important announcements. Please check this regularly.
It is not as customary as it is in North America or Europe to have an early morning cup of coffee, "to go." In particular, there are NOT many places like Starbucks (although Starbucks does exist in Japan, they are still mainly concentrated in major metropolitan areas) where you can get your coffee, cappuccino, or espresso "to go." There will be basic coffee at the KKC cafeteria. There will be "instant" coffee available at the conference center, along with some small snacks and sweets (and green tea, of course). The other option is to have your coffee at a sit-down cafe. Near OCU, there are not very many options, but there are one or two such cafes near the main entrance to OCU (you will have passed it en route from Sugimoto-cho Station to KKC or the OCU Guesthouse). These open around 8:00AM.
The conference room is in a recently built, modern facility and is equipped with, more or less, anything you could possibly want: there is a large whiteboard, an old-fashioned overhead projector, as well as a computer data projector.
The common-room/lounge area of the conference facilities will be equipped with several panels of whiteboard, which is meant for posters. Each conference participant, whether or not s/he is giving a talk, is invited to put up as many posters as s/he likes, although we request that you restrict yourself to one poster per mathematical paper (but you are welcome to present multiple papers). This will provide yet one more venue for the exchange of ideas.
The conference center has a number of smaller seminar rooms, one of which will be converted into a computer room. There will be several laptops enabled for Web browsing so that participants may check their e-mail.
You have to insert your keychain/keyholder (the long, thin part) into a slot which should be close to the door as you enter your room in order for any of the lights in your room to function.
There is Internet available in every room. You must, however, bring your own laptop and LAN cable. If you forget or do not have a LAN cable, there is a small number of LAN cables available at the KKC front desk.
Accepted only in CASH, no exceptions. (If the conference is supporting your local expenses, then you will not need to pay, as your bill will be direct-billed to the conference.) Payments are made when you check out of KKC.
International telephone cards can be purchased at vending machines in the ground-floor lobby of the KKC (next to the cafeteria). It may be cheaper to call from your room, or perhaps from the payphone in the lobby -- it depends on the country you're calling. Please read the instructions posted next to the vending machine for details.
Public telephones are located across the hall from the vending machines, again in the ground-floor lobby.
CULTURAL NOTE: In Japan, it's customary to change shoes when entering a gymnasium (to keep the floor clean and unscratched). There are gym shoes available for guest use right next to the entrance.
Laundry at the KKC is free of charge, but you need your own detergent, or else (probably easier) purchase small packets of it at the KKC front desk. An iron and ironing board are both available, although the instructions for the irons (not completely straightforward, in my experience) are in Japanese. Also note: ironing boards in Japan are often just that -- boards, no legs. You just lay them on a flat surface while using them. For the washer and dryer, instructions in English are hanging on laminated cards along the wall.
If you are ``touristing around'' Japan for a while and will definitely need to do some serious amount of laundry, then my personal suggestion is to do as the Japanese do, and take a few hours some afternoon and go to a professional laundromat. These places have huge, professional-grade dryers that really WILL dry your laundry. You should give yourself at least a few hours to do your laundry. Bring a book. (The point is, that Japan is so lacking in space, that most Japanese just don't have any room in their apartments to have a large washer or dryer. Many Japanese go to these laundromats to do their own laundry as well.)
Final note: the sign says you must be in the laundry room while you run your laundry, though how they would enforce this, I don't know.
If you (or any guest who will accompany you) have a serious food allergy or an otherwise serious dietary restriction, please please PLEASE let us know beforehand and we will, to the extent possible, make arrangements with the kitchen staff of KKC. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff generally don't speak English; however, we will prepare a note for you that you can show to the kitchen staff so they can guide you to the appropriate dishes. (They will have been warned beforehand that you will be requiring their help.)
If you let us know your dietary restrictions and they are such that we and/or the KKC cafeteria staff cannot accomodate your needs, we will let you know this in advance so that you can, at the least, plan ahead.
The ground floor of the KKC has a large lounge and cafe area. The cafe is not open 24 hours, but is open for parts of the afternoon and evening for light snacks and drinks. The lounge is also equipped with a large-screen television (so you can avail yourself of Japanese popular culture) and has several newspapers (including at least one in English).
Alcoholic beverages such as Asahi and Heineken beer and some sakes are available 24/7 at the vending machines at the back of the KKC cafeteria. You do not need to consume this in the cafeteria, of course: take them out to the lounge or lobby or upstairs to your rooms, as you wish.
If you wish to take advantage of the green tea that is available in your rooms, there is hot water available in the hallway of each floor, so you can go fill up your teapot.
Except perhaps for its size (which is much smaller than most Western hotels), the KKC rooms have more or less the same amenities as usual Western hotels. Shampoo, conditioner, and towels are available. There will be a small closet, desk, phone, and small TV. There is a radio system built into a wall beside your bed. (Speaking of radio, yes, there is an English-language radio station in Japan.)
If you are staying at the Guest House, then bring your own TOWEL, SOAP, and SHAMPOO. Since this facility is meant for foreign long-term visitors, it is NOT set up like a hotel, but rather more like an apartment building. The advantage is that you will have a small kitchenette and an eating area, but on the other hand, you will be expected to clean up after yourself (including taking out the garbage at the end of your stay).
There will be a small step to enter the room. You are expected to remove your shoes before stepping up ``into'' the room. There should be slippers laid out for your use in the room.
The electricity in your room (lights, heater, etc) will not operate until and unless you insert your keycard into a keycard reader located very near the door as you enter the room. Similarly, as you leave, you of course need to take out your keycard as you exit the room. This will automatically turn off any remaining lights that you had left on in the room.
The door to your guest room is NOT self-locking. You must lock it ``by hand" from the outside.
There is a telephone on the wall near the entrance to your room. To make any personal calls outside of the Guest House itself, you will need a prepaid telephone card (available at the vending machines in the Kansai Kenshu Centre lobby). To get an outside line, dial ``0'' first, and then enter your telephone card number.
Please see the "Cultural Notes" in the KKC section above, regarding Japanese customs for baths. You will not find a conventional shower head in the North American sense, although there is a handheld showerhead available for your use.
Please note: the computerized temperature controls for the hot-water system in the bathroom are located opposite the water taps in the bathtub. The default temperature setting is LOW so you very likely need to adjust this if you want to have a hot bath or shower!!
The air conditioner/heater is operated by a remote control. The On/Off button is the large purple button. Temperatures are indicated in Celsius; press the up and down arrows to adjust the room temperature to your liking.
There is coin laundry (both washer and dryer) available. The laundry machines are MUCH SMALLER than North American ones. (See also the ``Laundry notes'' section in the ``Kansai Kenshu Centre'' section of this website, above, for cautionary information.) You should bring your own laundry detergent (or else there are small packets of detergent available for purchase at the Kansai Kenshu Centre across the street). One (small) load should cost about 300-400 JPY to wash and dry (but again, see the warnings in the ``Laundry notes'' section above).
There is also an iron and ironing board available for your use. They are stored near the laundry machines. You can take them back to your room and then return them promptly after use. To use the iron, plug in the iron STAND -- this heats the iron as it sits in the stand. There are three settings; the ``high" is on top.
If you bring your own laptop and LAN cable, you can use the Internet at the OCU Guest House. Look near or by the desk in your room for where to plug in your cable.
All the rooms at OCU Guest House are non-smoking. Please do not smoke. However, the downstairs lobby area of the Guest House is a smoking area.
The alarm system at OCU Guest House is very sensitive. It can sometimes detect air movement in the room when no one is there. Please shut off the heater and CLOSE ALL WINDOWS before exiting your room.