Daily Life
Housing

In general, international students enrolled to the International Graduate Program on Civil and Environment Engineering (IGPCEE) reside for 1 year in the student’s dormitory (referred as ‘International House’ or ‘I-House”) within the premises of university campus. Presently, the I-House consists of three buildings with single, couple, and family rooms. In principle, the period of residence for researchers and students is minimum of one month and a maximum of one year. Since the number of available rooms is less than the number of students applying for accommodation, only a selected number of students and researchers can get rooms in the I-House. Various information on I-House (including break-down of cost for rent, etc.) and procedure to apply and move to private apartments are available on the university website at: https://is.gd/XSmxdL

After a year’s stay in the I-House, students generally move to private off-campus housing in the vicinity of the university campus. 


Utilities (electricity, gas, water)

Residents of I-House do not have to pay the cost of utilities separately as they are billed monthly together with the rent and service fee of I-House. 

Those who live in private apartments need to pay the monthly utility bill in cash either at banks, post office, or convenience stores. In recent days, many utilities providers allow credit card as the mode of payment as well. Please contact the utility provider for further details. Additionally, you can use bank account transfer option. Please contact for the details at your bank if you want to setup such bank transfer option. 

Electricity
Electrical voltage in Japan is 100 volts at 50 or 60 Hz AC. In eastern Japan, including Saitama, the frequency is 50 Hz while in the western Japan (Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, etc.), the frequency is 60 Hz. It must be noted that this is different from many other regions of the world. For instance, parts of Europe have 230 V as standard. When using electric appliances besides those purchased in Japan, caution should be exercised.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) (https://is.gd/54itUf) supplies power to the Kanto region, including Saitama. Information on various procedures such as moving to a new apartment, change in contract, moving out, etc., can be obtained by calling the English Customer Centre in Saitama, the details of which is available here: https://is.gd/pSwlTW. Note that one needs to contact the service provider both at the start of the use of the service as well as when cancelling.

Gas
Two types of gas are supplied in Japan: (a) propane gas, and (b) utility gas. One should contact the apartment owner and/or real-estate agent to get information on which type of gas is supplied prior to moving into a new apartment to make applicable application for the use of utility. For instance, if it is the utility gas, most probably Tokyo Gas is the supplier. Details including the contact numbers in this case can be found here:
https://www.tokyo-gas.co.jp/en/. Like the case of ‘Electricity, one needs to contact the service provider both at the start of the use of the service as well as when cancelling.

Water
Bureau of Waterworks Saitama City (
https://is.gd/RSK8oW: though the page is in Japanese only, an English translation option is available at the top right of the webpage) supplies water to Saitama City. Throughout Japan, tap water is safe for drinking purpose. Like the other utilities, for the start of the use of the service as well as ending, one needs to contact the service provider. 


Telephone and Internet

There are various telephone and internet service providers in Japan and the offered services as well as procedure for application to use the service varies among them. For details, one is advised to check the relevant company websites before proceeding with the application.

Telephone

(a) Public phones
Though not a common sight in recent years because of immense popularity of cell phones, public phone booths are still operating throughout Japan. One can find such phones mostly at train stations, large departmental stores, hotels, street corners, etc. For calling domestically in Japan, public phones can be used by inserting 10-yen or 100-yen coins (rates: https://is.gd/KpqeLf). Alternatively, telephone cards can also be used that can be purchased at a variety of locations including convenience stores. It is noteworthy that not all the public telephone booths can be used to make international calls. For making international calls, public phones marked with ‘International Phone’ sign must be used. Detailed information on public phones can be found here: https://is.gd/nRoRBR.

(b) Residential phones
If a residential phone is desired, one can choose from a list of service providers to get the service. Some of the service providers for residential phone are listed as follows:

     NTT East:         https://www.ntt-east.co.jp/en/product/
     KDDI:                https://www.kddi.com/english/phone/
     Softbank:          https://tm.softbank.jp/english/personal/

It is to be noted that the residents of I-House have access to such phones by default. Contact the I-House office for details if further information is required.

(c) Cell phones
Like the residential phone services, there are a range of service providers for the cell phone in Japan. Few of the cell phone companies in Japan are listed as below:

     Docomo:          https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/
     AU:                   https://www.au.com/english/
     Softbank          https://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/
     Rakuten:          https://network.mobile.rakuten.co.jp/ (available only in Japanese!)

Besides the above listed providers, a range of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) provided services are also available. It is to be noted that provided service may vary from company to company.

For the application, one can apply directly to the phone company (many accept application through online) or visit its nearest representative office. For the required documents for the application, application procedures, contact conditions, etc., check the company website prior the application. 

As in the case of Electricity, Gas, and Water (described earlier), for the start of the use of the service as well as ending, one needs to contact the service provider (applicable only for ‘Residential phones’ and ‘Cell phones’).

Internet

Based on the physical location where the internet connection is desired and the local environment (for instance, type and age of the building), the method of connecting to internet (and in-turn service providers) varies according to the respective desired line type such as dial-up, ADSL, Fibre, etc. Prior moving to a new apartment, it is necessary to check what type of internet connection is available and appropriate service providers needs to be contacted. Below are some of the internet provides in Japan.

     AU:                   https://www.au.com/english/internet/
     Softbank:          https://www.softbank.jp/en/internet/
     Yahoo BB:        https://bbpromo.yahoo.co.jp/ (available only in Japanese!)
     Rakuten:           https://business-isp.rakuten.co.jp/en/biz/
     Asahi Net:         https://asahi-net.jp/en/
     So-net:              https://www.so-net.ne.jp/access/ (available only in Japanese!)


Transportation

Public transportation is a preferred choice by many in Japan due to very efficient and punctual transit network. Additionally, bicycles are equally popular means of transportation (needless to say, for shorter distances!).

Trains
The most common means of transportation in Japan is trains (at peak commuting hours, trains in Japan tend to be extremely crowded). The major service provider is Japan Railways (JR). Various information about fares and passes, train information, etc. can easily be accessed from JR East’s website at: https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/. The closest train station to Saitama University is Minami-Yono station (approximately 2.5 km from the university), which connects to a grid of railway network allowing to travel almost everywhere in Japan (through transits).

Fares for train ride depend on the distance you travel. Tickets for train ride can be purchased at the train stations. To save time and for smooth procedure, many people prefer electronic passes such as SUICA (https://is.gd/pLWHuh), PASMO (https://is.gd/7knf5U - available only in Japanese!), etc. It is also useful to note that these cards can be used for variety of other purposes including but not limited to payment and shopping. 

If one travels to the university everyday using train, a discounted commuting pass (teiki-ken) is available to student (both undergraduate and graduate students) by JR. To purchase the commuting pass, students should get a commuting certificate issued by the university. Further details on the commuting pass can be obtained from the student centre of the university.

In addition, if you plan to travel over 100 km by JR, a discounted rate ticket for your travel can be purchased from JR by submitting the student discount certificate for transportation (gakuwari-sho). This certificate can be issued by automated machines located at various buildings within the university campus. To be noted is that the certificate can be issued only 10 times in any academic year and each certificate can be used only once with the expiry date set to 3 months after the date of issue.

Finally, fast trains (shinkansen) is also offered by JR for long-distance transportation. These bullet trains are famous for their high-speed, punctuality, and style. Information on bullet trains can be obtained from here: https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/.

Buses
As the trains, bus transportation comprises of a complex network of buses running in extensive areas and are very punctual. Bus fares, like the trains, depend on the distance you travel and can be paid using electronic cards (SUICA, PASMO, etc.). A dedicated bus stop exists at the front gate of Saitama University, where buses connect to the nearest railway station to Saitama University. Besides running between JR’s Minami-Yono station and Saitama University, buses from the university runs on a various route. Details including the link to timetable of such can be found here: https://is.gd/iJbHqL (available only in Japanese!).

Bicycle
Considering various obvious benefits obtained by using bicycle, bicycles are a very popular mode of transportation in Japan (both for Japanese nationals and foreigners). Most of the international students enrolled at Saitama University use bicycle daily. To be noted. however, that like vehicle drivers, bicyclists are also strictly required to adhere to the rules and regulations as described in detail under ‘Use of bicycles’ section.

Taxis
Designated taxi stands can be found at railway stations and public facilities. Else, one can also call a taxi company and request to be picked-up. It is noteworthy that passenger doors of taxis in Japan are opened and closed by the driver (no intervention from the passenger is needed unlike most of the countries worldwide). The taxi fare depends on both the distanced and time. An additional surcharge is added at the night and early morning hours. Tipping is not necessary for taxi usage.

As most of the drivers do not speak English, it is recommended that you have the destination address ready with you to show the driver or point the destination on a map. 


Postal and Courier services

Postal service (yubinkyoku)
Both domestic and international postal and package delivery service are offered by Japan Post (JP) at any of the post office throughout Japan. Details on the services offered can be found here: https://is.gd/VQYcky. In addition, JP offers banking as well as insurance services. In general, post offices operate from 9 AM till 5 PM on weekdays, the banking and insurance services may have shorter working hours. A branch of JP, Urawa Okubo Post Office, is located just next to the university campus (map - https://bit.ly/3dajw7m).

You can also buy postage stamps at convenience stores with “〒” sign. More to this, convenience stores can accept packages for posting.

Courier service
When sending big parcels domestically in Japan, courier services are very popular and most of the convenience stores can handle such services. One can specify the date and time of delivery. Few major companies for courier are:

     Sagawa:            https://www.sagawa-exp.co.jp/english/
     Yamato:             http://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/en/
     Japan Post:       https://www.post.japanpost.jp/service/you_pack/index_en.html

For international mails and parcels, Express Mail Service (EMS) offered by JP is useful as the service is available in any post office. In addition, DHL, Fed-EX, and UPS services are also available for sending mails and parcels. Details can be found as follows:

     EMS:                https://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/ems/index_en.html
     DHL:                 https://www.dhl.com/en.html
     Fed-Ex:            https://www.fedex.com/en-jp/home.html
     UPS:                https://www.ups.com/jp/en/Home.page


Banks and Currency Exchange

Banks

There are several banks that can be chosen from based on the services offered by the bank and required by the costumer. An important point to keep in mind when selecting a bank is the availability of banks’ branch office (in the vicinity) as well as Automated Teller Machine (ATM) locations. Among students, Japan Post Bank (yū-cho ginkō) is popular considering a nearby branch adjacent to the university campus as well as a dedicated Japan Post Bank ATM within the university campus premises. 

Details on document required by banks in opening an account may slightly vary among banks. For information on such, one should contact the bank where you want to open an account. In general, bank account can be opened on the same day of the application and you will be given a bankbook (helpful to keep track of your money flow). In recent years, many banks allow checking your balance online either through smartphone applications and/or bank’s website. A process to issue an ATM card will be started on the same day when you open the bank account, but generally, it will take some time before it gets delivered at your residential address. 

It is to be noted that there are 4 types of bills and 6 types of coins that are in use in Japan.

     Bills:       ¥10,000, ¥5,000, ¥2,000 (rare), ¥1,000
     Coins:     ¥500, ¥100, ¥50, ¥10, ¥5, ¥1

If you want to apply for a credit-card, you can apply to the bank where you open an account. Alternatively, students can apply for credit-card facilitated by university co-op. Details of the card can be found here: https://is.gd/CyXmj3. Contact Saitama university co-op (https://is.gd/VjeHnx - available only in Japanese!) for the application, located at the 2nd floor of the second cafeteria building (see campus map for location here: https://is.gd/EgMJwe). 

Currency Exchange

Currency can be exchanged at the port of entries (for instance, Narita airport and Haneda airport), some banks, big hotels, and authorized currency exchange shops. Few applicable links are provided here.

     Narita airport:                https://is.gd/BF6lsa
     Haneda airport:             https://is.gd/Qrz9nM
     World currency shop:    https://is.gd/X4oVtp
 


Food and Shopping

Saitama university co-op (https://is.gd/VjeHnx - available only in Japanese!) operates two cafeterias for students, staff, and faculty members. Many Japanese and international students frequently use these two cafeterias for both lunch and dinner where a variety of menu is available to choose from. One can also buy various food items and drinks in the shop adjacent to each cafeteria. The location of university cafeteria can be easily found on the university campus map: https://is.gd/EgMJwe. In addition, one can also buy books, stationary items, computers, software, etc. and make travel arrangements, etc. at the 2nd floor of the second cafeteria. 

There are many other convenience stores and supermarkets in the vicinity of university campus from where various items to support your daily lives can be purchased. A convenience store also operates at the front gate of the university campus where food, drinks, etc. can be easily purchased. Besides, there are several diners and restaurants in theproximity of the university campus serving traditional Japanese food as well as foreign cuisines. Fast food chains such as McDonald’s is also available in the vicinity of the university campus.

It is to be noted that tipping is not customary in Japan at restaurants and diners. 


Additional informative links