Though the information in this online guide is geared specifically to NanoJapan program participants, it will likely be useful for anyone preparing to travel to Japan. We hope the information available on this site will be a useful resource for all students interested in studying, working, living, or interning in Japan.
Most university Study Abroad or International Programs offices offer Pre-Departure Orientation to their students studying abroad. Check with your university study abroad office for more information on any necessary on-campus procedures you need to follow if accepted into NanoJapan.
Rice University NanoJapan participants are required to watch the International Programs Step One Advising session which is available online.
One of the most important things you can do to prior to departure is to spend some time learning more about Japan. There are a number of online sites that provide useful background information such as Japan Guide.com. There are also many interesting books on Japanese society, culture, history, and language that may also be of interest. NanoJapan students are strongly encouraged all NanoJapan to purchase at least one guide book for Japan, Tokyo, or the city you will be in during your research internship as these will be highly useful to you during your time abroad.
All participants are required to certify they have reviewed the US Department of State's Country Specific Information on Japan which provides a wealth of useful information for travelers to Japan. Students should also carefully review the US Department of State Students Abroad website prior to departure. This site has been specifically developed to assist students preparing for international study, research, internship, work, volunteer, or travel.
All NanoJapan students must obtain a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of entry into Japan, or through November 15 of the program year. If you do not currently have a US passport you should apply for a passport as soon as possible. If your passport expires prior to November 15 of the program year you will need to renew your US passport as soon as possible. Typical processing time for a new or renewal passport application is between 4-6 weeks though expedited processing is available for an additional fee.
US citizens do not require a visa to enter Japan for stays of up to 90 days. If you are a permanent resident you may need to apply for a visa if your home country is not one of the 61 countries that Japan has signed visa exemption agreements with. For a full list of countries with current visa exemption agreements with Japan please click here. If you do require a visa to enter Japan the NanoJapan program will assist you in securing the necessary guarantor forms but you will be individually responsible for submitting your visa application to your nearest Japanese consulate or embassy and all visa application and related fees.
The NanoJapan Program requires all students to register online with the U.S. Department of State prior to departure or within two-days of arrival abroad. Registration with the Department of State makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular officer to contact you in an emergency. During a disaster overseas American consular officers can assist in evacuation were that to become necessary; but they cannot assist you if they do not know where you are. Registration is particularly important for those who plan to stay in a country longer than one month. Go to the State Department's Travel Registration to website to egister online. Be sure to make a note of your login and password so that you can update your registration should your address or contact information change while you are abroad.
Once you have been notified of your acceptance into the NanoJapan program you must obtain a Verification of Enrollment letter from your home university Registrar Office confirming that you are currently enrolled as a degree-seeking student in good academic standing. This letter should indicate your current major and anticipated graduation date. Mail this letter to the NanoJapan program.
In lieu of a program fee, all NanoJapan participants will be required to pay tuition for 1 credit of ELEC 490: Electrical Engineering Research Projects through the Rice Univeristy Summer School. However, through a special arrangement with Rice Univeristy, all NanoJapan participants will receive 3 credits for ELEC 490. Thus, NanoJapan students receive 3 credits for the price of one. The cost of summer tuition and any related application fee (for non-Rice students) must be paid by the individual student. More information on course enrollment and program fee/tuition payment will be provided to selected recipients in April
All NanoJapan students will receive a letter grade for participation in NanoJapan. At the end of the summer, students will be able to request a transcript through the Rice University Registrar's Office. Students will be graded on:
The right to take legal action on another person’s behalf is conferred using Power of Attorney. When abroad this is especially useful when it comes to things like financial aid disbursemensts or dealings with your financial/banking institution while you are out of the country. The NanoJapan program strongly encourages all participants to designate a parent, guardian or other trusted individual as their Power of Attorney for the duration of the time you are abroad in Japan. This can be done by completing a Limited Power of Attorney Form. This must be signed in front of a Notary Public to be a legally binding and official document. You should give the completed and notarized original document to your designated Power of Attorney and you should bring a photocopy of the signed document with you to Japan.
Whenever traveling abroad you should call the 1-800 number on the back of your ATM/Debit and/or credit cards prior to departure to notify them that you may be using your cards overseas and provide them with your travel dates. If you do not do this and try to use your card/s overseas they will likely not work as companies often flag international activity as possible fradulent charges. We also recommend that you obtain the domestic phone numbers in Japan for your card companies so you do not have to pay international long-distance fees if you need to contact your card companies while you are in Japan.
It is also helpful to confirm what your daily withdrawal limit is for your ATM/Debit card and the international ATM and currency conversion fees you will be charged for withdrawing money in Japan. The daily withdrawal limit is typically between $200 to $300 US dollars but many banks will temporarily raise your daily withdrawal limit if you are traveling overseas. If your daily limit is raised to $500 or $1,000 you will not have to withdraw money as often and won't pay as much in fees.
The currency in Japan is called the Yen and, unlike the U.S., Japan is still a highly cash-based society. While it may feel odd to carry lots of cash with you, especially for Americans who primarily rely on debit and credit cards, cash is truly the easiest means of payment in almost all situtations in Japan. It is more likely that you will misplace your money in Japan than have it stolen or pick-pocketed - though this is still possible so students should take reasonable precautions and keep cash in a safe place at all times.
The NanoJapan program recommends students bring at least $500 to $1,500 in cash with them to Japan and exchange all of this upon arrival at the airport in Japan where you will get the best exchange rate. We do not recommend exchanging your U.S. dollars into Japanese Yen prior to departure as the exchange rate you will get in the U.S. will likely be much lower than what is available at the airport upon arrival in Japan. You can also choose to bring your money with you in the form of Traveler's Checks but be aware that these can only be exchanged at the airport or at banks displaying an AUTHORIZED FOREIGN EXCHANGE sign. Foreign exchange hours at most banks are limited and it can take a long time to complete your transaction. It is generally more convenient to bring your initial funds in cash and then plan to withdraw funds in Japanese Yen from an ATM for the duration of the summer.
Most ATMs in Japan, including those at most banks, do not accept credit, debit and ATM cards issued outside of Japan. To withdraw funds in Japanese Yen from your U.S. accounts you will need to use an international ATM. The most convenient place to find an international ATM is at any 7-11 Convenience Store which are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can also access international ATMs at any Japanese Post Office, though some post offices close as early as 4:00 PM and they may not be open at all on the weekends. International ATMs can also be found at airports, in some department stores, and at Citibank locations throughout Japan. Be sure you are aware of the daily withdrawal limit and international withdrawal and currency conversion fees your bank will charge for accessing your account from a Japanese ATM. You may need to plan out your withdrawals over the course of a few days for large purchases that need to be paid in cash such as housing fees during the research internship period as most university dormitories or guesthouses do not accept payment via debit/credit card.
International credit cards can be used at most major department stores, stores catering to tourists, most mid-range to high-end hotels, and, in some cases, can also be used to purchase train tickets. However, you should be aware of the international transaction and currency conversion fee your card charges and factor this into the price. Most students find it more convenient and a safer bet to pay in cash. Most small shops, grocery stores, inexpensive restaurants, cabs, etc. will only accept payment in cash.
All NanoJapan students are provided with overseas health, accident, illness, repatriation, and evacuation of remains coverage through the University of Tulsa's CISI insurance policy for the duration of their stay abroad. All NanoJapan participants will receive a CISI insurance card to carry with them in their wallet while in Japan and a detailed booklet outlining the coverage amounts provided. You can call the number on the back of this card at least 24 hours prior to your appointment to see if CISI can arrange for pre-payment of your medical care. However, if you are experiencing a medical emergency or CISI cannot arrange for pre-payment you will need to pay all medical costs up-front individually and then you will need to file a claim for reimbursement directly with CISI.
NanoJapan participants may also want to apply for an ISIC card, though this is not required. ISIC is the only internationally accepted student ID card and proof of current student status in existence. These cards provide a range of benefits and services worldwide including discounts to more than 33,000 locations in 103 countries, supplemental travel and lost baggage insurance, and a 24-hour emergency help line. With your ISIC card you can also access student-only travel discounts on airfare and train travel abroad. The ISIC card will be valid for one year and costs just $22. It can be obtained from the ISIC website or at most university study abroad offices. You can also search the ISIC website for the specific discounts and benefits available with this card in Japan.
The NanoJapan program and Rice University are committed to equality of opportunity for persons with disabilities and to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The university strives to make international programs accessible to individuals with disabilities. We encourage all participants to talk with the NanoJapan program prior to departure about your needs and expectations so that we can advise you on what accommodations you can or cannot expect in Japan and at your research internship site.
Mobility International USA, an organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development, maintains a wide range of useful resources for students considering studying abroad. MIUSA considers Japan to be a somewhat accessible country for people with disabilities. The Disabled Persons’ Fundamental Law provides protections to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities socially, culturally, economically and in other aspects of life. Many public places in the larger cities, including major museums, airport, subways and elevators feature Japanese Braille signage and tactile paths on most sidewalks. There are typically elevators or escalators at subway or train stations though these are often only located at one specific entrance or exit of the station. There are station maps that show where the elevators or escalators are located and staffed Information Desks where you can ask for assistance if needed. You can also search the MIUSA website for more information on traveling in Japan.
All NanoJapan students are required to schedule a Pre-Departure Medical Check with their medical doctor and should also visit their dentist, eye doctor, and/or any mental health-care professional or counselors you routinely see at least one month prior to departure. Be sure to obtain updated written prescriptions for all medications, glasses, or contacts. Review the CDC Travel Website for Japan with your doctor or healthcare professional and be sure to discuss how participation in this program might impact your personal health situation.
While no immunizations are required for entry into Japan you should ensure that all basic immunizations are up to date. Some immunizations must be given 4 - 8 weeks prior to departure for them to be effective so schedule these appointments as soon as possible. For more information see the CDC Vaccination for Travel website.
For more information on Pre-Departure Health Steps and Medical Care in Japan see the Health Abroad page.
We strongly recommend you bring just one large piece of checked luggage and pack an empty duffel bag to use as your second piece of checked luggage for your gifts/souvenirs on your way back to the U.S. Try to pack just enough for a 2-week trip as you will have access to laundry facilities during both the orientation program in Tokyo and the research internship period. You can also speak with the NanoJapan student who was at your lab last summer to see if they have more specific tips or recommendations for your particular location in Japan as weather can vary widely depending on region.