Predeparture FAQs

  • Arrival

    Where's the nearest international airport?
    Kansai International (KIX), in Osaka Bay, about 80km (50 miles) from Kyoto.
    Which airline is best?
    Difficult question. One very important consideration is how much baggage you are allowed. Ask!!! Cheap flights may have a 20kg limit (seriously!) which means you will find yourself spending much more on shipping stuff home at the end of your visit.
    How do I get to the dorm?
    We recommend using a shuttle taxi van service door to door, airport to dorm. It costs 3,500 yen including student discount. You can make your own reservation online at (flight details and dorm/apartment address required).
    What if my plane is delayed, or diverted?
    The shuttle company monitors incoming flights, so if there is a delay, they will try to reschedule you on a later shuttle. If you can't take the shuttle, the alternative is an express train (the Haruka), from KIX to Kyoto Station. From there, if going to Seika’s dorm, take the subway north to Kokusai-kaikan, then a taxi.
    Even if you have a shuttle reservation, please print out and carry our access instructions, and access map, just in case of an unexpected change of plan.(The access map also helps you to find our office after you arrive, for orientation).
  • Dorms

    Where will I be staying?
    Accommodation is provided at SEIKA's International Student Houses for our first-year international students, exchange students, and incoming exchange groups. (Due to space limitations, research students can't stay in the dorms, but are assisted on arrival to find other suitable accommodation).
    When do I need to pay rent?
    Rent is paid for the full semester, in advance, by international bank transfer or online transfer system.
    What other expenses will I have to pay?
    A comprehensive (AIU) compulsory insurance cover for damage or accident. It will cost 5,180 yen per semester for spring semester [fall semester is 5,220 yen / one year is 10,400 yen]. Also, exchange students staying at the dorm need to pay futon rental charge of approximately 10,800 yen per semester (16,200 yen for one year, including tax). These charges are included with dorm rent in the international bank transfer or online transfer system.
    What is provided in my dorm room?
    We provide a bed, chair, and desk and drawers and closet space in Western-style rooms, and fresh sheets, futons, blanket, pillow, and pillow-case (rented, as mentioned above).
    What other facilities are provided in the dorms?
    The dorms have mostly showers, and baths. Domestic-type washing machines and dryers are provided for coin-charged laundry, (please provide washing powder). The kitchens have refrigerators, stoves, toasters, and micro-waves. You will need to buy your own utensils. (Easy to find at homeware shops and even 100 yen stores).
    Is there a meal plan at the dorm?
    Sorry, no. The dorms are self-catered only, with shared kitchens.
    Is there a cafeteria on campus?
    Yes. It provides cheap but good food Mondays through Saturdays, is closed Sundays. There's also a Coffee Lounge in the same building. There are two convenience stores on campus, and Seika also has a restaurant, Reata, just off campus.
    Are the dorms co-ed?
    No – SEIKA’s dorms are NOT co-ed, although the kitchen and multi-purpose space is shared. Men are not allowed in the women's section of the dorm and women are not allowed in the men's rooms at any time. These rules are strictly enforced.
    Is there a curfew?
    No, but the main doors are kept locked, for security.
    Can my friend visit and stay with me in the dorm?
    No: since rooms are shared, visitors are not allowed to stay in your room.
    Can I stay after the end of term?
    You are welcome to stay up until the last week of August in first semester (we need a few days for cleaning before the next students arrive from Sept. 1st), or until late March in second semester. Dorm rent covers the full period of semester including vacation. Just remember that your exchange student visa is valid for a strict maximum of 6 months in total.
  • Communications

    Is Internet access available?
    Yes! The dorms have Ethernet cable connections in each room, so you can go online free of charge. To use this service, you need to bring your own laptop. Each student receives a free account on SEIKA’s server, with wireless access in many parts of campus (password required).
    How about phone access?
    If you bring a smart-phone, you can rent a data-only SIM card cheaply after arrival. Sign up with a local company at orientation for a good deal.
  • Weather

    What's the weather like in Kyoto?
    First semester: Spring begins with spectacular cherry blossom, then there's some rain, and the hills become green again. Expect humidity to increase in June, leading to tsuyu, rainy season. By mid-July, it's HOT. Second semester: From September, the heat fades and rice-fields turn from green to gold, with harvest time around the equinox. Fall color moves down from the top of Mt Hiei, reaching full brilliance in November, as frosts begin. By later December, there's a chance of snow. Weather gets colder in January, with occasional heavy snow in February and into March.
  • Money

    Can I use my credit card in Japan?
    Yes — if it's listed below. Japan used to be mainly a cash society, but credit cards are becoming more widely used now. Make sure that you tell your bank that you plan to make withdrawals overseas, or they may block your card. You should also ask whether they impose a daily limit on overseas withdrawals. Some ATMs limit cash withdrawals to 30,000 yen per day.

    Post office branch ATMs accept VISA, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, Diners Club International, 9am thru 5pm, Monday-Friday; major post offices are also open on Saturdays, main post offices (e.g. at Kyoto Station) 24 hour access.

    Seven Eleven Convenience Stores in Japan, as of July 2007, all offer 24-hour access to cash with foreign credit or debit cards (VISA/PLUS, MasterCard/Cirrus, American Express, JCB, China Union Pay ); PIN # required. Language options for ATM screen and receipts: English, Korean, Chinese, and Portuguese.There is a 7/11 close by Seika/dorms, in Hataeda.

    It's generally perfectly safe to carry cash in Japan. Purse-snatching, mugging, or pocket-picking are virtually unknown here. If you drop your wallet or purse, it is very likely to be handed in to a police box, contents untouched.
    Where can I change money?
    There's a money exchange booth right beside the arrivals gate at Kansai International Airport (KIX).
    Can I open a bank account in Japan and transfer money to it?
    Due to new banking regulations, you have to be able to prove you have been living in Japan for 6 months before you can open a bank account.

    You can open a Post Office Savings (Yuucho) account. All post offices have Yuucho ATMs, and the SEIKA Family Mart convenience store ATM accepts Yuucho cards (and Citibank).

    Instead of transferring money, we suggest simply enabling money to be paid into an account in your home country, which you can access by using your credit card here in Japan, as described above.
    Is Japan expensive?
    Yes and no. Japan has a reputation as one of the world's most expensive places to live, but Kyoto has a long history as a university town, so many restaurants and shops (including big 100yen stores) target budget-conscious students. Seika's cafeteria is very economical, too...
    What can I expect to spend per month?
    We advise budgeting between 40 and 50 thousand yen per month for food, transportation and art materials/museum entrance fees etc. That is not including accommodation.
  • Health Insurance

    Can I join Japan's National Health scheme??
    Yes. International students are required to join Japan's National Health Insurance

    The NHI covers usual medical costs including doctor's, hospital, and dental fees for necessary treatment (accident or sickness): 70% of the expense for medical treatment is covered by the NHI, so you only pay 30% of the official bill.
    * To join the NHI, you sign up at the ward office (immediately after registering your residence card).
    * The premium is about 1,600 yen per month, paid by approximately monthly installments (10 per year) at a bank or post office. (This is the minimum fee, based on your not having received any income in Japan in the previous year).
    * Coverage begins immediately on joining. It's also essential to cancel the cover before you leave Japan, or you will continue to be billed.
  • Transportation

    What transportation is available in Kyoto?
    Kyoto has a comprehensive system of buses, subways, and public and private railway lines. All operate with renowned Japanese efficiency & reliability, and are clean & safe. SEIKA has its own station on the Eiden railway line (service until nearly midnight), and operates regular and frequent free shuttle buses to the Kokusai-kaikan subway station Mon-Sat. (about 20 minutes from city center).
    Can I get a bicycle?
    Some bicycles have been left by previous exchange students. Second-hand bikes are available at bicycle shops in northern Kyoto. Since the city is mostly flat, bikes are the best way to explore Kyoto, except during rainy season (June/July).
  • Other Logistics

    What is Japan's electrical system?
    110 volt, 60Hz (in western Japan). It's basically compatible with most US and European 100-volt appliances, though you may need to find a converter plug.
    Is there anything I should consider bringing to Japan?
    • Familiar general medications, health care products etc, as required. If you need prescription medications, it may be best to bring them with you.
    But to avoid possible delay in Customs on arrival, prescription medications should be in original packages or properly labelled. (Japan is extremely cautious about drugs. Sniffer dogs check all incoming bags).

    • Non-lace-up footwear – such as slip-on, velcro-fastened or zipped shoes/boots – makes life much easier, as you often take shoes off & put them on again.

    • Kyoto guidebook: Lonely Planet Guide to Kyoto is highly recommended, very useful to pre-read too.