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Telephones

To call Tokyo from outside Japan: First, dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia. Next, dial the country code for Japan, 81. Finally, dial the city code for Tokyo, 3, and then the number.

Domestic calls: If you're calling Tokyo from outside Tokyo but within Japan, the area code for Tokyo is 03.

Despite the proliferation of cellphones, you can still find public telephones in telephone booths on the sidewalk, in or near train stations, in hotel lobbies, and in restaurants and coffee shops. A local call costs ¥10 for each minute; a warning chime will ring to tell you to insert more coins or you'll be disconnected. I usually insert two or three coins at the start so that I won't have to worry about being disconnected; ¥10 coins that aren't used are returned at the end of the call. Most public phones accept both ¥10 and ¥100 coins. The latter is convenient for long-distance calls, but no change is given for unused minutes. All gray ISDN telephones are equipped for international calls and have dataports for Internet access.

If you think you'll be making a lot of domestic calls from public telephones and don't want to deal with coins, purchase a magnetic prepaid telephone card. These are available in a value of ¥1,000 and are sold at vending machines (sometimes located right beside telephones), station kiosks, and convenience stores. Green and gray telephones accept telephone cards. In fact, many nowadays accept telephone cards exclusively. Insert the card into the slot. On the gray ISDN telephones, there's a second slot for a second telephone card, which is convenient if the first one is almost used up or if you think you'll be talking a long time. Domestic long-distance calls are cheaper at night, on weekends, and on national holidays for calls of distances more than 60km (37 miles).

Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 0120 or 0088 are toll-free. Calling a 1-800 number in the U.S. from Japan is not toll-free and costs the same as an international call.

To make international calls: For a collect call or to place an operator-assisted call through KDDI, dial the international telephone operator at tel. 0051. From a public telephone, look for a specially marked INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC CARD/COIN TELEPHONE. Although many of the specially marked green or gray telephones, the most common public telephones, accept both coins and magnetic telephone cards for domestic calls, most in Tokyo do not accept magnetic cards for direct overseas calls (due to illegal usage of telephone cards), except for those in a few key facilities like the airport and some hotels. You'll therefore either have to use coins or purchase a special prepaid international telephone card that works like telephone cards issued by U.S. telephone companies. That is, an access number must first be dialed, followed by a secret telephone number, and then the number you wish to dial. Such cards are often sold from vending machines next to telephone booths in hotels or in convenience stores such as Sunkus, Circle K, Family Mart, or Lawson. There are numerous such cards (with instructions in English), including the rechargeable Brastel Smart Phonecard (tel. 0120/659-543; www.brastel.com), which charges ¥49 to ¥54 per minute from a payphone to a landline in the U.S. or United Kingdom; or the KDDI Super World Card (tel. 0057; www.kddi.com), which gives approximately 21 minutes of weekday talk time to the U.S. on its ¥1,000 card. Some hotels have special phones equipped to accept credit cards.

International rates vary according to when you call, which telephone company you use, and what type of service you use. Direct-dial service is cheaper than operator-assisted calls. The cheapest time to call is between 11pm and 8am Japan time, while the most expensive time is weekdays from 8am to 7pm.

If you're not using a prepaid card (which has its own set of instructions and access numbers), to make a direct-dial international call, you must first dial one of the international access codes offered by the various telephone companies -- 001 (KDDI), 0033 (NTT Communications), or 0061 (Softbank Telecom) -- followed by 010, and then the country code. The country code for the United States and Canada is 1; for the United Kingdom, it's 44; for Australia, it's 61; and for New Zealand, it's 64. Next you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., using KDDI you would dial 001-010-1-202-588-6500. If you're dialing from your hotel room, you must first dial for an outside line, usually 0.

If you wish to be connected with an operator in your home country, you can do so from green international telephones by dialing tel. 0039 followed by the country code. (For the United States, dial tel. 0039-111.) These calls can be used for collect calls or credit card calls. Some hotels and other public places are equipped with special phones that will link you to your home operator with the push of a button, and there are instructions in English.

If you have a U.S. calling card, ask your phone company for the direct access number from Japan that will link you directly to the United States. If you have AT&T, for example, dial tel. 00539-111 to place calls using KDDI or tel. 00665-5111 to use Softbank Telecom.

Cellphones

The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles). Unfortunately, Japan uses a system that is incompatible with GSM. You can, however, use your own mobile phone number in Japan by bringing your own SIM card from home and inserting it into a handset rented from Softbank Global Rental or NTT DoCoMo. It only works, however, if your home service provider has a roaming agreement with Softbank or NTT. For more information, contact your mobile phone company, NTT DoCoMo (http://roaming.nttdocomo.co.jp), or Softbank Global Rental (www.softbank-rental.jp), where you can also find out about rental costs and rental locations and make online reservations. Another option is to bring your own mobile phone and rent a SIM card from Softbank.

Otherwise, if you want to have a telephone number before arriving in Japan, consider renting a phone before leaving home. North Americans can rent one before leaving home from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or Roadpost (tel. 888/290-1606; www.roadpost.com).

You can also rent a phone in Japan (unfortunately, foreign visitors are not allowed to buy cellphones in Japan). If you're in Japan for only a few days and are staying in an upper-class hotel, most convenient but most expensive is to rent a mobile phone from your hotel. A check of several hotels in Tokyo turned up rental fees ranging from ¥600 to ¥1,200 per day (the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive the rental). I suggest, therefore, that you rent a phone at Narita Airport. Lots of companies maintain counters at both terminals, including NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Global Rental, as well as G-Call (www.g-call.com/e), Telecom Square (www.telecomsquare.co.jp), and PuPuRu (www.pupuru.com), which have the extra convenience of easy pickup and drop-off and offer online reservations. Most rentals start at ¥525 per day, though bargains are often offered online or on-site. Charges for domestic and international calls vary, but incoming calls are usually free.

For travelers staying in Japan a week or longer, Go Mobile (www.gomobile.co.jp) offers 1-week, 2-week, and 30-day rentals, including a limited number of free local calls. A 1-week rental costs ¥2,995 and includes 15 minutes of free local calls. Phones are shipped to an address in Japan (such as your hotel) and returned via a prepaid, pre-addressed envelope.

Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com).

Internet & E-Mail

Without your own computer: Cybercafes are growing in number. In any case, avoid hotel business centers unless you're willing to pay exorbitant rates, though some accommodations provide a computer in the lobby that guests can use for free.

The best place to set up a temporary office in Tokyo is at the sophisticated Gran Cyber Café Bagus, on the 12th floor of the Roi Building, 5-5-1 Roppongi (tel. 03/5786-2280; station: Roppongi). Open 24 hours, it offers individual cubicles with prices that depend on the chair you select: ¥500 the first hour for a straight-back chair, ¥530 for a recliner, and ¥600 for a massage chair. Unsurprisingly, given Tokyo's high taxi prices, it also offers a "night pack" in a reclining chair, available for a maximum of 6 hours between 11pm and 8am for ¥1,450, as well as -- brace yourself -- booths for couples. A "Ladies Only" section is also available. Another 24-hour Gran Cyber Café Bagus is located in Shibuya, on the seventh floor of the HMV music store at 24-1 Udagawacho (tel. 03/5456-8922).

For free access, try Marunouchi Café, located on the tree-lined Marunouchi Naka Dori avenue in the Shin Tokyo Building, 3-3-1 Marunouchi (tel. 03/3212-5025; stations: Marunouchi or Tokyo), with six computers available Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 8pm (you'll need to show a photo ID, such as a passport). Or try the Apple Store, Ginza, 3-5-12 Ginza (tel. 03/5159-8200; station: Ginza), with approximately five Macs on the 4th floor available daily from 10am to 9pm. Note that waits can be long.

Although expensive, Kinko's has more than 30 locations throughout Tokyo, including one at Tokyo Station at the Yaesu north exit (tel. 03/3213-1811). Most are open 24 hours and charge ¥210 per 10 minutes of computer time.

With your own computer: With the exception of some budget hotels, virtually all hotels in Tokyo provide Internet access in guest rooms. While most provide high-speed dataports, more and more are going Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity). I'm also happy to report that more and more are also offering Internet connections for free. Otherwise, expect to pay anywhere from ¥500 to ¥1,050.

Wherever you go, bring a phone cord and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests (many do, for free).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.