It's already tomorrow in Japan! This is partly because we're halfway around the globe, and also due to the International Dateline. If you are in the US, your morning is the middle of our night, the next day. If you phone or e-mail us when you start work in Europe, it's evening in Japan, the same day. If you call us your Friday evening for a shoot starting our Monday morning, that's very tight scheduling.
Phone numbers in Japan start with a zero (0). Drop the zero when calling from overseas. For example, our telephone number is 03-3333-5335. You must dial this when calling us from inside Japan, but outside Tokyo, e.g. from Narita Airport (where the area code is 0476). In Tokyo's 03 area, you need only dial 3333-5335. From overseas, dial 81 (the country code for Japan), drop the zero, then dial the rest: 81-3-3333-5335.
Locations offer challenges for foreign crews. Local colour is gotten easily enough, outdoors. Shooting inside is another matter. Small rooms are the norm. Worse, companies, governmental and educational institutions seem to think bland meeting rooms are where interviews should take place. We may need extra time to find interesting objects or greenery for the background.
Electricity in Japan is 100VAC. Video chargers should work in ANY country (up to 240V), but check with your dealer about yours before leaving home. North American 650W lights will lose 20% of their brightness here, becoming 540W, and the colour temperature will drop to around 3000K. Do a white balance. Wall receptacles are flat, two-pronged, both small-sized. You will need an adapter to plug in "grounded" AC-plugs.
Flicker? "East Japan" (which includes Tokyo) has 50Hz electrical current, like Europe. "West Japan" (Osaka, Kyoto, etc.) is 60Hz, like North America. The reasons are historical. When using NTSC cameras under fluorescent lighting and mercury-vapour lamps in Tokyo, you'll get flicker. Use 1/100 shutter speed (or 50.1 scan if you can, to save one stop of brightness), and/or add lighting. If you are shooting PAL in West Japan, set the electronic shutter at 1/60.
We offer a wide range of services, including experienced, creative English speaking crews, production co-ordination, interpreting, makeup, chroma key and black backdrops, studios, ftp uploads, satellite feeds / streaming, etc.
Shipping tapes or HDDs from Japan also faces time warps. If we get them to FedEx in Tokyo before 5 pm on Friday, the package goes out that night. If we can't make the Friday deadline, the package leaves Japan Monday night. When Monday is a national holiday, they leave Tuesday night. Note that "overnight delivery" applies only to some cities in the US, and must be sent between Monday ~ Thursday here.
Addresses in most Japanese cities are a nightmare. Based on numbered wards and blocks, you literally have to go in circles to find an address. Get a map faxed to you (with Japanese on it) from each location you plan to shoot at. It's easy to get lost in narrow sidestreets, not to mention one-way roads. Thank goodness for "Car-Navi" (GPS). Taxi drivers are honest, and there is NO tipping. It may look close on a map, yet take ages to get there. Beware of rush-hour traffic. It could take 45-minutes if you leave at 6:30am, and more than twice that, if you start out at 7:30am.
Japan is NTSC. This is an island country (that was cut off from the outside world for more than 200 years, until the 1870s), and there is no tunnel to mainland Asia. FYI, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines are also NTSC. Most of the rest of Asia is PAL. We can shoot PAL, 24P, NTSC, etc.
Shoot permission is best gotten in advance, not on the fly (though foreigners sometimes do it Paparazzi style). You will likely need a translator or local "fixer." Even what you might think of as "public" space could well be private property. You may need permission (e.g. outside the Imperial Palace) or even have to pay (in some parks). In busy public spots, tripods are often not allowed, as they can be an obstruction.
Japanese interviewees like to know the questions in advance, if possible, so they can prepare answers (or have knowledgable staff do so). Most company execs don't like ad-libbing. On the street, news style interviews are not easy, though it's gotten better over the 30 years I've been here. Schooling tends to discourage self-expression, and the Japanese language itself is indirect. Criticism is considered ill-mannered. Although educated Japanese may read and write English, they may not speak it well. Older executives conversant in English may have an accent that the average viewer has trouble understanding. If you are not getting responses to your English emails, having someone at your end write them in Japanese could smooth the communication process. Or have us coordinate in advance for you.