Japan is a beautiful country with a lot of fun and interesting places to go and things to do, so it does not come as a surprise that it is one of the most highly regarded tourist destinations in the world. If you are thinking of going to Japan in the future, below are some important things that you have to know to make it a stress-free and memorable trip:
1. You have to have your passport with you all the time.
When in Japan as a tourist, it is a must to have your passport with you at all times. Your passport serves as your primary legal identification when checking in at your accommodation, buying a Japan Rail Pass, and doing other kinds of transactions.
It is of utmost importance that you protect it and not lose it. Keep it in a waterproof case, and store it, your money and cards, and other personal stuff in a secure bag that you can conveniently take with you while sightseeing, shopping, dining, and so on.
2. Create an itinerary before purchasing a Japan Rail Pass.
A lot of tourists think that a Japan Rail Pass or JR Pass is necessary when visiting Japan. However, purchasing this special rail pass for foreigners is not always a good idea. Unless you are taking at least a couple of long-distance trips via the Shinkansen or Japanese bullet trains, there is no reason why you should spend tens of thousands of yen for it.
To know if the rail pass is worth buying, you should make an itinerary and add up the costs of your rail travel using Hyperdia or an online JR Pass calculator.
Let’s say you are planning to do a roundtrip between Tokyo and Osaka, and day trips to Hiroshima and Nara in a span of 7 days. Here are what the ticket costs look like:
- Tokyo-Osaka roundtrip – approximately 29,000 yen
- Osaka-Hiroshima roundtrip – approximately 21,000 yen
- Osaka- Nara roundtrip – 1,600 yen
- Total – 51,600 yen
In this scenario, it is clear that getting yourself a 7-day JR Pass that costs about 30,000 yen is cost-efficient.
3. It is rare for Japanese trains to depart or arrive late.
Did you know that the Shinkansen has an average delay of time of only 54 seconds? In Japan, the trains are almost always on time, and they are popular for their comfort and efficiency.
If you are in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, and other major cities, the train stations are made up of numerous train lines and platforms, so finding your way to where you are supposed to be, as a foreigner, may be challenging. To not miss your train, give yourself extra time in case you get lost.
4. Take note of the metro and subway operating hours if you plan to stay out late.
The metro and subway lines in Japan do not run 24/7. So, if you go drinking or clubbing until late and miss the last train home, you might have to call a cab, walk, or find another way to get back to your hotel, which can be quite expensive or terribly inconvenient if your hotel is located in the other side of the city.
If you want to avoid finding yourself in this kind of situation, sort out your day-to-day plans, and check the metro and subway timetables.
5. Be considerate of others in public.
If you are riding public transportation, refrain from talking or laughing loudly, making phone calls, or eating and drinking. Respect other people’s privacy and do not be nuisance. If you are waiting to board the metro or subway, make way for the people getting off. Do not push and shove.
The Japanese people are known for their good manners, so try not to be that tourist who causes disturbances, and is being rude and impolite.
6. Have cash with you.
Even though the number of business establishments in Japan that accept credit cards as a mode of payment has continuously increased through the years, there are still many restaurants, shops, and stores that only accept cash.
Before you fly out to Japan, buy some Japanese yen from your bank to enjoy good currency exchange rates. Alternatively, you can withdraw Japanese yen using your cards from ATMs or exchange your foreign money at the currency exchange counters at airports, convenience stores, etc. once you are in Japan.
7. Tipping is not a thing in Japan.
If you are used to leaving tips at restaurants, bars, hotels, and other businesses in your home country, you should know that doing the same thing in Japan is not advisable.
In Japan, you only have to pay for the exact amount of any products and services that you buy, and tipping will only cause confusion and awkwardness.
8. There is no need to go through a crash course in Japanese language.
Japan is very foreigner-friendly. In Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other popular tourist cities, there are English signages at the airports, train stations, and tourist spots and attractions. At many restaurants, it is also possible to request for an English menu.
So, before your trip, you should not panic about not knowing Japanese. You will be okay. However, if you want to learn how to say some basic Japanese greetings, such as arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) and konnichiwa (hello), or download language translation or Japanese dictionary or phrase book apps, it wouldn’t hurt.
9. You will walk a lot.
A day of sightseeing in Japan may at least double your average number of steps a day back home. Getting to many shrines, temples, castles, gardens, and other attractions, as well as finding your correct train platform at the large, bustling train stations of Tokyo, require so much walking.
To minimize pains, aches, and soreness, and prevent blisters and injuries, get yourself a comfortable pair of footwear. The fit should be just right, with sufficient room to wiggle your toes and firm support for your ankles and feet arches.