Japan is a fascinating country to visit with its bustling cities, beautiful nature, delicious food, and unique Japanese art and culture. However, as a foreign traveler, navigating Japan can be challenging if you don’t know some insider tips. Follow these top tips to enjoy your trip and be happy in Japan.
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Tip 1: Get a Japan Rail Pass
If you plan on traveling to multiple cities, get a Japan Rail Pass before arriving. This allows unlimited travel on all JR train lines and can save you a lot of money compared to buying individual tickets. The pass is only available for foreign tourists.
Tip 2: Bring Cash
Japan is largely a cash-based society. Most smaller restaurants, shops, and markets do not accept credit cards. Take out enough yen for each day if you plan on visiting smaller local establishments. However, major attractions and hotels do take credit cards.
Tip 3: Buy a Suica or Pasmo Card
These rechargeable IC cards make paying for trains and subways a breeze. Just tap the card when entering and exiting stations. Cards can also be used at vending machines, convenience stores, and other shops.
Tip 4: Learn Basic Japanese
Learn key Japanese phrases like greetings, thank you, and numbers. Being able to order at restaurants and interact basicly goes a long way. Don’t rely entirely on English—try using Japanese first. The locals will appreciate you making an effort.
Tip 5: Remove Shoes
Remove shoes when entering homes, temples, traditional inns, and some shops and restaurants. Bring slip-on shoes to make removal easy. Shoe etiquette is very important in Japan.
Tip 6: Avoid Rush Hour
Try to avoid rush hours on public transportation (7-9am and 5-7pm on weekdays). Trains and metros can get extremely crowded during these times. Schedule around these hours when possible. If you must travel at rush hour, avoid train cars marked for women as those are overflowing with female commuters.
Tip 7: Eat Local Specialties
Try iconic Japanese food like sushi, ramen, Wagyu beef, and matcha. Go to food halls like Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Japan takes its food very seriously. Be adventurous and you’ll be rewarded!
Tip 8: See a Sumo Match
If visiting between January and May, see a professional sumo match in Tokyo. Arrive early to watch morning practice. The atmosphere is electric as these giant athletes collide. It’s a quintessential Japanese experience.
Tip 9: Stay in a Ryokan
Spend a night or two in a traditional Japanese inn, known as a ryokan. Sleep on futons and tatami mats, soak in hot spring baths, and enjoy a kaiseki multi-course dinner. Ryokans provide a unique and memorable lodging experience.
Tip 10: Pack Light Pack
lightly because you will be walking a lot and taking public transportation. Large suitcases are difficult to maneuver. The smaller your bag, the easier travel will be. The Japanese are very orderly—don’t bring huge luggage to disrupt foot traffic.
Tip 11: Get a Pocket WiFi
Pocket WiFi gives you mobile internet anywhere in Japan. Rental companies ship devices to your hotel. This allows you to use maps and translation apps on the go when you have no data connectivity. It’s an essential travel companion.
Tip 12: Visit a Convenience Store
Pop into one of the ubiquitious convenient stores like 7-Eleven, Lawson or FamilyMart. They have good quality snacks, hot food, and drinks for budget prices. Convenience stores are a staple of Japanese life.
Tip 13: Check out a Drug Store Drug
stores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi stock unique Japanese beauty products, snacks, and household goods. You’ll find items you won’t see anywhere else. Go in and explore all the floors.
Tip 14: Try Capsule Hotels
Experience a capsule hotel for a unique lodging option. The tiny pods provide basic amenities at an affordable price. Great for solo travelers on a budget or people wanting to try something new.
Tip 15: Use Google Maps
Use Google Maps on your phone to navigate Japan’s confusing train system and crowded streets. Maps can route you on trains, buses and walking directions. Don’t count on signs in English—rely on maps.
Traveling to Japan is an amazing experience. Follow these tips to better navigate the country and immerse yourself in the culture. From riding trains to trying street food, Japan has so much offer, including great culture and Japanese business innovation. Get off the beaten path, be open minded, and make unforgettable memories. Have any other Japan travel tips? Share below!