Japan, how far!
Japan, and how you are going to understand them if there do not speak English?
Japan, how scary !, what if there’s an earthquake?
Japan, Phew, it’s so expensive!
Japan, so hot in there!
Each and every one of these sentences we’ve heard since we decided to go to the land of the rising sun. We smiled and nodded.
Ryanair-sized suitcase and backpack. All set for 15 days in Japan!
The experience of traveling to Japan has been one of the most fascinating we’ve ever experienced and yes it was far, and yes they spoke little English and yes a very hot and humid country and yes everything is a little more expensive than here. But worth it.
It has been more than a few people who have asked us on how preparing the trip, suitcase and which is the required documentation. Therefore, always through the prism of our experience, we want to give 7 tips for planning your trip to Japan.
- Plan your trip
Avoid the total adventure. Japan is far and it is convenient to arrange an itinerary taking into account the days that you are going to be, the season where you go and what you plan to visit.
Therefore we recommend you to download these mobile apps:
* Maps.me: offline maps google maps style. Essential.
* Hyperdia: your new favorite application. Extremely useful for checking how to get from one place to another by public transport. It is a great combo with the JR Pass.
JR Pass, your new best friend in Japan
If you are going to move a lot throughout the country or going more than a week is very interesting to request the JR Pass. A pass that will be your master key to take you to (almost) every corner of Japan. If you do, take note of the following:
The JR Pass is requested from outside of Japan, as it is exclusive for tourists. There are passes of 7, 15 or 21 calendar days.
It includes the most important railway lines (including Shinkansen – bullet- trains except for the Nozomi and Mizuho lines). Also it includes the Ferry to the island of Miyayima and JR bus line.
You may activate the JR pass at the following locations:
Tokyo train stations, Shinjuku, Kyoto, Yokohama, Nagoya, Ueno, Shibuya and many others. Note that each office has a schedule. Check out here
Certain lines require seats to be reserved in advance. Take note of this especially if you fly to / from Narita. Seat reservation is mandatory.
Plan your journey taking into account the season that you visit. We went in the summer as Mt. Fuji is open to public and the celebrations of Gion Matzuri in Kyoto. If you go for example in spring, you would enjoy the cherry tree blossoms and in autumn you will enjoy the colors of the Japanese gardens. Each season has its charm.
Gion in Kyoto Matzuri
- Learn some basic words and lose the fear of speaking in English
Basically: speak in English. Because it will be the tool with which you communicate; the Japanese are extremely helpful people and will do their best to understand you, but they have a very basic English (with exceptions) and will have to lend them a hand.
In addition, it is advisable to learn the typical words that although that may sound funny to you,but they love to hear: / konichiwa / / arigato / / sayonara / and our favorite word: / sumimasen /, which means “Excuse me” it is used to call someone’s attention when you want to ask.
- Documents and visas
Japan does not require any type of visa, simply having a valid passport.
We recommend, however, register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Consulate of your country so your stay in a foreign country is registered.
We kept the passport with us at all times. We kept color copies of the Passports in the suitcases so that in case of lose or theft , we had at least some document for the Consulate
- Keep calm, everything is in English
Japanese people do not speak English, but it does not mean that there are no signs in English. When you land and get to the train station it looks like a whole meaningless chaos, scribbles, lights and decorations everywhere.
No worries; the illuminated signs, if you wait a few seconds, are translated into English.
The posters of each car will indicate whether seats are reserved or non-reserved seat. Be careful of getting in the correct car!
- Eating is expensive, but not as much as you think.
The concept of Japanese food that has been exported is kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine); however, the culinary landscape of Japan (especially in large cities) is huge with a great variety and quite affordable. Just wander through and let yourself go. Let the revelry of the Japanese after work guide you, you’ll be amazed of the places and bars that you will discover how the concept of serious and taciturn Japanese will radically change for you 😉
Recommendation: The market in Ueno Ameya-Yokochō.
- If you smoke, watch out!
In Japan, you can find signs like this on the sidewalks.
That’s right, smoking is forbidden while walking. smoking is permitted only in specific smoking areas.
Ironically, in Japan smoking is permitted in bars and restaurants.
- Daily backpack.
There are three or four vending machines in every street in Japan; thus you will always have something to drink in case of heat. However, keep in mind that tap water is drinkable, so if you do not want to keep spending 110 yen per small bottle, you may take the bottles filled from the hostel/hotel.
In summer, keep socks in your backpack, especially if you’re wearing sandals or open-toed shoes; it is mandatory to go barefoot in many temples and in the entrance you are provided with flip flops (which were used by thousand of people before you ) you may find it a little bit “unconfy”.
Well, we hope you will find this information useful, we hope they will help you to start organizing your route!
You want to know more? Do you have any questions? Please do not hesitate to write us via “Contact” or write us a comment below.