Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan
Known for its rich historical roots, world heritage sites, unique culture, and umami eats, Japan has always been a popular destination for travelers all over the world! With travel reawakening little by little, it’s no surprise that many have begun planning their trips to the Land of the Rising Sun for 2022.
If you are one of those who plan to visit Japan for the very first time, here are some handy tips to help make your trip enjoyable, memorable, and more importantly, hassle-free:
1. Respect the local culture
Practicing proper etiquette can go a long way, especially when visiting a foreign country like Japan. Following local manners is a great way to show how much you respect and appreciate their culture and values. Here are some Japanese customs to keep in mind while visiting to avoid being unconsciously rude or offensive:
- Remove your shoes when entering homes, temples, and some businesses
- Do not tip at restaurants
- Bow when meeting people
- Stand on the correct side of escalators (left side in Tokyo, right side in Osaka)
Language barrier is also something to take note when travelling to Japan. To make conversing with a local easier, have the Japanese dictionary in Google Translate downloaded for offline use or write down important words, like the name of tourist spot, station, or your hotel, to show the people where you want to go.
2. Travel at ease wherever you go
Whether you are traveling within the city or crossing prefectures, here are some things you need to take note of also prior to your departure to enjoy a worry-free travel experience as you go:
First, invest in a rail pass as it can save you a lot of time and money moving around. Rail passes, like the JR Rail Pass for example, gives you unlimited access to several of their participating bus, rail, ferries, and even Shinkansen trains for a limited period of time! Be sure to read up more on which rail passes would be most beneficial to you based on your duration of stay and itinerary. Take note as well that some rail passes, like the Japan Rail Pass, must be purchased before flying as they are only offered to foreign visitors.
If you also plan to travel around Japan on your own, it’s best to equip yourself with a pocket Wi-Fi. This enables you to easily locate the places you wish to visit, book tickets, hotels, and even place reservations on restaurants as you go. You can easily rent one upon arrival in the airport or purchase your own portable Wi-Fi device before your trip. You can also easily avail of data sim cards should you wish to use it directly on your smartphone for a certain number of days.
Lastly, unlike other developed and modern countries, Japan actually prefers transacting in cash more than using a credit or debit card. It’s best you prepare your cash prior to your trip with your local bank or nearby money exchange to get the most value out of your money, depending on the daily exchange rates. You may also opt to withdraw cash as some post offices and convenience stores around Japan have ATMs that accept foreign cards.
3. Plan an itinerary most fitting for your travel group
Whether you are travelling solo, with your family, friends, or someone special, there are definitely experiences and attractions for everyone to enjoy in Japan! Some of the most sought after activities you and your group can do are the following:
- Explore food tripping in their popular markets, like Kuromon, Tsukiji, and more
- Go amusement park hopping from Osaka, Nagoya, Fuji, and Tokyo
- Travel back in time to visit world heritage sites and temples
- Hunt for unique Japanese pop culture collectibles and novelties
- Visit the world’s largest aquarium in the world in Osaka
- Shop ‘til you drop at several malls and popular outlet malls
- The list goes on!
4. Venture beyond what’s popular
Usually first trips to a new country would have you venture on their most popular cities and landmarks, but thanks to portable Wi-Fi, travelling on your own has never been easier. While Tokyo and Osaka are amazing places to visit, we also recommend going on day trips outside these mega cities.
For starters, we recommend visiting the Yamanakako village, which is just about a 2.5 hour bus ride away from Shinjuku, Tokyo. This small yet charming town is located right next to the well-loved Lake Yamanakako, the largest one among the 5 famous Fuji lakes. You can also capture picturesque views of Mt. Fuji from the Panorama Dai viewing deck, enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or boating, or even enjoy a relaxing Onsen bath.
Can’t wait to plan your trip but unsure where to start?
Here are some of our top recommended accommodations where you can commence your next vacation in Japan.