Japan Travel Tips

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

When traveling throughout Japan, here are some tips that I discovered and thought it would help make your time in Japan a little easier. Enjoy!


Toilets

Every single toilet I used in Japan is extremely "fancy." The seats are warmed for you, they have a bidet, and even have a music option to play sound so no one hears you doing your business.


Tax free

Most stores in Japan will offer foreigners a "Tax-free" option when purchasing goods, which is awesome. BUT, you have to have your passport on you in order to do this. They will print out the tax free receipt and staple it to the page where you got your entrance stamp into Japan. Then once you leave the country, immigration will take the receipts from your passport. So if you want to purchase things tax-free, keep your passport on you!


Waiters

In order to get a waiter to take your order or bring you the check, you must flag them down. In western society, we are used to having waiters come up to us and check in on us, but they won't do that here. So if you wait for them to come take your order, you will be waiting all day. Just look them in the eyes and wave them over, it's not rude!


Using the Metro

> Purchasing a ticket: You pay for your metro ticket by distance. So above the ticket kiosk machines you will see a metro map, and next to each stop it will have a number. That number indicates how much it will cost you to get from your current station to that desired station. If you don't feel comfortable figuring this out on your own, you can click the English option on the kiosk and select "Search by station name." From here you can type in the station name and it will calculate the amount for you automatically.


> Getting on the train: once you have your ticket, you insert it into the gate and it will spit out on the other side. When you get to your desired destination, you will insert the ticket again, but the machine will keep the ticket. The ticket is very small, don't lose it on your metro ride!


> Rush hour: if you can avoid using the metro during rush hour times (7-9am and 4-5pm) then please do. I unfortunately took the metro around 8am one weekday morning and was packed so tightly into the car that I couldn't breathe. People are shoving you and when the doors open for an exit you will literally get pushed out, (again happened to me) and then you have to fight your way to get back on the train before the doors close. (I live in China and am used to compact metro rides, but I have never seen anything like a Tokyo Rush Hour metro ride- it was insane).


Breakfast

I know in America breakfast is a huge deal, but in Japan it's not. Most restaurants don't even open until 11am, and westernized breakfast food isn't really a thing. Be prepared to grab a pastry and coffee to hold you over until lunch (they're usually super cute!). A solid option is always Tully's Coffee, which has a couple options to choose from like pancakes and waffles. They're a little small (for American standards), but very delicious!

WiFi

There are so many free wifi options offered throughout Japan. Most large cities offer City WiFi in all the major tourist sites, so you can just input your email and have free WiFi. This is also true for most metro stations, once you get on the train it will disconnect, but you can reconnect once you get off at your station. Also, a popular chain restaurant called Tully's coffee (mentioned above) has great free wifi, and these are more common than Starbucks so I'm sure you'll be able to find one and get some WiFi easily.



Trash Cans

There are literally NO trash cans in Japan. I don't know how it's possible since the cities are so clean, but it is very difficult to find a trash can. So be prepared to hold your empty coffee cup for awhile until you find a bathroom where you can go throw all your garbage away.


Trash Separation

When you are lucky enough to find a trash can, make sure you read the signs and separate accordingly. Japan burns all of their trash waste, so you must separate it into burnable waste and plastics/non burnable waste.


Left Side

In Japan, they drive on the left-side of the road. So if you are looking to rent a car here make sure you are aware of this! This also means that when walking in crowded areas or going up/down stairs, it is customary to walk on the left side as well. Otherwise, you will be pushing through the flow of walking traffic.


Chopstick Etiquette

It is inevitable that you will be using chopsticks at some point during your time in Japan, so make sure you are aware of things that can offend Japanese people. Never stick your chopsticks straight up vertically into your food or cross them into an X on your plate to give your hands a rest. Both of these are considered symbols of death in Asian culture and seen as very bad manners. If you want to rest, put your chopsticks parallel to one another.


Extremely on Time

Japan is extremely efficient and organized, especially when it comes to transportation. So when the train says it will be leaving at 9:33, as soon as the clock changes from 9:32 to 9:33 the doors will close and the train/metro will take off. Make sure you're on it!



Vending Machines

Japan has the most vending machines in the world! You can even buy beer from them and order food at restaurants on them. It is also super common to have both hot and cold coffee inside of a vending machine. Although it might be odd to Westerners, it is completely safe so take advantage of this quick way to grab a drink or bite to eat!


Helpful Japanese Words & Phrases

For the most part, Japanese people can usually speak at least a little English. In all major cities you will have no problem communicating with the locals. But, it's always nice to show some appreciation for their culture by using their own language! Here are some helpful words and phrases you can use when traveling:

Konnichiwa- hello

Arigatou- thank you

Hai- yes

iie- no

Gomen Nasai- I'm sorry

Wakarimasen- I don't understand

Toire wa dokodesu ka- where is the toilet?


8 INTERESTING FACTS

1. Yellow lines in the street

Everywhere you go you will see yellow bumpy lines and dots in a row on the street. These are to help blind people follow the roads and know when there is an intersection. So considerate!


2. Red arrows on windows

On nearly all hotels you will see from the outside one row of red arrows pointing down the side of the building. This is to let firefighters know that they can enter on this side of the building because there is nothing against these walls. So make sure if you see a red arrow on your window, don't rearrange the furniture and push anything against that window/wall.



3. Life Expectancy

Japan has the 3rd longest life expectancy in the world, with men living to 81 years old and women living to 88 years old.


4. Islands

Many people know that Japan is an island, but what most people don't know is that Japan is actually made up of 6,800 islands! The 4 largest islands, which are the most commonly thought of as all of Japan, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.


5. Sounds Fishy

The Japanese people eat more fish than any other people in the world. They consume about 17 million tons per year, and more than 20% of Japanese protein is obtained through fish products.


6. Kobe Beef

This is a Japanese speciality, and commonly referred to as Wagyu beef in the US. But did you know that the reason why this beef is so sought after is because these cows receive daily massages and are fed a diet of saké and beer mash. A quality way to produce quality meat!


7. Respect your Elders

21% of Japan's population is elderly people over the age of 65, which is the highest out of any population in the world. There are more elderly people than children in Japan! (Bonus fact: there are more adult diapers sold in Japan than children's diapers)


8. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar

Japan is famous for having unusual flavors of Kit Kat bars. They have over 300 limited-edition, seasonal, and regional flavors including cough drop, Hokkaido cheese & chocolate, sake, sakura, and vegetable juice!




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