Japan has one of the highest tourism growth rates in the world. In 2018, this boom led to a record of 31.19 million visitors and almost $41.5 billion in tourist spending. It’s a cutting-edge country with dozens of landmarks and world heritage sites. If you want to have the best vacation possible in a culturally-unique setting, there are a few things you need to know.
It’s no secret that you’ll save money by booking hotels in advance. But it’s more than just saving money. Hotels are booked all year long in many regions of Japan. It’s even more crowded during holidays and popular events. Search for hotels in advance and ensure you have a place to stay before you arrive.
#2. Get a Japan Rail Pass
Japan has a robust public transit system. No matter where you want to travel, the train is always an affordable option. If you plan on using one often, you may be able to save money by getting your hands on a Japan Rail Pass.
The Japan Rail Pass is only available to foreigners and must be purchased in advance. It lasts for a set number of weeks. Until it expires, you’ll be able to use the train system to your heart’s content, without any additional fees. Some of the helpful travel tips listed on the official website of the Japan rail pass include avoiding rush hours in the morning and evening and keeping an eye out for the romanized English texts that often adjoin the Japanese names of the cities. This way it is always easy to keep track of your location.
#3. Plan to Carry Cash
One of the best tips for traveling to Japan? The majority of businesses will not accept credit cards, which means you’ll have to rely on cash. Since smaller denominations are coins, you may want to bring a coin purse along. There’s no chance you’ll bring enough cash to get you through even a brief trip to Japan. When you need an ATM, head to a convenience store, post office, or a bank.
In recent years this situation has slightly changed and you can use credit cards in major supermarkets and even in some villages. Look for credit card icons in most of the shops you enter; either way, withdraw cash from your card from a nearby ATM. Cash is also a good option in order not to pay a loot of fees and unexpected commissions. 110,000 yen in Cash. for 2 weeks is a reasonable amount to have on you for a medium-budget travel escape to Japan.
#4. Every Season is Different
You’ll experience every season differently in Japan. From the cherry blossoms of Spring to the snows of Winter, there’s a little something for everyone. Moreover, since Japan in an impressive mix of islands spread over thousands of miles, you are likely to come across various types of weather as you move from one part of the country to another. Figure out your itinerary in advance so you’ll visit these tourist attractions at an ideal time.
If you aren’t picky about the specifics, Winter is a lull in the tourist season. That means you’ll have an easier time finding hotels and lower travel expenses. However, the most beautiful season is often considered to be Spring, when the weather is mild and nature blooms. The busiest time is usually the first week of May, so do your best to avoid the crowds.
#5. Bring Soap or Hand Sanitizer
Japanese public toilets are often more high-tech than western alternatives. However, they aren’t always as accommodating. Few restrooms will have water or soap available, which can leave you in an uncomfortable situation if you aren’t prepared. For that reason, always keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag#.
#6. Have a Trash Bag With You
Japan is one of the cleanest countries on the planet. Children are taught from a very young age to clean up after themselves. Moreover, students in schools clean up their classrooms and bathrooms mostly on their own, without the help of janitors. But, somehow, you’ll have a hard time finding public trash cans anywhere, which is why we recommend having your own trash bags. After a small meal or drink, you can tuck it away until you head back to your hotel or a store to toss your trash.
#7. Rent a Wi-Fi Hotspot
Unless you’re fluent in Japanese, you’ll have to rely on your smartphone to translate. The problem with that is you won’t have access to WI-fi throughout most of your stay. That means some translation programs will have limited functionality. Get yourself a wi-fi hotspot in advance so you always have a wireless connection no matter where you are. It might sound like a luxury, but you can find these available for about $50 a week.
#8. Be on the lookout for English speakers
You will be amazed by how well people speak English in Japan, even though they are quite modest about it. However, in case you do not run into someone who will be able to answer your questions right away, try to looking for people in tourist centers, train station or crowded attractions; for sure you will find a kind English speaker willing to help.
#9. Tips for the foodies
Japan has a unique gastronomy and you should definitely indulge your taste buds while in the Land of the Rising Sun. Some of the foods you simply must try out are Japanese curry, their salty Hiroshima pancake called Okonomiyaki with whatever you like in it, Tempura (usually in the shape of fried seafood), and various types of noodles (Soba, Ramen). And of course, sushi, which you will find in a variety of delicious flavors and filling combinations.
Do not tip in Japan, as it is commonly considered impolite. To ask for your bill in a restaurant, locals do an X sign with their index fingers.
#10. You may want to remove your shoes
As your stay progresses, you will likely be in a situation where a local will invite you over to their house. Be aware of the customs of a visit in Japan. First off, take your shoes off upon entering (you will likely be asked to do this in some of the small hotels as well). Keep a polite note at all times, don’t smoked unless invited and do not speak loudly.
#11. Shopping away from the crowds
This one applies almost everywhere, but it is particularly true for Japan. The more you move away from the tourist crowds, the more you are likely to find authentic and moderately-priced things to buy and eat. If you are on the lookout for interesting gifts, try those lateral small streets that take you out of the city center.
Prepare for an unforgettable vacation
Keep these tips for traveling to Japan in mind as you plan your trip. But remember to have fun with it! There will be a few bumps in the road no matter where you travel. The important thing is to be cordial and have a supportive friend along for the ride.