Japan Travel

10 Travel Tips for Japan

With the cherry blossom season in full swing, I thought it would be the perfect time to share a few tips for travellers heading to the land of the rising sun!  

  1. Always carry cash. Despite being a technologically advanced country, Japan is very much a cash society. Make sure you always have some Yen on you as some places will not take credit cards. Check out what Japanese coins and notes look like below!
  2. Choose the right ATM. In Japan, only certain ATMs will take foreign credit or debit cards. ATMs in 7-11, Post Offices and Citibank will usually work with foreign cards and they generally have an English menu option.
  3. Don’t tip. Tipping is not expected and may actually be insulting to the staff. Chances are if you leave a tip, you’ll be refused.
  4. Get a train card. In Tokyo, you can get either a Suica or a Pasmo card which is a reloadable smart card similar to the Oyster card in London or Octopus card in Hong Kong. Having one will save you time and money, especially if you are using the trains a lot.
  5. Buy a Japan Rail Pass. If you are planning to use the shinkansen (high speed train), it will probably be worthwhile to purchase a JR Pass. The pass comes in 3 durations – 7 days, 14 days and 21 days with an economy and green (business) class. The pass allows you to travel on all JR shinkansen trains except on Nozomi and Mizuho services, which are the fastest services avaliable.

    This is what the JR pass looks like on the outside.

    This is what the JR pass looks like on the outside.

  6. Download Hyperdia. It’s a extremely handy train app that will help you figure out how to get to your destination, there’s an English version for both iOS and Android. You can also use the web version here. Best thing is that it’s free!
  7. Learn basic phrases. Most of the Japanese people I encountered during my trip had limited English. Luckily, I had learned a few phrases, which when coupled with hand gestures allowed me to communicate what I wanted.Here’s some handy phrases that I used in Japan:
    • Konnichiwa = Hello
    • Arigatou = Thank you
    • Hai = Yes
    • Iie = No
    • Kore ikura = How much is this?
    • Oishi = Delicious
    • Sumimasen = Excuse me
    • Toilet wa doko desu ka = Where is the toilet?
  8. Have addresses written in Japanese. The Japanese address system is not based on street names like most countries, instead it employs an area system. Long story short, your best bet is to have any addresses written in Japanese.
  9. Figure out Japanese toilets. In many hotels, restaurants and departments store you’ll find a high tech toilet with a dozen buttons. These toilets usually has a setting for a bidet and one for your butt, so be careful which one you press (or you might get a wet surprise). Also, a lot of public toilets in Japan will not have soap and paper towels. You may encounter a squat toilet, although it is rarer these days.

    This fancy toilet has controls on the wall and on the seat. Also there’s a tap on top.

  10. Convenience stores are your best friend. If you need anything, chances are the conbini (コンビニ) will have it. Most convenience stores stock food, snack, drinks, stationary, medicine, toiletries and even clothes. They also provide services such as printing, shipping, ATM withdraws, parcel pick ups and photo printing. The major chains to look out for are: 7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart, Lawson and Sunkus.

    7-11 sandwiches are so delicious and a bargain. This one was around $3 AUD!

    7-11 sandwiches are so delicious and a bargain. This one was around $3 AUD!

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