05
Jul-2017

17 Tips For Visiting Japan For the First Time

Japan, Travel Tips   /  

Visiting Japan for the first time: tips and hints

JAPAN: IT GETS UNDER YOU SKIN

 

 

Have you ever fallen in love with someone, but couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that made them so attractive?

Maybe they’re handsome and clean-cut, but with just the right amount of spark and difference to keep you on your toes?

That’s what Japan was to us  – a well-maintained tidy appearance, organised and efficient with high attention to detail, but not in the slightest bit boring; a good dose of quirkiness and peculiarity to keep the relationship exciting and oddly satisfying.

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, check out our tips and hints to help make your trip less stressful.

 

Visiting Japan for the first time: Tokyo Skyscrapers

Tokyo skyscrapers

 

17 TIPS FOR VISITING JAPAN FOR THE FIRST TIME

 

  1. LANGUAGE BARRIER

 

The first question most first-timers ask is do you need to speak Japanese to visit Japan?

Many people are hesitant to visit Japan because they don’t speak Japanese. While being able to speak the language certainly makes things easier, you can still get by without being fluent.

We only had a few Japanese words up our sleeve, but had few problems. Although we did spend a lot of time using our hands to describe things! 

In Tokyo and ski areas such Niseko, major street signs and transport signs are almost always in English as well as Japanese. Most subway announcements are spoken in both Japanese and English.

If you don’t speak any Japanese, we’d recommend these basic phrases before you go:

Hello: Konnichiwa, Ohayo

Good evening: Konbanwa

Thank-you: Arigato

Excuse-me: Sumimasen

Thank you: Onegaishimasu

Goodbye: Sanyonara

 

 

  1. TRANSPORT

 

>rail

The easiest way to get around Japan is using rail. You might have heard something called the JR pass for foreigners, but is a JR pass worth it?

This card can only be purchased by foreigners, and must be bought before your arrival into Japan.

The JR pass allow you unlimited train journeys on JR trains (Japan Rail) over a course of 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days.

A 7-day pass will cost ¥29,110, which can work out to be extremely cost effective if you are planning on doing a lot of rail travel, including long-distance trips.

But do the math first.

When we looked at our planned trip, we realised the JR Pass was not an economical decision for us. We only had about 4-days in Tokyo with one trip outside of Tokyo, when we went to visit the Snow Monkey Park near Nagano.

Instead, we simply purchased a Suica card.

The Suica card is a prepaid transport card which you can top-up as you need for use on most of your rail journeys (except the Shinkansen bullet trains).

There are kiosks at every train station which allow you to purchase the card (which has your name on it) and to top-up. It saves you the hassle of having to work out individual fares. Swipe and go!

 

Visiting Japan for the first time: Take the shinkansen bullet train

Japan’s Bullet Train (Shinkansen) – so speedy its blurry!

 

>fly

Flying domestically in Japan is cheap! At least much cheaper than in New Zealand.

We needed to get up to Hokkaido from Tokyo and flying was by far the quickest and ended up being the cheapest too.

We flew with Vanilla Air from Tokyo to Sapporo, with all our bags and ski gear for about ¥6000. For a budget airline, Vanilla Air were amazing. The staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful – we nearly missed our flight to Sapporo due to us getting a bit lost at Narita Airport. They saw how stressed out we were with all our luggage and ski bags, but kindly escorted us through security right to the gate to ensure we didn’t miss our flight!

We couldn’t help wondering what other airline in the world would have been so kind to two foreigners turning up late for their flight? 

 

>taxi

Taxis are available in Japan, but they are expensive. With such a great public transport system, we never needed to use a taxi at all during our trip. However, if you find yourself needing transport after midnight, then a taxi may be your only option home as trains will have stopped.

 

  1. MANNERS

 

One of the top things you’ll notice about visiting Japan for the first time is about how polite the Japanese people are.

Always greet and thank people especially those who are serving you. There are lots of different customs in Japan so it’s a good idea to look at these so you dont accidentally offend someone.

Bowing is common practice and is a traditional Japanese introduction – but don’t shake hands at the same time! That’s a western traditional. You also don’t need to clasp your hands together while you bow. Rookie mistake!

 

  1. NOISE ON TRAINS

 

Despite bursting at the seams, a full train is surprisingly quiet. There’s no raucous or loud behaviour, even if you’re completely squished up against the doors.

The other thing to remember on public transport is the use of headphones and talking on your cellphone. The Japanese are very conscious of noise disturbances, which means you can’t listen through headphones in case there is sound ‘leakage’ to the next person. It’s the same for talking on your mobile phone; it might disrupt the other people next to you, so you don’t do it.

 

  1. WIFI

 

Free wifi is available in many places throughout Japan especially in airports and other major hubs where people gather. But it can be helpful to have a portable wifi device with you while you travel – you never know when you might need Google Maps for GPS-guided directions!

 

 

  1. DINE OUT AT LUNCH TO SAVE MONEY

 

People often assume Japan is very expensive, but we found it much more affordable than we expected. Part of that was due to us buying food at the mini-marts for dinner and lunches, rather than dining out.

The supermarkets or mini marts have a variety of ready-to-go meals and snacks, beverages and of course plenty of cheap but tasty sushi and rice meals. We used to buy a couple of large sushi triangles for 100 yen each (NZD$1.20) and have those for lunch. In Niseko we would buy chicken and rice meals for dinner for the equivalent of a few dollars.

If you want to dine out, opt for the set menus at lunchtime. Often they are the same as the dinnertime menu but considerably cheaper during the day.

Tsukiji Fish Market: The best sashimi of our lives!

Sashimi is cheaper at lunch than at dinner.

 

  1. CARRY CASH

 

Japan is a cash society, which means you’ll need to carry cash with you throughout your trip. While hotels and some restaurants or shops take credit cards, cash is definitely king.

It’s also best to withdraw your cash before you arrive in the country, depending on the currency conversion of course. There are international ATM machines found at the Seven Eleven stores where you can withdraw cash, but many of them have a limit of how much you can take out at a time.

It’s also worth noting that when you pay for an item, you put your cash in a little tray on the counter. The sales assistant will take the cash from the tray and give your change IN THE TRAY. Use the tray! 

*THE HARD LESSON: Always check where the cash is before you depart. Don’t get your husband to put your Japanese yen in the pocket of a backpack that you’re NOT taking with you. Yep, that’s what happened to us and we ended up leaving half our Japanese Yen in New Zealand, only realising on our stopover in Seoul. We managed to get our parents to head to the bank to transfer the money into our account so we could withdraw it again in Japan, which saw us pay even more for the double currency conversion.

 

  1. ORGANISED CHAOS

 

Japan is busy – Tokyo has a population of 13 million. Given the entire population of New Zealand is around 5 million, it’s pretty crazy to visit such a massive city.

But what struck us was how organised and quiet everything was over in Japan. We’d see hundreds of people cross the road or intersections at at time – but there was no pushing, running, shoving or even noise. It was quiet, efficient and effective.

 

Visiting Japan for the first time: it's efficient

Japan: Busy but organised

 

  1. CLEANLINESS

 

We never saw one piece of litter or rubbish on the streets of Tokyo during our time there. The streets were always immaculate and cleaners make sure the subway stations are kept in a tidy condition – a far cry from the London Underground!

However, there are surprisingly few garbage bins around. Always take your rubbish with you until you can dispose of it properly.

 

  1. HOUSING IS COMPACT

 

We’ve stated before how efficient Japan is – and the same goes for housing. Houses and apartments are compact, while still offering everything you need.

Our Aibnb apartment in Tokyo was small and tidy but still had two double beds, a reasonably full kitchen and bathroom/laundry area. It was a bit of a squish, but an example of how you don’t need heaps of space when travelling.

In Niseko, we stayed at Always Niseko which was a bit bigger and more western-style accommodation to cater for the international travellers.

 

  1. DON’T TIP

 

Tipping can be considered offensive in Japan, so there’s no need to do it.

 

  1. SHOES OFF

 

Always take your shoes off before entering anyone’s house – including your accommodation. Most places have inside slippers ready for you to use at the doorway so be sure to swap footwear as you enter and leave the house. When you are using the toilet in another person’s house, make sure you don’t wear your ‘house’ slippers into the toilet – use the special bathroom slippers.

 

  1. THE JAPANESE TOILET

 

The Japanese Washlet or Bidet is a unique and somewhat high-tech bathroom system!

With lots of buttons and no English, make sure you’re sitting down before you press any buttons or water might spray out at you! There’s a musical note button – which means the toilet will play the sound of gentle flushing while you do your business. The heated toilet seat feature is a winner in winter!

 

Visiting Japan for the first time: Using a bidet

Don’t ask us how to use these!

 

  1. ELECTRICITY

 

Plugs in Japan have two flat pins. We bought what we thought was an appropriate NZ-Japanese converter, only to find that it was an Australian-Japanese converter, which meant there was no Earth slot for our Kiwi Three-Pin plug. It was quite hard to find an adaptor for New Zealand in Japan, so we’d recommend buying one before you arrive. 

 

  1. SAFETY

 

We felt really safe at all times in Japan. Even taking the subway trains at night – we never felt any threat. It was a pleasant change from Fiji for us – where as a woman, I would never walk alone at night. Japan was one country where I felt very safe at all times.

However, like any country, Japan is not immune to crime so be sure to use common sense. We have heard of cases of young girls and women being groped on the trains – although we never witnessed any of it, it is important to be aware that no country is 100% safe from a few bad eggs.

 

  1. MASKS

 

In Japan, nearly everyone was wearing surgical masks. On arrival, we both came down with a bit of a cough and cold and we quickly purchased our own face masks too so as not to breathe in the cold air or anyone else’s germs. Although we swapped out the boring surgical mask for something a little more fun:

Visiting Japan for the first time: face masks everywhere

Face masks Disney style!

 

The Japanese loved it! We would get stopped in the middle of the street by strangers smiling and pointing to our masks, saying “Very cute! Very cute!”

The other benefit of the face mask for travel to Tokyo in winter was it helped keep the air we inhaled warm and moist, which made it easier to breathe. Cold air can sting the nose and throat, especially if you are a little run-down. We’d recommend a mask to all travellers.

 

  1. WHERE TO STAY IN TOKYO

 

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, it may be confusing to know where to stay and what type of accommodation to book.

If you’re going to Tokyo, look for places that are close to the JR Yamanote Line. Tokyo is huge so you want to stay in a place that is convenient. The best areas to stay in Tokyo are Shinjuku, Ginza, Tokyo Station, Shibuya and Asakusa.

We stayed in Ikebukuro, which was fine as it was close to the train stations, but next time we would stay in Shinjuku.

 

>Airbnb

We had a beautiful compact and clean apartment through Airbnb.

Airbnb is still quite new to Tokyo, but there is a great selection of affordable apartments in all parts of Tokyo. We’d highly recommend using Airbnb again for Tokyo. Hosts are helpful and polite and the rooms or places are in great condition. As with choosing any accommodation, look for the ones with the best reviews that are close to the JR Yamanote Line or other subway station.

Use this referral link to sign up to Airbnb and get a NZ$50 travel credit on your first trip!

 

>hotels

On our last night in Tokyo, we needed to stay as close to the airport as possible for our 430am check-in for our flight back to New Zealand. We also had a late arrival in Tokyo from Sapporo the night before. Fortunately, there’s a great option for circumstances like ours – the Royal Park Hotel The Haneda.

The Royal Park Hotel is located INSIDE the international terminal at Haneda International Airport which meant we got a few hours sleep without worrying about transport to the airport.

And it was beautiful. For around $NZD200, we had the luxury of staying in the airport in a beautiful, quiet, elegant and modern hotel room, with gorgeous nighttime views and enough space to unpack and repack our bags for our international flight.

I doubt we would have made it to the airport in time had we not stayed there. We wish we could have stayed there for more than one night!

Note that there are two airports in Tokyo – Haneda and Narita. Our international airport was to and from Haneda, while our domestic flights were out of Narita.

 

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF JAPAN

 

Visiting Japan for the first time was an eye-opener. Honestly, it’s hard to sum it up.

It is beautiful and efficient. The people are quiet, polite and respectful but also friendly and helpful.

It’s designed for people. John works in construction and he was so impressed with the buildings and building designs that were modern, vibrant and exciting while being highly functional.

Everything seemed to make sense in Japan, but there’s enough quirkiness and eccentricity to make it exciting.

Will we be back? Absolutely!

 

MORE ON JAPAN


DISCUSS: What tips do you have for travelling to Japan for the first time?

 

A comphrensive list of important travel tips for your first trip to Japan.

 

This post may contain affiliate links.

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  • Jennifer Riley

    I loved how quiet and organised the trains were, even when it was busy. The cost of travel can be tricky as there are so many options, so it’s good to know that the rail pass isn’t always the best way to go. Love the toilets and all the buttons!

    • The trains are incredible! So organised – never delayed. If we had done one more long-distance trip from Tokyo then we would have been better to buy the JR pass. Good to try work out the maths before hand anyway! The toilet was crazy!!

  • Japan is pretty close to my heart since I lived there for a while. You have some excellent tips for first-timers. I wholly endorse the surgical masks if you’re sick because no one wants a hacking/coughing gaijin on public transport/public places! Also, food is so affordable in Japan and there’s so much stuff to choose from apart from sushi!

    • How fantastic to live there! We really want to move there one day. And the masks were a great way to stay as healthy as we could – no doubt our immune systems took a hammering after coming from Fiji in the tropical heat! We were surprised at how affordable the food was.

  • Lydia Smith

    “But it can be helpful to have a portable wifi device with you while you travel – you never know when you might need Google Maps for GPS-guided directions!” This got me laughing hard. It happened to me once, since then I learnt the hard way.

  • Maggie Alexander

    This is awesome! I’m heading to Tokyo next month and this couldn’t have come at a much better time! I’ve been trying to figure out areas to stay in, and will look at the ones you mentioned. Thanks so much for sharing such a detailed post!

    • You will have a wonderful time! You should have a look out our Tokyo guide for inspiration on what to do. But you won’t fit it all in – there is just SO MUCH to do and see it’s great! Have a blast! What’s on your Tokyo bucket list?

      • Maggie Alexander

        I’m sure we won’t fit it all in, so much to do! We’re going with our 5 year old so it will be a different trip than what you experienced. She loved Thailand last year and has been obsessed with Tokyo, so we are bringing her. Lots of character cafes are in our future!

        • She will love Tokyo Disney too! We enjoyed it thoroughly and we don’t even have kids! For children it must be like a dream. Highly recommend it. And yes, you can go to the owl cafe perhaps in Ikebukuro, and the Sunshine Aquarium which is suspended in the sky – great activities for kids. It won’t be hard to fill up your itinerary!

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  • Very useful tips. My Japanophile friend (an American who’s fluent in Japanese, lived there for a few years) says the best tip for traveling to Japan is…to just go.

    Nice jab at “the husband” for forgetting the yen 😉

    • That is great advice! It is such a wonderful place. Ah yes…well given that I had unpacked the backpack right in front of him, it was quite a face palm moment when we realised what had happened at Incheon Airport…

  • Laura Little Ladies Big World

    Brilliant advice, I have fallen in love with japan and I have never actually been! My husband has been alot though and it truly fascinates me, hoping to rectify this in the next few years and take the children though. #FarawayFiles

    • It really is a remarkable place and it is hard to explain what makes it so special! I think it would be a great place to take children too.

  • So many great tips! Boy they are as serious about their house slippers as Germans are! Those face masks are funny! Pinned this as I hope to return to Japan and see where I was born one day! #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks! How old were you when you left Japan? Hope you can return soon too – it is a wonderful country!

  • These are some really great tips for a first time goer to Japan (can’t believe you forgot half of your money home, haha). I actually have a friend who owns and airBnB in Tokyo and she keeps inviting me to visit. I was planning to do it this year but I wasn’t able to make it. There is always next year though and I will keep in mind your advice, especially the one to eat the main meal at lunchtime because it’s much cheaper.

    • Oh don’t get me started on the money! Fortunately we rectified the situation but still! Highly annoying. If you have accommodation in Tokyo then for sure go! It is truly a great city. It can be expensive but if you have local knowledge through your friend then that will help make it cheaper. And travel off-peak too for cheaper flights and fewer crowds.

  • Parnashree Devi

    Such a detailed post about Japan. I am yet visit this amazing country. You have summed up everything so beautifully. Its definitely a great guide. I loved the fact that how the whole train is quiet in-spite of crowd. Your post is like a eye opener for many. I am definitely saving it for my first visit to Japan.

    • It’s such a special country – we want to go live there! And yes, very crazy how quiet and peaceful such a busy city is too. Good luck with your travel plans!

  • Looking forward to being a first time visitor 🙂

  • We totally love the manners in Japan. How taxis are and everything. It’s funny because 2 years ago we feel like wifi wasn’t free everywhere and actually was hard to get. About the Cash/Credit Card issue, we really struggle with places that don’t take card. Pity you forgot your money =/

    • It’s amazing isn’t it! Such polite people. There must be more access to free wifi these days – either that or we are just used to struggling to find hotspots in Fiji and NZ! The cash would have been fine if we had remembered to bring it all with us!

  • Rachelle Gordon

    Awesome post! As a person who actively takes public transportation on a daily basis, I really appreciated how you included phone and music etiquette! Much needed, for sure. Can’t wait to go to Japan for MY first time!

    • It’s quite interesting to see the signs on public transport about being respectful. I imagine there are few places that have such strict etiquette – but it should definitely be more widespread!

  • There is so much good information in here. I have to read the post again to make sure I absorbed everything. After visiting Iceland, I have hopes that Japan is going to be more affordable than that (Iceland was brutal). I do not like the cash thing (but I can live with it). #farawayfiles

    • There’s certainly a lot to take in! I will be exploring Iceland for the first time in October, so I am trying to prepare myself. What was the most expensive part of Iceland, in your opinion?

      • I do not want to sound over the top but everything in Iceland is expensive. A little sandwich on a gas station is $10. Food at a restaurant id $40 to $50 per dish. Gas is $8 per gallon. You get the idea. People go to the supermarket to get groceries and that is what they eat during the trip. The positive is that natural attractions are free of charge. Things start to get expensive when you book excursions. The best resource I found is a blog called Life with a View. When doing research, make sure you are looking at articles written in the last year (or last 6 months). The prices on articles published two or three years ago are completely off (they give the impression things are cheaper).

        • This is good for me to know – I had heard gas was ridiculous but never realised just how expensive it was! I think I’ll be shopping at the supermarket. And yes – Life With A View was one of the first travel blogs I discovered and began my love affair with Iceland! I will be sure to look at the most recent ones!

  • Kathleen (Kat)

    Amazing post, great tips! Thanks for sharing with us – I haven’t been to Japan though I would like to, some day. I hear that now travelling in Japan is not as expensive as it once was. #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks, I hope you get the chance to visit! I think it is more affordable now than what it used to be. I was surprised at how cheap the pre-packaged foods were, but were still nutritiously sound.

  • Wow Juliette! Loved this post. I am struck by how similar Japan and Scandinavia are actually. Stylish, clean, efficient and polite. Shoes off here too. And great tips for the train, we are very familiar with the top-up option traveling around Denmark and Sweden. We really want to visit Japan, so tucking these tips away for later! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • Yes, actually now that you mention it, there are probably a lot of similarities regarding efficiency and style. I can’t wait to return to Scandinavia. Hope you get to visit – I think it would be a really great place to take children too as it’s pretty easy to get around and very safe too.

  • TraveLynn Family – Jenny

    Fantastic tips! We’ve never been to Japan – but your photo of the toilet is enough for me to go! We’re currently in India and it seems that Japan is so VERY different – all that efficiency and cleanliness – wonderful. #FarawayFiles

    • The toilet is quite something! What a difference to India – having travelled to India I can understand how exciting the Japanese toilet must be! And efficiency and punctuality – well, that’s not that relevant in India 😛

  • That is a good introduction to Japan. The points in cleanliness are so impressive. Separate bathroom slippers surprised me.
    I liked the other manners too. Lots to learn in fact.

  • Abhinav Singh

    I didn’t know Japan offered so much variety. I never saw it
    as a snorkeling destination. The tips you shared are resourceful and helps me
    plan an itinerary. I want to travel to japan before it becomes all the rage in upcoming
    Olympics 2020

    • Yes there will be some incredible new buildings no doubt before 2020 – I would love to visit during the Olympics! It will be one of the best organised Games I am sure.

  • Jamie

    This is fabulous!! Saving this for future travel. My husband lived in Japan for 2 years during college, but so much has changed since then – this will help a ton! I wish everyone could adhere to their level of consideration about noise in public places.

    • How wonderful to have lived there – he is fortunate! The respect for other people regarding noise is impressive and should be implemented in many places around the world!

  • This is a really useful, comprehensive guide! I spent a week in Japan last June and would love to go back!

  • Shashikala Rathnayake

    This is such a useful guide. Japan is one country I’d love to call my home. Thank you for this. I’ve always thought that the JR pass wouldn’t be much effective if you don’t have much time in Japan. Have you taken any buses there? If so, how are they?

    • We didn’t take any buses other than a transfer bus from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport to Niseko when we were skiing up north, then one bus when we were going between Narita and Haneda airports. Other than that, we didn’t need to take any buses for the day to day exploring as the trains were accessible and got us everywhere we needed to go! And we explored a number of regions of Tokyo in our short 4-5 days there.

  • Katherine Beveridge

    I loved Japan so much. We stayed in Airbnbs the whole time to save money. I was so paranoid about the politeness thing that I probably overcompensated and refused to eat in public spaces because I thought it was rude! We struggled with the language barrier but found that the kindness of Japanese people always makes up for misunderstandings. This is a good article.

  • Japan is one of the most difficult countries we have travelled in – and we have been to lots of places. Especially outside Tokyo we have always found it a lot of hard work. I might tuck away you tips for our next visit. Maybe they will help.

    • Interesting – what did you find so difficult about it? I guess perhaps it depends on where you are going, we only explored a few places outside of Tokyo, maybe if we had done more travel outside of the main areas we would have found it more challenging too. We would love to go back!

  • This is SOOO helpful!! Japan is definitely the no. 1 country on my Asia bucket list and this guide was über-helpful, thank you so much! Going to bookmark this and bombard you with questions when I’ll actually book a trip there, if you don’t mind 😉

    • Yes for sure! We fell in love Japan on the first day, it is such a cool place to visit you will love it! I think maybe similar to the Scandinavian countries because of the efficiency and clean designs. You will love it! Can’t wait for us to go back – we want to move there one day!

  • Great tips. Bathroom slippers are something I never heard of before. Great tips here.

  • Lydia Smith

    Japan is so cute. Japan and Korea are the only Asian countries I don’t mind traveling to and spend a year.

  • This is quite an interesting and comprehensive guide about visiting Japan for the first time. The high tech bathroom system really caught my attention. All other points mentioned are extremely helpful and are going to be very handy when I visit.

    • The bathrooms are crazy especially with the flushing toilet sound for background noise! It’s a unique country for sure.

  • travellingslacker

    Japan has always intrigued me. Like the silence and the politeness part. In my city I yearn for a moment of silence and generally I have to go away to the distant hills to achieve the same. And of course I have heard a lot about their toilets too.

    • It’s very intriguing! The politeness is quite amazing. SO many people at rush hour and everyone is respectful.

  • What a fabulous extensive list! Japan has been on our list for awhile now and we are hoping to make it a reality in the next few years so I will definitely save this article! Love the tip on knowing at least a few phrases. I have to say while traveling most people appreciate the effort even if you do butcher their language 🙂

    • Hope you get to go soon because it’s a fabulous country! We loved every second. Start learning a few basics now though, it would have been a big help to know a few more phrases, but we got by!

  • I love the relationship trope for describing Japan. It sounds like visiting Japan is like dating an engineer. Organised and efficient with high attention to detail, a good dose of quirkiness and peculiarity to keep the relationship exciting and oddly satisfying.

    Good, solid list for how to get ready to visit a unique and distinctive country.

    • Ha ha yes that is true about the engineer! It’s hard to describe Japan to those who have not visited but it is wonderfully unique.

  • Archana Singh

    I had been to japan before and agree to most of the things you mentioned above. Though not sure about the cash part. I had never faced any problem with cash. I did almost everything with my card.

    • Oh that’s good! We used cash nearly everywhere. But some places may be better now, I think slowly they are bringing in more credit card facilities perhaps.

  • Jean Bean

    Such a great guide. I’ve been to Japan several times now and wish I’d had this guide before my first trip 15 years ago. Would’ve been so handy to have!

  • Gokul

    Pretty useful tips. Japan has been putting me off because I have heard it is very expensive. Still the place looks like a country full of introverts, perfect for me.

    • I think it used to be quite expensive, but the most expensive part of our trip was our skiing accommodation in northern Hokkaido. We got return flights from NZ for about $1000 each which was great, our accommodation through Airbnb is the same as what most NZ places are, and we ate cheaply and bought quality pre-prepared food items from the supermarkets for meals rather than dining out each night. Transport was probably a bit more expensive than we realised but everything else was surprisingly affordable. We did our research though.

  • Elena Melamory

    Thanks a lot, I am saving this article for the future – we would love to visit Japan some day, but are a bit overwhelmed with the amount of planning required.

    • It can be a bit overwhelming, yes! But Japan is definitely worth the effort. Favourite country to holiday in!

  • megan_claire

    Thanks for these tips! I visited Japan when I was 15, as part of a school language immersion trip in year 9. So a lot of these things were taken care of for me, like paying in cash, had to because wasn’t old enough for a credit card, etc. The toilets I think were our biggest cultural shock / concern!! Would love to head back now that I’m an adult and compare the experiences 🙂

    • How fantastic to visit as part of a school programme! I wish I had that opportunity when I was younger! The toilets would have been a bit of a laugh at 15! Would be interesting to see how you find it as an adult.

  • Clare Thomson

    These are such useful tips. I do find the surgical mask thing really weird though! Thanks so much for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  • Karla Ramos

    This article is very comprehensive and informative. Thanks, this will really help anyone who will visit Japan.

  • We’ve never been to Japan, but are planning to go there either next year or in two years. Thank you for this post, we’ll keep it for when we travel there! 🙂

  • Lois Alter Mark

    I am definitely saving this for my first trip to Japan – which I hope will be soon. All of these tips will be so helpful. Our son visited a few years ago and absolutely loved it!

  • Claire Hall

    Top tips! This is a great guide with so many of the small details that I wouldn’t have thought about like the toilet slippers! Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes

  • Edith Carolina Rodriguez

    I have a feeling I’m going to like Japan so much. These tips are helpful so I’ll be pinning it for future reference.

  • hilary

    We loved our visit to Japan, and definitely plan to go back. We did take taxis during our visit and learned that you don’t open the door yourself, the driver does it for you! There are so many things to love about Japan, your post is great! #farawayfiles

    • Great! Taxis are interesting – we found them really expensive so we didn’t bother. But we got around okay with public transport. Can’t wait to return another day!

  • I was actually waiting for the Japanese toilet! Hahahaha. I have read a lot of social media posts on how they are dumbfounded by the toilet. Haha. And thank you for the Suica card tip! I always thought that there’s no other choice but to purchase JR pass.

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  • Oh it looks like such a unique place to visit x

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  • I love your opening description of Japan. I’ve often felt the same way about cities I’ve visited and applying female characteristics that I like and maybe don’t. Lol. I love the language tips. I heard hello and goodbye before but never associated it with Japan these tips are fantastic but a toilet that plays music!!!! I want one.

    • Thanks! It was the best way to try and describe it. Such a unique place. I’m sure we could start an import business for the toilet somewhere in New Zealand!

  • I’m happy to hear that the public transportation is so good! I’d prefer not to use taxi’s. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I’ve never been to Japan but I really want to go. These tips are great. They will really come in handy when I do get to go. I love the Japanese toilets lol.

  • I hope you can visit soon! We loved every second. Even the challenging bits!

  • It’s an incredible place to visit if you get the chance. We would rate it as one of our favourite destinations and one we would happily spend money on to visit again in future.

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  • As for me japanese toilets were the biggest surprise ; ) I knew they had a lot of interessting options but I was just so scared to use them 🙂 I will definitely never forget about how organized everything was on the streets, in shops and other public places 🙂 I’m in love with Japan <3
    Best,
    Kasia

    • They’re a bit different, aren’t they! I just couldn’t quite bring myself to testing out all the buttons. Amazing how everything was so organised though in such a busy city. We want to move there one day.

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    Ha, interesting toilets! I love all of these tips. Japan is high on my list, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • The toilets were pretty insane! Hope you get to visit Japan – it’s such a unique country blending past, present and future all into one.

  • Yes that is so true, the mix of past, present and future. Really quite remarkable how it all coexists. It is a wonderful place and I would return in a heartbeat.

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