Geisha, sushi, Kimono, temples – I adore Japan!
A speckled history like much of the world, the Japanese are some of the kindest people I have met on my travels. There is an aura on peace and acceptance in Japan, it is a place I would love to visit regularly.
The Japanese are incredibly polite and patient, they create meticulous lines or cues on train platforms and don’t eat on the run or talk on their phones on the trains.
These are some of the things I observed on my travels in Japan and my best advice for a smooth and wonderful trip! Enjoy!
1. JR TRAIN PASS
Japan’s train system is first class despite the overwhelming amount of people it transports every year. In Tokyo both Shinjuku and Shibuya stations transport over a million commuters each year.
It is essential to have a JR pass on your travels through Japan if you are visiting several cities across the country, it can get very expensive when you buy several long distance train tickets.
These pass’ work like the European Eurail passes and you can buy 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days for unlimited journeys on the networks.
For current information, prices and dates, click here to visit the official website of the JR Rail Pass.
2. INSIDE & OUTSIDE SHOES
When travelling to foreign countries I believe everyone should bring respect and awareness to the places they explore. Japan is a culture built on customs and traditions and when in their country we should abide by these when we are aware of them.
Remove your shoes when entering a house, some hotel rooms and some temples and shrines. There will be signs marking when this is required and in temples there are usually cubbyholes available to slot your shoes into.
When I arrived at my hotel room in Tokyo there was a pair of indoor shoes placed inside my door for me to change into!
However, if you are walking into a room with a Tatami mat, take your indoor shoes off and leave them at the entrance of the room.
3. ARE EARTHQUAKES A POSSIBILITY?
Unfortunately Earthquakes are more prevalent in Japan than we imagine. Japan sits across 4 tectonic plates which create earthquakes, tsunami and active volcanoes, it also lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire which is responsible for 90% of the world’s earthquakes.
Approximately 1,500 earthquakes occur in Japan every year at varying magnitudes on the Richter Scale, therefore buildings and infrastructure are built at the highest and most rigorous standards.
There is always a chance you may be in the wrong place, wrong time but I urge you to plan your trip to Japan and go! You can’t live your life worrying about the ‘What if?’, Japan is an incredible country and well worth the ‘risk’ – Go for it!
4. GET YOUR KICKS ON THE TOILET!
Never would I have thought going to the toilet could be so much fun until I travelled to Japan.
You will understand what I mean when you sit down in a cubicle and find a colourful control panel attached to your toilet.
The little images don’t always give you a clear idea of what each button does so there is nothing left to do but press them and find out!
5. WRITE YOUR DESTINATION IN JAPANESE
I found the Japanese to some of the kindest people I have met on my travels, most speak English or attempt to do their very best to help you out.
They do not always read English so have the hotel or train station you are seeking written in the Japanese characters, this can save you a lot of time and hand charades!
6. CHERRY BLOSSOM SEASON?
The most popular time of year to visit is certainly when the Cherry blossom trees begin to bloom over a handful of days across the country. This is usually from late March to Mid April but each year is different and occasionally they do not bloom until early May.
The word for cherry blossom in Japanese is Sakura and the spectacle of viewing the cherry blossom with a picnic style party beneath the dusty pink trees is called hanami. To the Japanese, cherry blossoms represent the fragility and transience of life.
7. BEST SUSHI IN THE WORLD?
If you have money burning a hole in your pockets while in Tokyo, head to Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three Michelin star restaurant in Ginza, for the most expensive sushi in Japan.
The restaurant holds only 10 tables and the 89-year-old Master Chef Jiro Ono offers a tasting menu of 20 courses which will cost just under $300 USD or 30,000 Japanese Yen. Plan ahead as I imagine their is a long waiting list.
8. VENDING MACHINE FUN!
If it can fit (or almost fit) in a vending machine then the Japanese will have one!
This country is vending machine crazy and you can buy almost anything from them – in some places they hold Smart Cars!!!
9. SLURP AWAY!
It is not considered rude to slurp up your noodles, join the locals and slurp loudly and gladly.
10. SAFE CITY
Japan is an incredibly safe country and I found Tokyo to be a clean and safe city.
I highly recommend walking around the city at night, especially around Shinjuku and Shibuya where the neon lights shine bright and there is always something happening to catch your eye.
Japan can easily be travelled by solo travellers of all ages.
11. ATMS & CREDIT CARDS
Japan is a very cash orientated society and foreigners sometimes have trouble with ATM’s accepting their cards. I found the 7/11 Convenience stores usually always work and fortunately are open 24 hours a day.
12. DO NOT BLOW YOUR NOSE!
Warning! It is considered incredibly rude to blow your nose in public. As this isn’t the case in most of the world, do your best to remember this while in Japan.
13. TRYING TO SAVE MONEY?
Why not stay in a Capsule Hotel in Japan? These budget friendly hotels offer you a tiny ‘capsule’ like room, really its just a bed space you crawl into, with a few shelves in the wall and a curtain at your feet. Many do offer TV and WIFI, a luggage locker and communal washrooms.
As a woman, I found it very hard to find capsule hotels that would rent to females, majority of them seemed to be men-only! If you know a woman friendly one let me know so I can visit!
14. STAY IN CENTRAL TOKYO
Tokyo is a expansive city like London and New York, I believe it is worth spending more money on a convenient central location rather than spending hours travelling on public transport everyday.
Shinjuku and Shibuya are the centre of the main hustle and bustle in Tokyo and it is the area I choose to stay in Tokyo.
Japan is incredibly safe and I enjoyed walking from my hotel at all times of the day, exploring the streets, alleyways and shopping malls.
15. WATER WELLS AT SHRINES & TEMPLES
It is common practice to wash your hands before entering a shrine. Follow the locals lead but you will usually find a water trough with bamboo scoops near the entrance.