9 Things You Need to Know About Visiting Japan
Updated: Jul 22, 2018
Whether you're traveling for work or fun, you will find exploring the world can be an excellent experience. Many adults travel each year for a variety of reasons, including visiting family members, exploring new places, and connecting with other professionals.
Regardless, it is essential that you plan as much as possible when you visit Japan. Whether this is your first trip overseas or you're an experienced traveler, there are things you need to know before you arrive in Japan.
1. Most signs will be in multiple languages
One concern many adults have about traveling abroad is being able to understand the language. Even if you don't speak Japanese at all, you will be able to get around in Japan. That is because Japan offers many signs in both English and Japanese, as well as multi-lingual maps. When you are trying to figure out where to go, then make sure you look up ⬆ for signs.
Signs in Japanese also often have the English pronunciation available, which means you will not be struggling to find your destination even if you are not fluent in Japanese. Because Japan was chosen for 2020 World Summer Olympics, they are also adding the use of robots to help visitors with language translation according to an article I read from guidable. Also, they are increasing installation of English signs and signals all over the city of Tokyo for ease and accessibility to make Japan more foreigner-friendly overall.
2. Restrooms have high-tech toilets
Personally, one of the things I miss about Japan is their toilet. As soon as you land to Narita or Haneda Airport, you will find that their toilet lids have sensors to open and close, seats are heated for comfort, and there are buttons for cleaning and drying after your business is complete. You might think it is not that big deal, but after a while, you can get used to it and feel as if you are being spoiled.
According to Anne Quito from Quartz Media, “Tokyo is upgrading airport toilets with voice guides for the blind and waiting areas for service dogs. Two new bathrooms in Narita’s Terminal 2 include a voice-guidance system that talks blind users through, and a light alert system to help signal to the deaf in emergencies. There are also appointed double-wide stalls for travelers with service animals. These pet-friendly units have leash hooks, pet mats and cans for dog waste disposal, Japan Times reports.”
3. Most places are spotless and orderly
If you ask me to describe Japanese people in general, they are spotless and orderly. You can walk just about anywhere and will not see trash laying around. People walk on the left side, and when you’re on escalators, you will notice that everybody who stand still, will stay on the left side and anyone who wants to move forward will walk on the right side. It is a neat thing to see.
The video below posted by Dan Kang from Facebook Page DKthehuman describes how Japanese behave around others.
4. The train will be your lifesaver
One of the most convenient things about visiting Japan is that there is a fantastic train system. Even if you have never used a metro before, you will find the Japanese subway system very convenient. If you are staying in Tokyo, for example, you will be able to go anywhere in the city without having to walk far.
The subway has stops available across Tokyo and Japan. When you enter the subway station, you will find your destination on the city or country map above the ticket booths. There, you will find the price for your ticket. Insert your money into the ticket machine, grab your subway pass, and have an adventure.
You can also buy the Japan Rail Pass (also known as JR Pass) for cost-effective long-distance train travel. JR Pass can only be used by international tourist which offers unlimited use of JR trains for one, two or three weeks at a cost that Japan residents can only dream of paying.
Same article from guidable states that Olympic and Paralympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa are overseeing a new railway planned to set to link the Haneda airport and the Tokyo Station that would cut the travel time from 30 minutes to 18 minutes. Also, from Narita Airport, it would only take 36 minutes instead of an hour.
5. It is a cash-based society
Japan is still very much a cash-based society despite its technology-driven economy. I will never forget our first night in Tokyo; we arrived late, so most currency exchange is already closed. We were starving after a long flight, so we decided to go to McDonald's across the street. We didn’t have any cash yet, but we assumed McDonald's could accept our credit cards. Well, we were wrong! It happened to be "Cash Only"! We had to find an ATM to withdraw cash before we can eat. As you can see, always bring cash no matter what because you will never know.
According to an article from Justlanded.com, while credit cards are becoming more popular in Japan, only the most famous shops and supermarkets will accept credit cards, and even then many will accept Visa or Mastercard only. Most Japanese shops do not accept foreign debit cards. The most practical use for a debit card is to withdraw money from ATMs; you need to be sure that the ATM accepts international cards. You will have better luck with a Japanese debit card, though you will still find plenty of shops that refuse any debit card payment.
6. Sushi does not disappoint even for the low price
For you to have the best tasting traditional sushi here in the United States, you must pay the high price for it. But in Japan, the same great-tasting sushi only cost around $3 compared to $12 a piece. That’s because fresh fish is the norm in Japan and the only reason for the price difference is the skill level of the chef, which is typically a matter of where they trained according to Mona Nomura.
7. Tipping is not usual
There is no tipping culture in Japan, so the final bill you receive at restaurants, bars, and cafes are the exact amount that you need to pay. Some restaurants add a fixed percentage of the service charge to the bill, but it is not common. I remember leaving a tip at a café, and the staff chased us to give back the money.
8. Get ready to be flexible
One of the most beautiful things about traveling abroad is that sometimes, things happen you did not plan for. A museum you intended to visit might be closed for repairs. An exhibit might have changed its hours. Perhaps, a famous restaurant does not have any more seats available. Get ready to be flexible and adapt your plans at a moment's notice while you're traveling abroad. That is not a terrible thing, though.
It is when your plans change that you often meet some of the most interesting people, experiences, and shops of your journey. Japan offers many various places to visit that you might not have noticed online, but once you're walking around, you will discover some incredible attractions that you will remember forever.
9. Lastly, visit the tourist website
I find it incredibly helpful visiting Japan's website for tourist. There are two websites that I used a lot before landing in Japan. It's www.japan-guide.com and www.gotokyo.org. The sites have everything you need to visit Japan for the first time. I use its itinerary suggestion and accommodation lists for Tokyo and Kyoto city. Be sure to check it out.
No matter what your reason for visiting Japan might be, get ready to have a wonderful time. Whether you're going for a week or a month, you're about to start an incredible journey to my most favorite country yet. Eat excellent food and meet fantastic people you will remember for the rest of your life.