As the home of anime, video games, J-pop, some of the most dynamic fashions in the world, Japan is often first on the list of choices when people think of traveling to Asia.
This country has managed to hold onto its traditional roots while subtly incorporating modernity into its culture. Japan is one of the safest countries I’ve ever been too and traveling here is a no-brainer.
I love living in this country but I’ll admit the learning curb for living abroad was steep. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, there was something else that threw me for another curveball. I am in no way an expert on Japan or it’s culture but from the technology all the way to what clothes to bring I’ll share some advice I wish someone told me when I first moved here.
1. Get a Wi-fi Box or SimCard
Right after booking your ticket to Japan, the first thing you should look into is getting a wi-fi box or a sim card. There’s certainly a strong push for easy access wi-fi in Japan, but the availability of free wi-fi is sparse and the signals are low at best. The last thing you want is to be stuck at seven-eleven trying to find directions to your hotel or be in an emergency and no way to call anyone. Getting a Wi-fi box or sim card is easy. You can reserve them to picked up directly at the airport or have them delivered to your hotel.
I recommend getting a sim card over a wifi box. Wi-fi boxes usually require you to pay an insurance fee of about $300 along with being charged for however long you’ll be in Japan. There’s no insurance fee for sim cards and they usually come with unlimited data. Once you’re finished you just throw them away.
If you prefer a pocket wi-fi I recommend Ninjawifi.
2. Bring Good Shoes
The first time I came to Japan I underestimated exactly how much walking I would be doing here.
Even though public transportation is great here, you still find yourself walking for at least 10-20 minutes to get to your exact destination.
For popular restaurants or events, you might find yourself waiting in line for an hour or two before you’re seated. And the further you get away from big cities like Tokyo, your public transit options become more and more limited.
I suggest bringing at least three pairs of shoes; sneakers, boots, and a pair of sandals for the really hot days.
3. Buy a Transit Card
Speaking of public transportation, you should buy a transit card as soon as you land. Using the train systems in Japan requires you to buy a small ticket. Which isn’t too bad but once rush hour kicks in or you’re rushing to get somewhere it’s better to avoid the crowd of people who are also buying train tickets.
Transit cards only cost 500 yen (about $4.50) and you can buy them at any train kiosk. You fill a predetermined amount of money and scan it whenever you ride the train and bus. All the hustle without the bustle.
4. Learn Some of the Language - Translation Apps
It is possible to come to Japan and not speak any Japanese, but you’ll have a much better time here if you can speak a little. Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn but you should at least learn simple greetings, and how to ask simple questions.
If you’re at a complete lost in the Japanese language there are some translation apps available. Google translate in particular allows you to scan signs and prints and gives you a rough translation.
5. Hand Sanitizers and Handkerchiefs
Public restrooms are readily available everywhere. What’s not readily available is soap and paper towels. Most public restrooms don’t provide soap which is a very uncomfortable position to be put into when you first arrive here in Japan. Japanese women usually carry a handkerchief in their bag along with a travel size bottle of hand soap.
6. Stay to the Left
There’s one rule that everyone follows, “Stay to the Left”.
Similar to how cars drive on the left side of the road people walk and wait on the left side as well. On escalators, people wait on the left side while the right is open for traffic to pass through. Sometimes there will be signs in place directing you towards one side or another. But if you’re unsure stick to the left side.
7. No Exposed Cleavage (outfits)
I’m not one to tell women how to dress but if your visiting Japan (or anywhere in Asia) try to avoid exposing your cleavage. Japan still has a conservative outlook on fashion and women’s bodies.
Very few women wear tight or exposing clothes here. Unfortunately, exposed cleavage will attract some unwanted attention especially if you don’t look Japanese.
8. Plan Everything Early
For such a quiet country, there always seems to be something going on. If you’re adamant on staying in a particular hotel, the earlier you book the better deals you’ll find. Sometimes popular restaurants will require you to make a reservation at least a day in advance. And if you’re relying on public transportation you might find that certain buses or trains stop running after 5 or 6 o clock.
Plan, plan, plan and make sure you have everything going according to plan.
9. Bring Your Charger and Back Up Charger
You’ll want to be out and about and explore every part of Japan that you can. The last thing you want to think about is your phone dying on you. Stock up on chargers and portable chargers while you’re out. Outlets along with free wi-fi are also sparse in Japan and often you’ll find yourself standard looking for any place that’ll allow you to recharge for a few minutes.
10. 100-yen Shops are your Friend
100 yen shops are the Japanese equivalent to the Dollar Store in America but of a much higher quality. Just about anything you can think that you need can be found in a 100 yen shop from shampoo, souvenirs, hats, shoes, snacks, etc.
Before popping into a department store for the name brand version always try checking the 100 yen shops for deals. Especially if you’re only staying in Japan for a short while. There’s no need to spend 1,500 yen on something if you’re only going to use it here.
11. Don’t Forget to Look Up
It happens to everyone your first time here. You searching for a specific place only to find that it’s on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th floor of the building you’re standing in front of. Space is a limited commodity in Japan. So most businesses build upward instead of outward. If you can’t seem to find the place you’re looking for in a big city maybe you just need to look up.
Japan is an amazing country to visit first-time travelers. There are so many amazing places to explore and sights to see. The last thing you want is to be stressed over the smallest problems on your trip. Japan is a fairly easy country to visit but hopefully, these tips will make your visit even easier.