We have just returned from a delightful experience in the Far East. Our goal was well defined since we decided to visit Japan: embrace the Japanese culture, taste the Japanese cuisine and explore as much as possible during our stay.
Bearing in mind the headlines of expert travel guides and several last-minute tips from bloggers around the world, our first footsteps in Japan were followed by an overwhelming excitment for being so far away from home. Diving into a completely strange culture is not as instantaneous as we might think. It requires patience, understanding and willingness.
This post is designed to be an alert and a reminder of several behaviours and tips to take into account while travelling to Japan.
#1 – Speaking in English may not be enough to communicate with Japanese people – carry a map with subtitles in Japanese
Japanese people always welcome foreigners with a smile. They are polite, friendly and organized. However, when it comes to speak in English, that’s when things get harder, since the majority of tourists in Japan come from other Asian countries such as China or South Korea.
Therefore, carrying a map with subtitles in Japanese may come in handy when asking for directions. Furthermore, if you choose to pick a taxi to take you to your hotel, a business card with the address is definitely the easiest solution.
#2 – Travelling by train is fast and effective
The most interesting sights in Japan are spread all over the country.
From the north to the south there are plenty of places worth a visit. Although air travel fares for domestic flights are not very expensive – there are many low-cost airlines – travelling by train and especially the Shinkansen, also known as “bullet train”, provides more regular connections and less “paperwork” like checking-in or passport control.
Besides being one of the most developed in the world, the Japan Railways network allows tourists to purchase a pass valid for all JR routes and trains. For more info, please click here.
#3 – Beware of restaurants’ timetables since the majority accept the last order usually one hour before closure time
Although in the entrance it is written that the closure time is at 11 p.m, you won’t be able to order food from 10 p.m onwards, since the kitchen shuts down one hour prior to the restaurant’s closure time.
This is common practice in restaurants in Japan. Plan carefully your day so that you have enough time to enjoy lunch or dinner.
#4 – It takes time to get from the major city centers to the international airports (Tokyo & Osaka)
Once again, it is all about having a perfect schedule. On the one hand, in Tokyo, both Haneda and Narita international airports are 20km and 60km, respectively, away from the city centre.
In Osaka, on the other hand, Kansai International Airport is located on a remote island 40km away from the city centre.
Despite the effecient public transportation, the journey still takes one hour (except for Haneda). Make sure you’re plenty of time on your journey back to the airport, otherwise you’re likely to stay in Japan a bit longer than expected! We almost missed our flight!
#5 – Travelling in winter and spring – January to May – decreases the chance of rain and storms
Who does not like to travel when it is more likely to get bright sunny days? Travelling to Japan during the summer months has both pros and cons. Although temperatures are hotter, they might be followed by rain, typhoons and storms.
Furthermore, if you decide to travel to Japan in spring (late March, beginning of April) you will be greeted by the Japanese most recognizable natural phenomenon: the cherry blossoms.
#6 – Make sure your souvenirs are not considered illegal weapons in other countries
This is the last advice, for now, and unfortunately it happened to us.
Ninja throwing stars and many other Japanese souvenirs may be considered illegal weapons in many countries. Before purchasing them, make sure you’ll have a trouble-free return to your hometown.
If you are travelling to Japan in the near future, remember these tips!
For more info about Japan check here.