Here are our Top 17 Travel Tips for your Visit to Japan. Get a quick overview about do’s and don’ts. Enjoy ✌️
1. Cash or no cash? – that is the question
2. “Take it easy” – The transport system
Understanding the public metro / subway system is not really a challenge. Anyone who has used a Metro system as in Paris, London or New York, has no problems in Tokyo. The so often complicated described fare system is identical to a zone system.
As a tourist, you do not have to deal with it anyway. For the trains, especially the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), the clever visitor has already bought the JR Railpass from home.
For the subway / metro system in Tokyo, the 24, 48 or 72-hour subway ticket is cheap to buy at any tourist information center.
Taxis / Uber / Didi / Grab are almost pointless in the congested streets and high prices. Japan is a public transport country. Good to know is that they are only available until midnight. Those who are not at home after midnight can wait until 5 o’clock in the morning, or walk or “uber” a ride.
Another small note to the taxis. Taxi doors open and close automatically and should not be operated by yourself. Watch out for the taxi doors when you are standing on the curb ?
3. Buy a Pasmo or Suica Card
4. Buy and travel with the JR-Railpass
The JP Railpass is the tourist pass for rail travel in Japan. Not only that, but nearly all railways in Japan can be used, including the famous Shinkasen, the Bullet Train – the fastest way to travel in Japan.
The Railpass can now also be purchased locally. Until a few years ago it was only possible to order the Railpass outside of Japan. After ordering online at the countless providers (the price varies only slightly), the voucher will be sent to the specified address via express service. I recommend the Railpass to buy the old way and to be sent before arriving in Japan. There are more places where the Voucher / Voucher is redeemable than to buy the Railpass itself.
The period of validity is decided upon purchase. The Railpass is valid after the voucher / voucher is exchanged with the Railpass. A break in the duration is not possible. We recommend to exchange the Railpass – on arrival in Tokyo – only at the end of the Tokyo stay, because in Tokyo the Railpass is only limited usable. A 24/48 or 72 hour subway ticket for a few dollars makes more sense and takes you everywhere. So you can save valuable days of your pass.
5. “Where am I?” Or navigation and Wi-Fi availability
There are no Google Maps offline maps available in Japan. So if you want to navigate with Google Maps in the streets and rural areas, it is good to buy a mobile hotspot or a SIM card (cheaper). WLAN hotspots can be found everywhere in Japan in every city (Starbucks, 7-eleven, etc.)
Always take a business card from your accommodation. In an emergency, you can show a taxi driver or a subway employee the map where the address is written in Japanese.
6. Google Translate is your friend
7. “Do you speak English ?”
English is not a spoken language in Japan. It is not that nobody could do it. The problem is the type of teaching. The main problem with teaching English at Japanese schools is the complete lack of speech. The level of English taught at schools is essentially limited to “reading” and “writing”.
Shyness is part of Japan’s national character and the accompanying “communication skills”. In most cases, when confronted with the question “Do you speak English,” the Japanese will not answer or cross their hands to an “X”.
8. “Is that my room ?!” or accommodation and overnight stay
In Japan, accommodations differ mainly in whether a bathroom or toilet is in the room. Standard is meanwhile, that in a room a toilet was accommodated. The bathroom is shared. In rural areas, it is common to share bathroom and toilet with other residents. Sleeping in a dorm is normal, and is not a hostel thing. The room sizes vary from 8sqm to 25sqm (the latter is already the luxury option).
When you enter a Japanese house / room, leave the outdoor shoes at the door or in the designated area. Wear slippers offered by the host. However, take off your slippers when you enter a room covered with tatami floor. Tatami mats should only be walked on barefoot or with socks.
9. Buy Hand sanitizer
10. Be your own mobile trashcan – take a plastic bag with you
11. Stand right – Watch out for left traffic
Cars go left in Japan, which is often not easy for pedestrians. So look in the right direction when crossing the street.
In some cities (eg Tokyo), people follow traffic and are left, but others (eg. Osaka) are expected to be on the right. So it’s more of a consequence than a rule. Are you the first on an escalator – give the direction 😉
12. How much? – Japan is expensive
13. Bow to greet a person
14. Cover your tattoos
15. No Tip !
Do not tip anyone. It is rude and unacceptable. An exception is a high-end ryokan. There is one person “assigned” to your room in a “real” ryokan. You type this person by placing your money in an envelope and handing it over with a bow to the person.
BTW, a ryokan is a kind of traditional Japanese inn that has existed since the 8th century. A ryokan usually has tatami mats, shared bathrooms, and other public areas where visitors wear yukata (which is the same as a kimono, made only of cotton instead of silk).