Going to Japan? Japan was one of my favorite trips – in fact I think I could list it as my favorite trip ever. It is such a unique and different country, but has so many modern conveniences. The culture always amazed me. However, Japan can be a difficult place to navigate at times, especially for those who do not know Japanese. Not all Japanese people speak English, although you will find many English speakers in big cities like Tokyo as well as popular tourist destinations.
Check with your mobile phone carrier to see if they can offer you a decent price on an overseas roaming package. I got something relatively cheap from AT&T that allowed me a bit of internet usage – it was very helpful for pulling up Google maps and searching for information, especially when I was wandering around by myself. Uploading to Facebook and Instagram is also fun as well, especially in a place as exotic as Japan.
If you can’t use Google maps, be sure to get a paper map to help you navigate around. The roads in Japan can be haphazard, and it’s easy to lose your sense of direction, especially if you can’t read any of the signs.
Learn Some Of The Language:
If you can even speak just a little bit of Japanese you will really impress your hosts and the people helping you out in Japan. Just the simple usage of “hello” and “goodbye” and “thank you” will go a long way in helping you to make friends and properly thank people.
If you want to learn some Japanese before a trip, check out Rocket Japanese. The Rocket Languages series is very good and user friendly.
Japanese power is the same as American, so no need for converters.
Use Public Transportation
Public transportation in Japan is extremely convenient, clean, and affordable. There should be no need to rent a car, especially if you are touring around urban areas. Bus and train transportation can take you to most places that you want to go, and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Take the bullet train if you have the opportunity!
The Rail Pass is a great thing to get if you want to travel to different cities around Japan.
WikiTravel has an extensive writeup on the public transport system in Japan.
Forage For Dinner
One of my favorite things that we did while in Tokyo was just go out with basically no plan and basically “try out” different restaurants. We got a sense of fancy places as well as different hole in the wall establishments. Occasionally we did go out with a place in mind, but the most fun was going with no plan whatsoever. Obviously this style of dining might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for adventure, Japan has some really amazing and unique food and restaurants.
Bring Your Camera
This is obvious, but I also invested in a new camera just for the trip. If you already own a DSLR, consider buying a new lens or two. If there’s one thing in Japan, it’s photo opportunities! You’ll want to be taking pictures of everything, from the funny vending machines to the crazy outfits that you will see teenagers wearing.
Learn About The Culture
I was really glad that I educated myself a bit on the intricacies of Japanese culture before I went. This allowed me to really appreciate what was going on around me. I highly recommend a book called A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony. This is a colorful, interesting, and easy to read book that delves into various cultural topics. It might appear to be written for anime fans, but that is not the only topic, in fact it’s only a small chapter in the book. It also has travel tips and other information to help improve your trip and make it more fun.