Japan is a country that I believe everyone should visit at least once, in their lifetime, that’s how great it is. If you’re planning a trip there or would like to know more about Japan for the sake of curiosity here are 11 things to know before visiting Japan!
A trip to Japan is always an exciting thing on its own, especially when it is your first time there. That’s why I think it is important to know a few things before you travel to Japan so you can avoid some travel mistakes and make the most of your trip.
I am pretty excited about my upcoming trip to Japan, it’ll be my fourth time there and my little brother first time there, that’s why I thought about my previous trips and came up with those 11 things you need to know before travelling to Japan! I already have an in-depth Tokyo travel guide if you’d like to read it but for now, it’s all about facts and customs!
Let’s jump right into it!
11 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING JAPAN
#1 It’s Best To Carry Cash
We live in a day and age where everybody uses their debit or credit card to pay for what they need, and even to pay for the tiniest things. Not going to lie I am one of those people, I mean, why would I bother to carry tons of cash and coins one? Those 1cts coins are the worst!
But, I digress. Especially since we know that in Japan using cash is actually a big thing, so do not be worried about carrying cash on you as this is how you’ll pay for the most of things as it is pretty common to use cash there and not a card.
Also, chances are that if you don’t have an international option on your card you’ll pay fees every time you use your card. So, it’s best to change money beforehand or withdraw a big amount.
#2 Always Stay On The Left Side Of The Escalator
Yep, that is right always stays on the left side when you use the escalator in Japan…except in Osaka!
For some reasons, people in Osaka unlike the rest of Japan stand on the right side of the escalator.
#3 The JR Pass isn’t always good
A lot of people will tell you to take the JR Pass if you’re travelling to Japan as it is one of the most efficient and cheapest ways to travel around Japan – and rightfully so.
However, that is not the case for anyone, you really need to look into your options and your itinerary. Especially if you only stay in Tokyo as you can only use it on the JR Line.
I was thinking that I and my brother should take the JR Pass for our upcoming trip as we plan to move around but it turns out it is cheaper for us to take a night bus to Osaka and move from there to the next cities by trains and buses. As well as going to Mt Fuji, if you’re willing to give up on the Shinkansen it is cheaper, but if you absolutely would like to take the Shinkansen then you have to take the JR Pass.
#4 Public Transportation Is Super Efficient
I live in Paris so I am no stranger to transportation issue as I take the Metro on a daily basis. I know it can be quite troublesome sometimes as you’re not sure your train will arrive or arrive on time.
However, that is not an issue in Japan the transportation is not only super-efficient but also very clean, as this is not the case everywhere.
Think Paris metro or New-York subway and you will know what I am talking about if you’ve ever been there.
#5 You Don’t Need To Tips in Japan
Tipping has a pretty strong culture in some country – in the U.S, for example, it is custom to tips for pretty much anything and everything as it pays people.
That is not the case in Japan, you do not need to tip for anything while travelling there! Even if you enjoyed a good meal and a good service at a restaurant tipping is not necessary – it may even be considered rude if you try and do so.
#6 Don’t Wait For The Waiter – Buzz them!
If you decide to eat out in Japan in a restaurant – which let’s not lie you most likely will if you’re on holiday there.
While usually, you’d wait for the waiter to come back to you to take your order you don’t need to do this in Japan! As soon as you are ready to pass your order and eat some yummy food; all you have to do is to push the little buzzer that you will find on the side of the table.
A few minutes later they will come to your table and voila!
Another thing to know is that you’ll find a vending machine outside some restaurants where you can buy a coupon for the meal you’d like to eat. You pay there and bring it inside to be served.
#7 Chain restaurants are good
Chain restaurants do no usually have a good reputation as they are considered pretty cheap with low-quality food. However, that is not the case about chain restaurants you can find in Japan.
This means that you can still eat on a budget and eat good food as well, which is why I believe this is a good thing to know before visiting Japan.
Here are some good chain restaurants where you can eat in Japan:
#8 Underground Shopping Malls Are A Thing
When I say underground shopping malls I don’t speak about a small food stall or a little store but a proper shopping mall.
Although it is not rare to find a lot of good restaurants underground as well!
For example, in Shinjuku, which is one of the biggest stations in Tokyo by the way, you can find a huge shopping mall. Tokyo station is also an amazing place if you’d like to do some shopping for souvenirs to bring home and some special foods.
#9 Don’t Expect People Speaking English
While the country is making some good efforts as they will be hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year in 2020 and are expecting to receive even more tourism than it actually is.
You shouldn’t expect to find English signs or menu in small restaurants for example in English.
Something else you shouldn’t expect is finding a lot of people speaking good English, however, there will always be someone willing to help you out despite the language barrier.
#10 You Don’t Need To Speak Japanese
It is not mandatory to speak Japanese to visit Japan even though sometimes, especially if you go to a remote area and the countryside for example that are less touristy you can’t be expecting to find much English friendly area. But you will always find a way to make yourself understand so no worries!
However, I do recommend you to still learn a few basic words to get around. It can go a long way to know a few words of the country you visit.
If you’d like to learn Japanese you should check out those resources to learn Japanese by yourself.
#11 Japan is Safe
Last but not least Japan is a pretty safe country to visit, of course, as anywhere in the world you always need to watch out for yourself but there’s nothing to fear in Japan.
And, anyone who’s been there can approve this, you will also find a lot of stories about people finding back their lost items.
I can also testify that you feel pretty safe there, back in 2012 on my first trip I went to get some cash and food around 10 pm without my friend and it made no difference that it was night time, I felt just as safe as I felt during day time. It is one of the safest places for solo travellers as well, so if you’re thinking about a solo trip to Japan do not hesitate!
That’s a wrap on my 11 things to know before you visit Japan! Expectant those fun facts and custom will help you out planning your perfect trip to Japan! And I hope you have a blast there.