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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tips: Traveling in Japan

Though expensive, Japan is one of the most amazing, beautiful, and friendly countries in the world. From Mount Fuji to bustling Tokyo to zen-like Kyoto, Japan is a high-tech world mixed with the politeness and respect of their past.[1]


Before the Visit


There are some preparations to consider before you head out for Japan:
  • Visa requirements
  • Check your wallet before you travel
    • Prepay your bills.
    • Credit card
      • Pay down credit card bills.
      • Pack credit card contact information
      • Apply for a credit card with no foreign transaction fee
      • Call your credit card company to make sure that your card will be activated for withdrawals in Japan
    • Clean out your wallet—Bring only things that are important to your trip.
    • Buy traveler's check for better exchange rate and safety.
  • Take other precautions
    • Have mail on hold
    • Double check your house before you leave
    • Keep friend's phone numbers in case you need help
    • Ask neighbors or friends keep an eye on your house
    • Keep copies of passport and other important travel documents
    • If you have health problems, pack copies of your medical records.
  • Watch this video before your visit

Get Around


  • Train
    • Trains are the fastest but expensive way to travel[1]
      • In most major cities, you can buy a day pass, which gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours for around 1,000 JPY on select trains
    • Avoid rush hours in big cities especially when you carry luggages
      • As a rule of thumb, avoid during the following hours
        • 7:00 to 9:00 and 17:00 to 20:00 
    • Buy a Pasmo / Suica card
      • If you’re planning on taking any subway/metro trains in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka, you should load up a Pasmo card.
        • They’re available in Tokyo airports and subway stations and are way more convenient than buying tickets.
      • While some trains don't accept Pasmo and some won't accept Suica, most will accept both and the two are pretty much interchangeable.
    • Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
      • Basically you cannot purchase JR Pass in Japan
        • If you are an foreign tourist, you also have to be “Temporary Visitor" for you to be eligible to purchase it
      • Only the authorized agents are allowed to sell JR Pass. You can find the agent list at this page of Japan Rail Pass.
      • Some of the agents sell JR Pass online and they can mail to you by Courier or Express post service even in Japan
      • This pass is eligible for the railway, bus and ferry services that are provided by Japan Rail Group with few exceptions.
      • You can get “Exchange Order” at the time of purchasing.
        • It is not an actual pass but a voucher. You have to exchange at the designated station for an actual pass after you arrive in Japan.
        • The validity of exchange order is three month from the date of issue.
        • The pass will never be sold out. So don’t buy it too early.
      • Read more from [17]
    • Download the Hyperdia app
      • HyperDia is a service which offers the route and the timetable of the railway and the aviation of Japan.
  • Taxi
    • Cabs are extremely expensive in Japan
  • Bus
    • Using buses in Japan can be intimidating to foreign tourists because there are usually few English displays or announcements, and there are different systems of ticketing depending on the company.
    • Read this article for further guidance

Eat and Drink


  • Tipping
    • Normally, tipping in Japan is not customary (maybe except for tour guides, which will be stated clearly before you join the tour from abroad).
  • Vegetarian
  • Tap Water
    • Is it safe to drink?
      • Short answer is
        • yes
      • Long answer is
        • As anywhere in the world, that depends on your body. Continue to read from [9] for more details.
  • Morning Breakfast
  • Buy foods with discount
    • After 8 pm, supermarkets discount their fresh food as they have to get rid of it by law.
      • If you buy your food after 8 pm, you can save up to 50%.
  • Eating at Restaurants
    • Watch Yuka's video here and here for Japanese's traditions

Culture, Customs and Etiquette


  • Greetings in Japan are very formal and ritualized
    • The traditional form of greeting is the bow
    • Watch here to learn Japanese greetings
  • Saving face
    • The Japanese will try never to do anything to cause loss of face.  So, we foreigners should try to behave like locals.  For example, 
      • Avoid using your phones on public transport or use them in restaurants etc.
      • Conversation at the table is generally subdued. 
        • The Japanese like to savour their food.
  • Don't litter
    • Bring a small plastic bag with you to hold trash and empty it when you come across a trash bin.
    • Convenience stores and bathrooms are places that often have trash bins.
  • Read more here.

Other Tips


  • Currency Exchange
    • Remember that Japan is a cash-centric country
      • Many small vendors still require cash
    • Read [13] for good tips
  • Get Connected
    • Read [21] for many good advice(s).  For example
      • Consider Personal hotspots (aka mifi, portable hotspot, personal Wi-Fi, or pocket Wi-Fi)
        • A small, battery powered device that uses the cellular phone network to create a local wireless network.
        • Available to rent at major Japanese airports or via the internet for delivery to your home or hotel
  • Language
    • Download Google Translate app
      • One of the handiest ways for translating what you want to say on the spot
    • Print out your hotel address in Japanese
  • Public Toilets
    • Public toilets are usually readily available all over Japan, and can be found in department stores, supermarkets, book stores, CD shops, parks, most convenience stores, and in all but the most rural train stations.
    • However, do carry toilet papers
      • BYOTP or Bring Your Own Tissue Paper is a common piece of advice to anyone in Tokyo who has intentions of using the public toilets.[8]
  • Public Baths (Sento 銭湯)
    • Public baths are segregated by gender, and swimsuits are not worn (read more on bathing rules).
    • Some sento, typically in hot spring resort towns, utilize natural hot spring water for their baths.
      • More commonly, however, public baths simply use heated tap water instead.
  • Shopping
    • As foreigners visiting Japan, you can get tax refund for some non-consumable items [36]
    • Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fee
  • Recharging devices
    • Bring an all-in-one power adapter
  • Temples and Museums
    • You can buy city or temple passes that are valid for one day

Photo Credits

References

  1. Japan Travel Guide
  2. Tipping Etiquette When Traveling in Japan
  3. Public toilets in Japan
  4. Sento (銭湯) Guide (Kyoto)
  5. Hyperdia (good)
    • "HyperDia" is a service which offers the route and the timetable of the railway and the aviation of Japan.
  6. Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan
  7. Duty free shopping in Osaka
  8. 10 Things That Will Shock You About Tokyo
  9. tap water in Japan: drink it or is it not safe?
  10. Groceries in Japan – A Short Guide
  11. Travel Tips (Travel and Health)
  12. JAPANiCAN.com
  13. Currency Exchange Tips – Dollars to Yen (good)
  14. Getting around in Japan with Sprint’s $5 Add-on
  15. When Should I Buy My Flight? (SmartTravel)
    • Avoid booking too early and too late. CheapAir's "window" for good deals on domestic tickets is 27–114 days in advance; Expedia's window is 50–100 days.
    • Start with our own free fare alerts, our sister site BookingBuddy, and Airfarewatchdog's famous fare alerts.
  16. TSA Travel Tips Tuesday: TSA Recognized Locks
  17. Japan Rail Pass user guide. How to use JR Pass to its maximum (good)
  18. JapanDict
  19. Culture, Customs and Etiquette (Japan Guide)
  20. Traveling in Japan
  21. Internet Access (Japan-guide.com)
  22. Smartphones, tables, or laptops:WHAT’S BEST FOR TRAVELERS? 
  23. Best U.S. ATM & Credit cards for Japan
  24. Things to bring or buy in Japan
  25. How does Capital One Calculate its Credit Card Currency Exchange Rate?
  26. MasterCard/Cirrus/Maestro ATM Locator
  27. ATM Abroad (good)
  28. Survival Japanese at Restaurants (Travel for a Purpose)
  29. Survival Japanese at Grocery Stores  (Travel for a Purpose)
  30. Travel: Must-Know Japanese Phrases in Japan  (Travel for a Purpose)
  31. Japan Travel Guide: 5 Things You Should Know about Restaurants in Japan (video)
  32. Survival Japanese as a Traveling Vegetarian (Travel for a Purpose)
  33. NerdWallet’s Best Banks for International Travel
  34. Debit Card Foreign Transaction and International ATM Fees: What You’ll Pay
  35. 20 safest airlines in the world
  36. Japan Travel—Get Your Tax Refunds at Department Stores (Travel for a Purpose)
  37. 15 Chain Restaurants and Coffee Shops to Enjoy Japan’s Morning Set
  38. Medical Considerations before International Travel
  39. The 10 Safest Countries in the World
    • 1. Iceland 2. Denmark 3. Austria 4. New Zealand 5. Portugal 6. Czech Republic 7, Switzerland 8. Canada 9. Japan 10. Slovenia
  40. How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese
  41. How to Eat a Typical Japanese Meal at Home
  42. How to use Chopsticks
  43. How to ride a train in Japan
  44. How to Visit Someone's House 

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