Travel Tips for Japan
March 7, 2017
One of the amazing aspects of experiencing Japan is stepping into a rich, unique culture. With this comes specific social practices and rituals the offer a window into a beautiful place. We have compiled a list of common travel tips to help you thrive and offer respect to locals, knowing that everyone has their own style of engaging with local culture. We find that by being open to practicing local norms, the veil between us as a traveler and someone else as a local becomes thinner and we are able to connect more deeply.
GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH… Our advice for anywhere in the world, but especially in Japan. Let yourself experience the warm hospitality of a smaller city or village, explore wild preserved parks and ancient temples and sink into the pace of life outside of Japan’s bustling city.
PACK LIGHT for many reasons including little space in hotels (or capsule hotels!), easeful travel on trains, limited burden on your body and space to bring back special gifts you pick up. Consider bringing layers for variable weather, reusable water bottle, ear plugs, a journal to write or draw, hand sanitizer since some places don’t have hand soap and your sense of adventure!
BOOK IN ADVANCE This goes for hotels, restaurants, etc… especially during the popular cherry blossom season. Cancellation policies are typically very generous, so it’s better to book ahead and make a change than work with limited availability. Personal and polite emails to your hosts go a long way.
GET A RAIL PASS so you can travel freely.
WIFI is not always available, but POCKET WIFI or SIM CARDS are! Order them before your trip with time for it to be shipped to you. Or have it delivered to your hotel in Japan.
CURRENCY is Japanese Yen and cash is very common. We suggest you bring USD and exchange them when you get to Japan. There are also foreign ATMS located in cities.
ELECTRICITY is 100V and typically 2-pronged or “Type A”. There are some 3-pronged or “Type B” outlets. You can bring a 3-2 prong adapter if needed. Here are more details.
WATER is typically safe to drink from the tap.
DIETARY PREFERENCES are becoming more and more common, but are still not easily accommodated everywhere. There is fish powder and gluten in a lot of dishes. If you have flexibility in your diet, Japan is a perfect place to push those boundaries a bit. Adventurous eaters are well rewarded.
VISAS are not required to visit Japan for US, EU or Canadian citizens. Your passport MUST be valid for 6 months after date of entry into Japan. Double check your dates!
BRING SHOES THAT SLIP ON AND OFF EASILY so you can take your shoes off easily. Shoes are never worn indoors and there are usually slippers for you to use. Leave your socks with holes at home.
BE AWARE OF HOW YOU DRESS to respect modesty in your environment.
BOWING slightly when meeting any Japanese person is a sign of respect.
OFFER GIFTS TO YOUR HOSTS when you stay in family accommodations.
TIPPING is not common and can actually be considered rude!
TATAMI MATS on the floor are the most common option for sleeping. Rooms are typically small and bathrooms are often shared. After all, Tokyo is the most populated city in the world! Bring earplugs and pajamas you are comfortable with others seeing.
HOT SPRINGS (ONSEN) are all over japan. Usually baths are indoors, separated for men and women, and clothes are usually not permitted. If this is unusual for you, consider seeing this as an opportunity to try something new half way around the world. Tattoos are not allowed in many public baths and should be covered in general.
TEA CEREMONIES are a beautiful lens into the art of living in Japan. It is a very zen experience that incorporates complex rituals and is an amazing practice to witness. Coffee is less common than tea, so you can bring instant coffee if you are concerned about the potential absence of coffee in your morning.
That’s it for now – EMBRACE & ENJOY!
Have your own tips for traveling in Japan? Comment below!