Let’s get straight to the point! I created a short list of the things you should know and remember when traveling to Japan.
WiFi/Data is important
They say, you can never fully ‘enjoy and experience‘ a place when you don’t detach yourself from certain things like the social media, the internet, or your gadgets. But there are times when you really have to depend on these things (technology) to help you experience the place better.
Let’s talk about Japan’s railway system. If you have not seen it yet, it’s a puzzle waiting to be solved. Sure in time you will get the hang of commuting in Japan. But the first-timers will really need the internet’s help and a lot of patience.
Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, Japan’s railway system is more complicated. You have to be updated with the train schedule to know which train stops at your destination. Ignoring this tip might cost you your time as you will be spending it riding the train to and fro before getting to your destination.
If your internet connection is not reliable, don’t be shy to ask anyone from the train station. Japanese people are the most polite and kind people you will ever meet (subjective, but it’s true to me). They’d be willing to assist you and even bring you to the correct platform.
Also, train stations have free internet access. Most of these free services require you to key in your email address.
Commuter life in Japan is not that complicated if you know how to read signs
In Japan, not all trains passing on the same track go to the same destination. Always keep in mind: different time, different train, different track.
Different types of trains pass by the same track. Some trains even ‘uncouple’ at some point. At first, the train composed of 8 cars will break into two and have two different destinations. So always be sure to check the car numbers when you ride the train, pay attention to the announcements, and MAKE SURE TO READ THE LABELS!
- Local (普通) – The train stops at every station.
- Rapid (快速) – The train skips some stations.
- Express (急行) – The train skips a lot more stations. The fee for these trains is higher than the local/rapid trains.
- Limited Express (特急) – The train only stops at major stations. Also requires an extra fare (sometimes as much as JPY4000).
Also, be mindful of other signs. Notice some of these signs written or displayed outside of the car:
- Women Only
- Moderately Air-conditioned
- Low Air-conditioned
Buy souvenirs at the airport for tax-free items
If you are the type of traveler who buys goodies to bring home and if you have plans to buy a lot, I suggest you should buy them at the airport. In our case, we already bought our goodies from the market. Although cheaper than other stores, we found out that it was cheaper at Osaka Airport.
NEVER FORGET about your hand-carry allowance. Some airlines are strict when it comes to this. They will only allow one hand-carry luggage and one personal bag.
Avoid commuting during the rush hour
I am not exaggerating but believe me when I say avoid commuting during the rush hour.
Amused by the scene, I wasn’t able to take any snaps for proof but the videos you see online are true! The officers guarding or standing near the tracks are actually there to push people inside the car during rush hour.
Our jaws dropped when we saw a woman forced herself into the car. More than half of her body was outside the train car while her one hand was inside holding for dear life. We thought she’d let go, but she got in!!! And the train left with her on it! 🤣
Japanese people are kind and very polite
One thing I love about Japan is its people. Their good character shows even to the tiniest detail. If you try to learn a little bit of their language you’ll realize all their expressions never miss a ‘please‘, a ‘thank you‘, or a ‘welcome‘. If they can’t answer your questions, they say sorry, mean it, and will still try to help even if that means they have to go out of their way.
Another instance where their good character shows would be during train delays. They don’t take delays lightly there because it affects people’s schedules and plans. They respect people’s time so much that they would apologize for any delays.
Here’s a friendly tip, why not return the kind gesture?
Include Japanese convenience stores in your itinerary
Because why not! Eating at a convenience store may not be a fancy option but Japanese convenience stores have so much to offer. Even if we ate our meals on time and at a proper restaurant, we always find ourselves ending up at any 7/11, FamilyMart or Lawson branch, just because.
The food selection from these convenient stores is pretty amazing. We always drop by one before going home for midnight snacks! Hah!
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves! ‘It’s fine, we were walking the entire day, we can still burn the calories by walking, blah blah blah‘. But no regrets, right?
FOR THE FOODIE! There other types of beef apart from Kobe and Wagyu
If you haven’t known yet ‘Wagyu’ simply means (wa) Japanese (gyu) beef/cow.
Some people think Wagyu is different from the other types of Japanese beef. It’s a common misperception.
Wagyu beef types are named for the region in which the cattle are raised, including Matsusaka beef from the Matsusaka region of Mie, Kobe beef from Kobe, Hyogo, Omi beef from Shiga, and Yonezawa beef from Yamagata. There are still plenty of other Wagyu beef types in Japan. These types of Wagyu beef are raised differently under strict conditions.
If you love beef, particularly steaks, Kansai region has the three ‘KING’ varieties namely Matsusaka, Kobe, and Omi.
FUN FACT: Only four facilities in Japan are certified to export Wagyu beef so to assure you taste the authentic Wagyu, visit Japan!
This is a general rule and people tend to ignore this most of the time.
In Japan, you’ll be embarrassed to talk loudly especially inside any public transportation vehicle. What I’ve observed during our entire trip was that Japanese people talk but you can barely hear them. It seems like they’re just whispering to each other but you can see their facial expressions and all. 😅
One time we were riding a bus, there was one tourist using the WeChat App. The tourist kept talking loudly on the phone when one Japanese passenger reprimanded the tourist and told her to stop and be quiet. *Oopsies!*
Although other Japanese prefectures tend to be more relaxed with regards to this ‘rule‘, there’s nothing wrong with following it.
You will do a LOT of walking
Transportation in Japan can break the bank unless you have an unlimited subway pass, JR pass, or bus pass. And if you are not willing to pay for Japan’s expensive taxi rides, you will surely be walking most of the time.
Even in train stations, escalators and elevators are situated at the far end of the platforms. You’d be ‘lucky’ to spot one when you exit the train car.
I would lie if I say I did not get exhausted in Japan but the experience was worth it.
So far, Japan has been the cleanest country I’ve visited. I am amazed at how they do their garbage segregation. Their self-discipline is commendable! I truly admire the people who maintain the cleanliness in Japan. I mean, come on! We need to learn from them!
CLAYGO means CLean As You Go. There’s no need to elaborate as this is self-explanatory.
As the saying goes, “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.” I always remind myself to be mindful of my actions whenever I travel. After all, you’re just a visitor.
I can say so many things about Japan. I can give more tips, specific or general but we can never be fully prepared every time we travel. Just enjoy the experience and learn from your actions!
’Til next time!
Feel free to leave comments or message via e-mail if you have any questions. If you like this article and want to see or know more about my #JaFUN trip, or other trips and tips, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.