Random notes on Travelling in Japan

  • Consider buying the JR rail pass to commute between Tokyo, Kyoto and pretty much everywhere, because transportation is expensive.
  • For all train lines in Tokyo and most in any city in Japan, as well as a rechargeable money card, use pasmo or JR suica.
  • Conbini = convenience stores (7eleven, lawson, mini stop, family market) they are everywhere and sell everything from food to underwear, offer international ATM service (especially 7eleven), post office services, printers, fax (it’s not obsolete here) or event tickets.
  • Good websites for travel information ( https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e623.html, https://en.japantravel.com/, https://donnykimball.com/)
  • Google maps doesn’t offer offline maps for Japan (used to at least, double-check), use maps.me or rometorio.
  • Rent a portable wifi service https://www.jalabc.com/en/data-sim-mobile/pocket-wifi.html , https://tokyocheapo.com/business/internet/rent-wifi-router-japan/
  • Bring cash! The card system is fairly unknown here (except for conbinis and big foreign chains), though in light of the 2020 Olympics transactions are starting to modernize. However, you can bet that festivals and street shops are cash only.
  • Don’t expect any English!!! Download offline eng-jap translation on google translate and the takoboto dictionary mobile app.
  • Beware of airbnb, due to regulations the available apartments are limited and low quality. Booking.com offers good prices. Hotels are western style, whereas ryokan are traditional Japanese hotels where you sleep on futon mattresses (on the floor). In some cases, you may mistake a “love hotel” (adult-only hotel) for a regular hotel, esp. on booking.com. Been there, done that.
  • Onsens ♨ are the traditional Japanese hot springs with healing and beautifying properties. The water is reaaally hot and there are certain rules (hygiene and others) to be followed.
  • Every region has its own famous food and sweets, look for them. (maccha green tea, wasabi spice, anko red-bean paste, ramen, udon, takoyaki, mochi sweets, okonomiyaki =Japanese pancake or pizza, nabe hot pot)
  • There are some bars but most night venues are izakaya =Japanese style drinking bars that offer small side dishes. Most of them have a tatami (straw) floor to sit on instead of tables. Izakayas can be combined with yakiniku (grilled meat) or BBQ. Izakayas normally require a table charge (around 380 yen) while providing a small entrée dish. If you make a reservation, please show up!
  • Try not to eat while walking, there are always stalls or chairs nearby to enjoy your food. Apart from that, there are no public trash cans, so if you eat while walking, you will not be able to throw away the packaging and need to carry it with you.
  • However, it is not unusual to see people drinking beer from a can inside the metro.
  • It’s OK to drink outside, in parks or at benches. You may also see people sleeping drunk on the pavement with their office suit on. 
  • Take your shoes off when entering a home or traditional restaurant.
  • Set your phone to silent mode while using public transportation.
  • Don’t make phone calls while using public transportation. Especially when the train is packed. Also keep your voice low and try not to disturb people around you.
  • Be sure to line up in an orderly fashion. Unless you are in Kansai region, where I heard that such rules don’t matter but don’t take my word for it.
  • Wait for people on the train/bus/etc. to step off before you start pushing to get on.
  • Make sure to properly separate your trash (burnable, non-burnable, plastic, pet bottles, glass, paper, cans) and don’t leave it in random places. There are different days assigned for each neighbourhood for throwing out the respective trash category (e.g. Monday for paper, Wednesday for burnable). Each location has different dates and different garbage disposal rules. Also, collection usually happens before 8 or 9 am, so you have to wake up early to throw out the trash. By “throwing out”, I mean placing the garbage bag inside a garbage net close that usually is located at the entrance of the building. Most of the time, you have to carry your trash and throw them at home. If you are in desperate need of a trashcan, conbini and shopping malls typically, but not always have trashcans.
  • Use the left side on the escalator, unless you’re in Kyoto or Osaka.
  • Collect things (business cards, tickets etc.) with both hands while slightly bowing, it shows respect.
  • While tourist souvenir shops like Kaya etc. have good quality items, equally good for personal use, prefer 100yen shops like Daiso for cheap souvenirs to acquaintances.
  • Second hand shops have a great variety of awesome quality of anime and game figures among others.
  • There are vending machines literally in the middle of nowhere.
  • Nikko is the most touristic place in Kanto. Visit tehere, but take the special 2-day or 4-day discount ticket.
  • Drinks : sake 12%🍶, shochu 25% or preferably imo shochu (from potato) (brands : 魔王 maou, 黒霧島 kurokirishima) , highball 9%(whiskey with juice or other flavors) , lemon etc sour (weak)
  • Fuji mountaintop is open from climbing from July to September. That doesn’t mean that you can’t visit on other occasions, but expect to meet not even a single soul, plus the mountain huts will be closed. You are on your own in the dangerous weather. Also, don’t try to climb up using allstar snickers and a casual hoody. I saw people doing it, it doesn’t end well. Use proper equipment, please. You can always visit the middle area – the 5th station – by bus from Shinjuku.

*The above are only suggestions to make your trip more enjoyable*

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