I’ve been there, thrice. I’ve done the eating and going places and exploring for three succeeding yearly visits now. And still I wanna go back and experience it again like a first-timer. I’ll always be a Japan travel loyal fan.
Just a few days while we were in Tokyo, an announcement was made that Japan is planning for implementation visa-free visits for tourists from some Asian countries like the Philippines (to officially start sometime this year). I was excited! Not for myself, but for Filipinos who will be going to Japan and experience a different culture.
And here are few tips and reminders who will be going to there for the first time. These are just simple reminders, but I hope these will boost the confidence of first-timers in Japan, with an idea of how it is there on basic stuff.
And for my friends who are preparing for their nearing trip, here’s for you 🙂
Note: Sorry, no pictures yet, as I still have to collate it from my SD card. I promise to post them as soon as possible 🙂
- Foreign Exchange – Currency exchange can be done at airports, post offices, banks, department stores, and ticket shops.
- ATM withdrawals can be done in atms all over, but please check the problem with Mastercard that I myself encountered. I cannot withdraw using my Mastercard/Maestro card, and only found it possible in the ATM at post offices via Japan Post Bank (thanks for other tourists who posted the info via internet, I was able to research what to do). Apparently, Mastercard withdrawals have issues in Japan ATMs since last year. Better to come prepared, so I suggest to bring hard currency enough for basic expenses just in case. Visa and Amex cards though seemed ok for withdrawals in the ATMs.
- Coins – most of the vendos only accept 100¥ and up. So better use the other denoms like 1,5,10¥ for non-vendo payments.
- Don’t get intimated with the seemingly complex railway system! Get free maps in the stations. English maps are almost always available. 🙂
- In subways, always check which exit is nearest to your destination.
- We never tried the taxi, so I’m not sure how expensive it is.
- Travel via the efficient railways of Japan. It’s always on time. Promise 🙂
- If your itinerary means going to many places a day, you can opt to purchase tour passes which will allow you to take both trains, subways, and buses (unli passes). It comes along with discounts on selected tourist spots. Passes can be bought at the airport, bus stations, subway lines stations, or tourist information centers.
- Japan is vendo machine land. You buy subway/train tickets and IC cards on vendos. Choose the vendo with English version.
- You can always do fare adjustments in fare adjustment machines in case the load in your card is not enough in the ride that you took.
- Bicycles can be an option in going around. Japan has good bike lanes, and most people go to work and school in bikes. For tourists, there are bikes for rent. We tried it in Odaiba and Kyoto, using it for going around, and I really really had fun! Just always remeber to follow the traffic rules, and to lock and park your bike properly and you’ll be fine 🙂
- Airport Limousine Bus – this is another option if don’t want to take the railways going to and from the airport. Info on the limousine bus and tickets can always be inquired in the airport, or at your hotel.
- Again, Japan is vendo machine land. In some restaurants, you can order food in the vendo machines (some have pictures of the food so it is easy, and if you are lucky, with English menu). Just select and pay, then just give the order slip printed by the vendo to the waiter. 🙂
- Vendos with hot and cold drinks are almost in all corners! 🙂 Near the vendos are always trash cans for emptied bottles or cans.
- Try the onigiri in convenient stores. It’s my favorite 😀
- 100yen shops are all around. I always enjoy here, with all the creative small stuffs that can be found in Japan.
- Japanese people are very respectful. You will always hear them saying please (kudasai), sorry (sumimasen), and thank you (arigatou gozaimasu). It is appropriate that we show them the same level of respect. 🙂
- Japanese people respect the priority seats rule in trains and buses, reserved for the elderly, pregnant, and disabled. These seats are clearly marked with signs and symbols. But if you happen to take one of these seats, offer it when needed.
- Japanese people are very disciplined. In escalators or stairs, they usually stay on one side (in Tokyo it’s on the left side) to give way to those who are in a hurry. It’s a simple behavior, but I really really admire the discipline, even when no one is looking.
- Internet access – Tourists may purchase wifi packages with different validity periods. Otherwise, free wifi can be found on some areas. In Osaka, several wifi spots (Osaka Free Wi-Fi) can be found in the city.
- Child-friendly Facilities – A lot of mothers bring their child along because in Japan, facilities are child and mother friendly. In restrooms, most have childseats and diaper changing stations 🙂
- Hotels are usually small, especially in Tokyo. So better to pack light. Our recent trip was 12days, so I checked with the hotel for laundry coin machines. and I did laundry one night. 😉
- Japanese make-up is one of the best 🙂 Even in drugstores you can already shop for good makeup!
- Don’t freak out if you noticed some of the Japanese people wear masks. They use it for preventive sanitary purposes, either they feel that they are about to get sick and they don’t want want to spread some virus..or the other way around. In our recent trip, we caught colds and flu, so we used masks as well (not just for fad, hehe).
- Cat Cafes – This place I love! For a certain fee, you may spend time with the cats in the cafe. Try this if you love cats and need a bit of rest from going around. This is popular even for tourists. 🙂
- Information Centers – almost always available in public places like train stations and malls. English-speaking receptionists here are always very friendly and helpful enough to answer your questions. They will go out of their way to assist you. Don’t forget to say thank you.
- Japan western restrooms are one of the best 🙂 It has button-operated bidets and flush, automatic faucets and soap dispensers!
And I could go on and on!
But I will stop myself. Because I want you to experience your first-time in Japan very amused, like I did!