My husband was pretty keen on visiting Japan for a few years. We finally went in May/June 2018 and it was amazing. Japan is years ahead of the rest of the world. Their transport is amazing, the food is outstanding and everyone is so polite! Here are a few things you need to know before travelling to Japan, so you can make the most of your trip.
Six things you need to know before travelling to Japan
All of the hotel rooms I stayed in had Japanese style toilets, which I can only describe as a washlet. A washlet is a toilet with a wand that can spray water. Many of these toilets had heated seats, heated water jets, privacy noises, auto flush or automatic sensors for the lid. I really enjoyed using these toilets, especially as I had my period when I arrived. It really helped to maintain that just showered feeling all day. And when I finally convinced my husband to give it a go, he loved it too. We loved it so much that when we renovate our bathrooms at home we will be installing one.
You really can set your watch to the trains! I was also really surprised at how easy it was to buy a ticket to get where we needed to go. Above the ticket machines at most stations is a map, find where you need to go (using the different coloured lines) and the station you need to go to will have a price, select that price on the ticket machine and away you go!
Getting directions is also a breeze with Google Maps, the different train lines come up in different colours, and the timetable is listed.
Many people opt for a JR Rail Pass, but I decided not to purchase one because I had read that there are a lot of trains it can’t be used on.
If your budget will allow, go somewhere on the Shinkansen (bullet train). I travelled from Kyoto to Hiroshima, then back to Osaka, all in one day while still having time to explore Osaka around dinner time. It was quite expensive, approximately AUD160 per person each way, but worth it for the experience and the amount of time I saved.
I was actually quite anxious to go to a country knowing that I don’t speak the language. Sure I did Japanese for two years in high school, but I can only remember a few words.
The most useful phrases I needed to use were:
Sumimasen (すみません) – excuse me/sorry (this is so useful when you need to push through people to get off the train, or if someone is blocking the doorway)
Arigatogozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – thank you
Dai jobu (大丈夫です)- no thanks/I’m fine
Itadakimasu (いただきます) – expresses thanks to whoever prepared the meal
Staying in touch while overseas can be expensive. Pocket wifi is a great option to keep you connected 24/7, battery power permitting! I hired mine from the airport, there were a few places to choose from but they are much the same.
Cash is King
Cash is the most popular payment method, and coins are also used a lot. So much so that I needed to buy a coin purse to keep it all in. The only time I paid for things using a card was when I purchased something online. The money if easy to differentiate, especially the coins. The coins are all different sizes, in various colours.
Food and Drink
To make deciding on restaurant easier, many display their food (in plastic form) in the front window. It is amazing how true to life they are! When you walk into a restaurant to eat, just hold up the number of fingers for the number of people that you need a table for. Many places we visited also had an English menu. Many items in the convenience store also had English labels and many brands were familiar.
Vending machines are really popular for drinks or a quick bite to eat. The airports had the best vending machines, with fresh baked goods and hot coffee. My favourite drinks were Calpis, in andy flavour, and Pocari Sweat. In some restaurants, you order your food and drinks at a vending machine and it is prepared for you!
I also think the Japanese diet has less sugar than what I was used to. I noticed that desserts didn’t taste sweet at all and I started getting headaches. But it didn’t take me long to adjust.
Is there anything else you need to know before travelling to Japan?