Visiting Japan – Tips
It was hands down the best holiday I have ever had. I wasn’t going to include this in my blog, but a friend from Japanese class asked me all about Japan the other day. So I thought I will anyway, it is good to keep track where I have been, although it is impossible for me to forget Japan in 2010.
To prepare for the trip, I did a lot of research into good and clean accommodation and places to visit beforehand, to fit in with the budget using tripadvisor. Just because everyone who has been agreed that it is an expensive country to go on a holiday to. I bought the Japanese Rail Pass (can only be bought outside Japan, although you have to exchange the ticket to a fancy pass in Japan), it saved a lot of money, 3 trips already made back the money you pay for it.
In the end I stayed in Tokyo for 5 days, Nagoya 2 days, Nagano 2 days and Kyoto 4 days. Mostly in hotels and two nights in a Ryokan, Japanese style hotel.
The myths about visiting Japan are 1.that it is really expensive and 2. it is difficult to get around because you can’t understand the language.
I don’t think Japan is expensive, I think the prices are pretty much the same as any city, such as London or Amsterdam, even Jakarta. The rule is the same if you were traveling to any country, if you are on a budget. Don’t go to restaurants or too fancy places to eat, go to small outlets in stations. Or the most handy place there are Conbini (convenience) store / 7Eleven everywhere. Conbini offers food with reasonable prices plus they are the best place to find an 24hours ATM (the below picture is the kind of things you can get). If you want to shop, don’t go to tourist places where they charge you a fortune for anything, go to a 100 yen shop. I bought cool Japanese ceramic. washi tapes etc in these shops. Choose places to visit where you don’t have to pay, it is a different story if your aim is to go to Disney Tokyo (which I have heard is the best Disney ever, from a Disney fanatic). Choose hotels, specially the one in Tokyo that is near to a train station, so you don’t have to take the underground which will cost you. I stayed in a hotel 10 minutes walk from a train station.
Getting around, if you are a traveler, who are well versed at reading maps you would be absolutely fine. I had no problem going around, buying tickets (although mostly I didn’t have to because of the rail pass). Go to the visitor information centre to get free maps, if you are in a new place, they have it even for the smallest places. All the trains have announcements of the stops, quite a few has English translation, they even tell you which door would open on the next stop. With your Japanese Rail Pass you just show the pass to the man on the gate who would let you through.
If you are a fussy eater, you might want to memorise the Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana writing for Beef, Chicken or just the things you are allergic to/don’t eat. But they do a few vegetarian meals there. If in doubt ask for a vegetable tempura. Some places have those cool plastic display food that you can point at, and/or the menus with pictures on them. =D There is a range of prices vending machine drinks, soft ice cream are ok priced, tempura in a nice restaurant is expensive. If you go to the very bottom floor of a large mall you would find a food court, usually they sale these types lovely cakes, they have the same price as european cakes.
The only problem I had with the language was when staying in a small Ryokan in Nagano, no one spoke English and I kept looking at the guide-book to read out broken sentences. It was even more painful when the booked breakfast which I have been told is usually served in the room was not. I had some problem to find out where the breakfast was and how was I suppose to do it. =D but In the end I managed and it was all worth it. The breakfast was pretty and massive. I think it is my own fault I didn’t learn Japanese before hand. They speak good English in all the other hotels.
- In summary, plan your stay – look at tripadvisor and visitjapan or follow @visit_japan on twitter for good tips
- be sensible in terms of your spending,
- bring a guide book
- a small phrase book with some important Japanese writing
- go to places that doesn’t charge entry fees
And if you like photography, I would suggest make a list of what you would like to have pictures of by the end of your visit, I regretted that I didn’t have pictures of Japanese girls in Kimonoes, the bento ate in the train etc etc. If you have got any question do message me.
I would definitely go back to Japan one day.