Japan Travel Tips

Japan is a truly unique country where the past and the future exist side-by-side. Century old temples nestle within cities boasting the most cutting edge technology. With lush mountain scenes and dreamy coastlines, Japan has something for everyone.

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Planning a trip to a country with a different language and culture can be daunting, so here’s a few things to keep in mind!

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Airport to Hotel

Arriving to Narita Airport is an overwhelming experience. After being finger printed at immigration and being guided by the floor track to your bags, a train or bus await to whisk you off to your accommodation.

Tickets are available near the baggage area and signs aplenty guide you to your chosen transport. Tickets are between $25-$35.

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Bins are almost non-existent

Despite being one of the cleanest cities imaginable, bins are hard to find in Tokyo. It’s a good idea to have a plastic bag you can keep rubbish in until you find a bin. Bins can usually be found next to vending machines or outside convenience stores.

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Japan is not too expensive

Japan is not as expensive as people have been led to believe. Cheap food is abundant and public transport is super efficient.

For a cheap meal head to noodle bars, yakitori grills and sushi train restaurants. Avoid izakaya bars where multiple small dishes can add up to a pricey meal. Hit up markets during the day to sample local cuisine for next to nothing!

Convenience stores in Japan are fantastic and a great option for quick meals. Grab rice balls, coffee or yoghurt while hitting up the ATM or picking up a bottle of sake for dinner.

There are many affordable accommodation options with hostel standards far higher than in Europe, and capsule hotels for those who aren’t claustrophobic.

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Vending machines sell HOT coffee

Yes, hot!  The best of these is Boss Black – it actually tastes like coffee!
Good coffee is hard to find in Japan (although easier in Tokyo than other cities). Barista made coffee and vending machine coffee are on par quality wise. At half the price, grabbing your morning coffee from a vending machine is a great way to keep your travel costs down.
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Don’t walk and eat

In Japanese culture, meal times are an important ritual and you will rarely see someone eating on the go. Even when eating solo, Japanese people will take the time to sit down and appreciate their meal.
It is considered rude to eat on the street (except in market areas where street food is sold). If you are in need of a snack, convenience stores usually have a designated eating area where it is okay to eat. Alternatively, find one of the many perfectly manicured parks and treat yourself to a picnic.
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Keep an eye out for Depachika

Another good spot for cheap food is the basement floor of department stores. This is the food floor and generally has an amazing variety of food, including western food and healthy options such as salads. I bought a piece of salmon with a broccoli salad for lunch for about $5.

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Don’t judge a restaurant by its exterior

Sometimes the dingiest looking restaurants have the best food! It is impossible to get a bad meal in Tokyo.
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Wifi access

Surprisingly, public wifi can be hard to find. Big chains such as Starbucks and McDonalds  are pretty reliable along with some other cafes.

While some people are happy to rely on the wifi in their accommodation, I prefer to have internet access while on the move for quick access to maps, train timetables and translating services.

For this, I recommend buying a travel sim which includes data. If you keep Instagram and Youtube browsing to a minimum, 3 gb of data will easily cover 2-3 weeks of travel. I used B-Mobile Visitor Sim which you can order online and arrange to pick up at the airport or have delivered to your hotel.

Another option is to hire or buy a pocket wifi device.

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Sushi is everywhere

Contrary to what many people say, it is not hard to find sushi in Japan.
It IS hard to find ‘makizushi’, which is rolled sushi with the seaweed on the outside.
Most sushi is ngiri sushi, which can be found everywhere.
Sushi is either sold in sushi restaurants or at standing sushi bars.
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There is plenty to eat in Japan besides fish!

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If you aren’t crazy about fish, not to worry, Japanese cuisine has so much more to offer!
There is yakitori; meat and vegetable skewers, many different noodle soups, asian salads, curry and rice, vegetable and meat dishes. There is also plenty of western food available.

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Tokyo Subway App

There is a great phone app for navigating the Tokyo subway: Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists (it is the first app that comes up when you search ‘tokyo metro’).
This app will tell you which subway line to get, where to change trains, which direction to go and how much your trip will cost!
If you can’t get the app then make sure you get an English subway map! (Just ask at one of the manned windows in the subway). Plus, most of the ticket machines have an English option, just look for the button that says English!
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Consider the one day metro pass

If you are going to catch the train more than two or three times in a day, the One Day Pass may save you money.
It is 1000 Yen (approx. $12 AUD) for unlimited one day use of the Tokyo Metro and Toei Line, which will get you almost everywhere in Tokyo.
Otherwise, a one way trip will cost between 120-240 Yen.
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Cash & ATM’s

Many small stores, cafes and restaurants won’t accept credit cards and they certainly don’t have Paypass. It’s important to always carry cash so you’re never caught out.

Not all ATM’s will accept foreign cards. To avoid the risk of having your card rejected, or swallowed, use ATM’s inside post offices and 7/11’s.

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Tipping

Tipping is not part of Japanese culture and is actually considered rude. Keep that extra change for your morning coffee.

 

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