Last Updated on 14 August 2023 by Poorna & Brinda
Are you travelling to Japan first time? Then this is for you! This is the best time to travel to Japan. It is Cherry Blossom time!
When we said that we were travelling to Japan, many friends started giving suggestions. From the horror stories of non availability of Vegetarian food and language issues, we were flooded with many do’s and don’ts.
Now that we are back after a 10 Day trip, we thought of sharing these 7 essential tips for anyone travelling to Japan first time. Here they are……
Why do we say this?
Japan is a silent country! We are not kidding. This is because Japanese culture gives a lot of importance to silence unlike other cultures which are loud and boisterous. You will never see Japanese shouting on the roads or public places. When they speak, it is generally in low tones. They don’t speak loudly over their cell phones. If they are watching a video on their phone, they will invariably be having a head set. This is something which you will notice immediately when travelling to Japan first time!
Japanese are extremely polite in their day today behaviour and silence is part of that. You will hear announcements in trains asking you to keep your phone in silent mode, not to disturb others and not to make calls unless emergency!
So, if you are in Japan, behave like Japanese. Don’t be loud. Don’t shout at the top of your voice. Make sure you have a headset if you are watching a phone. This does not mean they don’t enjoy loud music. They do. In night clubs!
Japan must be the cleanest country in the world without trash bins! We are not joking. You won’t find trash bins in Japan everywhere. As a practice, Japanese take their trash with them and throw it in first available trash bins!
Japanese are highly disciplined. They also have immense patience! They form queues for everything and wait for their turn. We never saw anyone jumping the queue anywhere!
The discipline on the roads is exemplary. Whether it is a driver or pedestrian, you will find them following traffic rules 100 percent. You will never find a Japanese crossing the road at a place where there is no Zebra crossing! Neither do you find a driver honking or changing the lane without an indicator! We did not find a single traffic policeman on the road during our stay!
Smoking in public places is not done.
We Indians are opposite to Japanese. So, please make sure that you follow what Japanese does. Make sure you are well-disciplined and well-mannered.
This was a scariest part of our pre-trip anxiety! When you are travelling to Japan first time, this leaves you confused.
With so much of information on what and how to use transportation, we were relieved to see the excellent way the Japanese have managed their transport. Once you understand the nuances of Japanese transport, it is a cake walk. Here are few things that will make you comfortable.
- From Airport
- The best way of reaching your hotel from airports, is either by Airport express or Limousine buses. We strongly advise limousine buses as they are very convenient to reach city hotels unlike Airport express wherein you have to change over to Metro lines at terminals.
- As soon as you pick your luggage and exit, you will see a signage for limousine buses. Go to the counter and take the ticket. You can also buy tickets online on their website https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/ The person at the counter will tell you which bus stop you should board. Come out of the door and you will find bus stops.
- You will find assistants in each bus stop. Show your tickets and luggage. They will guide you & give you a receipt for your luggage which you should show when you get down to take back your luggage.
- Get inside the bus. You will have a screen giving you route and the stops. There will also be announcements before arrival of each stop. Don’t go to sleep. When your stop comes, get down, show the receipt, collect the luggage.
- If your hotel is next to bus stop, then walk to it. Else, take a taxi and go the hotel.
Travelling in city
- The best option is Metro. Japanese love their trains and everyone in Tokyo or other cities travel by Metro.
- Tokyo metro must be most exhaustive network in the world which will confuse anyone travelling to Japan for first time. But, you don’t have to worry about it. Every station has excellent sign boards informing users all details about different lines.
- Keep a metro map. Follow the signs and you will comfortably reach your train. An excellent way of using the metro in Tokyo is using Google map. Enter start and end point and Google map will tell you which line to take and how far is the nearest station, where to change over to different line etc! This is too good. Follow Google map. See this example from our experience below.
- Travelling inside Japan
- Japan rail has excellent network of regular express trains and Bullet trains.
- Take a JR Rail pass – buying it online will save some money – which is the smartest way of travelling in train in Japan. However this pass does not work for Bullet trains. Take JR rail pass if your itinerary covers many places.
- Every station has clear signage for JR trains. Follow that and you will reach the platform ( in Japan they are called tracks)
- Here is a nice website for reading more on train travel in Japan. This is very helpful when you travel to Japan first time. https://www.seat61.com/Japan.htm
- Whether it is metro or regular railway station, you will always find friendly railway staff who will help you at stations. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- Taxi is very expensive in Japan. Very few Japanese use it. Unless, you have a big luggage to carry, avoid taxis. Most of the taxis have automatic doors. The right side doors are permanently locked for safety!
- Lockers for baggage – This is an excellent service in Japan. Almost all stations has excellent locker facility for storing your bags. Please use them if needed.
- Bullet trains
- Riding on Bullet trains really scared us off with too much information. But, we will tell you that it is the coolest experience you can get. And it easier too.
- Don’t worry if you are carrying big bags. Though there are no proper storage area for big bags like you find in Europe trains, the leg space in bullet trains are sufficient to place them in from of you!
- Each row in bullet train is made of three seats and two seats with aisle in the middle. If two of you are travelling, make sure you book two-seater so that you can comfortably keep the luggage in front of you.
- Make sure about your coach number and seat. It is advisable to travel with a reserved seat. Wait at the designated place – clearly marked on the platform – and get inside the train after passengers alight.
- Most of the train stations have either elevator or escalator or both. If you are carrying heavy bags look for them or ask the staff who will help you. Please keep this in mind and look for escalator so that you don’t have the trouble of lifting your bags when you travel to Japan first time.
- Always arrive in a railway station minimum of 30 minutes before departure.That will give you sufficient time to check out the platform and reach there.
Food is a non issue if you are a non vegetarian. Japanese cities have restaurants dime a dozen! You can a feast on them! It may be difficult sometimes to find a vegetarian dishes. Don’t tip in restaurants. Japanese don’t like it. All restaurants add service charges to the bill. Good restaurants requires reservation.
Don’t worry if you can’t use chopsticks. They will provide you a fork. Don’t forget to drink Sake – Japanese rice wine!
In bigger cities, you will find many Indian restaurants and you can head there.
Food is expensive in Japanese restaurants. It is cheaper to buy in convenience store and heat them up.
This was another thing that made us very anxious since we were travelling to Japan first time. Yes, very few Japanese speak fluent English. At the same time, many Japanese understand English though they are not inclined and fluent to speak it.
Don’t worry much about it. You will not find this a major issue but may be frustrating sometimes. We did not find Google translation app much useful. Speak slowly when you speak to Japanese in English.
From funky capsule hotels to traditional Ryokan and Onsens, you are spoilt for choice! Whatever you choose, make sure that the place is closer to a Metro station.
7 Book day tours or hire guides
Unless, you have a many days at your disposal which will help you explore on your own leisurely, we strongly suggest you to book a day tour depending upon your interest.
These are few essential tips you need to remember when you are travelling to Japan first time. Japan is a lovely country with lots to explore. Be a Japanese in Japan! These tips should help you in having a memorable experience.
We referred to the following nice websites for our planning
Thank you for stopping by and reading through these tips for travelling to Japan first time. Hope you liked it. May we request you to share it among your friends?