Travel

10 Japan Travel Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Trip!

 

Japan is one of those destinations that you will miss as soon as you get on the plane to go home again. Its blend of ancient tradition and cutting edge modernity make it an utterly unique destination, and its food, fashion, and frenetic energy will stay with visitors long after they’ve left. Looking back on my time in Japan, there were a few serendipitous choices along the way that made for some of my absolute favourite experiences – and here are the ones I always pass on to fellow travellers before they head off!

 

  • Explore the Suburbs: It’s tempting to stay right in heart of mile-a-minute cities like Tokyo and Osaka. But there are huge savings to be made if you base yourself even a little out of the thick of it. A good example? The Odaiba neighbourhood in Japan. Just over the Rainbow Bridge, with a central train station, it will get you into the heart of Tokyo in five minutes – for a significant savings on your hotel. Plus, there’s a massive Gundam transformer to mark the vicinity of the train station in case you lose your way!
  • Learn the Lingo: Hear me out on this one! Learning Japanese can seem like a monumental task; it’s a notoriously difficult language for English speakers to absorb. I’m not suggesting you become fluent, or anything even close – however, picking up a few key phrases can go a long way when interacting with the locals. Despite embracing large components of Western culture – including vocabulary! – fewer Japanese than you might imagine actually speak English. Picking up a phrase here and there can be a big help – if it’s enough to ask for a drink and say hello, you’ll be well on your way to making some new friends.
  • Duck Into the Holes in the Wall: Japan’s large cities in particular have seemingly endless high-end establishments more than happy to take your money, and no one will deny that, by and large, they’re pretty incredible – there is a reason its cuisine has a UNESCO Heritage classification all on its own! But you can discover some real gems in the most nondescript places – like a basement ramen shop, ordered by vending machine, or a stand-up sushi restaurant, open to the breeze with only a curtain keeping the inside from out. Don’t be afraid to get shoulder to shoulder with the locals – there’s a whole world of delicious (and cheap!) eats to be discovered.
  • Get Your Transport Sorted First!: Too many people wait until they’re inside the country to get their transport sorted – which is a huge mistake. The best deal on transportation for tourists is the Japan Rail Pass, which gives travellers unlimited travel on JR trains, bullet trains (Shinkansen), and selected buses and ferries. It’s also the only pass that covers travel throughout the entirety of Japan, so it’s an especially good idea if you’re planning on doing a lot of cross-country exploring. BUT this offer costs much more to purchase once you’re in Japan itself – so make sure you sort it out before you head off.
  • Stay in a Traditional Inn: Called a ‘Ryokan’, these traditional Japanese inns are an incredible way to get a taste of authentic Japanese culture. You’ll stay in a tatami room and be looked after by your very own attendant, who will serve you your meals, and take down and set up your bedding each day. Most Ryokans will also offer a kaiseki dinner, which is an unforgettable experience in and of itself – a traditional, multi-course Japanese fine dining meal with delicacies you are almost guaranteed to have never tried before. Don’t try to figure out what you’re eating – just eat. But try not to make the same mistake I did and accidentally eat all the condiments beforehand!
  • Get Lost: Look, the popular tourist destinations in Japan are popular for a reason, and most certainly worth seeing – but some of the most memorable moments in this country can come from wandering the streets and coming across tiny, tucked away temples down the end of busy urban streets, or a serene garden in the midst of the concrete jungle. These small surprises are everywhere in Japan’s big cities, and unless you take the time to wander on your own, you’ll never know they’re there – so get exploring!
  • Time Your Visit: There’s so much to do and see in Japan, that it’s worth taking the time when planning your trip to prioritise exactly what you want to take in during your visit. If temples and museums are the order of the day, any time of year will do, but if seeing sumo or attending a Japanese baseball match are high on your list of priorities, keep in mind that these events are seasonal, and plan your trip accordingly. Also be sure to take a look at whether your trip coincides with any major Japanese events – the trains can get absolutely jam-packed on specific festival days and public holidays and it’s best not to be caught off guard.
  • Soak it Up!: The colours, scents, and tastes of Japan can make for an absolute whirlwind of an experience, so make sure you take some time during your travels to soak up the sensory overload you’re experiencing – the smell of red bean stuffed rice cakes cooked for you on the street, the colourful neon lights of Shibuya, the thick, umami-drenched goodness of a steaming bowl of ramen. Trust me – you’ll long for it all when you’re back at home!
  • Consider Lesser Known Destinations: Millions of travellers visit Tokyo each year – 24.03 million last year, in fact! No surprise there; it’s one of the most vibrant, cutting-edge, and exciting cities in the world. But Japan is so much more than its most famous city. Consider offbeat destinations like Kanazawa, famous for its emphasis on traditional Japanese culture and history, explore the unique “Ryukyu kingdom” of tropical Okinawa, or learn about Ainu culture in Hokkaido or Honshu. No matter where you go in Japan, you’re guaranteed fantastic food, and utterly unique experiences, so don’t be afraid to branch out!
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Try: Japan’s culture is markedly unique – so most likely, no matter where you hail from, it’s a lot different from yours. You may be out of your comfort zone when it comes to bathing in a traditional onsen, trying a Japanese-style breakfast, or taking in a Kabuki performance. Don’t worry too much about not knowing exactly how things are done. Nobody expects you to know what you’re doing – in fact, more often than not, they’ll be happy to lend you a helping hand and show you the Japanese way of doing things. So let go of your inhibitions, dive in, and do things the local way!

 

Irrashiamasu and enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime experience in Japan!

 

Siri Williams

Siri Williams

Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with stories and the multitude of ways in which to communicate them. This has manifested in a number of ways throughout my life - firstly, I am a voracious reader (as my much beloved English Honours major would suggest), and, as naturally follows, a passionate learner learner. Secondly, I'm a writer, with an inherent need to order my experience in words and to express them with nuance and emotion, translating them in a way that not only made sense, but made them somehow more meaningful. Lastly, I am a consumer and creator, with a passion for taking in and expressing stories in all their forms - whether it be through the written word, digital media, the stage, film or music. Ensuring that stories are not only conveyed, but conveyed in a way that brings out their inherent truth, feeling and purpose is what I strive for, no matter what medium I am working in. Seeking a dedicated, creative and passionate contributor who goes above and beyond satisfactory? Or maybe just a good story? Feel free to contact me anytime at siri.dub@gmail.com. Look forward to hearing from you.