Planning a trip to The Holy Grail of Asia? Great, you couldn’t have made a better decision! Japan is by far the best Asian country I have ever traveled to. The country is basically a well-blended mix of gorgeous sightings, tasty authentic food, diverse form of natural beauty and exceptionally unique but warm culture and social norms. Located in East Asia, Japan sits in the Pacific Ocean, which contributes to its marvelous beauty of every season. However, travelling to Japan during each of the four seasons will need different kind of preparation. Regardless of that, I’m here to share with you the basic tips that you need to be aware of as a traveler, to ensure that you will have a pleasant trip to the number one must-visit country in Asia.
1. Find the right transportation package for you
Japan is amazingly interconnected between cities and districts, mostly by trains and subways. Not to mention the bullet trains (shinkansen) which run all throughout the country. Since the country welcomes millions of tourist every year, vendors provide packages of transportation pass that you can purchase to ease transporting while in the country. JR Pass is the one with the widest coverage, covering trains and buses across the whole country which are operated under the Japan Rail (JR) network. This is the pass I purchased when I was travelling to Japan, and it is a perfect fit for travelers who plan to hop from city to city in a short period of time. It costed almost 30,000 yen when I bought it — yes, pretty expensive — but I get to travel across the country without having to pay anymore. JR provides 7, 14, and 21 day pass to suit the length of your stay. However, if you plan to stay in cities for a few days each, I recommend you to to purchase the local pass instead; Japan has a lot of them that you can choose based on your needs.
I strongly encourage you to decide and purchase the pass you need ahead of departure, perhaps even a month before.
2. Research on weather forecast
I went from city to city, and sometimes I froze my bones out simply because I didn’t use the right outfit. One time I went to the snow festival in Ouchijuku, and the temperature was a freezing -9oC that I felt like my head was frozen because I didn’t pack a winter hat. Tough experience for a tropical Asian guy. Your outfits will determine your comfort throughout the trip, so make sure you’re extra prepared and have a peak on the weather forecast before departing.
3. Learn basic Japanese phrases and train yourself to be an extrovert
Despite having large recurring waves of tourists everyday, most people in Japan still have a hard time in speaking English. The only exceptions are the youngsters and professionals. Memorizing a few useful phrases will definitely save you a lot of time of explaining with body language. It’s funny to think back on how goofy my conversations were, having not learned on the basic language beforehand. Some phrases you need to familiarize yourself with are: “arigatou gozaimasita” means thank you, “sumimase” means excuse me, … Luckily, even though they are not fluent in English, the Japanese are very friendly and helpful towards tourists. Therefore, don’t be afraid to speak up and strike a conversation whenever you need to. Though the conversation will most likely be in body language, being a little more extroverted will definitely prevent you from unwanted situations, such as getting lost. And if you ever got stuck on this barrier, need I remind you that Google Translate provides a voice recognition feature that might come in handy.
4. Walk fast and be mindful of others while in public areas
Being the punctual society they are, walking in train stations can be exhausting, given the situation that everyone is walking in hurry almost as if they are running the whole time. Keep up with their speed as long as you’re able. If you need to stop or take a look at the map in your phone, make sure to step aside and lean on the sidewalls. People will not hesitate to run you through.
5. Pack as light as possible
You will spend half of your time walking around, and it’s not a pleasant experience to have a 10 lbs weight of things on your body. You will also spend unnecessary energy of carrying 40 lbs luggage from city to city if you don’t pack light. Drop out of packing extra shirts and food, you can get one in the nearest 7 Eleven anyway. Buy food as you need and finish it immediately; pack one water bottle and refill your drinks as needed.
Nevertheless, don’t forget to enjoy your stay in the country. Every corners of Japan will serve you with an unspeakable awe, that is how beautiful the country is. Prepare yourself for a flood of excitement and satisfaction Japan can offer.