This April, my husband and I traveled to Japan. During this trip to Japan, we decided to venture south from Tokyo by riding the shinkansen (bullet train) to Hiroshima, Kurashiki, and Kyoto. Japan can be a really intimidating place to visit, so I thought some readers might be interested in general information, places we enjoyed, as well as tips to make your Japan visit memorable.
Here are some of my thoughts. I broke up the information into different posts. If you have any places you like or helpful tips, please feel free to leave it in the comments.
Pocket Wifi: We rented ours for about 15 days and was "the best money we spent" as said by my husband. The wifi in Japan is not reliable, so the rental helped us maintain access to Google maps, Hyperdia, email and also to keep in touch on social media. For a 2 week rental of their Super Premium Pocket Wifi 187.5MBPS device, it was around $145 USD. We picked it up at Haneda airport when we arrived and were quickly connected to reliable wifi through our trip.
A lot of places have menus with pictures for ordering or vendors will try their best to help you out. My husband did the bulk of the communicating since he knows Japanese, but I have learned beginners Japanese before this trip. With that said, I would try to learn basic phrases like 'water' or 'Can I have that please?,' so you can get by and feel like you're at least attempting to try to speak Japanese. I downloaded these apps that helped me a lot : Google Translate, Taptaro, and Dr. Moku's Hiragana & Katakana (for learning the characters).
About a month before our trip, we bought the Japan Rail Pass from JTB . For a single 2 week pass, it was around $400 USD. The pass is available for tourists exclusively. The pass paid for itself with the bullet trains, but we also made an effort to use it on the local JR Tokyo lines since it is included with the pass price. A heads up for shinkansen tickets: try to book your return leg of your trip when you arrive to the city. A few times, trains were full or we had to go to the non-reserved car. Not a huge deal, but booking your seat a few days early gives you piece of mind.
To-go drinks and food:
I didn’t realize this until this trip, that drinking and eating on the go is considered rude in Japan. Yikes! No one drinks while walking. I tried my best to assimilate to this custom, but it was hard! I’ll admit I drank my ice coffee on the go when we had to catch a train. Try to eat at the restaurant and drink at coffee shops.
Bring a lot of yen/cash. Japan has a lot of places that only accept cash & coins, such as vending machines, the subway, and restaurants. We were in Japan for 15 days and brought about 90,000 yen which is around $900 USD. That amount almost lasted our entire trip but we took out some yen at the ATM to hold us over the last few days. I would try to bring as much as you think you will spend on food, transportation, and omiyage. A note on credit cards: Capital One credit cards are great because it does not charge a foreign transaction fee.
Pedestrians do not jaywalk. Even if a light is red and no cars are coming, people do not cross until the light changes. This cultural custom was frustrating for me, but I tried to adhere to their customs.
First up : Tokyo!