It may have been a while ago now but my tips for Japan still stand. We want to go back to Japan some day as we fell in love with the country. It is definitely a happy place. I even told my mum I would feel safe her going by herself because it’s such an amazing place. These are the tips I would give her and anyone travelling to Japan!
This is for everyday use, not just whilst on holiday but be polite. Japan is a very courteous country and apologising goes a long way. We watched a few YouTube vlogs on what not to do in Japan, small things like not eating and walking, queuing, and learning a few words of appreciation. The Japanese responded well to our efforts and we felt great every time we tried. You should always be polite and respectful what every country you are in.
2 Diaso, quick buys
These are basically pound shops so they only show the price if it’s over 100 yen and then they add tax. Stop here to pick up sweets, cute stationery but most importantly hand towels. They often don’t have soap or hand towels in the public toilets so just be prepared. We now live in a world of carrying hand sanitiser so it’s no big deal but you don’t want to get caught out. You can also treat yourself to sweets and crisps here. I picked up a few stickers and cheap washi tapes. They are everywhere so feel free to pick up any bits you forgot to take.
3 Pocket wifi
If you need to stay in contact then pocket WiFi is a must. It comes with a battery pack but because I had an old iPhone I invested in a good battery charge that can load my iPhone 6 times but it’s still small enough I can take it on the plane. The battery pack they provided ran out fairly quickly. We took a lot of photos and used google maps constantly. Without our second battery pack we would have got a wee bit lost. I would definitely recommend a battery pack, it just means that you always are secure in relying on your phone!
If you can afford it then send on your suitcases. The hotel and and airport can arrange it all for you so it’s relatively easy to organise it just takes the pain away of dropping your suitcases off. Our friends told us about this, because we were moving around so much it meant we could be flexible. We travelled with two backpacks and the suitcases where waiting for us at our next stop. No stress, no busy packed trains and we found it 100% reliable. Also I would pack much lighter than I did.
4 Clothes: Layers are key
Linked to my last comment I massively overpacked. Overpacking is a pain, yes I did spend a few hours washing our clothes but I should have packed smarter! Unless you are going in winter, Japan get hot and cold within minutes. All the hotels, shop and transport are well heated. So pack accordingly. I found I was in and out of my jumpers constantly. I often carried a hat and scarf with me everywhere, this meant that I could just warm up when the sunset. Always pack a raincoat or umbrella as you just never know!
Invest in your feet! A good pair of walking shoes will be your best friend. I packed some leather Chelsea boots, hiking trainers and some cute leather loafers which were great for walking as well as I adore them. You will walk for hours and it’s the best way to see the city. I used all my shoes equally. My Chelsea boots acted like wellies when it rains but are stylish enough I can wear them with anything. My hiking boots were great when we were doing rope walks or out in the country and my loafers were great for the city. Every where we went we wore comfortable shoes as our step counter had us walking 15000 steps a day!
5 Google maps
So I hate this map for actual use. I think it should be more user friendly and we often walked half way down a street before having to double back. But it was a godsend in every situation in Japan. For example I logged all our hotels in so we could guide ourselves home wherever we were. I also popped some restaurant recommendations on there for each city, so although we explored different places we always had one place we knew about. This was all preplanned before we left the UK!
When trying to locate cool bars and restaurants they are often up stairs. We have taken many lifts and stairs to get to unusual drinking venues and restaurants. Don’t be afraid Japan feels super safe because it generally is. I felt like I could come back here alone and still have a great time.
6 Pasmo card
We bought ours at the airport, tops up £30 and used in all the city’s we went to. It meant we could just jump in trams and trains without having to use the machine at the trains. At the end you can get your deposit back when you hand it in which is 500 yen! If you want freedom without hassle then I would definitely buy one as your first port of call.
If you use trams there is a place to use your pasmo card and different place to tap out. We were chase down the platform by the conductor who whipped our cards out of our hands and ran back and tapped them. It’s obvious when you see how it’s don’t but we had no idea!
We also bought a Japan rail pass, which also came in handy when we got in the wrong bullet train and ended up far away from where we wanted to go without paying any extra. The rail pass operates different areas so you can buy it for the are you will be frequenting the most! Ours had to include Yamagata as well as the south as we planned a ski trip.
7 Be flexible
We were so lucky for our trip we had a day of rain then sunshine. We would plan things to do loosely and change them if the weather was going to be bad. We could adapt. We had a list of places we wanted to see and they were often in the same place.
We planned to do what we wanted to do most first and then had some other things planned if we had time. Gavin really wanted to walk down Monster street in Osaka so we hopped on two buses and looked at monsters!
Japan is so beautiful, we don’t feel like we missed out on much but we would definitely go back and explore more places especially middle and the North of Japan. It’s not about being over prepared but we definitely listened to our friends who had gone before us. We wouldn’t have known about the suitcase transfers that made our holiday an absolute joy not having to lug them around.
We did a fair bit of research before we went and if we ever had 5 minutes we would search for places to eat or things to visit.