Our Japan travel tips. We stayed in Japan for about two weeks. What should have been a great holiday turned out to be the most stressful, backbreaking and unexciting holiday. Keep reading to avoid any disappointments.
Japan is a great country, clean, fresh, friendly and is the most fascinating culture in the world. I love Japan and it’s people. Even more so when I’ve seen it in person. People are just so friendly and will always go out of their way to help out.
As usual, we were lost, so we asked this lady who seem to be in a real hurry for some directions. She literally dropped everything and helped us out. The kind lady looked at the timetable for us. She even asked one of the train staff for more directions. We thanked her and she rushed on her way.
You will never get lost in Japan, there are always people willing to help you out. Onto our tips.
Japan Rail Pass
Also called the JR pass, it is meant to stimulate tourism in every part of Japan. It is time limited and there are three options to choose from. Seven, fourteen or twenty one days. If you are staying more than three weeks then I suggest to plan your trip with the JR pass in mind.
This rail pass is only available to tourists visiting Japan, not available for purchase to locals. JR pass is a must for everyone planning to explore Japan. Put it this way, the price for a regular one way ticket from Tokyo to Hiroshima is Y18,000.
The price for a 7 days JR pass is about Y40,000. Do the maths and you will see how JR pass is a must for tourists that wants to wander. It is the best way to travel and explore Japan.
Do not be afraid of the language barrier. It’s true that it’s hard, I have experience this first hand. We actually took a bus and it is so much harder compared to their rail system.
Spoke to a bus driver and he could not understand what I was saying and vice versa. Somehow we managed to get off at the right stop. Then we had to transfer and catch another bus. Very hard to find the right bus stop when there are 4 in a single block and in Japanese. So as usual we asked around and people were more than happy to help and guided us to the right direction.
Yes, the language barrier is tough. It’s so much easier if we knew a bit of Japanese or even better, had someone who could speak it. Worry not though, don’t let this scare you. Japanese people are friendly and will always try to help.
Rent Pocket Wifi
Having internet is extremely helpful for everyone and a must for the content creators and social addicts. Renting a pocket wifi is the best option that you can take. Don’t think of the cost, it’s not overly expensive.
The crucial thing is if/when you are lost and there is no one to ask for help, Google map is your best friend. You can also find places to eat, local attractions and you won’t get bored in the train.
The map also lets you know which station is next so that you will never miss your stop. Sometimes station names are very confusing and not in English. They are lifesavers.
Book a pocket wi-fi in advance to avoid any stress. Allow one week or even better, a month. We did leave it too late and booked it 5 days before our flight. The stress level was off the roof! Problem was that there wasn’t much to choose from and some were booked out.
We went during the busy period where most tourists visit Japan, the cherry blossom season. Eventually, we found and booked one at a normal price.
It was a big sigh of relief after we booked and confirmed it. We used Japan-wireless to rent our pocket wifi. They even have a great English speaking customer rep when I called them.
What happens is that you tell them when your flight is and which airport you are landing at. They will send you an email or snail mail containing instructions on how to collect your pocket wifi when you land.
It was quite easy to find the collection point because it was a very busy post office and it was all in red.
If you are like us, we wanted to explore as much of Japan as we possibly can. Also to get the most out of our Japan rail pass. During our 2 weeks stay, we visited 7 cities.
That was almost mission impossible with us dragging our luggage over crowded train stations, long walks, difficult city terrains and a very grumpy toddler. For our next trip, we are more experienced, know what to expect and will do everything differently.
When you are a family, have lots of “baggage” and want to explore as much of Japan. Then I suggest to have a central city as your base and just do day trips around it. For example, if your first stop is Tokyo, then rent a place to stay in there and just travel the surrounding cities during the day.
There are always trains in Tokyo and are very quick to get to your destination. Then when you want to go further South of Japan, do the same thing. Have a base city for you to stay in and explore around it.
For the minimalist, backpackers, light travelers, the above tip doesn’t have to apply to you. You can easily navigate all of Japan with one medium suitcase. A large one maybe too heavy if you are on the weak side, achievable though.
Even easier and best if you only have a backpack. This will make you more mobile and take in more of Japan while exploring. Compared to thinking of only the next rest stop when lugging a huge suitcase.
Taxis are very expensive! Don’t ever get on one unless you really have to. Trains is always the best way to travel in Japan. The locals knows it, that’s why trains can be chokers full of people.
There will always be a queue for trains and buses at a certain designated spot. I queued at a different spot not knowing and cut in. It was quite embarrassing when everyone just look at you. I’m sure they understand that I was a tourist and had no idea.
Also, at was our first day in Japan, we had to catch a bus to our hotel in Narita. A shuttle would come and pick up passengers. There are assigned stops for each hotel and this bus would stop at each of them even though there was no one waiting, I don’t know why.
I decided to just go in the bus before it gets to our stop. It’s going to our hotel anyway so why don’t I just save him the trouble of stopping and going. This is not the case, because it’s not how it’s done in Japan. Save the embarrassment and patiently wait, it will come.
Best Time To Go
It has to be the cherry blossom season. Cherry blossom season differs on location. This one time a year event in each different geographical region is a wonderful experience when everything is in full bloom. The full bloomed trees aligned along the street is an amazing sight to see.
In the southern par of Japan, cherry blossoms come out as early as January. On the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom late as May. Most cities though they bloom in the first week or last week of April.
There are forecasts in Japan when the cherry blossoms happens as it does sometimes change. So before going to Japan for the cherry blossoms. Always research about the blooming forecast for this year.
If you can stay for a month then the whole month of April is the best time to get a full view of it. Again, this varies each year, always check the forecast to avoid disappointment.
We didn’t get to see a lot of it because our timing was wrong. In our last days in Japan, the blossoms has just started. Here’s an awful picture that I took.
If you don’t care much for blossoms and are more worried whether it’s hot or cold. Then you must know Japan’s season. Basically if you prefer the warm climate then go around Spring which is March to May.
For the cold blooded then go in Autumn which is around September to November. If you really really love the cold then December to February is for you. Which can go as low as 1 degree Celsius.
Forget it, trust me when I say this. Unless you are planning on staying in their resort, don’t even include this in your to do list. The average waiting time for most rides is 1 hour or more.
The line even have people sitting down because their feet just couldn’t take standing up for that long. We did go on a ride, the ride that no one wants to go into, but because the wait is less than 1 hour and we have to get on at least one ride before going home kind of ride.
That was the most boring ride I had ever got into. After that one ride, we went home. Biggest waste of money ever. This is probably one of the best Japan travel tips you will ever get.
Come here if you have all day to wait for a ride or staying in the Disney resort. We just didn’t have time for that. These are the queues for one ride.
When it comes to food in Australia, we are very diverse. This is not the case in Japan. Expect to be eating a lot of Japanese food most of the time during your stay.
There are other dishes other than Japanese but are kind of rare and hard to find. Especially in the rural regions of Japan. It’s even hard to find MacDonalds in Tokyo.
Always go to a packed restaurant because locals know where to go and will most likely frequent their favorite. If there aren’t much people in where you are, then just go with your instinct.
You won’t really know unless you tried their dishes. Luckily we only had two bad experiences when it came to eating out.
That’s our Japan travel tips. I am sure there will be more and will be updating as soon as we can. At the moment, I hope we provided you some useful insight into Japan. One of the best country that I will visit again and again.