Japan, the land of the rising sun, offers visitors an exciting mix of ancient traditions and modern technology.
With everything from ancient temples to neon-lit cityscapes, mouthwatering sushi to relaxing onsens, there is something for everyone.
But, just like any international trip, a journey to Japan requires careful planning and preparation. Here’s a handy list of things you should do before setting foot in the Land of the Rising Sun.
In this article…
Familiarize Yourself With the Culture
Before you pack your bags, spend some time learning about Japanese culture and customs. Japan is a country with a unique set of etiquette rules and customs, and the people take their cultural traditions very seriously.
Understanding these social norms will not only help you navigate your interactions with locals more smoothly, but it will also demonstrate your respect for their customs and enhance your overall experience.
Learn Basic Japanese Phrases
While it is possible to get by with English in Japan, especially in larger cities and tourist areas, knowing some basic Japanese can be very beneficial.
Plus, the locals will appreciate your efforts. Start with simple greetings like “konnichiwa” (hello), “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you), and “sumimasen” (excuse me).
Check Your Passport and Visa Requirements
Before you get too carried away with planning your itinerary, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date.
Also, check the visa requirements for your country. As of now, visitors from 68 countries, including the U.S., can enter Japan visa-free for tourism or business for short-term stays.
Plan Your Itinerary
Japan is a vast country with a multitude of attractions spread across its many cities and regions. It’s essential to research and plan your itinerary well in advance.
You’ll want to strike a balance between must-see landmarks, such as Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing or Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine, and more offbeat attractions.
Book Accommodations in Advance
Japan offers a range of accommodation options to fit every budget, from luxury hotels to traditional ryokans and budget-friendly hostels.
It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons and in popular destinations.
Plan Your Budget
While Japan can be expensive, there are plenty of ways to save money.
Plan your budget in advance considering your accommodation, food, transportation, and sightseeing costs. Keep some room for unique experiences like tea ceremonies, hot spring baths, and traditional dining experiences.
Check the Weather and Pack Accordingly
Japan’s weather varies significantly from season to season.
Depending on when you plan to visit, be prepared to face sweltering summers, snowy winters, or anything in between. Do check the weather forecast and pack your luggage accordingly.
Get Travel Insurance
Whether it’s a medical emergency, trip cancellation, or lost baggage, travel insurance can save the day. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Make sure your travel insurance covers all the activities you plan to do in Japan.
Download Helpful Apps
There are many apps available that can make your travel experience in Japan smoother.
Some useful ones include Google Translate, Japan Official Travel App, Navitime, and Hyperdia for navigating Japan’s extensive train system.
Notify Your Bank
Inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any freeze on your cards due to suspicious foreign transactions.
Also, inquire about international transaction fees, so you are not surprised later.
Get an IC Card
For convenience, get an IC card like Suica or Pasmo on arrival. These prepaid cards can be used on public transportation, vending machines, and even at some stores.
Pack an Adaptor
Japan uses Type A and Type B plugs, with a standard voltage of 100V and a frequency of 50/60Hz.
If your devices use a different type of plug or can’t handle the voltage, you’ll need to bring an adapter or a voltage converter to keep your devices charged.
Learn About Japanese Cuisine
Japanese food is much more than sushi and ramen. While these are must-try dishes, there are plenty of other delicious Japanese dishes like tempura, yakitori, okonomiyaki, and many more.
Brush up on some of the local cuisine to get the most out of your culinary adventure in Japan.
While no specific vaccines are required for Japan, it’s always a good idea to be up-to-date on routine vaccines like measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), and your yearly flu shot.
Consult with your doctor for personal advice.
Learn to Use Chopsticks
Many traditional Japanese restaurants only provide chopsticks, and it is considered good manners to use them.
So if you aren’t proficient in using chopsticks, now would be a good time to start practicing.
Check Out Japan’s Etiquette Rules
From taking off your shoes at the entrance of homes and some restaurants, bowing as a form of greeting, to the way of handling money, Japan is full of unique etiquette rules.
Familiarize yourself with the basic ones to show respect and avoid accidentally offending someone.
Know The Emergency Numbers
While we hope you won’t need them, it’s essential to know Japan’s emergency numbers.
110 is for the police, and 119 is for fire and ambulance services.
Buy a JR Pass
If you plan to travel around the country, consider getting a Japan Rail Pass.
This pass offers unlimited travel on JR trains for a set period, including the Shinkansen (bullet trains), which can save you a significant amount of money.
Familiarize Yourself With the Currency
Japan is still a largely cash-based society, especially outside of big cities and in smaller businesses.
Get familiar with the Japanese Yen, and keep some on hand for small purchases.
Planning is key to having a successful and stress-free journey. By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your adventure in Japan.