Seven Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Japan

Lately, one of the most popular travel destinations for people in Hawaii has been—Japan! It is one of the closest countries to our islands, and the plane tickets are usually on the cheaper side. I’ve come across many people who either just came back from Japan or are going soon. Luckily, I was able to make the trip myself. So here are some things that you should know if you are planning a trip to this fun and bustling country:


You NEED to learn how to use the local Subway Trains


Japan has a huge connection of subway/train lines which will take you everywhere! Although the different lines can be a bit confusing at first, you will get the hang of it. You can buy a computer pass (IC Card) at any station, which will allow you to take any subway line except the exclusive Nankai airport line which must be bought separately. The IC card is relatively cheap for what you get. It costs about Y2000 or 20 U.S. dollars for the card, and you can deposit your preferred amount after that. After buying the computer pass and paying your deposit, you can reload it at any time. The minimum amount you can reload into the IC card is Y1000 or about 10 U.S. dollars. When using the pass, all you have to do is scan your card and walk through the gates! The subway lines are so convenient because it will only take about 5-10 minutes of waiting before the train arrives. Taking the train/subway will save you lots of time and money.



There are crowds—LOTS of them


Get ready to get lost! The cities are bustling with crowds full of both locals and tourists alike. You will see a lot of cars and many people riding their bikes. Keep in mind that you must make way for bike riders out of common courtesy. If you are catching the subway or train, the stations are almost always full; especially during weekday mornings, when everyone is trying to make their way to work. In addition to this, if you are planning to visit popular tourists destinations, make sure to go EARLY and in the middle of the week. There are many tour buses that go to these tourists spots from late morning until the afternoon.


There is a huge language barrier, so try to learn at least the basics of the language


Not everyone in Japan speaks English. Out of my own personal experience; if you meet someone who can speak English, it is likely that he or she has limited proficiency. It is usually people who work in the tourism industry, who are able to speak English more fluently. With that being said, try to learn the basics of the language such as: how to order your food, how to greet people, say thank you, etc. Another useful tip is to download Google Translate on your phone! I found the app to be very useful in times where I could not communicate with a local.



The food is DELICIOUS and CHEAPER than the United States


I was never disappointed with any meal I’ve had in Japan. Everything is so delicious and cheap! The average cost per meal is (Y850 - Y120) or 8-12 U.S. Dollars. So, I would say the average meal costs about $10. This usually includes a main course, a side, a soup, and a drink! Keep in mind that you won’t just find Japanese food here; you will also find other types of food such as  American and Chinese food! Some Japanese dishes are a mix of Japanese and American, and it never fails to amaze me. Trust me when I say, you will eat good in Japan.


You should avoid walking while eating or drinking


I was originally told by others that walking while eating or drinking is rude. I thought it wasn’t a big deal but when I did do it, I got a few odd looks from the locals. Also, when I went into a cafe in Kyoto near the Kiyomizu-Dera temple, the cashier told me that I’m not allowed to take the food and eat outside and that I must only eat in the restaurant or in the tour bus. I’m assuming this is because I was near a sacred site, and that the traditional rules applied more to this area. Out of respect, I followed the rules and did not eat my snack until I got on the bus. I was not told anything about this in the more urban and busy areas, but I did see a few people drinking coffee on their way to work.



The toilets are much more accommodating and innovative


If you go to almost any public restroom in Japan, you will find that there are so many buttons for the toilet! It can be a bit confusing if you can’t read Japanese, but it is easy to locate the basic flush button. Usually, all you have to do to flush is place your hand in front of the sensor. Sometimes, there is relaxing music playing while you use the bathroom (e.g. river flowing), and the toilet seats are sometimes heated (which feels so good). There are other buttons which allow water to spray/clean your private areas, but I’d rather not do that.


Japanese people seem to be “on it!” when it comes to hygiene


Everywhere I go, there was some type of cleansing routine. I’m not talking about the kind where you cleanse your mind, body, and soul before entering a shrine—although respectfully, it does exist. But I am talking about having cleansing wipes provided to you in every restaurant. There are even cleansing products in some bathroom stalls which will allow you to wipe the seat before using it, and some people wear face masks to avoid germs.