75+ Japan Journey Suggestions for 1st Time Guests from the USA (2023)


After getting back from two weeks in Japan, I used to be bombarded with questions from readers, mates, and household who had been interested by our journey or contemplating planning their very own Japan journey. I get it, planning a visit to Japan might be intimidating with considerations about tradition shock or language limitations. To assist these planning their first journey to Japan, I put collectively these Japan journey suggestions for first time guests to carry collectively every part we discovered and issues we actually wished we knew earlier than we went.

To make it simpler to digest, I’ve damaged these journey suggestions for Japan into classes together with earlier than you go, issues to know on arrival, cash issues, getting round, consuming in Japan, what to put on in Japan, and basic data in regards to the Japanese tradition.

Earlier than we soar in, let me guarantee you that Japan is a wonderful nation to go to, even for these from the USA or one other Western nation. The Japanese persons are extraordinarily well mannered, the cities are the cleanest you’ve ever seen, and the language barrier is admittedly minimal. For these causes and extra, Japan makes a superb first nation to go to in Asia.

If you’re planning a visit, remember to additionally take a look at my very detailed itineraries for Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, or my article about how a lot a visit to Japan prices.

Arashiyama bamboo grove

Japan Journey Suggestions: Earlier than You Depart

Word: This publish might comprise affiliate hyperlinks. For those who click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I’ll obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.

Fortunately, since Japan re-opened all COVID-related protocols have been dropped, so visiting Japan is kind of straightforward. Nonetheless, there are nonetheless a couple of issues to do earlier than you allow:

  • Resolve if you wish to buy a Japan Rail Cross to be used in Japan. This cross is simply out there to abroad vacationers and should be bought earlier than you allow. Remember the fact that the JR Cross is ONLY legitimate on JR Trains (not Metro methods or personal practice traces) and there are totally different passes provided, relying on if you’re touring simply inside one area or all through a number of areas (whenever you want a Nationwide Cross.) Within the fall of 2023, the value for a JR Cross goes up considerably, so this may increasingly not be the deal it was until you’re planning on a variety of practice journey.
  • Prefill all required immigration and customs data on the Go to Japan Internet website earlier than you allow so that each one it’s good to do upon arrival is present your QR codes for every individual in your social gathering.
  • When you have prescription medicines, remember to analysis what medicines are prohibited in Japan, as many frequent over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions are unlawful in Japan.
  • E-book all your lodging properly prematurely, particularly if you’re visiting in the course of the busy springtime Cherry Blossom Season or Golden Week in early Might. Remember the fact that Japanese resort rooms are fairly small so in order for you extra space it’s possible you’ll wish to spend a bit extra on an American model. You can too contemplate staying one to 2 nights in a ryokan, a standard Japanese inn that usually options tatami-matted rooms and communal baths referred to as onsens. To save cash, it’s possible you’ll wish to contemplate an Airbnb or capsule resort.
  • E-book as many restaurant reservations as potential a couple of weeks prematurely, particularly if you’re seeking to expertise a few of Japan’s many famend Michelin Star or positive eating choices. Not all eating places supply on-line reserving however that is the place a resort concierge might help, or there are paid restaurant reserving providers (that I’ll focus on extra beneath.)
  • Purchase timed-entry tickets to standard sights that promote out, particularly TeamLab Planets Tokyo or Sumo observe.
  • Reserve a cell WiFi sizzling spot that you’ll choose up on the airport, or look into a world eSIM supplier, as this can usually be cheaper than a world knowledge plan on most mobile carriers.
seats on the bullet train

What to Do Upon Arrival

Once you arrive in Japan after an extended flight from america, you’ll be a bit bleary-eyed and overwhelmed, so bear in mind to take these steps earlier than you allow the airport:

  • Hit the ATM and take out a couple of thousand YEN. I’d advocate taking the utmost quantity to reduce charges related to utilizing the ATM or financial institution charges. Regardless that Japan has modified so much lately, for a contemporary society there are nonetheless a lot of small eating places, meals stalls, and sights that require money.
  • Cease and choose up your pocket WiFi hotspot when you’ve got reserved it prematurely and if not, there are lots of retailers within the airport to get a hotspot or eSIM (it simply would possibly take longer to take a look at when you don’t reserve prematurely.) Bear in mind if you find yourself reserving a hotspot it’s good to take note of which airport (e.g. Haneda or Narita) they’re situated at and it’s good to return to the identical location to drop it off on the finish of your keep or ship it again.
  • When you have bought a JR Cross, cease on the JR ticket workplace to alternate your voucher on your precise cross. You have to your passport and inform the ticket clerk whenever you need your cross to begin and will probably be validated from a sure date for the size of time of the cross you bought (e.g. 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days consecutive days.)
  • Relying on the JR ticket workplace, they could additionally make practice reservations for you (when you bought a cross that features seat reservations similar to a Inexperienced JR Cross.) If not, you are able to do this on the ticket places of work within the main practice stations, similar to Tokyo Prepare Station, Shinjuku Prepare Station, and so forth.
  • Search for a machine/kiosk for Welcome Suica to buy and cargo an IC Card. An IC card is a preloaded cost card, like a debit card, that can be utilized for metro/subway fares, some personal practice traces, locker leases, many merchandising machines, and a few comfort shops. The Welcome Suica doesn’t require registration or a deposit (some playing cards require a 500 YEN deposit), so it’s a good selection for guests. The display screen may be very straightforward to navigate, with an English menu choice, however you’ll need CASH to load onto your card (it appears unusual however that’s the way in which it’s.) I’d advocate beginning with 3,000 YEN for a 7+ day keep. Additionally remember the fact that EVERY individual in your social gathering wants their very own IC card to make use of the subway/practice. The Pasmo card is one other IC card choice.
  • Prepare a switch to your resort. Taxis are very costly in Japan, particularly if you’re touring all the way in which into middle Tokyo from Narita airport. It’s least expensive to make use of public transportation. Nonetheless, an alternative choice, relying on the place you’re staying, is the Airport Limosuine Bus, which connects the airports with central practice stations and accommodations for door-to-door service. It’s good to not need to navigate the trains in your first day in Japan (if you find yourself nonetheless drained and jetlagged.) I booked our bus prematurely and gave an excessive amount of time to get by customs and the opposite steps on the airport and needed to swap to an earlier bus once I acquired there. It’s possible you’ll wish to simply wait till you clear immigration/customs earlier than you e book your bus switch from the desk on the airport.
  • Once you get to your resort, don’t lock your passport away in your resort protected. It’s required that you just carry your passport with you if you find yourself out and about in Japan. I’d recommend holding laborious copies in a protected house in your resort simply in case it will get misplaced (and an image of it in your cellphone.)
La Floret shopping center in Tokyo

Japan Cash & Purchasing Suggestions

  • The native foreign money is the Japanese Yen. The present alternate fee is $1.00 = ~ 142 Japanese Yen. You’ll be able to verify the present alternate fee utilizing XE.com.
  • At all times maintain some money on you, together with some change, as many companies and sights nonetheless don’t settle for bank cards. Change is used particularly when visiting temples or shrines to make an providing, buy a allure, or obtain a fortune.
  • Whereas many institutions now settle for bank cards, not many help Apple Pay (they’ve a neighborhood digital contactless cost system). You’ll usually must insert your bank card and signal a receipt. Don’t be shocked when the clerk palms you each the unique receipt and the bank card receipt for every transaction.
  • Not many companies settle for American Categorical and a few additionally don’t settle for MasterCard. To be protected, carry a few playing cards and make a minimum of considered one of them a Visa.
  • To cut back using plastic, retailers now cost a small quantity for a buying bag (usually about 20 Yen). To keep away from this price or extra packaging, carry a packable reusable buying bag similar to these.
  • Some retailers promote Tax-Free Purchasing. For those who see this signal, give them your passport and they’ll take the tax off your buy on-site, with none types to drop off on the airport. This protects round 10% for purchases over a certain quantity. Different retailers take part within the World Blue tax refund, however for these you’ll need to fill out paperwork and convey it to a World Blue location on the airport or within the buying middle with the products you bought.
  • Tipping is NOT customary in Japan. Truthfully, after the creep of the tipping tradition within the U.S. in the previous couple of years, it’s such a pleasure to not tip in Japan and to know it isn’t anticipated. Some eating places might cost a canopy cost however that’s it.
Tokyo subway

Suggestions for Getting Round Japan

Getting round Japan may be very straightforward with its environment friendly and normally immediate practice and public transportation system. Nonetheless, there are some things that may make getting across the cities a little bit simpler:

  • Journey between cities is best utilizing the Shinkansen bullet practice. Simply remember the fact that the quickest bullet trains, the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen trains, aren’t included within the JR Cross.
  • For those who take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, attempt to get a seat on the best hand facet of the practice and on a transparent day, you’re going to get a fantastic view of Mount Fuji.
  • Most trains don’t require reservations, however buying a ticket with a reserved seat or a JR Cross that features reservations, is far more nice as you should have a seat, even on busy trains. The platform will point out which practice vehicles are reserved versus non-reserved.
  • Starting within the spring of 2023, you want a baggage reservation when bringing massive checked luggage onto a Shinkansen practice. Remember the fact that there’s very restricted baggage rack house and in any other case solely the seats within the final row additionally supply a baggage reservation within the house behind the seats. For those who plan on bringing your luggage on the practice, I like to recommend stopping on the JR ticket workplace in one of many massive practice stations and getting assist reserving seats and baggage areas.
  • Smaller carry-on dimension luggage can match on the rack over the seats. Simply remember the fact that bringing any luggage by the metro at rush hour is close to inconceivable on the busy traces.
  • It’s possible you’ll wish to contemplate transport your baggage forward to your subsequent resort. Relying on the placement and season, this may usually be completed in 24 hours, in an effort to journey with only a backpack or small bag together with your issues and reunite together with your baggage at your subsequent resort or the transport workplace within the subsequent metropolis. Many of the accommodations will prepare on your baggage transport on the concierge or bell desk. Nonetheless, if you’re staying at an Airbnb, you’ll be able to look into utilizing a shipper similar to Yamato Transport. We did this between Tokyo and Kyoto and Kyoto and Osaka and it made getting round a lot simpler. It price lower than $20 per bag for our ~50 lb. checked-luggage sized luggage.
  • In most cities, along with Japan Rail (JR) trains, there are additionally personal trains and native metro or subway methods. Google Maps is extraordinarily useful in figuring out one of the best route, however it’s possible you’ll wish to do some extra analysis if you’re making an attempt to make use of JR trains. The route search on the official Japan Journey App from the Japan Nationwide Tourism Group or the Japan Journey app from Navitime are useful if you wish to discover one of the best routes for particular kinds of vacationer passes.
  • To make use of your JR Cross, merely insert your JR Cross on the turnstile and take it again after you stroll by. You have to to do the identical whenever you exit the station.
  • If you’re utilizing your IC Card, faucet the cardboard on the turnstile whenever you enter the station and faucet once more whenever you exit. Regulate your stability. Most stations have machines the place you’ll be able to simply reload your IC card (with an English menu.)
  • When you have any hassle, the employees on the practice stations are very useful in offering instructions.
  • In the case of utilizing the trains and subways, Google Maps affords invaluable data concerning which platform the practice will likely be on, when it’s leaving (and when the following trains are anticipated), what automotive is greatest to board if you’re transferring, the size of the journey and the variety of stops, the cease title, the fee with an IC Card, and one of the best exit to make use of on the practice station (belief me that that is so, so useful.)
  • On trains and subways in main cities, all of the practice signage each on the platform and within the practice vehicles, is obtainable in Japanese and English, as are the bulletins on the practice letting the following cease, and so forth.
  • As soon as you’re on the practice platform, you’ll need to line up behind the yellow line at one of many spots indicated by a quantity that corresponds with the automotive quantity. In Japan, it’s customary to line up single file.
  • When the practice arrives, let these exiting to get off the practice earlier than boarding.
  • Word that on some trains, sure vehicles indicated with pink on the platform are for ladies solely throughout sure hours.
  • The one time you would possibly see pushing in Japan is individuals squeezing themselves onto a subway practice. Rush hour on sure traces such because the Maranouchi line within the Tokyo Metro that goes by Shinjuku station, which is the busiest station on this planet they declare, is an absolute crush and greatest to keep away from, particularly with young children.
  • As soon as on the practice, comply with the native customs and silence your cellphone and when you discuss, accomplish that quietly. The trains and subways in Japan are very quiet and surprisingly clear. Individuals don’t discuss or eat on the practice. Many nap, others learn or play video games. I noticed loads of individuals studying manga comics on their telephones and even one man studying sheet music for “Moon River.”
  • Word that whereas strolling by busy practice stations and on the road, individuals usually stroll on the left. Besides in Osaka, the place it’s customary to stroll on the best. Many stations have arrows on the flooring.
  • On escalators, stand on the left to let these in a rush go by on the best. Besides in Osaka, then stand on the best.
  • If you’re utilizing a maps app for strolling instructions and you’re utilizing a cell hotspot, we discovered Apple Maps to supply higher turn-by-turn strolling instructions that had been simpler to comply with. The arrow on Google Maps used to point your location would usually spin in a complicated means and it wasn’t as clear about when to go up steps, throughout bridges, and so forth.
  • Most practice stations supply lockers if you wish to retailer your belongings and exit and discover. There are small, medium and enormous lockers and the medium and enormous will match a suitcase or a number of smaller luggage. The worth ranges from 300 to 500 Yen.
bowl of ramen

Japanese Meals & Restaurant Suggestions

Japanese delicacies is unbelievable and no, you don’t need to eat sushi on daily basis. Every store focuses on a selected dish and does it properly. You’ll eat ramen, soba noodles, tempura, shabu shabu, road meals, sushi, and a lot extra. There are some things to remember when visiting eating places although, together with:

  • Japanese individuals like to line up for good meals. There are lots of small eating places with lower than a dozen seats and folks will line up for 2 hours or extra to eat there. It’s laborious to do that as a vacationer who’s drained from strolling and doesn’t wish to spend treasured trip time in line. However it’s a part of the expertise. Additionally, that is commonest on the cheaper locations. If you wish to spend extra, it’s simpler to get a reservation. If a restaurant opens at 5:00 pm, anticipate a line to begin forming by 4:30 pm if not earlier.
  • Fortunately, these eating places flip over seats in a short time as persons are inspired to eat and go. Japan shouldn’t be a spot the place individuals linger over meals. They eat shortly and quietly and go away.
  • You’ll find a wealth of cheap eating places in Japan. Nonetheless, additionally, you will discover a lot of very costly (e.g. $200-500 per individual) eating places. Sadly, there isn’t so much within the center. So it’s both get in line and eat low-cost or make a reservation and spend an arm and a leg (there are exceptions after all.)
  • If you wish to strive a particular restaurant, there are variety of restaurant reservation providers that may make it easier to make reservations. Belief me that many e book up weeks prematurely and even when you set an alert to make a reservation once they open the calendar, you should still miss it. A few of these providers embrace: Pocket Concierge, Omakase, JPneazy.com, MyConcierge Japan, Desk All, and Desk Examine.
  • Keiseki is a standard Japanese meal with a number of small programs. These are usually served at ryokans and conventional tea homes.
  • Omakase is chef’s selection sushi, which is usually provided at totally different ranges or numbers of items with totally different value factors.
  • It’s rude to be loud in eating places, however slurping in a noodle place is accepted and anticipated.
  • Every restaurant will present both a sizzling towel (washcloth) or a disposable moist towel to scrub your palms earlier than consuming. Nonetheless, what we contemplate napkins or serviettes aren’t offered.
  • Don’t rub your chopsticks collectively in Japan, it’s thought-about impolite. Likewise, don’t stab together with your chopsticks and don’t relaxation them in your bowl.
  • To cut back waste, carry your individual reusable chopstick set. I noticed somebody with these on our final day of our journey and I actually want I had considered it sooner.
  • You don’t dip your sushi in soy sauce in Japan because the chef prepares it accurately eaten.
  • Don’t stroll and eat in Japan. If you buy meals at a comfort retailer or meals stall, you’ll be able to eat out entrance after which carry them again the trash.
  • Rubbish cans are very scarce in Japan!! Be ready to hold round your trash till you discover a bin (usually on the practice station.) However don’t fear, the streets in Japan are very clear. Littering shouldn’t be a part of the tradition.
  • You’ll find merchandising machines all over the place promoting numerous drinks and lots of take the IC card for cost, though some require money or different digital cost methods.
  • Sadly, there aren’t many public bottle refill stations or consuming fountains.
  • Keep away from consuming on the metro or native trains, however it’s acceptable to eat on the longer, Shinkansen trains, and there are lots of retailers within the practice station promoting bento bins which are packaged completely for this function.
  • Many greater finish eating places converse English. Nonetheless, many others supply both an English menu or a menu with footage. At others, you order from a merchandising machine with images. This is usually a little difficult to grasp however usually simply choose the picture of the merchandise you wish to order, insert your money, take your ticket and hand that to somebody behind the counter.
  • Google Translate with the digicam operate / Google Lens might be very useful for menu translation. I’d advocate downloading the Japanese dictionary for offline use.
  • Some eating places supply a pill on the desk for ordering or a button to name the server to position an order.
  • At many eating places, you’re taking the invoice to the entrance to pay on the cashier.
  • Don’t go away your chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice (it is a funeral ritual).
  • When receiving a drink, cup it with two palms to indicate gratitude.
  • Japanese comfort shops similar to 7 Eleven, Lawsons, and Household Mart all supply surprisingly good meals, which is a reasonable approach to eat whereas in Japan.
  • Many department shops even have a flooring with meals stalls that provide ready meals to buy and convey dwelling to eat together with bento bins, sweets, and different meals that may be reheated simply.
  • Taking a meals tour is a good way to study in regards to the native delicacies. We took a meals tour in Osaka with Arigato Journey and positively advocate them.
Girl in polka dot skirt and white t shirt

What to Put on in Japan

Japan is a reasonably conservative society in terms of gown, excluding the “kawaii tradition” amongst the youth. To slot in and present the correct respect, you will need to maintain a couple of suggestions in thoughts:

  • When visiting temples and shrines, it’s acceptable to verify the knees and shoulders are coated, though it isn’t policed as strictly as some church buildings in Italy.
  • Shorts are hardly ever worn by locals. You might be extra apt to see shorts on worldwide vacationers in Kyoto than within the large working cities like Tokyo.
  • Ladies put on a variety of free becoming, large leg pants and lengthy skirts, paired with a t-shirt beneath a sweater or flowy button-up shirt or gentle jacket.
  • Males are sometimes in fits or enterprise apparel, or slacks and a golf shirt. Youthful teen boys will probably put on denims and t-shirts.
  • If you’re visiting temples and shrines, or conventional eating places, it’s useful to put on footwear that may simply be slipped off, as required upon entry.
  • When visiting Japan, you will need to put on snug footwear, as you’ll do a variety of strolling.
Silver pavilion in Kyoto - Japan itinerary

Japanese Tradition Suggestions

The Japanese tradition values politeness, cleanliness, order, following the principles, and exquisite presentation. You will notice these mirrored throughout your go to and you will need to present respect by observing cultural norms.

  • It is vitally appreciated when you can study a couple of phrases in Japanese together with:
    • Konnichiwa – good day
    • Arigatou gozaimasu – thanks very a lot
    • Sumimasen – excuse me
    • Dō itashimashite – you’re welcome
    • Hai – sure
    • Lie – no
    • Gomen’nasai – I’m sorry
    • Ohayō – good morning
    • Konbanwa – good night
    • O-yasumi nasai – good evening
  • Japanese packaging could seem extreme or wasteful, however it is extremely culturally vital to current issues fantastically. Your purchases will likely be wrapped and luggage sealed with stickers to maintain them closed. If you buy a pastry at a store, it’s usually individually boxed with small ice packs to maintain it recent till you’ll be able to take pleasure in it at dwelling.
  • If you’re invited to somebody’s dwelling, bear in mind to carry a present that’s properly packaged.
  • A slight bow is a present of respect when assembly somebody or thanking them.
  • If somebody palms you a enterprise card or a present, besides it with two palms and a slight bow.
  • Don’t blow your nostril in public.
  • Put on a face masks when you aren’t feeling properly.
  • Wait to cross the road solely when the sunshine is inexperienced, even when nobody is coming.
  • Be on time!! Nobody is late in Japan, they’re normally early. On one tour, our tour information was being beneficiant by agreeing to attend till 2 minutes after the assembly time for somebody that hadn’t but confirmed up.
  • In Japan, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines usually sit facet by facet. When visiting, bear in mind to take away your footwear earlier than coming into the within of a temple or shrine (there are normally cubbies offered). At a shinto shrine, it’s acceptable to scrub your palms first. If you wish to supply a prayer, first you bow, then give an providing of small change, bow deeply twice, ring the bell, clap twice, supply your prayer, then bow as soon as extra. See a full description of temple and shrine etiquette.
  • Take away your footwear when coming into a shrine, temple, restaurant with tatami mats, or somebody’s dwelling.
  • In Japan, public restrooms are broadly out there and they’re very clear. Japanese bogs are additionally one of the best, providing options like heated seats, privateness sounds, and washing choices. Many public restrooms additionally supply child seats in some stalls, together with household loos, altering tables, and nursing rooms.
  • Japan is without doubt one of the most secure international locations to go to and even if you’re touring solo, you’ll really feel very snug strolling round even at evening.

I hope these Japan journey suggestions are useful. As a journey blogger, I’ve visited many international locations however I discovered Japan one of many most secure, most snug, and most orderly place I’ve been to. It suited my kind A character completely and I beloved the mix of extremely fashionable and conventional tradition.

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Planning a trip to Japan? These Japan travel tips will help you get over any culture shock and be prepared to fully enjoy your Japan vacation.

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