10 Things You Need to Know Before You Visit Japan
Learn the basics before booking!
After months of passing up on dinner invites and what feels like endless penny-pinching, you finally have enough money saved up for your trip to Japan! But before you book those tickets, know that there are quite a few things to consider. Check out these traveler basics for Japan first-timers:
Get a Japan visa.
Traveling as a tourist? Visiting relatives? Research on what sort of visa you need. You also have to prepare different kinds of requirements, so check out the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines website first before getting tickets.
Prepare cash in Japanese yen.
Your credit cards have not failed you yet, and you’re thinking that using them in Japan won’t be any different. The thing is, paying in cash is still pretty much the norm there—a lot of restaurants and shops don’t accept credit cards. To be safe, be ready with your yen to make your purchases.
Know which season is best for your trip.
Japan has four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Sakura is in full bloom during spring, while autumn boasts of stunning foliage. Winter presents an opportunity for you to experience snow, while summer is usually when most festivals are scheduled. Whichever season you choose, there will surely be seasonal attractions for you to enjoy.
Research on places to visit.
Japan has 47 prefectures or administrative divisions. And because there are lots of places of interest in all of Japan, there’s a huge chance that the tourist attractions that you want to go to may not all be in the same prefecture. Map out your trip and see which places fit your budget and length of stay. You wouldn’t want to spend most of your days just traveling from one attraction to another! Besides, you can always go back and explore another locale next time!
Master how to go around.
Signing up with a tour group? Ask if transportation is included—most of the time, there are packages that offer easy and comfortable transportation options. If you’re willing to embark on commutes, Japan’s trains and buses have extensive routes to get you to places. You can get various kinds of passes to suit your transpo needs, such as IC cards. For instance, the Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited travel on their trains nationwide, while City Passes are an option for going around the city. Most cards are reloadable and can be used not just for trains and buses, but as payment options in some stores, too!
Of course, conveniently going around Japan also depends on where you choose to stay for the duration of your trip. Selecting an accommodation that is near tourist spots and attractions is ideal—after all, who wouldn’t want to have ample time to rest after a long day of walking?
Learn the tipping etiquette.
People say that you don’t need to tip in Japan… and they’re right! The Japanese don’t expect tips, and if you insist on it, you might find yourself courteously declined.
Familiarize yourself with their toilet.
We’re so used to the no-brainer handle or button that flushes the toilet that we panic at the sight of so many buttons on a typical electric Japanese toilet. Before you let this novelty intimidate you, their toilet is actually quite easy to operate. Unless it has sensors, you'll find a flush handle with options for "big" or "small" flush. And, while you do your business, simply enjoy the heated seat and even the fake sound of a flush, then treat yourself to a refreshing spray afterward.
Be aware of the difference in voltage.
It’s the Philippines’ 220V versus Japan’s 100V. Unless your charger is a universal one, you may need a transformer to fix the incompatibility between your gadget and the electric socket. Be sure to bring adaptors with prongs that will match the sockets, too—or choose between buying new ones in Japan or not using your gadgets at all!
Memorize a few Japanese words and phrases.
The Japanese generally don’t speak English, so it’s smart to arm yourself with some basic words and phrases. Naturally, you should also read up on their anticipated replies so that you’d understand their answers!
The Japanese’s politeness can come as a shock, especially when you’re used to all the pushing and shoving in your everyday commute. But since all around you are people who act with courtesy and respect, why not try to go with the norm? You might never want to leave Japan, ever!