No matter if you are planning to move to Japan or travel here, there are many things here in Japan that might shock you. For a more comfortable and convenient time in Japan, here are some travel tips and travel hacks to help you have an amazing time here in Japan!
Author: FLIP GUIDE
Your local friend in Japan, helping you have the most memorable experiences!
1. Manage Your Expectations
If you’ve seen Japanese anime, you may think everyone is a cosplayer and that there are super-advanced AI robots manning shops and restaurants, but that’s not the case. Be prepared for an entirely different Japan than the one you’ve seen in Hollywood movies or in Japanese animation so you don’t experience too big a culture shock.
2. Wear Shoes You Can Easily Take Off
You probably already know that people living in Japan don’t wear their shoes into the house, but did you know some traditional Japanese restaurants will ask you to remove your shoes as well? To avoid being the last person to take their seat at the table because you took too long to take off your shoes, wear sneakers or some other footwear you can take off easily.
3. Don’t Tip
Tipping is not a part of Japanese culture whatsoever, and tipping will most likely lead to awkward and uncomfortable misunderstandings as the server tries to give you back your money, so just don’t tip, unless they have a tip jar.
4. Hide Your Tattoos
While Japan is slowly becoming more relaxed with tattoos, they are still relatively taboo and people may stare. Some establishments or religious sites may even refuse you entry, so it’s best to avoid all that by just wearing long sleeves. For more information about traveling in Japan with tattoos, click here.
5. Use Coin Lockers
If the Airbnb or hotel you’re staying at isn’t ready yet, don’t worry, you don’t have to lug around your heavy bags and luggage with you for the rest of the day. Many train stations have coin lockers of all sizes so drop off your bags there and come back for them later for a lighter, easier time around the city.
6. Understand When “Hmm” Means “No”
If your restaurant server tells you “it’s a bit difficult” to substitute your side with another side, that means “no, we can’t”. Because you will almost never hear an outright “no” in Japan, it’s important to understanding that “um”s, “hmm”s, “uh”s, “maybe”s or “that’s a bit difficult”s are the polite Japanese “no”. This will help you avoid misunderstandings when you’re looking for something in a shop, asking someone something, or inviting someone out.
7. Don’t Eat and Walk
While it’s not against the law, eating and walking at the same time isn’t common and some may even consider it rude. If people are getting a quick bite from a convenience store, they will stand outside in one spot and finish their food before moving on. Also, rubbish bins aren’t easily found on the streets so it’s better to eat outside a convenience store and throw your trash away there than walking on and eating and having no where to throw your trash.
8. Bring a Plastic Bag Out With You
As we’ve just mentioned, there are very few rubbish bins around, so bring a small plastic bag with you when you go out to use as a makeshift rubbish bin until you come across an actual one. For a list of other useful items you should bring around with you in Japan, click here.
9. Don’t Talk on the Phone on Public Transportation
Again, while it isn’t against the law, talking on your phone on public transportation is considered rude and inconsiderate. A majority of people in trains will remain silent, listening to music on their headphones, playing games on their smartphones, or reading a comic book. Very rarely will you find a group of people talking or someone in a conversation on the phone. Go with the status quo and try to be quiet on the trains.
10. Get a Train Card
Instead of having to line up at the ticket machines and then figuring out how much your commute will cost, get a PASMO or Suica at the airports. You put whatever amount of money you want on it, and then you simply tap it at the station and go. As you’ll likely be using the trains or buses a lot (it’s the main mode of transportation), this will save you a lot of time and hassle. We have a list here about other things you should prepare before coming to Japan.
11. Don’t Underestimate Japanese Punctuality
You’ll probably have heard that trains are so punctual in Japan that a train being just a minute late will make the news. While I can’t attest to the news part, it’s definitely true that trains are almost always on time. If Google Maps says your train departs at 00:52, it will depart at 00:52. Be on the platform on time!
12. Tell Japanese People What a Great Time You’re Having
It makes them really happy to know that someone enjoys their country. I’ve been thanked by Japanese people for just saying that I like Japan.
13. Learn a Little Bit of Japanese
Many people don’t speak English well in Japan, so it’d be good to learn simple and useful phrases such as “where is the train station” or “another beer, please”. It would endear you to the locals as well as they appreciate someone taking the time to learn their language.
14. Stay on the Left
When you’re walking on the streets or standing on the escalator, stay on the left. There are no signs on the sidewalks or on the escalators telling you where to walk or stand, it’s just an unspoken rule that you keep to if you don’t want to be bumping into people. In Osaka, they stay on the right.
15. Don’t Talk About Tokyo to People in Osaka
While we’re on the topic of Osaka, Osaka people are fiercely proud of their city and there’s a little bit of a rivalry between Osaka and Tokyo. While the rivalry is friendly, you may meet some people in Osaka who take it a lot more seriously. I’ve seen shirts sold in Osaka that say “F*ck Tokyo”, so when you’re in Osaka, it’s best to avoid talking about Tokyo lest they think you think Tokyo is superior. I’ve been told I have a strong Kanto accent (Tokyo’s region) when I speak Japanese, so I opt to not speak it at all when I’m there.
These are just a few tips to make your time in Japan go smoother! If you have any questions, or if you’re a resident here and you have more tips to share, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook messenger or on Instagram. We’d love to hear from you!
We are FLIP Guide, your local friends in Japan. We have explored every nook and cranny of Japan and have discovered many charming establishments full of personality that oftentimes are overlooked. Cannot wait to share these with you!
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