I just returned from my trip to Japan. Okay, I lied. I got back 3 weeks ago. I’ve been wanting to talk about this for sometime but I have not had a time to put my pen to the paper or fingers to the keyboard, I guess. Unfortunately, the trip came to an end but I did come back to the US with a new perspective, great experiences, and wealth of knowledge. With this knowledge, I will help you enjoy/survive your upcoming trip to the motherland, Japan.
First thing I want to do before I tell you some great tips to save money and your sanity, is to tell you some things you should avoid doing while in Japan. You may read some of these things as common sense or have heard about them before, but these are things can make us look bad as foreigners or make someone angry. The last thing you want to do is piss off a Japanese person and ruin their perception of us foreigners.
1. Don’t Tip
In Japan, you do not tip. There is no tipping at all in Japan. When you really think about it, it does make sense. They don’t feel they need to be rewarded for excellent service, since this is what their service should always be. It will get to you after a while. They are super nice and helpful but you MUST resist temptation and pay the price on the receipt.
2. Which side do you use on the escalator
Okay. This may seem silly. If you are like me, from the states, you know no such system that requires you to be on a specific side of the escalator. I am going to say this once. Repeat this out loud to yourself so you do not make this mistake. Stand on left. Pass on the Right. Seriously. Japan is overpopulated and busy. The last thing you want to do is slow things down. This is specifically in Tokyo and Kyoto was the same way. Osaka is the opposite. In Osaka you stand on the right and pass on the left.
3. Cash is key
Do not come to Japan thinking you will be in Tokyo so it is okay for you to come with your debit card only. Japan is a cash country. You may find yourself in situations where they do not accept your card.
When we got to Japan we had already converted a ton of money before we got on our flight. I recommend not doing this. If you are going to though, be mindful that you will most likely take a hit with the conversion rates. I’d recommend taking money out at a 7 eleven in Japan or one of the ATMs in Akihabara. You will benefit much more this way. Thank me later.
Now, we can talk about some smaller tips that will save you a bunch of money. As you may know, the form of transportation that is primarily used in Japan is their train system. This is something that Japan is specifically known for. Whether it is how busy they are or how efficient they are to handle as many people as they do, Japan’s train system is world renowned. Now, what I am going to suggest is not everyone. This is mainly for someone like me who chose to go to different parts of Japan and also spent a bunch of time touring around Tokyo. If that sounds like your kind of trip, I recommend looking into purchasing a Japan Rail Pass, it was save you a ton of money. This pass will not only cover you for all the JR lines, the JR Pass will also cover some Bullet Trains aka Shinkansens.
There are many things I can share with you to be more prepared for Japan but half the fun is doing the research. I spent 2-3 hours a day getting information and even studying the language. To fully experience Japan, immersion is key! I know most people can’t be bothered to learn another language. I am not expecting you to but a the same time don’t expect everyone to know your language. You will be very superised how limited English is in Japan.
I spent 8 days in Tokyo, 5 days in Osaka and a day trip in Kyoto. Spent what was supposed to be two weeks on this trip and about 40+ hours traveling to Japan and coming back to the states. 100% worth it. If you are going to walk away with anything reading this, I would like it to be this: Japan is huge. Tokyo is huge. You will not be able to do everything. Don’t be like me and spend three days in Akihabara. Really dive into the history and culture of Japan. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and if you have gone to Japan and have more tips, list them in the comments below. I would love this to be a place where we can all help each other enjoy the motherland to its fullest.