7 Things to Know About Japan Travel

Jessica Peterson

SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN, Tokyo, Japan

Japan is a country where cultural extremes intersect. While the Japanese are known for being at the forefront of innovation, this hasn’t altered their well-preserved tradition and rich Japanese culture. You might see bullet trains complemented by Zen gardens, or temples teeming with salarymen in suits. However, it is this unique combination that makes Japan a must-visit. It also happens to be one of the safest and cleanest countries in the world, making it ideal for solo traveling. So, what else should you know about the Land of the Rising Sun?

The Japanese are very helpful

Man painting at SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN, Tokyo, Japan

Despite the language barrier, people will go out of their way to lend a hand — even if it means having to walk you in the right direction, drawing up a map for you, or approaching you themselves when they recognize the universal look of confusion on your face. So if you need something, don’t be intimidated and just ask.

Everyone is respectful

Japanese people have commendable manners and discipline. You’ll see everyone bowing to each other as a sign of respect, and will probably be bowed at yourself. And despite the booming tourism scene, you will almost never have to plow through elbows. In Japan, people never invade anyone else’s personal area with rude shoving. Make sure you return the favor and be respectful wherever you go. Try to learn basic phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in Japanese to help get by. Remember that you’re a visitor in someone else’s home — act accordingly, and leave the “entitled tourist” attitude at the door.

Being alone is normal

Girl in pavilion at SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN, Tokyo, Japan

There are some cities where it isn’t recommended for women to go around alone. Tourist places such as Paris and Mumbai are fraught with pickpockets and men who have the tendency to stare, or worse. Fortunately, Japan ranks as one of the safest cities in the world for women and solo travelers alike.

On the trains, you’ll even notice young girls on their way to school alone, or fellow women walking the streets solo. While you still have to be careful, you don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder in fear when making your way around.

There are plenty of accommodations options

Tokyo tower streets

Because of expensive hotels, Airbnbs became very popular in Japan. However, Bloomberg reports that a new home-sharing regulation law caused listings to cut down significantly. Keep this in mind so you can look for other options, like hostels. Japan has some of the cleanest and most pleasant shared room experiences. There are even all-female lodgings available, with common rooms that provide a great way for you to meet fellow travelers.

For extra experience points, you could also try a few nights at the popular capsule hotels — that is, if you aren’t claustrophobic.

The weather can get crazy

fog on mountains in japan

February is usually the coldest, and it’s also the most populated with end-of-winter clearance sales.

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Meanwhile, spring is peak season due to the iconic cherry blossom trees. If you’re looking to catch a glimpse, be prepared to shell out more for flights and hotels.

On the other hand, summer during July and August is when many events happen — from grand music festivals to traditional dance celebrations. However, weather can get unpredictable this time of the year, alternating from rainy to scorching hot.

Lastly, you can also opt to visit during autumn, as Japan becomes bathed in rich hues of yellows and oranges. The weather is great for walking around: not too hot nor too cold.

Ready your smartphone

Shibuya buildings, Tokyo

While most convenience stores and cafés have free Wi-Fi, it isn’t practical to leech off of them when trying to get around. The tourist choice is data SIM cards or a pocket Wi-Fi, which can be purchased at the airport but are cheaper at electronic stores like Yodobashi Camera.

It’s easy to get around

Crowded Tokyo Metro train

Japan has a world-renowned railway system that prides itself on being extremely efficient. This makes it easy to get to places, but like we mentioned before, there may not be many English translations available — hence the importance of having your internet-equipped smartphone. Moreover, forget cabs as they are notoriously expensive.

But of course, the best way to experience the rich culture is on foot, as there are countless layers to unravel at every corner. This merging of cultural extremes is distinctly Japan, and it has been ingrained in global mainstream pop culture through a variety of ways.

This intersection of Japanese and American culture is evident in old classics like Transformers, Power Rangers, and many more. Even the influence of video games like Tamagotchi have helped push the boundaries of international media. Digital provider Slingo also features aspects of this colorful culture in titles such as Samurai Ken and Hanzo’s Dojo. These games bridge traditional elements of Japanese martial arts and culture with modern gameplay and graphics, which helps people around the globe engage with Japanese culture and tradition. However, despite these many pop culture appearances focusing on Japanese culture, there’s absolutely no substitute for the real thing. Seeing Japan in the flesh is a fulfilling experience that tends to stay with tourists-turned-friends, even long after they leave.

Do you have any other tips for traveling to Japan?

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island.
Jessica Peterson
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