A trip to Japan is something you won’t forget. This unique country can really give you some of the most exciting and incredible experience of your entire life and basically it really has it all; culture, fun, relax, delicious food and breathtaking nature places.
1. When to visit Japan?
Japan is a beautiful country made up of more than 6,800 islands and is home to many scenic places to visit all year round. The popular months to visit Japan are from March to May in spring and from September to November in autumn, but for those who love the winter months you can still enjoy Japan when the weather is sunny and dry. Temperatures rarely fall below zero, except in the central and northern areas.
No doubt the main spoken and written language in Japan is Japanese language, most Japanese are still able to understand English language. But due to their shy nature and fluency in English language, it is not surprising to be politely rejected by the Japanese on the street if you try to communicate with them in English. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases will definitely help in getting around the country!
3. Shrines and Temples
Shrines and Temples are considered a highly sacred place where traditions have been passed down from generations to generations. It is important to be mindful of your manners and etiquette. Following what the local does will be the safest options. However, below are some additional pointers that you should take note too.
- You might be required to take off your shoes, leave them at the door or carry them in the plastic bags with you when entering a temple.
- Photography might not be permitted inside the temple. So watch out for signs!
Eating out is very common in Japan. You will find amazing authentic eateries along the narrowest alley you could ever imagine. Unfortunately, there could be instances that you will be turned away at the door for being a foreigner. Do not get offended. It could be the following few reasons.
- Language barriers. The Japanese are afraid of making mistakes and in turn causes unhappiness or expectations not being met.
- Eateries might not be opened to any strangers. Yes, you didn’t hear us wrongly. There are restaurants that only welcome regulars, not even the native Japanese.
- Culture differences. The eateries afraid that foreigners misbehave themselves (or behaving in an uncivilized manner), which upset their regulars who are dining in the restaurant at the same time.
Even though Japan is a developed country, it is pretty much still a cash-based country. Stores and restaurants generally do not accept credit cards. This applies to McDonalds too. We are not saying that you should carry stacks of cash with you, but be prepared to draw cash from the ATMs every few other days. Oh, did we mention that you should carry a coin pouch too since 1 yen to 500 yen (SGD6) are all in coins.
6. Travelling around
Getting around Japan is relatively easy as this country is well connected but it really depends on the type of trip you want to do and which cities you are interested. The metro is the most convenient way to travel around a city (especially cities like Tokyo), or by bus (for example in Kyoto). If you are traveling between cities, we would recommend JR (Japan Rail) trains instead. The most common option for tourists is to rely on the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass is a season ticket for travelers to travel comfortably from one city to the other in Japan, saving on the high price of the train tickets.
Yes, Japan is definitely one of the safest country in the world! However, no matter how safe a country is, it is still advisable to be wary of your surroundings and take the usual precautions to safeguard your safety, especially at night or on public transport.
If you are someone who uses tattoo to express yourself, maybe you should hide your tattoos while you are travelling in Japan. Tattoos can be considered a taboo and associated with criminals, namely the Yakuza (Famous Japanese gangsters). FYI, you could be denied entry to the public bath area too.
Tipping is not required in Japan. In fact, it could be seen as a rude gesture by some. Japanese takes huge pride with what they do and hence they do not believe they need to be incentivize for doing a great job. Not to be surprised if the waiter starts chasing after you to return your yen.
10. Hygiene & In public
The Japanese takes a very serious view when it comes to personal hygiene. It is an impolite gesture to blow your nose in public (if it happens, try to apologize as much as you can, if you do not want to offend those around you). In fact, when the Japanese have a cold, they will wear a mask so as not to infect others. So if you see someone in Japan with masks, you know why!
When we travel in group, we tend to be a little more expressive and loud when we speak. This is a big No-No in Japan. Japanese are very particular to public disturbance even if you are on headphones, listening to your music loudly.
Japan is probably the politest country in the whole world. Embrace their culture and you will discover even more!