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  • Writer's pictureczechit

Japan - First time visitors tips

Updated: Jan 24


Japan has always been very close to my heart and it has been a huge dream of mine for many many years. Finally I can check it off my bucket list.


However high expectations i built in my mind over the years, Japan exceeded majorly all of them. The whole country lives in 2300, while the rest of us are still stuck in 2023. Everything is thought through to the smallest details and everything makes perfect sense.




Here are some of my first time visitor tips for travelling to Japan:


Get JR pass


This is absolute MUST when you are planning your trip. Japan Rail pass is only for non-Japanese nationals and it allows you to travel without limits on JR transport, including Shinkansen, local trains, airport transport, sightseeing buses and ferries. I mean you are in Japan and you must try the bullet train.


I got mine here:




You can get 7, 14 or 21 days and you need to order it well ahead, I ordered mine 1 months in advance. I highly recommend to wait up the queue at the airport upon arrival and validate your JR pass there as you can use it for airport express trains too.

Other than that you can validate it on main stations in Tokyo, but queues are very long. We went to Tokyo station and waited roughly 90 minutes.


We bought 14 days pass for £264 and trust me it is absolutely worth it, you need it if you are planning to travel around. There is supposed be a significant to price increase from Autumn 2023.




Get e-sim card with data


Trust me you will need loads of data, although there is WiFi in most of the trains, you will need Google maps everywhere just to find out which train and where you need to take.


Google maps is the app I was using the most in Japan. You can get regular sim card at the airport, but queues are long and it is not cheap.


I discovered through my friend Airalo, which is e-sim card and you can choose either country or whole region (it is available globally), where you are going and data plan that exactly suits your need and also how long you need it for. We used it in Qatar to test it and then in Japan for the whole 2 weeks. I am not travelling without it anymore as it is super convenient, you don't have to go anywhere it is just there in your phone and you can top up based on your needs. This is must for all travellers.


Check it out here






Try different types of accommodation


Book your accommodation here:


We stayed in a city hotel, capsule hotel, traditional ryokan(guest house) with onsen (hot springs baths), hostel. All of them were special in their own way. Definitely try not to miss traditional guest house, ideally one with hot springs. That was the best experience for us.

In all types of accommodation you will get all necessities, slippers, robe or lounge wear.


We were overall happy with our accommodation choices, only thing you have to count with is that if you are on budget your room may be very tiny and if you are 183 cm tall basketball players, it will not be very comfortable.


We went for city hotel and capsule hotel in Tokyo, hostel in Kyoto, Guest house with onsen in Atami and 4* hotel in Osaka.













Here are the hotels we stayed in:



Tokyo







Atami


Kyoto




Osaka







When to go


Japanese maple tree

The timing is everything and this especially applies to travelling to Japan. It is very important to decide based on activities you wanna do.



Japan has four seasons, which are very different and in each one you can see different festivities and try seasonal food.


Spring is for cherry blossoms and mild weather, Summer is super warm and humid, so great for beach time or exploring the mountain areas and hydrangeas blooming (however i would avoid June as it is rainy season).


Autumn with its beautiful coloured maple trees. Winter for skiing and hot pots.


Sakura cherry blossom season tokyo ueno park

If you book your tickets well ahead prices will be almost same for the entire year, however when it comes to accommodation Cherry blossom season is the most expensive one.


You can book yours here:












Luggage


Japan is a paradise for shopaholics. First of all it has so many products, clothes, memorabilia, souvenirs, snacks you will want to bring home. Depends where you are from, but for me Japan was way cheaper than prices in London. I literally wanted to buy everything. Learn from my mistakes and do not overfill your luggage.


Convenience stores are the best, I never got over those snacks, the selection is huge and those flavours. We skipped one meal per day, just to have enough tummy space for snacks. My favourites: Kari kari ume, dried squid, Happy powder.




Food


Try as many different types of food and restaurants as possible. Japan is the power house when it comes to food. Don't worry about traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner and don't worry about your diet, the food is heavenly, YOLO.

kaiseki japanese course menu usami


Trust me food in Japan spoiled me for life, I don't think I will ever get over it.

Also when you are in Japan you can drink tap water everywhere, not only it is safe, tap water there is very soft and delicious.


This is my must tries in each city:


Tokyo - Sushi, Mochi, Ramen

Nagano - Hot pot

Atami - Kaiseki menu

Kyoto - Gyukatsu, Soba

Osaka - Takoyaki

Hiroshima - Okonomiyaki

Miyajima - Oysters

Kobe - Beef

Nara - Udon


Here is the list of food places we loved with links:


Kura Sushi $ - conveyor belt sushi with extensive menu (many locations all over Japan)

Hiyokeya $$ - Kaiseki course menu in Usami, located in beautiful traditional house

Ichiran $$ - Tonkotsu Ramen experience with many locations

Gyukatsu Kyoto $$ - Beef katsu restaurant

Takotakoking Osaka $ - Takoyaki restaurant and fun experience.








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