words Alexa Wang
Japan is extremely popular with foreign tourists, and for good reason. It is a fascinating country with a rich, ancient culture. Its traditions can be very different from those in the Western world, which can be thrilling for visitors but sometimes overwhelming as well.
Most visitors to Japan mention the language barrier as a particular challenge since it involves characters representing whole words rather than the Latin alphabet used in English and many European languages.
However, if you are persistent and resourceful, there are ways to overcome the challenges. Here are some tips that can help make your Japan trip easier and more rewarding.
1. Decide How To Get There
Since Japan consists of several different islands, there are essentially two ways of getting there: By sea or by air. Some people take a Japan cruise and go by sea, while many prefer to fly. People who have traveled to Japan on both domestic and internationally run airlines report that the latter are much more comfortable. Not only that, but the entertainment options include documentaries on Japan that can help you educate yourself on the way there.
For people traveling to Tokyo, it is much more convenient to fly into Haneda Airport than Narita because it is closer and the transportation is much cheaper. If you have the option, which does not always happen, you should choose Haneda.
2. Find English Speakers
If you need assistance during your trip, which you probably will from time to time, and you do not speak Japanese, you should try to find someone who speaks English. You are most likely to find helpful people who speak good English at places like tourist attractions, airports, and train stations.
Learning some Japanese beforehand is helpful but not always possible. If you only learn one phrase in Japanese, it should be “do you speak English?” Bear in mind that Japanese people who speak English may disparage their ability, so be politely persistent even if someone tells you that they only speak a little. Chances are that it’s enough.
3. Figure Out How To Get Around
Japan has extensive public transit systems in the form of trains and subways. If you’re spending most of your trip in Tokyo, you can pay subway fares on a trip-by-trip basis. The electronic ticket machines that sell them have menus in English so they are easy to use, and fares are very cheap.
However, if you’re going to be traveling outside of Tokyo, you can purchase a Japan Rail Pass for $250 that allows you to access any train line in the country for one week.
4. Plan Finances
Compared to the United States, where virtually every vendor takes a credit card, Japan is a cash-based society. This can create a problem when traveling because it can be dangerous to carry a lot of cash on you, and yet ATMs can be difficult to locate. You are most likely to find an ATM at a post office or a convenience store, so it may be a good idea to locate one of these nearby before you need to withdraw more funds. If possible, use a card that does not charge any fees for cash withdrawals or foreign transactions.
5. Take Advantage of Convenience Stores
Establishments like 7-11 are good for much more than just ATMs. They offer an extensive selection of reasonably priced hot food as well as other necessities such as underwear and phone chargers. You will find the staff to be determinedly friendly and helpful.
6. Keep Clean
In 1995, there was a terrorist attack that involved leaving explosives in public trash cans. Since that time, many public spaces have done away with them. You may therefore have trouble finding one, so you should carry a plastic bag with you. You should also bring along hand sanitizer as many public restrooms do not provide soap. Buy this at a convenience store when you arrive as you may not be able to take it on the plane ride over.
Try not to depend too much on convenience stores and other Western conventions. It would be a shame to miss out on the experience of authentic Japanese culture.