Browse our ultimate guide to things to know before visiting Japan.
A trip to Japan is usually a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people. This is why you need to gather as much information as possible because there is a lot to know! From public transport and itinerary to budget and popular tourist attractions, there are basics that will only make your trip better. So browse our ultimate guide to things to know before visiting Japan.
When to visit
Even though most countries are busiest in the summer, things are quite different in Japan. In fact, we suggest choosing the months of March to May and September to November. The country is at its most vibrant in spring and autumn, as this is when the landscape is painted in white cherry blossoms and the bright red of autumn leaves.
The lovely setting is what attracts people during these times, so be prepared for large crowds and tourists. However, November is actually the cheapest month to visit Japan!
Always have cash
Another unusual but essential thing to know before visiting Japan is their cash and card policy. Workers are usually paid in cash, and most businesses and services prefer and sometimes only accept cash. While there are definitely places that will accept your card, make sure you have enough yen depending on your budget and their prices.
We suggest taking care of this before your trip to get the best currency balance, but if you run out, head to the 7-Eleven ATMs while you’re there, as they’re open 24/7. 7.
Public transport is the best
Public transport, especially trains in japanis exceptionally well developed, so it is undoubtedly the best choice for visitors.
One thing that is exceptionally important is the Japan Rail Pass. The pass saves you a lot of money on your travels, especially if you plan to explore many different cities and regions during your trip. In addition, it gives you access to the Shinkansena high-speed train network and undoubtedly the most popular option with tourists.
The Japan Railway pass also gives you easy access to JR-branded commuter trains, buses and ferries. We cannot stress this enough: the pass can save you up to double the price you would have paid if you had bought tickets just before boarding!
Keep in mind that the pass is valid for a certain period of days, depending on the length of your visit. This can be a 7, 14 or 21 day allowance, so check your itinerary! Also, although it can only be activated once you have entered Japan, you must purchase the Railway Pass before you travel!
Visit all major cities using the railway – there are options for Nagoya to Yokohama, Sapporo to Kobe, Train from Tokyo to Osakaand many others !
learn to say something
Although Japanese sounds and sounds extremely difficult for first-time visitors, you still need to make an effort to learn a few key phrases.
Etiquette is very important to Japanese people, so you need to know how to say hello, please and thank you. It will help you with basic services and make you seem much less ignorant compared to tourists who don’t bother to research the necessary mannerisms and expressions. You’ll also be rewarded with a smile if you even try!
While the language situation in Japan is not that bad, they are not known to be a very English-speaking country, so preparations are necessary for your own comfort.
Besides the subtleties, we also suggest looking up and trying to say other important phrases, such as asking for directions, exits, prices, etc. Spell it phonetically if needed!
Tattoos are taboo
Although it sounds a bit archaic, tattoos in Japan are considered bad manners and more importantly they are associated with the Japanese mafia – the Yakuza. However, since there’s really nothing you can do about it other than wear long-sleeved clothes, you should still be prepared to be quizzed about having them in certain places.
This is especially important if you plan to visit hot springs or resorts which are very popular tourist destinations in the country. Then they are more likely than not to ask if you have any tattoos before entering. As sad as it may be, be prepared to be denied access.
Do not tip in restaurants
That probably sounds a little weird, right? Well, in Japanese etiquette, it is practically forbidden to tip waiters after eating. Servers and restaurant staff receive full pay, including service tips, so they don’t expect you to leave anything behind after a meal. In fact, they are more than likely to come after you and demand that you get the money back.
While this isn’t considered offensive and the Japanese are pretty used to tourists not knowing this information, there’s no way waiters will accept tipping, so don’t feel guilty. That’s just how it works!
Surgical masks are usual
After COVID-19, the world was already used to surgical masks, but they were commonplace in Japan even before everything went down.
The Japanese don’t wear them so they don’t get sick or something. They just put one on when they’re not feeling well and want to prevent even the most basic flu germs from spreading. Masks are treated as a common sight there, so don’t feel unsafe when you see people in the streets with their faces covered. The Japanese also wear them to avoid exposure to pollen!
Here are the main things to know before visiting Japan. Some of them may seem very unusual to you, but this is only their reality and proof of a very particular culture. That being said, you will need to do your research thoroughly before you go – this is not a trip you can spontaneously plan. Besides that, have fun!