Many people believe Japan is one of the world's most expensive countries to travel. But it's actually often cheaper to travel in Japan than it is to see North America, Western Europe, and parts of Oceania.
Others think that Japan is impenetrable or too difficult to get around and communicate. The reality is, with incredible train networks connecting cities and advanced technology all around, Japan is one of the easiest countries to explore.
On weekends, hostels and hotels in Tokyo fill up. If you're the type of traveler who waits until the last minute to make reservations, that might backfire if you're traveling in Tokyo. The backup? Capsule hotels are everywhere, and usually have capsules available at the last minute. But it's best to plan ahead to ensure you get the accommodation you want.
Despite all the technology in Japan, accessing money via ATMs can cause grief for travelers. If you ever get stuck without having Japanese Yen on you, head into any 7/11 and your card is almost definitely guaranteed to work.
ATMS are almost as common as vending machines in Japan. Unfortunately, most of these do not accept foreign-issued cards. Even if they display Visa and MasterCard logos, most accept only Japan-issued versions of these cards. Be sure to plan your spending money carefully so you don't end up dead broke in the middle of your stay.
Cats, hedgehogs, penguins, lizards, and owls are the subject of many cafes around Tokyo. But, just how animal-friendly are these businesses? Animal cafes popped up because most residential homes or appartments in Tokyo are tiny and not suitable for pets. So, what better way to get your fix of cuddles than in a cafe that has all the furry friends you could ever want?
Well, the downside to these cafes is that there have been allegations that dodgy practices are taking place, including overcrowding, minimal veterinary care, and confining these animals to environments that just aren't natural – an owl, inside a cafe? Seriously?
Owl cafes are among the worst offenders, and animal rights groups have spoken out against them.
Before you visit an animal cafe, do your research to make sure the owners are doing everything they can to take good care of their pets, and if you do go to a dodgy one, report it.
Names of locations in Japan are often only in Japanese, and addresses can read chaotic to travelers. Download an offline map while you have internet connection, and use this to help navigate to places that are difficult to find.
In the case that your phone battery dies while you're out, it's really handy to keep a paper map with you, and mark where your accommodation is so you can navigate your way back safely. If you get lost, point to the location on the map and perhaps a local might be able to draw directions on the map for you. On that note, keep a pen handy, too.
Whether they are minor or major, approximately 1,500 earthquakes hit Japan each year. If you're unlucky enough to experience a bad one, crouch under a piece of sturdy furniture. It's a myth that door frames are a safe place to be, as these are no longer built like they were in the early years of construction. Hiding beneath a bed is a great place for protection, but if debris falls all around you, it may be difficult for rescue teams to find you. If you are trapped, save your energy and wait to hear someone approaching – yelling out while nobody is around will just waste your voice.
Tip: medical treatment is expensive in Japan, and payment for doctors visits and hospital admission is required in advance. It's important that you purchase a good travel insurance policy before you go, and read the policy wording carefully to make sure you're adequately covered.
Our podcast producer, Kim Napier, says she wishes she'd known there aren't many rubbish bins on the streets of Japan. She spent most of her time in Tokyo carrying empty drink containers because they had to search hard for bins. Kim's advice is to carry a daypack, where you can specifically keep your rubbish and dispose of it properly when you get the chance.
Bins are strategically placed, so ask your accommodation or a local if they can tell you where to find bins. "Trouble is, even when you ask a local where the bin is, you've got to walk ages to find one. They may say 'the park', but that could be blocks away or 'the train station' but bins aren't always there."
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