6 Very Important Tips for Travelers in Japan

First time in Japan? Don’t panic. From money tips to how to get around, here are 6 helpful tips from our local insider to help you have a smooth trip.


Travellers in Japan Photo © Martin Hong

1. What Not to Do in Japan

In Japan, before you enter someone’s house, step on tatami mats, or touch holy ground (temples and shrines), you must take off shoes. Wear easy slip on/off shoes and clean socks. In the bathroom, use the slippers provided and remember to take them off afterwards. 

When traveling on trains and other public transport, keep your phone on silent and avoid having long, loud conversations or you’ll get angry stares from the other passengers. 

Another great thing you need to know about Japan: no tipping!

2. Rules in Japan

Japanese society generally runs like clockwork because everyone (well, almost everyone) follows the rules. That includes you, gaijin (aka foreigner). 

Japan has a strict drug policy. Even some over the counter meds are banned, so check your nearest Japanese embassy for the latest guidelines.

3. Money Tips

Cash is definitely king in this part of the world, so stock up enough yen before you go. Don’t be afraid if your wallet starts bulging as carrying around a lot of cash in Japan is normal. 

Warning: if you plan on using your bank cards from back home, many Japanese ATMs won't accept them. However, if you’re really strapped for cash, head to 7/11 (open 24/7) or the Japanese Post Bank for international ATMs.

4. Getting a SIM Card in Japan

To avoid sky-high roaming rates and spotty free Wi-Fi, buy or rent a prepaid SIM in Japan

Be aware, these SIM cards are data-only and you need to have an unlocked phone. Order online with BMobile, pick up at the major airports or buy at electronic stores like Yodobashi Camera.

5. How to Budget For Japan

Traveling through Japan can get pretty expensive, but you can save a lot of money with a JR Rail Pass made just for visitors. Sign up before you arrive and get up to 21 days of unlimited travel on JR lines. 

Tip: keep your passport handy to show rail staff and download Hyperdia on your phone to get train times in English in real time. 

Looking for souvenirs that won’t break the bank? Japan’s ¥100 stores are to die for, with great quality items like bamboo chopsticks, summer fans and ceramic tea bowls.

6. Learn Some Important Japanese Phrases

The Japanese language is incredibly complicated with three writing systems. But don’t let that put you off from learning a few key survival phrases

If you need to interrupt someone to ask a question, or you stepped on someone’s foot in a crowded train, say “Sumimasen” (Excuse me). 

If someone does something nice for you, be sure to say, “Arigatou gozaimasu!" (Thank you). 

And if someone starts speaking to you in rapid-fire Japanese, just say, “Wakarimasen. Eigo de onegaishimasu.” (I don’t understand. English, please) and hope for the best!

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