Things I wish I knew before My Japan trip.

A quick couple of tips from what we have learnt in our first week in Japan. *Please note that we are travelling around the start of March, winter is finishing up and spring is rounding the corner.*

  1. Simple phrases.

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, excuse me, sorry, thank you and Where is (insert place)? These have been our most used in our first week of travelling around Japan, all not essential since most of the time you can get your message across and people are happy to help in any way they can. Using the phone as a way to communicate has been nice, often pulling out the good-old google translate using the conversation button to assist. However, nothing brings more of a smile to the locals when you try and do your best to say hello and ask questions using Japanese. Plus learning a bit of a language always is a nice skill to have. Below I will add the translations and pronunciation.

  • Good morning: O ha yo(go zai mas).

  • Good afternoon: Kon ni chi wa.

  • Good evening: Kom ban wa.

  • Excuse me: su mi ma sen.

  • Sorry: go men na sai.

  • Thank you: a ri ga to.

  • Goodbye: sa yo na ra.

  • Where is (insert place or thing)?: (insert place or thing) wa do ko des ka?

(I recommend buying a little pocket phrase and translation book. see picture below)

2. Bring a decent rain jacket/coat.

Our first day walking around Sakura before we left Tokyo for Sapporo, it pissed down, absolutely bucketed down. Had we not packed them for our snow trip we would’ve been looking a lot like drowned rats. We both used Kathmandu 2-in-1, a shell and inner insulation, handy since for when it starts to get hotter as we move more away from winter into spring we can take out the inliner but still be on the dryer side using the shell. Of course, keep in mind we are travelling in winter and the start of spring when there is a bit more rain, this item can be omitted when travelling in summer.

3. Bring some decent walking shoes.

Like most countries, Japan has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and things to do, which usually means either getting some form of transport or if you want to take the more scenic (and cheaper) route, lots of walking. Which means to keep those feet happy you will need some comfortable shoes, and if you need them, some decent orthotics. Both I and my partner have been wearing our Under Armour sneakers, which have been great for the feat, lightweight and breathable… which also makes them not so waterproof. So far they have been holding up quite well otherwise.

4. Always have some cash, in notes and coins.

I was told many times by people who had been to Japan to always carry cash, I didn’t quite take it on board. Thinking “oh yeah, we should be able to use card most places.” We got caught out one night in Sapporo on a bus, we had no coins and one 10,000yen note, after spending our last couple of 1000 on dinner. The bus would only take 1000yen notes or coins luckily the driver let us off with a free fare. From then we have made sure to have enough cash. Order of things to do when you land in Japan: Go to the atm, use your notes, keep a fair amount of coins, buy something where you can store these said coins. You’ll be right after that.

5. For a cheap meal, 7/11 or other convenience stores.

You can get a decent feed for very little money. My girlfriend and I usually spend around 1500 yen ($19AUD) for a meal and a dessert each. The best part, its actually really decent Japanese food, well by Aussie standards. It’s always nice knowing that you can walk less than 10 minutes in any direction in any city and there will be a store with some goodies at any time of day. It has been a life-saver when we are pushing our daily budget.

6. Pretty much everything is bang on time.

This has been amazing, the bus rocks up when it says, and the train stops in the designated position on the platform at the designated time. No catching the wrong bus and getting lost. However, this has meant we have needed to be a bit more punctual (not always a bad thing), and we have had to run to make it a few times(not always fun).

I hope you have enjoyed reading a few of these tips, and hope they help you plan your own trip to Japan. If you have been to Japan, what are some of your tips that I’ve left off this list?

-Carlos

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