I had always had a huge dream of travelling to Japan and getting immersed in the culture. So, when I got to know we were travelling to Japan, I literally wanted to scream from our building’s rooftop with excitement. If you are anything like me, you’d just be as thrilled.
I have planned countless trips and prepared for a multitude of them, but none of those was like my preparation for japan, especially due to the adrenaline that was pumping in my entire body. I had an endless bucket list to explore the land of the rising sun and was swamped with ideas that hindered me with where to begin.
If you are also overwhelmed with your preparation, I already have an experience that has enough lessons for you to learn from. Here, I present you with some efficient preparation and travelling essential tips for a trip to Japan.
Preparing for your trip to Japan
The key to having a successful and enjoyable trip in Japan is to be prepared beforehand. And here is everything you need for the perfect preparation.
1. Get a pocket WIFI or 4G sim
It’s not that Japan doesn’t have free WIFI, a lot of restaurants and hotels have that, but it is still better to keep your own with you.
You are guaranteed to need to stay in touch with the family or use the GPS to get directions without worrying about the data roaming charges. So what’s best is to book your pocket wifi in advance in Japan, and you’ll be able to pick up and drop it off at the airport you choose.
2. JR Rail Pass isn’t a necessity
Just because some tourists are buying it doesn’t mean you need it too. While it is common disbelief about it being an absolute necessity for tourists, it simply depends upon your need. You just need to prioritize if you need to save time or money.
Bonus tip: The best thing according to experience is to calculate all the bullet train journeys you wish to take, then think about the number of days you wish to spend in each city, then consider if the pass is valuable for you or not. If you are visiting about one or two cities, it’s not worth it. Just compare the cost of the ticket and the rail pass and decide on which is efficient.
3. Be careful with the season
When it comes to choosing places to travel with family, Japan is one of the best. Still, you have got to be careful with the season you choose to go in. although the choice completely depends on your personal preferences and interests, if you are not a crowd person, August and September is the best time.
If you are not planning to ski and want to explore the cities, then the winter season would serve you best. Also, there is a high likelihood of seeing mount Fuji. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the stunning cherry blossoms, visit in spring and summers are all about typhoons, humidity and heat. Although the crowds are much less, you’d probably want to avoid them.
4. Hire a local guide
If you’re travelling with kids, you’ll probably want to consider hiring the expertise of a local guide. But, no matter how much of a travelling freak you are, you quit being your own guide once you have to tend to your kids’ needs every five minutes.
And honestly, a local guide in japan can add up to the value of your itinerary as they share lots of insider secrets and help you understand the culture in depth. In addition, they are very amicable and knowledgeable, and being good with the kids; I’d call them the best.
Bonus tip: If you are perplexed about how much do you tip a tour guide, my article can help you with that immensely.
5. What to pack
Make sure to learn appropriately about the temperature change in Japan to be able to pack your clothes accordingly. If you plan to see Mount Fuji or go hiking, pack the accurate footwear for that. Other than the clothing, keep a neck pillow with you as your flight to Japan is going to be a long haul, and you wouldn’t want a cramped neck upon your landing.
Accurate power adapters and charging equipment is another necessity you must pack as you’re going to be out most of the day, and you need your phones and camera charged fully. Here are some dos and don’ts while packing luggage to make it more efficient.
Bonus tip: The tourists are required to keep their passports with them at all times. We used to keep a photocopy of the identification page and the one stamped by Japanese immigration at the hotel as a backup. It’s helpful, so make sure to do that!
6. Don’t miss out on the food
Being a Japanese food fan already, it was hard for me to resist any famous dishes there. Trust me, eating there is a wonder on its own. The massive number of restaurants, the incredible customer service, and the terrific quality of food is going to leave you stunned.
When travelling with family, the first thing I have to check is the hygiene, and I don’t even have words to explain their cleanliness, so they won my heart all out. Here is an exclusive list of food that you must try:
- Japanese curry- a delicious must-have
- Gyozas- if you have already had them in pork, try in shrimp this time
- Ramen- my son’s favourite noodles with the toppings of seaweed, menma, and green onions.
- Sushi- you can’t miss out on sushi in Japan.
- Okonomiyaki- if you have seen the fluffy, savoury pancakes in the picture, this is it. And they are just as amazing as they look.
- Tempura- whether you like seafood or deep-fried vegetable, you won’t be able to stop.
- Udon- thick wheat noodles served with hot noodle soup is not to be missed out on.
7. Tipping in japan
We are all accustomed to tipping after good food to the restaurant or after exceptional customer service but do not tip in Japan. The culture of Japan is enrooted in dignity, respect, and hard work. Good customer service is considered a standard, and so, tips are not customary.
In fact, most Japanese restaurants require you to pay at the front register and not leave it at your table for the waiter to collect. An exception for tipping is if you have taken a tour or have been given special service. But, even in that case, hand them over a few bills and get on your way. This is an essential tips for the trip to Japan
Tip: To ask for the bill, just make an “X” sign with your index fingers, and you’ll be attended.
8. Get your tickets to all the activities in advance
Always pre-purchase your tickets to the special events so that you don’t miss them out at the last minute. The Japanese culture is unique, and indulging in activities like the traditional tea ceremony, cooking classes and visiting the theme parks are a must-do. Here are some events that you’d want to pre-book:
- The Robot Restaurant, Tokyo
- Sumo Wrestling Tournament, Tokyo
- Tokyo SkyTree
- Hidden Bar Hopping Tour, Tokyo
- Studio Ghibli, Tokyo
- Tokyo Disney and DisneySea
- Legoland, Nagoya
- Universal Studios, Osaka
- Sagano Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
- The mouth of hell at Mount Osorezan
Being polite is the foundation of their society, and the way to exhibit that is by bowing. Well, my children started practising bowing right from the start of the finalizing of the trip. Unfortunately, the emotions got mixed up when they realized there were different types of bowing.
- 30-degree bow
- 70-degree bow
- 90-degree bow
The first two are quick bows, but the last is a long one for the higher authorities or the company’s CEO.
10. Customs and etiquettes
When travelling with kids, it’s important to make them aware and adapt to all the customs of the place they are travelling to. Being the uniquely fascinating culture that japan has, I familiarized my kids with all important customs. There are certain things that you might normally do but are a strict no in Japan:
- Smoking in the streets except for the designated areas
- Eating in streets
- Refusing or saying no rudely
- Speaking loudly in public, even in transportations
- Entering the house with shoes on
- Pointing at things and people
- Breaking the queues
- Blowing your nose in public
- Pouring soy sauce on rice
- Taking pictures of people
Japan is a country full of love, politeness, and sophistication. Travelling with kids here can be a vacation where they learn several amazing norms, which I tried inculcating in them. For example, I love how my elder son is against engaging in loud conversations even though we are back from Japan.
And it’s not only kids; you’ll come back learning a great deal as well. To make this trip convenient for you, I have mentioned all the essential tips for a trip to Japan to make it amusing and comfortable.