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General Tips & Advice

Arriving in Japan

Don’t take the subway with tons of luggage. Use a luggage forwarding system.
This is a huge mistake most foreigners make. You will never see another Japanese person dragging tons of giant luggage around. 

Not only will people literally want to kill you, there’s VERY very few handicapped access points so you may be dragging a giant suitcase literally for up to a mile underground. The Tokyo subway system is vast and cavernous and something that looks like an easy transfer on a map could be a 1km walk up and down stairs during rush hour.

Leaving the Airport

  • Taxis: Unless you’re rich or flying into Haneda Airport in Tokyo, do not take a taxi from the airport.
  • Bus (recommended): From Narita, you could take Limosine Bus directly to certain hotels and certain areas. From there you can easily grab a taxi.

    You can find the information here: https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

    Tickets can be bought at Narita right after you exit customs (they speak English.)

  • Train: Take the Narita Express to Shinagawa (or Tokyo station) and then take a taxi from there.

    Tickets can be bought at the station, go downstairs after exiting customs.

 

Using Money in Japan
Japan has traditionally been a cash-based society and never really got big into credit cards or bank-issued debit cards. These days, people use phones or things like Suica (originally a train pass) to pay. You can use credit cards in most (not all) taxis, hotels, and bigger restaurants and shops. But not in most smaller mom & pop places, ramen places, etc. If you appear like someone who might understand Japanese, they may ask you a question which is “how many installments do you want this broken up into?” Just hold up a finger for “one.” Otherwise, if you’re foreign, they’ll probably default to one.

As far as ATM go, many don’t take cards from banks in other parts of Japan, let alone international cards, and even if they do, a lot of ATMs and banks actually close at night. Your best bet to take out money is at the ATMs in 7-11, Citibank, or the Japan Post Office.

 
Taxi:
– Taxi drivers generally speak no English. Give them the address (in Japanese) and they can punch it into their GPS
– They open the door automatically for you. Do NOT slam the door, the little stick they push with their leg to open/close a door will smack them, painfully.
 
Etiquette:
– Eating/drinking while walking on the street is considered rude
– Blowing your nose towards people or worse, while you eat, is considered insanely disgusting
– If you go to an onsen/hot springs, you need to bring something to cover up your tattoos (if you have them)
– Do NOT tip. Don’t even try. They’ll chase after you with your money, at best. At worst, you’re insulting them by suggesting they need the money and they’re some kind of bum or something.
 
Places to Go:
If I was staying in Tokyo for 2-3 days (the most I’d personally spend there) and I was showing a newb around, I’d go to: Tokyo DisneySea, the Ghibli Museum, Shimokitazawa (like the Silver Lake of Tokyo, your hipsterness quotient may differ), Harajuku/Omotesando/Meiji Jingu
 
What I would really do is…Leave Tokyo, even for a day trip
– Going into the country side is as short as a 30 minute train ride. Hakone is an easy day trip with beautiful onsen. There’s also amazing onsen in Gunma. I would definitely recommend this.
 
If you’re super adventurous and/or have a lot of time, here’s my guide to West Japanhttp://www.tripadvisor.com/GoListDetail-i16929-Off_the_beaten_path_Japan_West_Japan.html
 
Kansai section:
Re: Kyoto / Osaka – There’s some beautiful hikes in Arashiyama (famous for the bamboo forest) that you can read about here,http://www.kyoto.travel/2009/11/hiking-course-1.html — I like the foot bath, it’s a fun way to do something traditionally Japanese without getting naked in front of strangers (but highly, highly recommend going to an onsen anyways). 
 
Kyoto is known for Temple exploring, there’s literally like a hundred temples lol. I would skip the Golden Pavillion which isn’t as interesting as the Silver Pavilion (but it’s way more gaudy. GOLD.) Heian-Jingu is particularly striking, and I would definitely not miss Kiyomizu Dera which will be beautiful with the red and gold leaves of autumn Japanese maples. Plus the walk up the hill is pretty cute. Fair warning, if you go on a weekend, GG you’re going to be crushed by tourists. Highly recommend keeping Kyoto for a weekday and Osaka/Tokyo for weekend.
 
Osaka, well, it’s a big drinking town… just wander around Dotonbori main street and side street (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/osaka/dotonbori.html) and you’ll be fine. It seems touristy, but it’s not really. If it’s baseball season too, you may get caught up in the excitement of Hanshin Tigers fans (if they win something) raging excitedly in the streets. There’s some really good ramen along that street too (I mean, it’s touristy ramen, but it’s still super good.)
 
My top cities in Japan to visit are (in order):
– Kyoto
– Osaka
– Kobe
– Fukuoka
– Tokyo
– Yokohama
 
Janelle’s Top List of Things to Do (in order)
1. Go to a traditional onsen (hot springs) – yes, you’re naked with strangers (of the same sex as you), but it’s an amazing experience. 
 
2. Stay at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn)
 
3. Eat a kaiseki meal (traditional Japanese 10+ course meal)
 
4. Attend a local festival 
 
5. Visit a shrine in the country side
 
 
Bon voyage XD