A cute chibi anime ninja girl in front of a japanese village

Travelling to Japan: What I Wish I Knew Before My Visit to Japan Part 1


Embarking on a journey to Japan is an exciting experience, but like any adventure, there are certain aspects that might take you by surprise. As a traveler, being aware of these nuances can make your trip smoother and more enjoyable. Here are some things I wish I had known before traveling to Japan:

1. The Elusive Trash Bins: One of the unexpected challenges for travelers is the scarcity of public trash bins. You’ll find that public areas often lack designated places to dispose of trash. To address this, carry a small plastic bag with you to collect your trash until you find a suitable place to dispose of it, such as at convenience stores, train stations or your hotel room. Despite the lack of trash bins, most parts of Japan are spotless.

2. The Early Dining Scene: While Japan is renowned for its culinary offerings, be prepared for the fact that many Japanese restaurants close early. Especially in smaller towns and suburban areas, restaurants tend to shut their doors earlier in the evening. This can be surprising, especially for those accustomed to late-night dining. Most restaurants that are still open after 6:00 PM are usually foreign and either Chinese, American or Indian restaurants.

3. Buses and Fare Payment: Navigating the bus system in Japan can be different from what you’re used to. Unlike many places where you pay upon entering the bus, in Japan, you pay when you exit. This unique approach can initially catch travelers off guard. Don’t think you can sneak past the bus driver without paying, they will remember who has paid and honk at you when you try to leave without paying.

4. Tipping Is Uncommon: Unlike some Western countries, tipping is not common in Japan. This can feel unfamiliar for travelers who are accustomed to leaving tips for service workers. Rest assured, however, that the service you receive is already of high quality, without the need for additional tips.

5. Clothing Conundrum: Western tourists might find that Japanese clothing sizes tend to be smaller. This can pose a challenge for travelers who wish to purchase clothing during their stay. Seek out stores that offer larger sizes, or opt for international chain stores if you’re looking for a more comfortable fit.

6. Trying On Clothes: Unlike in some countries where trying on clothes is encouraged, in Japan, it’s less common. This can make shopping for clothing a bit trickier, especially if you’re unsure about the fit. Be sure to double-check store policies before attempting to try on items. If they have a changing room, it is usually expected that you tell the employees that you want to try on a piece, and they will guide you to the changing room and usually remain there. When entering the changing rooms, it is common to take off your shoes.

7. Silence on Public Transport: Public transportation in Japan is a quiet affair. Eating and talking on trains and buses is generally considered impolite. Instead, embrace the opportunity to quietly observe your surroundings or read a book during your journey.

8. Cab Availability: While taxis are common in larger cities, you might find it challenging to hail a cab in smaller towns, suburbs, or rural areas. Planning alternative transportation options in advance can save you from unexpected transportation woes.

9. Unique Fortune Cookies: Don’t be surprised if fortune cookies in Japan offer a different experience than you’re accustomed to. Unlike their more positive Western counterparts, Japanese fortune cookies might include a mix of positive and negative fortunes, reflecting a different cultural perspective.

10. Tax-Exclusive Pricing: When shopping in Japan, you might notice that many prices are listed without taxes included. Keep this in mind to avoid any surprises at the cash register. The tax rate can vary, so be sure to factor it into your budget.

Embracing these cultural nuances and practical tips can enhance your experience while traveling in Japan. By being prepared for these differences, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the country with confidence and enjoy every moment of your journey.

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