Japan for the first time… Quick Guide!

ひさしぶりです!!

It’s been a while!

Happy to announce my best friend will be visiting me in less than a week in Japan. Crazy to think about the two worlds colliding, as this will be the first time someone comes to visit me! Sometimes people act as though you are dead and they’ll never see you again — actually guys — I’m just 14 hours away, and this visit will prove it! Hah.

It will be an exciting week, with trips to Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe and Yamanshi! She will even stay at my home in Chiba for a few nights. I plan to grab some conveyor-belt sushi to kick off her time in JP!

I wanted to make a short guide to packing, language and culture for her and for anyone who wants to visit! I have to reiterate that I am no expert at Japan, but I can give some insight where I think it might help. (Anyone with more experience, please feel free to add your own ideas! In fact, it’s encouraged ^_^ ) ありがとう!

Packing

These are just general guidelines for spring.

  • Camera / can always use your phone as a camera
  • Extra small backpack / bag – This will be very useful for carrying things around after unloading baggage at the hostel/hotel. I usually carry a backpack around with me.
  • Passport holder
  • **Photo copies of your passport / ID** — I sound like a MOM, but this is super important. DO NOT forget to do this.
  • Enough cash, plus a little extra – You will exchange this into Japanese Yen. To be honest, I don’t easily know where to exchange cash besides at the air port. So yes, I would bring a huge chunk of change and exchange it all at the air port. A lot of hostels only accept cash (Japanese Yen) anyways. American dollar is about 1.20 to 1 right now, which is amazing for Americans.
  • Rain jacket/ pancho / rain-resistant jacket
  • 2-pronged outlet adaptor
  • Shoes – Walking shoes, nicer shoes (light weight)
  • Clothes – Dress as you work for unpredictable spring weather. Bring some layers so you can take them off or put them on throughout the day. Long-sleeved shirts and leggings, light-weight sweatshirt, fleece, etc
  • Scarf/hat – Just in case
  • Travel toiletries – obviously
  • Headache medicine, general stuff is fine.
  • Entertainment stuff – Bring whatever music/headphones. Bring a small note book and some pens to write stuff down, just in case. It might be smart to bring a portable phone charger. I have one. Everyone has one here, for when you are traveling daily. You can buy them in the USA, or here. Whenever I go out, I usually carry one around. Though, you will be using your phone less, so it may not be necessary.
  • Medications – If you need to bring any medications, check to ensure they are allowed in Japan.
  • Omiyage – You can bring a small gift/souvenir that represents where you are from to give to Japanese people.
Remember! You'll be lugging every thing around with you, so pack strategically!

Convenient store

When I first was coming to Japan, my friend who was already there told me that you can get a good and cheap meal at the Konbini (convenient store). Thinking of American ones, I thought he was a crazy person. However, the Konbini does have decent meals you can pick up at basically any time. Sushi, desserts, bread, sometimes fruit, meat buns, you name it. They also have a big variety of drinks: alcohol (beer, wine, Japanese sake, etc), Juice, coffee, tea, sports drinks, and I’m sure much more. The food is pretty decent. After eating it for a few months, it’s not that great to me anymore, but it’s still way better than in America. And to first-timers, it’s great.

You can also buy stuff you forgot or need a long the way. Toiletries, hair stuff, note pads, pens, make up remover, lots of things.

Culture

First let’s just put this out there: Please do not try to understand too hard why something is the way it is in Japan. You will hurt your brain. A lot will be different and discovering it is half the fun! In general, I’ve always found Japanese people to be extremely welcoming and helpful, even if you do not speak Japanese. A lot of people do speak English in the airport and in Tokyo, but it’s nice to throw in Japanese where and when you can. A good gesture, I think.

On the train, and generally in public, people are more reserved and keep to themselves. Night life is different, but generally, this is the way it is. I try to avoid being loud on trains, etc. or wherever.

WIFI

Wifi is god-awfully confusing in Japan. A network will show up on your phone, and you’ll think you have found some free wifi, but this is a mirage! It almost never works. I’ve heard tales of wifi hotspots, but it’s a toss up. There seems to be really limited areas and ranges for it anyways. There is wifi in Narita Airport that should work OK.

Trains

The signs are in English and in Japanese, so you’ll be able to read them with ease. Also, download the app “Hyperdia” – free for one month – to be able to quickly and easily look up train times.

Train times are almost always on time, and they move fast. Don’t be late for your train transfer — Pay attention! In the bigger cities, however, there is usually a nest train a few minutes later, so it’s not a big deal. In the country side, however, if you miss a train, it could be up to an hour or two until the next one.

Generally, don’t drink or eat a lot on the train. It’s not a strict rule. Just something to keep in mind. Eating/drinking on Shinkansen/express trains is totally fine. Even alcohol = OK 🙂

Karaoke

…is not like American karaoke… it’s better! You get your own room with your group to sing and choose songs. You can get all-you-can-drink specials while you are singing and order food, too. There are plenty of English songs to choose from! Depending on what you do and where you do it, it’s maybe $15-30 for 2-3 hours.

Toilets

Are fun. You either will encounter a squat toilet or a western toilet. The western ones will be high-tech or not high tech. Generally, you’ll figure it out. But, the squat toilets… are still a bit tricky. Usually, there is a western-style toilet in bathrooms, but sometimes not. Then you just have to get down and dirty with it.. hahaha… sigh. Check out the link for a guide on how to use them.

Words

Here are a few essentials to know and practice! You can also download some apps to look up words. Google Translate kind of sucks… but I hear “Imiwa?” is a good one.

Konnichiwa (Ko-n-ni-chi-wa) = Hello.

Konbanwa (Ko-n-ban-wa) = Good evening.

Sumimasen (sue-me-ma-sen) = Excuse me/sorry.

You will say this daily. Please remember it. Useful for when you make a mistake (which will be a lot haha) or bump into someone, etc.

Arigatou – (ah-ree-gah-toe) – Thank you.

Daijyoubu desu – Die-joe-boo  deh-su  = “It’s OK! or I’m OK”  or you can say it at a convenience store as in “No thanks, I’m OK.”

Watashi wa ___________ desu (wah-tah-she-wa   ______ deh-su) = I am _(your name here)____. (When introducing yourself…)

You’ll be in Japan, so it’s going to be AMAZING!

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