We recently concluded our first trip to Japan and it’s also our longest trip so far. Our vacation in Japan lasted for seventeen days.
Admittedly, we couldn’t confidently say that our trip was 100% time and cost-efficient, and that’s why we want to share some of the tips, we believed, did work for us and the tips we hope we already knew prior to visiting Japan.
We had so much fun but the trip wouldn’t be much of an adventure if we didn’t encounter minor hiccups. But let not those hiccups accumulate, or you may find yourself in a situation when the word fun becomes “‘nuf!”
Here are our top nine tips:
1. Find accommodation in strategic locations – Agoda, Airbnb, and Booking.com were handy in helping us find good-to-great accommodation at a reasonable price right at the center of the city. For instance, we found a good apartment in Shibuya that only cost us $50 a night (for two persons). From time to time, said booking sites also offer discounts, too.
2. Food can be cheap – Food in Japan is reasonably-priced. But if you really need to save money during the trip, you can buy bento boxes at train stations or convenience stores. Trust us when we say that their bento boxes are better than most local restaurants here in the Philippines claiming to offer Japanese food. Their street food is also to die for.
3. Wear your most comfortable footwear – Although their train and subway systems can easily bring you to the country’s top destinations, you’ll still be doing a lot of walking. When we say a lot, we really meant A LOT. Our phones’ pedometers were at an all-time high during the whole trip. You can always opt to take a cab but that would mean more expense on your side.
4. Think twice before getting Rail Passes – It all depends on the length of your stay and the number of prefectures you’ll visit. If you’d be staying for a prolonged period of time and you’ll be taking the Shinkansen for three times or more, then we advise that you get their Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The JR Pass has to be bought outside Japan, too. There are day passes per prefecture or city as well that you can buy. But before you purchase any, estimate your daily transportation expenses first and check if getting rail passes will save, or cost, you more money.
5. Ask questions, always – If you are uncertain of what to do or where to go, then look for the nearest train station and ask the station’s staff. Most of them can speak English and can easily guide you on what to do. In places away from the city, communication may prove quite difficult, so always be ready to use translation apps. It would be nice to know basic Nihongo, too.
6. Rent a Pocket WiFi – Internet will be your best resource to finding helpful information. For instance, with the help of FlytPack WiFi, we were able to easily discover one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo. It was easy to navigate the country with online maps, too. It will also save you from paying ultra-expensive roaming charges and on top of all, you can post updates on social media real-time!
7. Bring enough cash – Although this goes without saying, some would still argue that they have credit cards to use anyway. However, those credit cards won’t even let you get a seat in Ichiran Ramen, let you enjoy kakigori, or other snacks. Train ticket stations only accept cash as well. The ideal daily budget per person is $40 – $60 depending on your daily itinerary and food cravings, and of course, that excludes shopping.
8. Shop wisely – It is no secret that Japan is one of the world’s shopping meccas. With so many international and local brands available, it is really difficult to control one’s spendings. However, take note that knowing what you want to buy and where to buy them makes a lot of difference in savings. For gadgets, go to Yodobashi; for anime items, go to Akihabara; and the list continues. Always bring your passport with you to enjoy shops’ tax-free offerings. (Read: Best places to shop in Tokyo)
9. Check the weather – You may have a carefully-planned itinerary but the weather may not necessarily conspire with you. If you are to visit places like Mt. Fuji, flower parks, and other natural parks, make sure that the weather is considerably fine. Otherwise, you may be at risk of not enjoying the place at all.
We hope these tips can help you get through and enjoy your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun! More Japan blog posts and helpful tips, soon!