10 Tips You Should Know before Visiting Japan

After all our posts on Japan throughout March, are you already itching to visit the country, see all the sights and jump into the experiences yourself? Well don’t hop on that plane just yet. Make sure you read this article first! 🙂

Here are the 10 tips you should know before visiting Japan:

1. Important websites: Hyperpedia and Japan-Guide

If you are gonna travel by rail most of the time, www.hyperdia.com will be your lifesaver! It is the best website to check your rail timings. Across Japan! All the schedules published on this website are updated in real-time. Should there be a disruption of service, it will also be announced and it will even advise you to take the next best alternative route.

Japan Guide is another super useful website with a lot of information on travelling in Japan, such as food, culture, accommodations, attractions etc.

2. Get a Japan Rail Pass

This pass, which is only available for foreigners, allows you to travel anywhere by rail (and selected JR buses) in Japan using the JR Rail services (except the Nozomi and Mizuho lines).

So who should buy the JR Pass? If you…

  • want to travel the whole of Japan
  • are traveling for 7, 14 or 21 days
  • need nationwide shinkansen bullet train travel
  • want to use all non-bullet JR trains
  • want to use the Hiroshima-Miyajima ferry
  • don’t need the Nozomi or Mizuho class ‘commuter’ bullet trains
  • are looking for the best value Japan Rail Pass

Then you should get this JR Pass! 🙂 Of course there will be instances where you would have to take other modes of transportation like the local metros and buses in cities like Tokyo etc – and these are not covered by the JR pass.

A 14-day pass costs around SGD 516. You can check the complete JR Rail Pass prices on this site. One of our contributors Joo Fei actually calculated how much it would have cost him for all his rides without the JR Pass and it came to JPY 63,910 (~SGD 731.54)!! *jaw dropped* So thanks to the pass, he managed to save SGD 200! 😀

If you would like to opt for the JR Pass, you should consider getting it from a travel agency in your home country before flying into Japan. If you live in Singapore, you can get it from Hisgo – this agency still offers the cheapest exchange rate, as of today. And yes, you pay in local SGD currency! 🙂

In addition, if you are planning to go to Hokkaido, you can use your JR pass to get to Hokkaido for free! Our contributor completely forgot about this and he ended up paying S$200 more for his return flights to Hokkaido

3. Travel by Highway Busses to Save Money

Want to save more money while travelling between cities? Don’t get the JR Pass and opt for the highway buses instead. Many bus companies allow you to book online and one such company is www.willerexpress.com. Apparently, the earlier you book, the cheaper it is. Of course, this option will make you lose the flexibility of your schedules. We will suggest getting the JR Pass but, it’s your own decision to make!

4. Exchange money in your home country

Get your JPYs before you head to Japan. The exchange rates at the airports in Japan suck big time. Again, if you live in Singapore, we have found time and again that the best place to exchange money is The Arcade at Raffles Place.

A rough estimate as to how much a trip to Japan would cost? For a 14-day trip including accommodation, air tickets and JR Pass, our contributor Joo Fei spent SGD 2,699.63. This is a little on the high side because he spent JPY 3,630 (~SGD 42) on a crab buffet, JPY 7,240 (~SGD 83) on a sushi lunch and JPY 3,200 (~SGD 37) on a sukiyaki dinner, just to name a few. You could easily spend less than SGD2,000.00 for a 14-day trip if you don’t splurge so much on food! Remember he also took two domestic flights to and fro Sapporo, which you can avoid if you have the JR Pass!

5. Bring Cash

Make sure to bring enough cash as not all shops accept credit cards in Japan. FYI, Japan is still a largely cash society 😉

6. Japanese Train Etiquette: No Handphones at Special Sections

When you board the train in Japan, you will realize that there are special sections for senior citizens. Do take note that the use of mobile phones near these sections is not allowed as some senior citizens are living off pace-makers! So if you want to use your phone, make sure you are not anywhere near the reserved area! 🙂

7. Try Funky Japanese Food, like Monjayaki

Japanese food in Japan is on a whole different level. You really cannot run into bad food – everything is always good. While you are in the country, try the funky, less famous foods such as monjayaki, dorayaki, etc. The general ones are most probably already available in your own country, albeit at a higher price. We’d suggest for you to come up with a list of Japanese food that you would like to eat and aim to try different types of food for every meal. Or else you might lose track!

8. Indulge in Onsen Experiences

Definitely try the onsen, or hot-spring baths, in Japan!! The onsen experience is just purely awesome! If you are going on day trips to smaller cities, we recommend going for outdoor onsens! Hakone near Tokyo have outdoor onsens offering views of Mount Fuji, and if you go in autumn, some onsens in and around Kyoto are famous for fall foliage views.

The thing about onsens is, you have to be stark naked to get into the baths. No clothing allowed whatsoever. It might take sometime to get over but just strip and plunge in – nobody cares, really.

Recommended onsen: Oedo Onsen Monogatari, Odaiba, Tokyo.

9. Pick Up Basic Japanese Vocabularies

This will help you communicate with the locals there. And you might need to tweak the way you say certain words in English, in a sense that you need to say the words with Japanese accent. For example: instead of saying “Kit-kat”, say “Kito-Kato” and “bag” as “beh-gu”.

Important Vocabularies:
1.ありがとうございます (arigatougozaimasu) = Thank You
2.すみません (sumimasen) = Excuse Me.
3.めんなさい (gomennasai) = Sorry.
4.おはようございます (ohayougozaimasu) = Good Morning.
5.こんにちは (konnichiwa) = Good Afternoon. 
6.こんばんは (konbanwa) = Good Evening.
7.大丈夫 (daijoubu) = Okay. As in “I’m okay!”
8.空港 (kuukou) = Airport
9.高い (takai) = Expensive
10.近い (chikai) = Near. How close is it?

10. Free Wi-fi in Tokyo

Don’t worry if you don’t have internet connection while you are in Tokyo as there is free wifi available at 143 subway stations in the city!

To connect, you simply need to follow these steps:

  • Select “Metro_Free_Wi-Fi” or “Toei_Subway_Free_Wi-fi” SSID on your laptop or smart phones
  • Launch your web browser
  • Follow the instruction on the screen (you would need to register your email address) and you will be connected to the internet. You will be able to use the internet for up to 3 hours each time you log in!

The best part? You can have your device automatically connected and logged in to each Wi-fi access point by using the “Japan Connected Free Wi-Fi” app and registering your details! 🙂

Here is a screenshot of the map showing stations with free Wi-Fi

Refer to this page for a clearer map 🙂

Bonus Tips!

  • If you are planning to get a sim card, you can refer to this site. Good offer and really good service too! 🙂
  • For tips on how to apply for a Japanese visa (FOR FREE!) or whether you even need a visa, check our previous post here.

10 Tips You Should Know before Visiting Japan

That’s all from us! We hope you find this post helpful, especially if you are planning for your Japan trip! 🙂

We would like to thank Joo Fei and Nadia for their contributions to this post 🙂


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