Traveling to Japan can be a unique experience. It is a country of contrasts, where the West is clearly present, but where Eastern traditions and roots are strongly linked to its people. For this reason, the tourist must be aware that traveling in Japan is not easy, it is a society that functions in a different way. The way they communicate, their behavior, the food, the customs, the language,… That’s why we will give some tips to travel in Japan.
Options to go to Japan
If you are flying from France to Tokyo, you have the choice between taking a direct flight or a flight with a stopover. The first option has the advantage of being shorter (12 hours) but more expensive unless you find a good promotion, the second option is more economical but longer, depending on the length of the stopover. It is indeed important to take into account the duration of the stopover, a stopover that is too short can be very limiting, while if it is too long, it can be tiring and complicate the adaptation to the jet lag.
If you wish to move around the country, the best way, practical, fast and very efficient, is to travel by train. There is a pass, the Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel for a set period of time on Japan Rail trains, buses and ferries. It cannot be bought in Japan, it must be obtained before leaving, via internet. If you don’t have it, you can buy train tickets individually, but it is infinitely more expensive.
Being in a foreign country with 150 lines and 2000 stations can seem overwhelming. Thanks to applications like Hyperdia, you will have a detailed train schedule and it offers a JR Pass filtering system, which will allow you to find the train that best fits your itinerary.
For trips within a city, the fare is calculated according to distance. With an IC card, the fare will be automatically deducted when you leave the station. The advantage of this card is that it can be used in arcades, some restaurants and on vending machines.
Where to live?
For your trip to the land of the rising sun, let yourself be tempted by a stay in a Ryokan. Dating back to the Edo period, Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns where guests sleep on the floor on tatami mats, where traditional Japanese breakfasts and dinners are served and where you can bathe in hot springs. A stay of at least one night in such a place is an experience not to be missed for anyone who wants to see the traditional side of Japan.
One of the main concerns of any traveler is accommodation. The idea of staying in a hotel can be terrifying in terms of budget but rest assured that there are guesthouses and especially capsule hotels in Japan. The last option may not be suitable for claustrophobic people but is an extraordinary experience for lovers of Japanese culture: television, pyjamas, toothbrush, helmets, slippers and blankets are provided for a more than affordable price.
You can also take a trip to Koyasan, a very spiritual place, as it is the seat of Shingon Buddhism in Japan.
Japan’s currency is the yen. Cash or traveler’s checks can be exchanged at “authorized banks” or major post offices, as most ATMs do not accept foreign credit cards. At Tokyo Narita Airport you will find a 7-Bank ATM in a 7-eleven near the restaurant. 7-Bank banks are known to have the best all-inclusive fees and are located in all major cities in the country.
Some hotels and department stores accept cards, but most prefer cash. It is always wise to carry some with you, even if you risk losing it or wasting it. You can convert your money before you even leave for Japan, otherwise you can always do it on the spot.
The debit card is not recommended because of the flat fees: withdrawal fees, fees for international ATMs, and depending on your bank, you may get a bad exchange rate. The credit card is and remains the best option, as it usually does not charge conversion and transaction fees.
How to sit at the table?
Table protocol is very different from what we are used to. The two most obvious characteristics are that they eat with chopsticks and usually sit on cushions on the floor. In occasional situations, men usually sit across their legs, while women sit with their knees bent, legs to the side. The former is considered exclusively male, while the latter is considered exclusively female.
The correct use of chopsticks is a fundamental part of Japanese etiquette. There are many rules for their use, such as not putting food with the chopsticks, not pointing fingers when using the chopsticks, not moving the chopsticks too much in the air, and not playing with them.
If you go to a typical Japanese restaurant, you will be asked to take off your shoes at the entrance.
One important thing to note is that it is considered rude to leave a tip in Japan. No matter how good the food and service is, under no circumstances should you leave a tip. To ask for the bill, simply make the X sign with your fingers.
Apart from table manners, there are also many Japanese labels that you must absolutely respect:
– You can’t smoke anywhere. Like most Asian countries, smoking in the street is forbidden and is seen as an offence. If you find yourself outside, make sure you go near designated smoking areas: near tall buildings, train stations or stores. In some areas such as bars or restaurants, smoking is permitted.
– Keep your garbage out of sight:
Japan is virtually flawless in terms of cleanliness and hygiene. Because people do not eat or smoke in the street, garbage cans are rare. If you find yourself with one or two pieces of garbage, wait until you are at home or in a store to get rid of it.
– Do not eat on the street:
If you are hungry, wait until you are inside to do so or find a store or restaurant.
– Don’t take pictures of people and don’t point fingers.
– Don’t speak loudly, especially on public transit.
– Take off your shoes before entering people’s homes: this also applies to restaurants and guesthouses.
– Don’t say “no” abruptly and aggressively:
Japanese people are very reluctant to say “no”. Even if they want to deny you something, they will always say “yes” so as not to hurt you.
The best places to visit in Japan
Between futuristic cities and traditional villages, Japan is one of those dream destinations that a person should see at least once in his life. Here are the best places to visit in the land of the rising sun:
If you want to see traditional Japan, Kyoto is the destination for you: bamboo forest, colorful kimono geisha emerging from wooden tea rooms, temples and shrines in gold, silver and red, tea ceremonies, food served on traditional plateaus and Zen gardens.
The mountains are perfect for meeting the monks, listening to their chants and seeing their temples. For geisha, Gion is the ideal place, while Higashiyama is famous for its temples. Arashiyama is an ideal destination because of its monkeys, its eccentric temples and its small bamboo wood.
Tokyo is the heart of modern Japan. You will find skyscrapers, noisy arcades, crowded crosswalks, many delicious restaurants one after the other, and a stylish and stylish youth.
It is the ideal city for food lovers, even vegetarians. There are many interesting activities such as driving a real Go-Kart, visiting digital museums like TeamLab Borderless, admiring the fashion at Harajuku and Takeshita Street, visiting DisneySea and Disneyland Tokyo.
Nara was the first capital of Japan. It has many historical treasures including many sites declared as World Heritage by UNESCO.
The wild deer in Nara Park, the temples, Daibutsu Den in Todaiji considered as the largest wooden building in the world and the 15 meter gold and bronze statue of Buddha make the reputation of this city as popular as Kyoto.
To pay tribute to the victims of the anatomical bomb, you can visit the Horoshima Museum and the park. It is also possible to spend some time in the modern city built after the war.
Taste the local specialty okonomiyaki, a thick pancake of noodles, vegetables and dough.
On Miyajima’s headland, you can visit Torii Japan Gate and Itsukushima Shrine.
Good food, Dotonburi’s neon lights, affordable prices, people’s hospitality, and the Harry Potter World of Universal Studios Japan make the reputation of Osaka city.
Kanazawa is one of the best sites of Japan but few tourists go there. If you want to spend more time in cities less crowded with tourists, Kanazawa is for you: wooden building, geisha, one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, a castle and many art museums.
– Mount Fuji:
Mount Fuji is the emblem of Japan. It is the highest peak of the Fuji volcanic chain in central Japan and is the highest and most beautiful mountain in the country.