Travel Tips: Japan, Pt 1

During my trip to Japan, I’ve been to the prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.

My travel tips will be based on my personal travel experience and also based on the research that I’ve done before my trip, which was on-and-off on a span of 6 months or so as my trip was a self-planned trip.


Japan, significantly Tokyo, has been on my travel list since my younger self discovered the creation of wider variety of mangas and animes besides Pokémon, Digimon and Sailor Moon.

Along with cosplay, kawaii fashion, kimonos/yukatas, lolita dressing, and all of the cutest things ever created (see Sanrio and San-X)… Tokyo has been on my list and I’ve been lucky to be able to cross it off so early 🙂 .


Weather / What to pack:
As I’ve went in the summer, Japan was hot hot hot. So pack shorts, t-shirts, skirts! When inside a mall or on the trains, it doesn’t get extremely cold, but pack a light cardigan or a sweater if you wish.

On the occasional rainy days, buying an umbrella from the convenience stores was super easy since there was a convenience store around each corner. There was a convenience store right at the base of the hotel so I could just simply buy an umbrella easily. It was pretty cheap at about ¥700, if I remember correctly.

But definitely pack running shoes or sneakers because there was so much walking done in Japan!

Transportation is one long conversation, so that is in a separate post!
With details regarding the JR Pass, transportation from/to the airport, as well as the Shinkansen/Bullet train.

The language barrier was definitely a challenge when communicating with others. Most of the interactions with locals are during meal times, and usually they notice that I’m a foreigner due to speaking English and they serve English menus straight away. Ordering would result in pointing, hand gestures and speaking basic English, usually numerals.

If you’re ordering via an iPad (for sushi like at Genki Sushi or Premium KAIO) or from a vending machine (if it’s modern with a touch screen), there’s usually an English language selection on the top right or left hand corner. If you get an old school machine, there are pictures available and hope you don’t order the wrong one!

It’s also good to know some phrases, such as Arigato, which means thank you and Sumimasen which means sorry or excuse me to pass by crowds or to call your waitress.
Those are the main two phrases that I used in Japan!

Don’t be afraid about signs in subway stations or in the city as there are English translations for most of them, especially on the subway lines.


Cultural habits:
Tons of different cultural habits – but here’s some that I remember:

  • Get ready for a lot of bowing
    • When you get your meals, when you purchase goods, when they say welcome/thank you, Japanese people will bow. Resulting in me nodding or bowing back as well.
  • Restaurants and change rooms
    • Some restaurants and change rooms don’t allow shoes inside, so you would have to take them off. Although I didn’t encounter a restaurant which permitted that, I have experienced the ones in change rooms. It is also highly recommended to wear socks at all times with your shoes, or at least keep socks in your bag since bare feet is not permitted in those areas. Socks with holes in it are also looked down upon on, almost considered taboo in Japan.
  • Queues/lines
    • Queuing up in Japan is very neat. Everything is organized, with many indications of where you should be, especially in stores and at train stations. When I was at Disneyland/DisneySea, there were queues to take photographs at the photo booths as well, even though there is no indication, but it is nice to see that the locals are setting an example for foreigners to do as well.

Cultural eating habits:

  • Fast-eating etiquette
    •  Most of the restaurants here have bar seats as the culture in Japan is to eat and go, and the bar seats are for individuals who eat by themselves. This culture is quite common in Japan.
    • The tables in Japan usually mostly cater to a group of 4, but hardly anything bigger, so I would recommend travelling in a small group if you head to Japan, or prepare to split into different tables at least!
  • Walking and eating?
    • Walking and eating is not prohibited in Japan, but it is not part of the norm for Japanese people. If you buy food from food stands, you will have to stand in a nearby corner and finish your food there instead of walking and eating. Same applies when buying food from convenience stores.
    • Eating is also prohibited on the train/subway, unless it’s the Shinkansen/Bullet train.
  • Food displays!
    • Choosing restaurants are a task but it helps when they put food displays out to view the type of food they serve. Sometimes they even put a sample menu out as well, for people to browse through it. Love that concept! The food displays look so real too… *drools*
  • No tips
    • Just like Singapore, Japan does not have a tipping policy.

Roaming about:
In Japan, it is very hard to attain Wi-Fi on the streets if you do not have a Japanese mobile. & Wi-Fi was essential since this trip was self-planned and not with tour groups, Google Maps was our guide. So I rented a portable Wi-Fi machine from Global Advanced Communications via their online services, and you can either pick it up at your hotel or at specific locations within the airport.

Most sites online recommended GAC or Pupuru for rental portable Wi-Fi.

I had no issues with GAC while travelling throughout Japan, so it’s not limited to only Tokyo. The portable Wi-Fi was sent to the hotel and they gave it when checking in the hotel. The portable Wi-Fi was pretty tiny and light, you can definitely fit it into your pocket. The only minor issue was that it kept shutting off randomly but it didn’t happen that often, so it was fine.

Would highly recommend a portable Wi-Fi instead of renting a data simcard but it’s your personal choice and from first hand experience, GAC served me well.

► For more Wi-Fi: GAC & Pupuru

Your best friend in Japan: Convenience stores!
The 3 common convenience stores that I’ve noticed were 7/11, Lawsons and Family Mart, they were literally in almost every corner… as well as in train stations, malls, even at the base of the hotel I was staying at had a convenience store.

Besides the fact that there is a convenience store every corner you turn… Convenience stores in Japan sell almost everything you could possibly need!! At least, from a tourist point of view.

Hot foods, cold foods, snacks on the go, alcohol, ice cream, coffee, energy drinks, sugar drinks, water, umbrellas, magazines, deodorant, pens, band-aids, bug spray, shirts, socks… You name it.

I mostly buy foods and on an occasion an umbrella, which was so beautiful but I couldn’t bring it back to Toronto…
I’ve ate so many onigiri(s) due to it being so easily attainable at convenience stores, and other types of pre-packaged food plus they provide utensils for you (what?!!).
They had chicken katsu with rice (which they warmed it up for me while paying for it – which country does this?!), cold noodles (which was so so good!) and much more. Some of the hot foods were chicken kaarage, chicken wings, pork buns, sausages… They even sold donuts!
For convenience food standard, it a solid 4/5.


Seriously, I could get used to having Japanese convenience stores in my daily life.

These are just little tidbits that I’ve picked up during/after my trip!
I hope you find them helpful if you’re planning a trip to Japan.

Till next time, ♥


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