Japan is known by some as the land of strange where cultural shocks abound. Techie geek culture, rental kimonos, awesome infrastructure, colorful neons, and silent temples. It is. But all of these only hit you when you get there. You can read manga, look at animes and listen to music. It’s not the same, you just need to be there, I’d say visit it at least once in your lifetime.
That’s why I’m not going to tell you about all of that. I’d rather offer tidbits of what kind of strange you need to prepare for as a tourist. I hope it’s useful for all travelers out there packing for the Land of the Rising Sun. Here we go, in random order.
You won’t find public trash bins in Japan.
Make sure you have a backpack, otherwise you’ll carry your empty pet cans all day long. (a very good opportunity to literally weigh how much garbage you create as a tourist).
Bring a coin wallet. You’ll need it, most of the cash you’ll get will be coins.
The smallest bill is for 1,000 yen, the equivalent of $9 or 8 euro. Most common purchases (water, snack, street food, metro tickets) are as cheap as 230 yen so you’ll get coins all the time. It’s better to have them all in one place.
While we’re at it, get a mobile app to convert yen into the currency of your choice.
You’ll need it, trust me. In the beginning, it seems like easy math, but then you’ll get prices like 3,796 yen and it seems a lot. But if you convert, the purchase will seem like a bargain. I used this one, it was easy to use and pretty trustworthy. the exchange rate is updated regularly.
Also, download Google Translate and get ready to use the image feature, too.
I had a 15-minute conversation with a florist via Google Translate just to find out that you cannot buy bamboo seeds, but only 50-60 cm high bamboo tree I couldn’t possibly check-in with the airline. Also, in supermarkets, we couldn’t understand what packaged food contained unless we ran it through the image scanner of the Translate app.
Food is really different from anything I tried, There’s only one advice I could give: try and see if it suits your palate.
If you’re an Eastern European like me you probably don’t have any idea of how mochi or fermented soybeans taste like (awful, fermented soybeans are the worst thing I ever tasted!). That’s why your best bet is to try it out. But if you do like matcha chocolate, please drop me a note, we might become best friends.
Trains change schedule.
It’s weird, but it happens. Check your route early in the morning to avoid ruining your schedule.
Go to maid cafes if you are comfortable with singing in public and mimicking heart shapes.
You’ll pay at least 550 yen per hour for the privilege of having a teenage waitress dressed as a French maid born out of manga serve you overpriced drinks named Dragon Beer. Yes, we fell into that tourist trap. But maybe you like it, who knows?
Visit Mount Fuji during the summer, otherwise, you’ll only see fog.
Friends of mine got scammed into buying a 100 euro trip to the most sacred mountain in Japan only to stare at the thick fog hugging a mountain in the horizon.
Japanese women seem to wear footwear that’s one size larger.
Not really useful info, but I am reaching out to you: if you understand why do let me know. I asked a tour guide and the internet to no success.
Do NOT try to tip Japanese waiters. You’ll just insult them.
That’s it. These are the tips that came to mind, I hope you’ll find them useful and share them with friends/family who plan to visit this outlandish culture that I came to respect and love in just two weeks.