I'll be traveling to Japan for the first time in my life and I'm super excited! I'm coming from Europe - and I don't know anything about Japan besides the great snow for snowboarding.
Obviously, I'm reading a lot and trying to prepare and research as much as possible - but it gets very overwhelming at times. I'll be happy to get some first-hand tips.
1) One week in Tokyo – what are your top things to see / eat / do I should add to my list?
2) Most important things to know about the Japanese culture – unwritten rules, respectful or disrespectful behaviours, etc.?
3) Internet – I will need reliable internet to use for work. What are your top tips if the accommodation doesn't have strong wi-fi?
4) I'll spend 2 months near Madarao Winter Resort for snowboarding. Any tips about winter sports in Japan?
5) Any tours, tour guides, experiences you can recommend?
Links to any of your blog articles or videos are very welcome.
Make sure to experience the onsen (hot springs) there. My book, The Way of the Japanese Bath, has photos of some of my top recommendations. If you have any tattoos you can cover them up with large, easy to remove band-aide type stickers that are sold throughout the country.
Thanks – I might have to buy lots of these "stickers" when I spot some :))
some hot springs don't allow tattoos...the idea being to keep out yakuza, Japanese mafia. They keep the prohibition more broad as to not offend them...have an amazing time!
My top travel tip for Tokyo is opt to walk when you can. Although public transport options (train & subway lines) are super reliable, some distance (1-2 stops by train) can fairly easily be covered on foot and once you do, you find so many more "hidden gems". So maybe you could consider on occasion getting off one stop before your intended destination and walking the rest.
Great tip - thank you!
I ordered pocket wifi for my whole trip earlier this year and so glad I did! My phone is still locked (joys of the US) and never had an issue except in the mountains of Koyasan and even then, only in my accommodation. Get it delivered to your first accommodation just in case you have travel issues (like I did).
Hi Rebecca, thanks for the recommendation. What did you use in the pocket WiFi? Any specific local SIM or internal?
I got mine through www.japan-wireless.com/en and they were great. I had to carry a little router around with me, but due to my nervousness with the language issue, it was well worth the extra weight.
Food is one priority for me while traveling; in this regard, Japan often nails it.
My hackneyed if still not well-known example (at least among fellow non-Japanese visitors) is the "antenna shop."
Since you invited us to provide social links, I made a video about these shops last year:
In essence, Japanese prefectures (for simplicity's sake, let's call them states or provinces) would have official shops in Japan's largest cities that showcase their region's culinary scene, and sometimes arts/crafts/music.
Figure, the average tourist -- in any country -- doesn't have time to visit the entire place. Consequently, Japan thrusts these antenna shops into our rearview mirrors, allowing us to sample crab, dairy, and melon from Hokkaido, shikwasa fruit, bitter gourd tea, and taco rice from Okinawa, and matcha from Kyoto. Not to mention, given that Japanese cuisines are hyper-focused on seasonality, you might see a lot more cherries and peaches in the summer at the Yamagata and Okayama prefectural antenna shops, respectively.
Although Osaka, Fukuoka, and Nagoya do have similar shops, Tokyo is undoubtedly the leader in terms of quantity.
But wait ... you just bought some good eats at these shops, and now you want to sample them during your daily wanderings. Should you?The lack of curbside rubbish bins is a hint that you should try to avoid it. Generally speaking, eating while walking is frowned upon. On the plus side, Japanese cities are very clean! (I'm from NY, so traveling to Tokyo is pretty much opposite day in many aspects, the least of which being time zone-related)
Oh, and slurp that bowl of ramen. The chef would be disappointed if the broth weren't piping hot; slurping it is one way of showing that it was hot enough.
For a quintessential Japanese after-work drinking/dining experience, visit the neighborhood of Shimbashi, just to the west of JR Shimbashi station. Jam-packed and boisterous holes-in-the-wall serving up some skewers, brews, and convivial times.
Some very good tips, thank you so much!
This guide, generated quickly (<1min) and featuring real user opinions without promotional content, sounds like a valuable resource for planning a 7-day trip to Tokyo: www.freeplantour.com/en/1696886021574/tokyo/7_day_trip_to_tokyo
Hello MariaYou are going to love Japan. I have been travelling to the Land Of The Rising Sun since 2000.Here we go:-Japan is a cash country! people carry up to several hundred dollars (Yen equivalent ) easy! -Lear a few basic Japanese words! Especially the polite ones. ( Thank you, Excuse me ...) Japan is a polite country.-Don't drink / eat & walk. I am in North America, we have this habit.-Use Yamanote Line in Tokyo to navigate between all major areas ( Shinagawa, Harajuku, Shibuya, Uneo, Tokyo ( Imperial Palace) etc.)-Visit the Skytree (www.tokyo-skytree.jp)-Visit Kamakura! This is a historical town with temples & a Buddha monument. You don't need to go to Kyoto ( if you don't have time)-Visit Yokohama (Cup noddles museum, Minato Mirai etc..) -Go to Shibuya Crossing-Try the bullet train - Shinkasen
Enjoy your trip
Amazing tips, thank you!
I recommend chatting with a local! Having a quick 30 minute call can cover a TON of your specific questions and help make decisions that are sort of hard to research - like how much time is right for you to spend in each city or which spots to trade out for others based on your travel stle. I did this recently for a trip to Morocco and it made a HUGE difference! I think Jenny from Kansai & Beyond is an amazing resource: www.thatch.co/seller/services/consultation/@kansai
(Disclaimer - I'm a co-founder of Thatch, but I built the product for just this kind of use and use it myself all the time so this is genuine endorsement!)
Hey Abby, this is an amazing tip. I would actually love to chat with a local to bounce off some ideas, and get practical feedback.
@Becky Gillespie wrote this: www.amazon.com/Shimokitazawa-Beginners-Worlds-Walkable-Neighborhood/dp/B08BF1W3MB
Enjoy the many paradoxes you will discover in Japan.
- Read up on earthquake emergency response- Try the Indian Naan, its Indian but unique to Japan!- Be inspired by how older people are independent - Check out Pico Iyer's beginners guide to Japan- Find time to spend a few days in Hokkaido
Have a gala time
Go to the Shin-Yokohama Rāmen Museum