Things to Know Before You Go to Japan

Things to Know Before You Go to Japan

This is a growing list of observations & pieces of advice of things to know before you go to Japan.

  • Japan has tax free shopping. Spend over 5000 yen ($50ish) at a participating store and get 8% back. Must have passport with you at time of purchase.
  • Tokyo has a fantastic 24, 48 & 72 hour metro card for tourists. Only catch, it doesn’t work on all the trains you will need/take. Buy a Suica or Pasmo prepaid card to supplement the pass. These cards also work at convenience stores & vending machines.
  • Google Maps is your savior at navigating the metro systems all over the country. It gives detail of when the next train/bus, etc is arriving to its platform to its price. It is even helpful for giving you the exit number you need to take as some stations can have 10+ different exits.
  • If you see a queue, the means whatever they are selling is adored by the locals. You will see lots of lines around the bubble tea places.
  • Don’t speak Japanese? No problem, pick restaurants with a photo menu.
  • Read my How to Pack for Japan article for packing tips.

  • Major sights will be always be crowded but if you go right when they open or as early in morning as you can, you will deal with a lot less people. This works well for temples.
  • A non reserved seat one-way on a Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto is $122 (9/22/19 – exchange rates). Shinkansen trains run every 10-15 minutes between these two cities. You must queue up for the non-reserved cars for these tickets (usually cars 1-3 or 1-5). These trains come so often, it’s cheaper to risk a non-reserved seat if you are a smaller group. It’s $270 for a JR pass, good for unlimited travel in Japan for 7 days, which applies to some (not all) of the Shinkansen trains.
  • Brush up on your ramen knowledge. This is the national food and you will eat it many times while in japan and knowing the different kinds became helpful. My favorite is dipping ramen, tsukeman.

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