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Japan For Every First Time Visitor: Everything You Need To Know

With Japan always being high on the list, I am happy to have had the chance to explore the country on a whirlwind and sharing the highlights. Within a short time span, I immersed myself in just about everything: the food, the temples and to add a few of the unusual—sleeping inside a capsule and having firsthand experiences with the singing toilets.

In order to better plan your trip for your trip to Japan, I have compiled this list of items to help make your trip run more smoothly. A first-time visitor to Japan: here’s everything you need to know.


Wear Comfortable Shoes

There are so many things to do and see while travelling in Japan and it to be quite frank,  you will be walking a lot. If you intend on visiting the Shrines, Temples, exploring the famous pedestrian street markets, the quirky alleyways of Tokyo, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.  You are going to be walking a lot, I cannot stress this enough. Many of the major ‘must-see’ sights are huge and requires a bit of strolling.

The Metro System In Japan Is Not 24-hrs

Surprisingly enough the metro system closes off at 1 AM during the week and even so on the weekends.  With Tokyo being a 24-hr city and the most populated in Japan, the fact still remains that the metro doesn’t go all night.  After 1 AM, your options to move around are based on city taxis and Uber rides.


JayWalking Isn’t A Thing

You will notice this after your very first few moments in Japan— jaywalking isn’t a thing. Though often misused around the world in other major cities, in Japan it is obeyed.

If the crossing sign is red— wait! If the walk crossing sing is green— by all means, cross. Even if there are no cars coming you will notice that the locals still wait until the light changes to green for them to go. When you visit, observe what the locals do and try to fall in-line.

Travelling While Black 

Travelling while black in Japan was such a breeze. It was pleasant, easy, as well as it was also something I didn’t expect.

When I made mention that I had an upcoming trip to Japan, I was told that being black and travelling in Japan will probably not be the easiest thing. It was quite the opposite. It was nothing short of politeness and pleasantry.


Wearing Shoes Inside Is An Insult

Be sure to take off your shoes when entering any personal spaces. In fact, when you arrive at hotels, temples, shrines, traditional restaurants you will be asked to remove your shoes.

It is a common principle practiced throughout the country.

No Japanese? At least Know These Words

Whilst my Japanese is very limited, I have noticed that travelling throughout the country,  if you are able to retain these two phases, it will take you a long way— “Konnichiwa”, which is a form of Japanese greeting and “Arigatō Gozaimasu” which means thank you.

Know these phases and use them! (:


There Is [Absolutely] No Littering

Be sure to properly dispose of your garbage. Everywhere is squeaky clean. The main streets, the metro stations, the parks, the shines, even the busy streets of Tokyo. It is truly remarkable. Walking and eating is not permitted, neither is it allowed in temples and shines and most major attractions. Littering is highly managed.

If you happen to have trash, keep it along with you until you can dispose of it when you get home which takes you to the next point.

Garbage Bins Are Almost Non-Existent

There are [no] garbage bins in Japan. They are rare. The Main Street, sidewalks, the temples, the metro stations— they all have no bins. Having noticed this, eating and walking is not permitted and you are also encouraged to bring home your own trash.

To add, the country itself is very well-kept.


Be Sure To Get The Japan Rail Pass

I am sure you have probably heard it from one source or another that travelling in Japan isn’t the cheapest thing. They are right! Everything is a little bit more costly here.

When planning your visit, be sure to consider getting the Japan Rail Pass. It is valid for railways, buses and ferry boats.

The railway pass goes from a 1-day pass, 3-day pass, 7-day pass.

Express and Regular Subway Lines Run On The Same Track

Be sure to note that regular metro trains and express lines run on the same track. There aren’t any huge differences if you do not mind paying twice as much to arrive half the time. You will notice the difference as the express train is a little bit more luxs.


Be Sure To Travel With Cash

In most cases, cards are not accepted. Travelling around Japan, be sure to have the local currency.

The Month Of April Is Peak Travel Season

If you plan to visit Japan in the month of April, be prepared to know that there will be an additional wave of tourist, as it is the peak travel season for the country.

Sakura (the Japanese cherry blossom season) is in full bloom and travellers do fly in to enjoy it in its full glory. Everywhere is often crowded and accommodation is limited. Be sure to book and plan ahead.


Do Not Over Plan

In most cases, if not all, you will spend more time than planned during sightseeing. Be sure to not over plan or plan to do too many things in one day for example.

Most temples and shrines are designed in a way where it is comprised of more than just one attraction. Aside from the main attraction there are usually 3-4  others things to see nearby.

Charge Your Card in YEN To Avoid A Local Charge Fee

In most places paying with a credit/debit card will attract a markup fee if charged  in anything else but YEN.

Since my card is US-based, the options to pay in USD Or Yen are always being presented— I usually go with the latter if it means the additional percentage charge will be exempt.

  • Jessica
    October 9, 2020

    Is it possible to share your itinerary? I have an upcoming trip to Japan but I don’t have a US visa. I would like an alternative route to travel. Please help!!

  • Jamaipanese
    October 29, 2019

    Awesome recap. I first visited in 2011 and now I live and work in rural Japan. Glad you enjoyed the visit!

  • Kerri
    October 12, 2019

    Hi thanks for this blog . I have visited Japan app 3 years ago in the height of Sakura season it was a sight to behold. I do endorse everything you’ve said so far except for travelling when black they were polite yes but they did stare alot at my husband. Maybe because he also towered over everyone? Lol. Try Kobe beef when you go back. It melts in your mouth.

  • Marshanell Murdock
    May 6, 2019

    How do I go about visiting China if I don’t have a visa

    • Shea Powell
      Marshanell Murdock
      May 7, 2019

      You need a visa to visit China. Everyone does!

  • Fayola
    May 3, 2019

    Loving the Asia blogs. Interested in some details about the route taken to get there that would be cost effective.

  • Allison
    May 3, 2019

    Japan is the no. 1 place on my list to visit. I’d love to go during the Sakura Festival. I can see myself walking through one of the old Samurai towns. One day, one day…

    • Shea Powell
      May 3, 2019

      It has just become one of my favourite countries to visit.. if not my favourite. Everything about it is spectacular. I will be revisiting soon as I feel as if you have to visit a number of times to get it all in.

      Make it a priority. It is a must visit!

  • Gavmazing Adventure
    April 29, 2019

    Amazing blog. Japan to me is the unknown. Eager to see what the experience would be like for me.

  • Alexi
    April 27, 2019

    Is it possible you share your itinerary and budgets for these trips?

    • Shea Powell
      April 27, 2019

      All blog posts will be posted in the upcoming week. You can expect a budget detailed one.

  • Mav
    April 22, 2019

    Im thinking of going for Summer but only has week off and dont know if thT even makes sense…please advise how long did you stay and flew from? Also,it is visa free for Jamaicans right?

    • Shea Powell
      April 22, 2019

      Hi Mav, I am so happy to hear you’re planning on visiting soon. It is not visa-free though. You will need to apply in Kingston but the process is fairly easy and straight-forward.

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