Your first day in Japan

Flying to Japan is a long-haul flight for many visitors, perhaps the longest flight they’ve ever done. If you are wondering about how manage your first day in Japan after a long flight, read on. There are some practical things you can do to make your first day in Japan relaxing and enjoyable.

How long is your first day?

Your arrival time is the biggest impact on your first day. I often take a flight from Sydney that arrives at Haneda at 5:15 am, but sometimes I’ll take a flight that arrives around 5 pm. The later flight gives me only a few hours to fill, but the earlier flight means a long day.

If you arrive early, I strongly recommend not looking to rest or sleep during the day. It’s best to adjust to local time and wait until night time to go to bed. Your hotel check in time will be 2 or 3 pm, unless you’ve paid for an extra night’s accommodation, so you need to think about what you will do until then.

At the airport, you can:

  • have breakfast or coffee
  • have a shower
  • pick up a sim card or portable wifi
  • get cash from an ATM machine
  • get a Suica or Pasmo card and load it with money

The next step is deal with your luggage. If you are staying in a hotel, they will store your luggage before check in, so go there to drop your luggage. If you’re staying in an AirBnB, they may not offer luggage storage. In this case, store your luggage in a locker at a conveniently located station. Do not even think of carrying your luggage around with you all day. You will just get tired and the luggage will be an inconvenience to others in a crowded city.

What to do during the day

You may be feeling tired after a long flight, so don’t pack the day with activities or anything very energetic. I recommend getting some fresh air, so look at visiting parks and gardens, or exploring the neighbourhood around your hotel. This will help you stay awake. If you want to sit down for a while, having coffee or a meal somewhere with an outdoor terrace works well. Other possible options are river or harbour cruises.

If you’re not confident about finding your way around in Japan, getting a guide for a few hours can be a good investment. They can give you a basic orientation, show you how to use the subway, explain restaurant menus and other useful tips. It means you have a worry-free first day, and you’ll be prepared for subsequent days.

What to leave until another day

If you’ve bought a rail pass, there is no need to exchange the voucher on your first day. Airport stations often have long queues and the last thing you want after a long flight is to stand for ages in a long queue. You can do the rail pass exchange later at major city stations.

I recommend not booking any significant activities, so that you feel free to adjust your schedule according to how you feel. Activities such as Mario karting aren’t a sensible idea on your first day for safety reasons, while a reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant could be a waste if you’re too tired to appreciate it.

Arriving late in the day

If you arrive late in the day, you will be able to go straight to your accommodation. It’s still a good idea to have a walk outside to get some fresh air, to help deal with any jetlag. This could be as simple as walking around the neighbourhood and finding somewhere for dinner.

Resist the temptation to stay up too late. Go to bed at your normal hour and try to get a good night’s sleep. This will help adjust your body clock to local time.

Take it easy

As well as adjusting to a different time zone, you’ll need to adjust to a different culture. By planning for a relaxed schedule on your first day, you are allowing time to adjust to Japan. This will make your trip more enjoyable and successful.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.