The 5 things I wish I’d known before visiting Japan

So much has been written about Japan. Being the sort of person who likes to plan ahead, I’d read a lot before I took my first trip there. Even so there were some things that still surprised me. Some of these were small practical things, others were larger things that impact decisions on your itinerary. Here we go.

It’s more affordable than you might think

Japan has long been perceived as an expensive destination, perhaps due to tales of visitors during the bubble economy period in the late 20th century. It certainly can be expensive if you insist on staying in 5 star hotels, dining in top end restaurants and travelling by taxi. Costs are very reasonable compared to Europe, Australia and New Zealand if you stay in modest accommodation and you can eat well on a budget.

Had I known this before my first trip, I would have stayed a couple more days knowing that I could afford this.

Small towns and rural areas are worth visiting

Many first time visitors automatically think of visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. These are great cities, but much of the charm and beauty in Japan is found in smaller towns and rural areas. If you are likely to make only one trip to Japan, include somewhere like Matsumoto, Takayama or Kurashiki on your itinerary so that you get a wider experience of Japan.

100 yen coins are very useful

Although I dislike accumulating too much change in my wallet, I do try and keep at least three 100 yen coins in there. These can be used to pay for luggage lockers at stations, hotel laundry machines and vending machines. Many museums insist larger bags and daypacks are put in lockers, which have a refundable 100 yen deposit.

The use of coins is changing and it’s possible to pay for many luggage lockers with an IC card, however the 100 yen coin is likely to be useful for a while yet.

Take your shoes off before entering a shop changing room

I’d read about taking shoes off at temples, restaurants, ryokans etc but it didn’t occur to me that I needed to take shoes off before I entered a changing room in a shop. The shop assistant quickly told me to take my shoes off. There is usually a very slightly raised section of floor indicating where to take your shoes off. Sometimes it’s just a line marked on the floor. In either case, take your shoes off before you step across the line. Place them neatly together with the toes pointing towards the entrance to the changing room.

The facilities in public toilets may be different

Japanese washlet toilets are famous and most public toilets are equipped with these. Sometimes you’ll come across squat toilets but there is usually a western style toilet as well. One thing that you may not expect is the lack of soap and towels or hand dryers in many public toilets. Carrying some tissues and liquid soap with you can be very useful.


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.