Tuesday 3 October 2017

Travel tips : 13 things to do before you set foot in Japan

As with any international trip, a trip to Japan demands some amount of planning and preparation. Many a time we go on a visit, and realize after reaching there that we could have avoided a lot of inconveniences if we had arranged for this and researched on that.
You already have 10 reasons why you must visit Japan, and you also know how much money you require for it. Now let me give you a list of 13 things you need to do to make your trip to Japan a reality.


Let us start with the most obvious one, booking your tickets. The important thing is not that you need to book your tickets; I know all of you know this. More important is when do you book them. It is vital that you book your tickets well in advance to save on unnecessary splurging, and the most ideal time is around 4-6 months is advance. If you are lucky, you might find great offers at Air Asia


It is not necessary to have a detailed itinerary ready before you leave, but you must have a rough idea on how much time you are going to assign to each place. Do your research, pick the places you will definitely visit, and leave enough room for spontaneous changes in plan. To make your job a little easier, I will put up a post very soon on the places worth visiting in Japan.


The reason why I said that you should have a rough idea about the amount of time you are going to spend in each place, is because it will then be easier to book your accommodation in advance. Try for hostels or Airbnb's because they will work out cheaper. Else, hotels are always there. I cannot comment on how easy or though it is to arrange for stay once you are in Japan, but I suppose it if nothing, you can always find a capsule hotel.


A visa for Japan takes about 7-10 days, but it is always advisable to consider the worst case scenario too in case your visa gets rejected the first time. So keep some time at hand and apply for it about 3 or even 4 weeks in advance. A list of all documents required to apply for a 90-day tourist visa can be found here


I did not have problems regarding this, because none of the places I had visited required any kind of permissions. But in case some very unusual or elite place is on your list which requires prior permission, do not forget to write to the concerned authorities well in advance.


JR pass is must when you visit Japan. It might seem to be an expensive affair on paper, but trust me, it will be way more expensive if you do not take it. You can find all the information on japanrailpass.net, and you can even apply for the pass here. Once you pay for it, they will courier you the pass, which you will have to activate once you reach Japan. The delivery to India should take about 7-10 days, but again, you should get the pass made with at least 3 weeks in hand.


I have written a good deal about why you should opt for a wifi device rather than getting a sim card in my post about the budget required for Japan. This actually can be done about a week before only, because you can pay for the device online, and will only have to collect it once you land. Check out Japan wireless for more information regarding what product you would like to opt for.


The plugs used in Japan vary from the ones used in India. Here we have a voltage of 230V, but in Japan, the standard is 100V. For more information regarding plug types, visit whatplug.info. Simply put, it is advisable to buy one before leaving, to charge your laptops and mobile phones there.


Rather than using your debit/credit cards there, use a travel money card. First of all, it works out much cheaper in case you want to withdraw or swipe your card, compared to debit/credit cards. Secondly, the exchange rate is locked at the time of loading cash in the travel card, so a sudden change in rates do not effect you at all. It is advisable to apply for a card at least 8-10 days before you leave, because it takes a little bit of time to load money into the card.


Japan is predominantly a cash oriented economy. The only places where you can withdraw cash is at atm machines located in 7 eleven stores and post offices, and nowhere else. Most of the places do not even accept cards as a form of payment. So it is very important to carry a lot of cash with you. In my case, I carried about 60% of my total money in cash, and the rest in my travel card. 


Japan has notes for denominations of over 1000 yen, and for everything else, there are just coins. There are coins starting from 1 yen to 500 yen, and after spending a few days there, you will realize that carrying around so many coins is not very easy on your wallet. So if you can, get some extra pouch for coins only.


Japanese food is a little different in terms of flavour, and even though I enjoyed everything thoroughly there, I have heard many people say that they do not like it that much. The problem is a thousandfold for vegetarians because almost everything there has some amount of non vegetarian elements. It is not that you will not find vegetarian restaurants, but they are way lesser in number than non vegetarian ones. So if you are fussy about food, or worse a vegetarian or a vegan, you might want to carry some ready made mixes from home only.


Japan has a very unique culture and it differs from ours in many ways. Luckily they are the nicest people ever, and would not kill us if we make a mistake or two. But as a sign of respect or courtesy, we must make an effort at least not to end up doing things which are outright offensive for them. For one, we Indians are way too loud, and Japanese are the polar opposites. If you are in a public place, or traveling in the metro or bus, it is considered very impolite to talk or make any noise. People are very hardworking there and you will often find people sleeping on their way back home, which is why it is imperative that we maintain complete silence at that time. There are a lot of mannerisms involving the use of chopsticks too, like not keeping a pair of them over each other in a cross, and not using chopsticks to pass a plate or a bowl etc. There are way too many to be written here, but please do your research before you go. There are a lot of videos on youtube on that and spending 3-4 hours will save you a lot of embarrassment.

So these are all the things I could think that you must do before you set foot in Japan. It is not an exhaustive list and you can prepare even better I suppose. If you require any additional information about the things I mentioned above, you can leave a comment below. Next, I will prepare a list of places to visit when you are in Japan's capital, Tokyo. So stay tuned, keep traveling and have a great day!


  1. Thanks for the informative list Animesh! A lot of people venture into a trip without an itinerary which is your second point in the list. Which is why my team and I started building a road trip itinerary creator called ScoutMyTrip. At the moment, it's for India and hope to expand to other countries very soon. Do give it a shot when you can!

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