Culture Travel Guide

20 Travel Tips You Must Know Before Visiting Japan

Are you planning to visit Japan for the first time? This article is written based on the problems you will face during your trip to Japan including the things that you should know before traveling to japan.

Don’t get crazy, only for you I have figured out this ultimate Japan travel guide. Please read this article before you arrive in Japan. Oh wait a bit! I want you to explore the most important things you should not do when visiting Japan as well.

Your Japan holiday is going to be one of the best memorable trips you will have in your life if you know all these travel facts in advance.

Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji, Japan. Photo credit: Melanie M at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Japan is an extremely beautiful country though you have to prepare for some problems that you would face during your Japan trip. It does not matter whether you want to see Koyo (Autumn colors) or cherry blossoms.

It is going to be a big challenge for you to handle. Today I would like to share these travel tips you must know when you visit Japan.

1) Earthquake Encounter

Cherry Blossoms in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan
It is spring in Hanamaki, Japan. I think you would like to see Cherry blossom all over Japan. Photo credit: pelica at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

No one knows when a bad day may arrive but at least you can be sure that earthquake is a common thing in Japan. There is nothing to be worried of it though you must be prepared for it.

I wish you never ever encounter this natural disaster including tsunami during your trip to japan.

Besides, earthquake you may experience typhoon season that hit Japan between May and October with August and September being the peak season.

Visit Japan’s Disaster Prevention Portal for latest update.

2) Rain & Heat May Ruin Your Trip

Raining in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo Credit: Tatters ❀ at Flickr.

Japan is not a place only for spring or autumn season there is a rainy season where extensive rains come down from the sky and summer in Japan is very crazy.

Read this article to know how to deal with summer in Japan. No doubt, that you will have to encounter it while traveling in Japan in the rainy season.

Sometimes, it rains in the autumn too! At that time, the weather seems a little bit crazy, as a result you will feel very cold. So wear the right attire to prevent yourself from cold weather.

However, if you visit Japan in summer, you better keep an umbrella or traditional Japanese parasol (wagasa) with you so that you don’t get wet or burn your skin.

3) English Does Not Work Here Much

It is in Osaka! Can you read that shown in the picture? Photo Credit: m-louis .® at Flickr.

Japanese (general public) don’t know how to speak English much. In fact, they don’t care about it. No matter what you do out there you must need to know at least few important Japanese words and phrases.

For example, you might want to buy things from a shop but you don’t know how to ask to seller about the things you are willing to buy.

So it will be great for you if you learn some basic Japanese before arriving there. Please learn basic Japanese phrases and words from here. I also suggest you to speak and use simple English sentences, words and phrases.

Though there is a way that teaches you how to communicate without fuss or fear instantly when it comes to talking about communicating with Japanese. Want to learn it, please visit here.

In addition, there is a very simple and effective way to communicate with locals. Pocketalk, a multilingual interactive communication device that works as a translator. You can rent this useful device here. It’s cheap!

4) Your Japanese Is Useless Unless You Pronounce It Correctly:

You can shop some great souvenirs from store like this and could bargain if you know Japanese well. Photo Credit: m-louis .® at Flickr.

People say that Japanese is hard to learn; maybe it is hard for foreigners. To be honest with you, learning Japanese language is not that much hard if you start learning it seriously.

I suggest you to learn the most used Japanese and phrases and words that they use every day.

This book here helps you learning Japanese very fast and great for beginners.

5) You Have A Map But It Does Not Mean You Won’t Get Lost

Every Japanese city is different from each other. Wherever you go, you must take a map with you but there is a chance of getting lost since Japanese cities are divided many into blocks, numbers and names.

Will it be so hard to travel for you then? I hope it will not be, so please get your Japan travel map here.

6) Taxi Fare Is Very Expensive

Taxi in Umeda, Osaka. Photo Credit: m-louis .® at Flickr.

Traveling in Japan with a taxi will kill you when you compare the fare with other nation’s taxi fare. Here it is expensive!

So only when you have enough money then you can take a taxi, otherwise it is better for you to use Train. You can completely rely on Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) and other prepaid travel cards such as PASMO and Suica Cards.

JR rail pass can be bought online but not inside in Japan.

Do you know where to get a PASMO or Suica cards? These IC cards are very useful and can be used to buy things from stores and to pay train fare.

You can purchase them at JR stations at Multifunction Ticket Vending Machines, JR Ticket Offices and Travel Service Centers. Later in this post you will learn more about IC card.

7) Learn How To Bow

Before you get to Japan, learn how to bow! Photo Credit: at Flickr.

You absolutely need to know this; otherwise people in Japan may think you are not a polite person.

Japanese will bow you so you should response them in a correct way by bowing well in front of them. Bow as many as time you want! There is a list of Japanese Etiquette you can learn except bowing.

I have come across a great Japanese etiquette book, called Etiquette Guide to Japan: Know the Rules that Make the Difference, I believe you must read this book to get some ideas before visiting Japan. It is very useful!

You move to Japan, no problem at all but don’t mess up with our Japanese etiquette. Nothing bad would happen even when you mess up with these but maybe you would dishonor our culture.  

8) You May Accidentally Take A Wrong Train

Japanese train system is a bit complex but it is a very useful transportation system in Japan. It will be complex for you to take the right train at the right time if you are new comer so please use a route finder and ask people.

For visitors, it is often hard to locate a train station especially if they are comers and traveling without the internet.

9) Learn How To Hold Chopsticks

This how you have to hold Chopsticks. Photo Credit: Jordi Sanchez Teruel at Flickr.

Chopsticks has an impact on Japanese culture, make sure you use them properly. Just don’t point them to others! I believe you must know few Japanese chopsticks etiquette.

Japanese chopsticks sets are beautiful, you can get few sets as souvenirs for others. At Daiso (100 yen shop), you can buy them at a very cheap price.

10) Bring Real Cash

You are advised to bring real cash than depending on your ATM card. Most of the Japanese ATMs don’t accept international cards. Please, don’t forget this important travel tip!

Exchange your local currency at the airports all over Japan. You could imagine a real problem which you are going to face with your card once you read this post “A guide to using international credit card in Japan“.

11) You Have To Eat Raw Foods

Sushi Dish, Japan
Sushi Dish. Photo credit: T-mizo at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Even though it is easy to say “I want to eat sushi in Japan” but the real thing is people dare to tastes them in the end. I have seen several times foreigners ignore eating it but later they find it very delicious.

There is other type of raw food you are going to familiar with during your Japan trip, it is called Sashimi. Eating Sashimi for the first time would be awkward but it is really simple once you know how to eat sashimi.

12) Take Your Shoes Off Please!

Take a look at the message there! Photo Credit: Lloyd Morgan at Flickr.

It is mandatory for you to take your beautiful shoes off. If you are heading to Friend’s house, Shrines, Temples, and Ryokan then you will have to do it, there is no way to avoid this!

I know, you will respect our culture and traditions. But always use bathroom slippers when you have to go to a bathroom. Don’t worry, they will be provided in front of the entrance door.

13) Use of Cell Phone – Will My Cell Phone Work in Japan?

I dare to tell you “Yes” because most of the cell phone models that you use in your country don’t work in Japan. Renting a Japanese cell phone could erase this big problem. Would it be a good idea to talk over phone when someone is sleeping next to you?

I suggest you not to use your cell phone much when you are on public transports such as on trains and buses. Just to tell you that, it is a big public disturbance when listening to music loudly on your cellphone in train, bus in Japan, we don’t care if you use your headphones.

14) Traditional Sitting Style (Seiza)

Seiza - Traditional Japanese Sitting Style
Seiza – Japanese Traditional Sitting Style. Photo credit: Marc-Anthony Macon at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing

What do you know about it? It could be a challenge for you to sit such way. So learn it fast!

I think it is going to be easy for you anyway. It is not the hardest job you would ever do in your life.

15) Toilet Issue!

Here in Japan, toilets seem to you very complex with their many interesting buttons. So you know what you have to do! Don’t get crazy seeing small and large size of toilets in hotels and public toilets.

They are super clean indeed!

16) Buy Japan Rail Pass and Get a Suica Card or PASMO Card

Japan Rail Pass. Photo credit: Antonio Tajuelo at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Japan Rail Pass helps you to get all the transportation service at a low cost. It is cost effective, no doubt about that. You have to buy one before arriving in Japan.

While on the other hand, you can get a Suica card or PASMO card to pay for the items you buy from certain stores (PASMO participating stores) as well as for traveling on the subway and metro.

These two are considered as prepaid travel cards in Japan. In fact, JR pass is not valid on private (non-JR) lines, that’s for what you have to buy Suica or PASMO card for traveling all over Tokyo metropolitan area on the subway.

Please not that for traveling long distance JR Pass is just perfect!

17) You Can’t Order Food If You Can’t Read Japanese

Sushi Dai! Order your Delicious Shushi. Photo Credit: Eugene Lazutkin at Flickr.

At any traditional Japanese restaurants, most of the menus are written in Japanese not in English. So you be sure to read them and order the right foods you want to eat.

In large cities like Tokyo, Sapporo, Kyoto, Sendai ordering food is not daunting even if you can’t read the Japanese menus. They are packed with good restaurants including both traditional and modern.

Don’t mess up with this because I know you can’t live without having foods while traveling all over Japan.

18) Taking Photos in Japan

Autumn Colors in Nagasaki, Japan
You surly can take picture of Autumn nature in Japan. Photo credit: Marufish at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

There is no problem taking pictures of objects both inside and outside. Though some temples and shrines, and museums have prohibited areas.

Don’t take photos of a place when you are not permitted to do so. You have the right to ask public before taking any pictures.

And don’t use flash if you are taking pictures at night.

19) Walk and Drive on the Left Side

In Japan, left side is the right side to drive vehicle. So you are advised not to take the wrong side driving a car on the right side.

You are also advised to walk on the left side. I am sure whenever you take a service from rental car agency in Japan you will be informed about this subject.

In addition, most of the Japanese don’t cross the street on a red light even when a road is completely void of vehicles.

20) You Will Be Sad! Will You Be?

Girls in Kyoto. Photo Credit: jedydjah at Flickr.

You have just read the most important tips you need to know when you visit Japan. There is a big problem you will face that is – being sad after end of your memorable trip, you would not like to leave this country for sure.

I know you want to explore it more but because of money, time and work, you can’t stay here for long. You have to leave anyway but I welcome you here always. Welcome to Japan!

I have a BONUS travel tip for you! 

21) Important Pre-arrival Travel Tips to Japan

Sake! Drink it in Japan. Photo Credit: halfrain at Flickr.

Here, I want you to focus on few important things that should be done before you arrive in the land of the rising sun. First of all, you have to apply for getting Japan travel visa.

Secondly, when you get visa you better decide how you want to explore Japan. You could come here alone as well as with a group through various Japan tour operators/agents. They usually offer tour packages depending on your budget.

Then you must buy JAPAN RAIL PASS. This could save a lot of money as a means of transportation cost. When you are done with this, I suggest you to pack your things that would include your clothes, electronic appliances and other things.

Please read this post to get some ideas for Japan packing. Don’t worry about getting internet facility in Japan. You can get free Wi-Fi connection at the major airports and public transport stations. Cheaply you can rent pocket Wi-Fi, no doubt about that. I also believe before you arrive in Japan you must make a hotel reservation, it is very hard to make a reservation during major festival such as Hanami (Cherry Blossom viewing festival).

It is possible to have a memorable Japan trip if only you could follow and maintain few things wisely. All these Japan travel tips suggest you that you are to follow and keep certain things in your mind so that you could have a good time over there. I think these are the things to do before you travel to japan.

I know, everyone seeks for having a trip at low cost. Your Japan travel budget decides you how many days you could stay there. So budget is important to you. By the way, have a nice trip to Japan!


  1. Christine Mendoza

    Fantastic tips! Your advices are really useful. You should have cash in you.I just came back from Japan. It is amazing how different this country is. Best regards!

  2. What a great article! Your Japan travel guides help me a lot, in fact I would go to Japan next month from South Korea.

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