Since I started posting collages of our Japan trip on Facebook, many of my friends have started asking me for tips, a copy of our itinerary, and other helpful information about Japan. I promised to share our experience with everyone so, let me start off by giving you some ideas on how we started preparing for this trip.
To plan a trip to Japan isn’t easy peasy. It took me months to finalise our itinerary. I burnt midnight oil researching, reading travel blogs and TripAdvisor reviews and filtering which places will make it in our itinerary. For the most part, Google Maps helped me a lot in figuring out which places are near to each other so that I can strategically plan which places we can go to on our first day and so on.
We went to Japan for a week in July and boy, it was hot! The weather was very unforgiving and we heard that when we were there, many old people suffered from heat stroke. We heard ambulance sirens once in a while. Hot weather in Japan starts in July and extreme temperatures can be felt in mid-August. Many locals told us that the best time to visit Japan would either be during Spring (Sakura season) or Autumn. But just in case you go during summer like we did, here are some tips you need to keep in mind when in Japan:
- Stay hydrated. You don’t need to bring bottled water with you because vending machines are everywhere and their price is reasonable.
- Bring small towels and extra t-shirts so that you can freshen up anytime. Public toilets in Japan are clean so it won’t be troublesome should you need to change. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes because you might do a lot of walking.
- Bring an umbrella to protect your skin from the sun (don’t forget to apply sunblock, too! There are a lot of good sunblock and sunscreen lotions in Japan) or if you find umbrellas such a hassle, you can get yourself a hat in Japan. I think Japanese have this fascination with hats (especially the old men), that you’ll easily find a stand selling hats anywhere.
- So that you’ll always be camera-ready despite being sweaty and all, you can swing by the nearest beauty store and find Biore’s Powder Sheets. I swear, I hoarded them before flying off to New York. It freshens you up anytime, anywhere! This is the one I got in fresh citrus scent.
Aside from these, let me just fill you in with other useful information. We were in Japan for a week and we wanted to go around Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Prior to making all the online bookings, I checked how much train tickets cost. They are quite reasonable but I suggest that you avail of the JR Railway Pass because it gives you unlimited train rides in all JR lines including the bullet trains (we saved a lot of money travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto and back because of this pass). This pass is good for seven days and it costs around SGD 300 (around 10,00 pesos) per ticket.
You can order it online at www.jrpass.com. There will be some instances when you need to change to other train lines but don’t fret because ticket price is reasonable. Just make sure you have enough yen with you and you are good to go.
Another useful tip when travelling in Japan is to get a pocket wifi. I’m sure you’d want to be connected 24/7 and immediately post your Instagram-worthy photos. Not only that, it will come in handy in accessing Google maps, translations and looking up everything. If you don’t have one, you can easily find a shop at the airport where you can rent them. When we were there, to rent one for a week costs about USD 70.
Many travelers fear commuting in Japan because of the language barrier. It’s very hard to communicate in English because many locals prefer speaking in Japanese and many signs are still, of course, in Japanese. So, how did we manage to commute by train in Japan for a week? We were advised by my good friend to access this Japanese Train Route Finder, Jorudan. All you need to do is type in the station where you are coming from and where you want to go to then it will give you various options on how to reach your destination. It also provides other details such as travel time and ticket cost. By accessing Jorudan, you’ll be a fearless wanderer in Japan!
Finally, it won’t hurt to learn some Japanese words such as Ohayou Gozaimasu (Good morning), Konnichiwa (Good day), Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank you) and Oishii (delicious). Japanese people are very polite and learning some Japanese words make them feel happy and they’ll appreciate your effort for that. Oh! don’t forget to bow a little each time you say, arigatou gozaimasu!
With these tips, you’re now ready to get on that plane and discover Japan!
I’ll be writing about our accommodations later on because they deserve to be in another blog entry.