Japan is a land of harmonious extremes, and as a result it can be quite daunting when you first arrive. So I’ve put together my top 10 travel tips for visiting the land of the rising sun:
- Eat before you ask
The food in Japan is incredible, however they cook and eat things that we would turn our nose up at in the west. My biggest piece of advice when visiting japan is to forget everything you think you know about food and just dive in. Eat it before you ask what it is.
- Avoid taxis at all costs
Japan’s taxi system is strange, due mainly to the fact that their train system is so bloody good. Rather than charging per journey a taxi in Japan will charge per person. In other words, a journey costing £10 will cost 2 people £20 not £5 each. Your best bet is to stick to trains and walking/cycling.
- You don’t need to spend much to find good food in Japan
As I said the Japanese don’t do bad food, thus you don’t need to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get jaw-droppingly good food. Something being cheap in Japan doesn’t indicate that it’s not very good. In fact, for things like Ramen we found that the cheaper options were often much nicer.
- Go North
The north of Honshu and the island of Hokkaido are by far the least visited areas of Japan, and I can’t understand why. They are slightly more difficult to reach but they offer some of the best food and scenery Japan has to offer. Hokkaido offers everything from the ski slopes of Niseko and breweries of Sapporo to some of Japan (if not the world’s) most beautiful and unspoilt national parks.
- Eat a big lunch…things close early
This only really applies when you are in more rural areas of Japan. Here most places, including restaurants, close by around 5pm. As a result, we were caught out a couple of times before we realised what was happening. My advice would be having your main meal at lunch when outside the big cities and be happy to settle for small food from a bar or supermarket in the evening.
- Embrace 7/11
7/11 and the other Japanese convenience stores are brilliant, and a great way to try Japanese food and drink on a budget. Particular highlights are the selection of sweets and crisps at 7/11, the Yakiniku Chicken from Lawson and the wide range of Onigiri from Family Mart.
- Get up early
Everywhere you go in the world they tell you to get up early to see the sights without the crowds. This is particularly true in Japan; however it is not just the lack of crowds that makes early trips to shrines and temples more appealing. Most of Japan’s shrines and temples are integrated seamlessly into the natural world meaning that they are often the best spots to see elusive animals or catch the sunrise. On top of this in shrines and temples that are still active it is in the morning that you are most likely to catch a glimpse of a monk or a holy ceremony.
- Embrace and enjoy the train journeys
I cannot stress enough how wonderful travelling by train in Japan is. It isn’t simply a means to an end it is very much part of the culture. Thus, I would urge anyone visiting Japan to embrace the trains, particularly the Shinkansen. If it fits with your itinerary I would strongly advise having at least one long journey. Whizzing through the Japanese countryside at 200mph is something you won’t soon forget.
- Get out of the Cities
Japan’s cities are incredible and have so much to offer, but I think many people fall into the trap of staying in the cities when they visit Japan. Most of Japan’s most beautiful and authentic experiences are outside the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and Kyoto. Even if it is only for a couple of days try and get a train out into the middle of Japan and spend a few days hiking the mountain trails. You’ll be astounded what you’ll stumble across.
- This is the place to take risks
Japan is a land of extremes, and the Japanese don’t do anything half-heartedly. As a result, neither should you, visiting Japan without the intention to throw yourself into every opportunity that comes your way is in my opinion a waste of money. Eat everything that is put in front of you, take a chance on a location that no one you know has visited and when someone tells you to go do diving despite your fear of water…just do it because I promise you won’t regret it.
Hopefully at least one of these tips have helped you, and if not I’d love to hear any advice you have on visiting Japan or anywhere else in the world!
See you soon,