Japan is a popular tourist destination for many. With the re-opening of borders and gradual relaxation of Covid-19 rules, the country is seeing an influx of tourists from all four corners of the globe.
In wake of this, here are some travel tips and mistakes to avoid on your trip to Japan so you not only enjoy your holiday but get as much bang for your buck as you can.
Whether you’re a domestic or international tourist, one thing everyone has in common is perhaps overbuying when on holiday. The resulting consequence is having either no space left in your luggage for that one souvenir you just had to buy or having to lug around a suitcase so heavy, it’s akin to dragging around an elephant.
Luckily, there are two options to relieve yourself of either issue:
- Japan Post
- Takkyubin (privately owned courier companies)
Both allow you to ship your belongings anywhere in Japan or abroad, so long as they don’t fall into the restricted or prohibited category. Japan Post offers four types of shipping options:
- EMS or Express Mail Service. This is the fastest and priciest option for shipping but depending on the destination, your package can arrive as early as 2 to 3 days, making it a good choice if you’re in a hurry.
- Airmail. Another fast but less pricey option, Airmail can get your package delivered to its designated destination within a week or so.
- SAL or Economy Air. This is a shipping option you can opt for if time is not of the essence. Basically, your package gets put on a waiting list and is shipped out once space is made available on the plane. Depending on where it’s going and how long the waiting lists is, your package can arrive somewhere between 2 to 3 weeks.
- Surface mail. This is the slowest but most budget-friendly option. Surface mail refers to mail and packages being transferred by ship and can take anywhere between 1 to 3 months to arrive at its designated destination. If you’re not in a rush or if you plan well, this can be the most economical option to choose from.
Takkyubin or private courier companies are aplenty in Japan, with Yamato Transport and Sagawa Express being the top dogs. The big benefit of going with these companies is that you can arrange for them to pick up your package at specified locations such as the convenience store or your hotel. They also have options for you to ship luggage to the airport; ship perishables to different areas of Japan etc.
Both Yamato Transport and Sagawa Express have fully operational websites in English to help guide you through the process. Also, if you’re planning to move to Japan on a more permanent basis, certain real estate agencies like Village House offer moving support (up to ¥30,000) so be sure to ask about that before choosing a shipping service of your own.
Traveling by train is one of the best ways to hop around to different parts of Japan and Japan Railways Group has numerous discount passes and ticket options that’ll surely entice tourists both international and domestic.
For those focusing on the capital city only, there is the Tokyo Wide Pass, which is a 3-day unlimited pass that allowed for travel on all JR lines and Shinkansen lines in Tokyo and its surrounding Kanto areas like Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. Tickets are ¥10,180 for adults and ¥5,090 for kids.
There is also the Tokyo One-Day Ticket, which costs ¥1,600 for adults and ¥800 for kids and allows unlimited travel on all transport across Tokyo’s 23 wards.
For those who wish to comb through the island from Kanto down to say, Kyushu, the Japan Rail Pass is the one to get to save up on transport costs. Bear in mind that this pass is only available to foreign tourists that come in with a temporary visitor stamp, which needs to be shown when collecting the pass. The pass can be for 7, 14, or 21 days and gives access to unlimited travel throughout Japan.
Packing can quickly become a bit of a nuisance when traveling, especially if you’re the type of person who likes picking up souvenirs for not just yourself, but everyone you know. A great way to circumvent this is by using packing cubes and vacuum seal bags to pack your clothes in. This helps condense your clothing items to smaller spaces to allow more room in your suitcase for other things. Packing cubes and vacuum seal bags can be cheaply bought at any one of Japan’s numerous 100 Yen stores. If you really need an extra bag or duffel, you can also find these at a 100 Yen store.
Japan can be quite fastidious when it comes to where you can smoke and smoking out in public outside of designated smoking areas is usually frowned upon. When it comes to hotel rooms, there are smoking and non-smoking options, though this is starting to decrease as well. Smoking and non-smoking rooms tend to be priced the same so in order to avoid a smoking room, be sure to check your booking before hitting that “confirm” button.
Making a Reservation
Pre-Covid, many places still preferred customers and clients to make reservations over the phone and this can be quite tricky if you’re an international tourist with zero Japanese language skills. However, due to the pandemic, many have now set up their own online reservation systems or partnered with a company that specializes in them. Still, not all websites and booking systems are in English; so to ensure that you’re not making any mishaps with your online booking, take advantage of Google Translate to translate the page and confirm that everything is in order before make the reservation final.
Alternatively, there are some companies that specialize in helping international tourists make reservations and booking for an event, attraction, concert etc. so this is an alternative to consider if you’re not feeling confident tackling the business’ online reservation system.
Also, speaking of reservations, if you’re looking for long-term accommodation in Japan, Village House has an entire website and online booking system that you can use to make an appointment with one of their representatives.
To wrap things up, making the most of your trip to Japan might involve some planning ahead and research but it’s worth it to ensure that you don’t saddle yourself with too heavy luggage or find yourself discombobulated when it comes to making a reservation for something. You can also be friendlier to your wallet by taking advantage of the numerous discount tickets for transport around Japan.