Exploring Japan is so fascinating!
When I first visited Japan, for me as a European, it was like an entering a different world. Japanese culture has a unique intriguing energy surrounded by a tranquil and traditional spirit!
If you start your journey in Tokyo, you won’t recognize the serene energy of Japan straight away as Tokyo is one of the largest and the most crowded city in the world.
However, what do you notice is their cultivated service which is considered as the most polite service in the world!
Let’s explore Japan with me.
A traditional Japanese drink is a GREEN TEA – especially Matcha which will follow you on each step.:)
Matcha powder is not only being served as a tea or as a matcha latte but it is also being added in a food – matcha ice cream, other sweets and believe it or not – in noodles!
A traditional food in Japan is not only sushi and sashimi but also a wide range of noodles – Ramen, Soba, Udon and soups, famous Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Yakitori. Japanese also make a lot of delicious sweets as well – Wagashi, Mochi, Dorayaki, Daifuku and much more.
I would say that Japan is a paradise of food! What else fascinates me in Japan are the stunning Japanese gardens, their original architecture and the alphabet.
When is the best time to visit Japan and which city to visit?
What should you know BEFORE YOU GO?
Let’s keep reading and begin a virtual journey to Japan!
BEST TIME to visit Japan:
Late SPRING – March to May (last week of March to the first week of April is a great time to see the cherry blossoms in their bloom until they start falling, which is within two weeks)
Late AUTUMN – September to November – little rainfall, clear sky, colorful leafs
December – it is cheap (except Christmas and New Year)
Worst time to visit Japan:
Mid-June – hot and humid, rainy season
POPULAR PERIOD :
around New Year
Cherry Blossom Festivals – in April
Golden week – usually end of April to the beginning of May, a lot of Japanese workers take a vacation during this time which makes a lot of places really packed!
Sanja Matsuri – third weekend in May
Sanja Festival – considered as one of the largest and wildest
Sumida River Fireworks Festival – end of July
festivals of Obon – around August, a Buddhists holiday with lanterns
Awa Odori – mid-August, the largest Japanese dance festival
TIPS before you go:
Stay in a hotel with a SMART LOCATION – Choose a location where will it be easy to reach the places you wish to visit. Do you prefer to be surrounded by plenty of restaurants? Do you like nightlife and shopping and want to be a walking distance from the shops? Plan ahead. Public transport in Japan can be really expensive!
Buy a SIM CARD with internet data – Wifi connection can be hard to find in public places in Japan. Don’t buy it at the airport though – it will cost you a lot more! I bought a 1 GB data sim card for around 2000 YEN – IIJmio (valid for one month). I would say that was the cheapest option that they offered. The internet was gone in a couple of days though. Upps 🙂 An extra data can be purchased in any Lawson shop (a common convenience store, coupons – 500MB for 1500 Yen or 2GB for 3000 Yen).
Try the sim card in the shop to check the compatibility with your phone! You can test it at Yodobashi camera shop.
Another option for accessing the internet is via pocket wifi but I didn’t try it. However, a lot of other bloggers write about it, so it could be worthy!
Consider buying a Japanese Rail Pass – This pass provides you unlimited rides for a public transport for all JR Rails and some Shinkansen bullet trains for either 7, 14 or 21 days (more explained in section “Public transport in Japan“).
Always have CASH READY – many stores, especially in the markets don’t accept credit or debit cards. ATMs are located at most convenience stores. However, check if your credit or debit card is compatible.
Pack light – Hotels and other places in Japan usually have small rooms, indeed they don’t even have an elevator! If you plan to travel a lot around Japan, don’t pack too much stuff!
Be ready that Japanese DON’t SPEAK ENGLISH very well. – It is really hard to find Japanese, who can speak and understand English properly. In addition, the restaurant menu can be completely in Japanese! If you are having troubles, take a paper and pen and write down what do you need. Learn some Japanese phrases, they will appreciate it! 😉
Download Google TRANSLATE APP – I found it very handy. It allows you to scan any Japanese text and translate it into English or your language.
Finding an address can be tricky. There is a little explanation of Japanese address system:
The first number is usually ZIP CODE -> followed by the largest division – CITY -> then WARD or TOWN -> CHOME (district) -> a NUMBER OF THE BUILDING -> name the BLOCK-> the last number is the UNIT NUMBER
150-2345 (zip code) Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku (ward), Honmachi 2 chome, 4-7 (building number), Sunny Mansion 203 (unit number)
REALLY? Interesting FACTS you might not know about Japan:
LOCKERS for your baggage are available almost everywhere through the station building. They are big enough to store a medium size luggage. I think it is really handy when you travel overnight to another city. It doesn’t cost much. But! Remember the spot of your locker! 🙂
NO TIPPING in Japan! – It is not common to leave tips in a restaurant, taxi or anywhere else. They will just don’t accept it and you can get into an awkward situation.
There is a lack of bins in public. Be ready to have a plastic bag to put your rubbish in
Most TOILETS also serve s a bidet. In addition, they have other features such as MUSIC, sounds of the ocean or cleaner and heater for the toilet seat.
In Japan, they DRIVE ON THE LEFT side (if you are Australian you won’t be so surprised but for Europeans or Americans it could be a bit confusing).
Some restaurants require you to pay in advance. There is a machine where can you select a meal, purchase it with cash, take the number and give it to the waitress
For visiting the best restaurants you have to QUEUE UP to get in (it could take one hour!)