Japan is unique. Consisting of 6,852 islands, a lifestyle, culture, and vibe that is pretty extraordinary, it’s wierd and wacky, a place everyone should visit.
With heaps of history, fascinating culture filled with respectful locals, Japan has a diverse variety of things to do.
I had no idea what to expect heading to such an intriguing destination. Somewhere that I knew I was going to be challenged. A language and lifestyle so foreign to me, I was ready to be tested and discover Japan for myself.
Going solo, on my final stem of money, I went head first from the idyllic, blue water, white sand, sensational Gili Islands of Lombok, Indonesia with a close friend, to landing 7am into Tokyo after an overnight flight, alone.
Japan is somewhere you will need to embrace and appreciate, you sure will get lost and find things pretty confusing but remember to just take it as it is and go with it.
Go in open-minded, ready to embrace the craziness, but you may want to know a few things first.
1. Work out your route across cities.
The language barrier can be extremely difficult across the country. It’s important to have an idea of where you are going. I don’t like to plan much on my travels but knowing the name of certain stations and train lines will help you massively. You don’t need to plan your entire trip, just at least your next route.
It’s pretty easy to get around Japan offering numerous modes of transport, which may I add is always on time! Cities like Osaka and Japan are ginormous and can take longer to get across then you think. Downloading offline maps and writing down your route in both Japanese and your local language will help if you do get lost, which seemed to happen to me way too many times.
Taxi’s are phenomenally expensive so concentrate on using metros, trains and bus’. I traveled by all modes of transport and luckily they are very trustworthy, on time and clean, despite being confusing. Local transport is always an authentic and fun way to get about.
2. Get ready to use the most elaborated toilets in the world
Toilets are on a whole new level. With music, heated toilet seats, a bidet feature for both the front and back, remote controls, temperature controlled water and pressure, automated flush and more, be prepared to find even going to the toilet baffling.
Recently, researchers have added medical sensors into these toilets, which can measure the blood sugar based on the urine, and also measure the pulse, blood pressure, and the body fat content of the user. Talking toilets that greet the user have also started being made. Well, I did say Japan was unique right.
3. They aren’t tattoo friendly
Don’t worry, you’re still allowed in the country and it won’t cause too many issues however the Japanese can relate tattoos to gangs or anti-social behaviour. I have three tattoos and was told I would not be allowed into the public swimming pools and spas called Onsen or certain gyms.
It’s not soo much of offending people however if you have many visible tattoos while out and about in Japan, be mindful of trying to cover them. In major cities it shouldn’t be too much of a problem however in smaller rural towns, some people may feel a little uncomfortable. The Japanese are aware that in many countries it’s totally normal. For locals, they tend to frown upon and many employees with ink on them has to fill out forms explaining the meaning of them.
4. Be wary of rules
The rules in Japan may be different to what you are used to. They are particular in where you can eat, drink, smoke or even talk on the phone. Japan is an exceptionally respectful country and it is important you follow the rules. As hygiene and cleanliness are vital to the Japenese, they are normally pretty strict with indoor and outdoor shoes. Even my hostels would sometimes provide slippers to entire my room.
People generally sit or stand in silence while on the trains as being too loud and disturbing other passengers is considered rude. This includes talking on your phone or having loud conversations. If you need to chat with your travel companion, do so in low voices. Also, make sure your phone is on silent and that other people can’t hear the music you’re listening to or the game you’re playing.
You’ll notice people don’t even smoke in public unless it’s in a designated smoking area on the street, or in a restaurant or bar where smoking is allowed.
5. Good luck finding a public bin.
The Tokyo Subway Sarin Gas Attack of 1995 was an evil terrorist attack where they left gas wrapped up and left in bins around the stations. Since then Japan decided to get rid of many bins around the entire country. It is definitely noticeable as there are hardly any anywhere. Most people wait until they get home to put their rubbish away. Or find the closest superstore as they normally have bins there. Be prepared to carry your rubbish around.
6. Fashion is world class
If you are into fashion, dress up and some of the best shopping in the world, Japan is for you. Some of the craziest dress sense and best vintage stores.
7. Tokyo is mental
Tokyo is insane. Crazy busy with countless people, neon lights, world class fashion, a shopping experience like no other. Colourful, swamped, baffling, sophisticated, exciting, unusual, wierd and extraordinary. Tokyo is one of the most puzzling yet interesting places I have ever been.
Be prepared to be confused.
8. Respect and culture
This is a major interest, lesson and adventure checking out the Japenese respect and culture. With laws so controversial, a discipline like no other, ways of life that seem totally 180 degrees opposite to mine.
Understand the Japenese culture is a big part of traveling. Learning their ways, respecting their culture.
9. It’s one of the cleanest and safest countries
From all the points I have made so far, it’s clear to see Japan is extraordinary when it comes to discipline, obeying rules, cleanliness and much more. Unfortunately, there are evil people all over the world and you can’t trust everyone but ultimately Japan is by far one of the safest and cleanest countries I have ever been too.
12. Hygiene is vital
The word kirei (きれい, 綺麗) can be defined as “pretty, beautiful; clean; pure; orderly. Japan is one of the cleanest and most hygienic countries I have ever been too, despite a crazy amount of pollution and wasted energy. Japan is exceptionally clean and the locals take this very seriously.
Even when I stayed with a local guy in Tokyo couch surfing, his place was immaculate.
13. Outstanding History
Japans history is exceptional.
14. They have some of the tastiest and weirdest foods in the world.
Japan has impressive, sometimes unusual and facinating foods. You could visit Japan purely for the weird but wonderful food they offer. Based on rice and noodle dishes, often eaten with sushi or sashimi. They love their fish and meats, I’m sure if it’s from the ocean, they will eat it.
Japan has one of the largest fish markets in the world you need to check out. Heading over at 7am, a cloudy but humid Monday morning in Tokyo, it was fascinating to see. Tsukiji Market handles over 2,000 tons of marine products per day.
Popular dishes you must try include Ramen, Tempura, Okonomiyaki, Miso soup, Gyōza, Katsu and of course, Sushi.
Fruit is crazy expensive, I saw shops selling four apples for almost £10! I found it hard to eat healthy while in Japan, finding it hard to eat lot’s of fruit and vegetables and not knowing what many of the foods actually are due to the language barrier.
There are places to eat on every corner on every road, it can just get horribly confusing trying to order. Many places in big cities will offer you an English menu, however, do not expect this everywhere.
Don’t be afraid to try the local cuisine, Japan can offer some of the best flavours and dishes in the world so get those taste buds ready for an Asian adventure.
Read more on Tokyo here!