Japan Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling to Japan!

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Updated on: 8 August, 2021

The only country in Asia with a western standard of living is Japan. At first glance, the land of the rising sun seems to tick differently than we do. After our arrival in Tokyo, a lot of things quickly seem familiar to us.

Before we went to Japan, we only knew the country from stories. Friends gave us tips and told us about their experiences. They showed us what exotic country we wanted to discover.

“You will like it” was the general opinion. That’s why we were really excited when we took off. After the trip, we have to admit that we fell in love with Japan . We’d like to go back to see more.

There are a few things to plan and consider before traveling to Japan . Japan is bigger than you think. In three weeks we could only see a fraction of the country . In Tokyo alone , you could explore district by district for three weeks. We wanted to see more of the country and its people and went on a tour.

So we could learn more about the foreign culture and  taste local culinary Japanese specialities . An individually planned round trip from/to Tokyo was perfect for us. 

The reputation of Japan as the most expensive travel destination in the world is present in many minds. Nevertheless, you can travel to Japan cheaply. My experience is that a round trip in Australia is significantly more expensive. You can find everything else below in the text.

Here are our best tips, information and experiences for planning your individual Japan trip.

Table of Contents

Why is Japan so different?
What is the best time to travel to Japan?
How much time should you plan for Japan?
Itinerary for Japan
Book travel and flights to Japan
Entry requirements for Japan
Vaccinations, first-aid kit and travel insurance for Japan
Japan is that expensive
Travel by train with the Japan Rail Pass
Public transportation in Japan
IC cards (Suica card and Pasmo card)
Which travel guides for Japan?
Money and credit cards in Japan
Language – Japanese or English?
Packing list for Japan
Food in japan
Ordering food is often easy for non-Japanese people
Before the trip: book accommodation
Before the trip: Pocket WIFI or SIM card?
Visiting an onsen despite having a tattoo?
What else you should know about Japan


Why is Japan so different?

Japan was isolated for many years: from 1639 only Dutch merchant ships were allowed to head for Japan. Japanese society was thus isolated and was able to largely preserve its culture. It was not until 1853 that the borders were reopened. As a result, a lot of tradition (e.g. the geishas) was retained and thus still exist today.

Our image of Japan is often like this: Very modern, everyone is crazy about technology, calm, wealthy and punctual. But to call the island western would be wrong. Japan is unique and different. The Japanese are proud of that.

Japanese are very punctual: You can tell that especially on the trains. These are always on time. Delays of 5 to 10 minutes are completely normal for us. For the Japanese, being 2 minutes late is a disaster. The average delay for Shinkansen trains has averaged 18 seconds over the past few years. Hard to imagine for us.

Japan, the homeland of anime, manga, martial arts and zen meditation. All things that have found their way to the West and inspire millions of people.

But what is so crazy about Japan?

There is a lot more to report. For example, from heated toilet seats , speaking machines and air conditioning systems . The “trigger” at rush hour that passengers push into the overcrowded metros.

Or extra toilet flaps that are available for going to the toilet. There are cat cafes and maid cafes where you will be served by younger girls in school uniforms. To do this, they communicate in a child’s language. For us abnormal and somehow repulsive, Asians, in contrast to us, downright freak out.

There are also old shrines and temples (if they have not burned down at least five times and have been rebuilt). In Kyoto , a geisha scurries past you from time to time. But as quickly as it appears, it also disappears again quickly.

Since we could go on here indefinitely, we are considering writing a separate article about the Japanese peculiarities.

The Japanese language is just as different . It uses two alphabets (or kana): hiragana and katakana . There are also Chinese characters, called Kanji in Japan. These are also very common in Japanese scripts.

The language has different forms of politeness and intonations that make it difficult for us Westerners to learn.

Are you still wondering:

Why go to Japan?

Japan is great . The land of the rising sun has long been popular with Asians. Western tourists are slowly discovering the fascination of Japan. Traveling here is becoming increasingly popular. You should quickly think about discovering this, for us, still exotic and extraordinary country.

For us, the mix in Japan is what makes it: big cities like the mega- metropolis Tokyo ,Osaka ,Yokohama or Nagoya . These are very exciting and very different from anything you’ve seen so far. At least that’s how it was for us. In the first few days we couldn’t stop being amazed.

In addition to all the modern that Japan has to offer, there are  ancient temples  and  castles  (such as the beautiful Himeiji Castle.

Beautiful Himeji Castle Japan

Nature lovers don’t miss out either. The landscape is incredibly beautiful. It gets greener and greener towards the south. The landscape then consists of rolling hills (probably due to the many volcanoes). These remind me very much of Rwanda (“The Land of a Thousand Hills”).

You can even ski first class in Japan . A friend confirmed this to me with shining eyes. It’s practically on my “to do list” for Japan.

Beach lovers and fans of Asia will find   fantastic  Caribbean islands  and  beaches in Okinawa Prefecture . Unfortunately, our time was too short so that we only had 2-3 days left for Okinawa. Much too short as we think. This is what the next trip to the south is all about!

Oh how did we love it Hannah our foodie had found out the specialities for each region. We tried everything. From expensive (over $120) to cheap (less than $1).

Not to forget the many sights . You can find so many temples in Tokyo and Kyoto alone . Every single one of them is a highlight. We will publish a separate article soon for the best sights in Japan.

The only downside to Japan is that flights are often expensive (and long). The country is not a cheap travel destination, especially during peak travel times (cherry blossom). Nevertheless, you can also travel, live and eat cheaply in Japan. The cost is still more than this one trip to Southeast Asia.

What is the best time to travel to Japan?

The first thought when planning a tour of Japan is the best time. Summer, autumn, winter or spring?

You will probably feel like us before your first trip to Japan: You want to travel to the cherry blossom! At the time of our trip, the cherry blossom in Tokyo fell exactly on Easter (more precisely a few days before) and was therefore exactly in our travel period.

It  was pure coincidence that the  cherry blossom fell on the Easter weekend in Tokyo. For those who do not want to take up a few vacation days, we advise: Travel around Easter like us. The departure was on Maundy Thursday evening. So with Good Friday and Easter Monday we had two public holidays and thus more travel days. With 14 days of vacation we were on the move with flights for 24 days. Perfect right?

It rains a lot in Tokyo in March. The right choice of clothing is therefore important!

It rains a lot in Tokyo in March. 
The right choice of clothing is therefore important!

How much time should you plan for Japan?

In general, we advise: the longer the better. We stayed in Japan for exactly 23 days and knew from the start: Much too short. That is why we are already planning the next trip, because now we would like to see more of this fascinating country!

You can easily explore Japan on your own. Choosing the right places for your first tour with limited time is not easy.

We get a lot of questions: “How long should we plan for Japan?” Our answer: As long as you can, because the journey is long and the jet lag is often severe.

We advise planning at least 14 days, even better three weeks, for Japan. It is not worth traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun for just a week. Unless you’re going on a tour of Asia or even a trip around the world. If you’re in the region anyway, it’s of course something else.

Buses are also very comfortable and were always on time. Read this article to the end with our travel tips. Then you are well prepared.

Itinerary for Japan

After we booked our flights and had exact dates, we began to scour Japan travel guides  and online forums intensively  . What can you do in three weeks, what do we definitely want to see? Because that’s how long we had time.

Our tips on how to find your ideal route:

  • Make a list of the highlights and sights you want to see.
  • Use Google Maps and  Hyperdia to check the train connections and transfer times when traveling from A to B.
  • Don’t put too much stress on yourself. We are now traveling slowly. Instead of sleeping somewhere else every night, we stay longer in one place.

Nevertheless, here are a few suggestions for the route of your first trip to Japan:

1 week (or less) in Japan?

Seven days is very little to explore a country. You will lose at least one day on the plane. For a week we would limit ourselves to Tokyo and the surrounding sights (Kamakura, Nikko) . Or visit Kyoto . 

Then there are only a few days left for both cities. You could spend more than a week in Tokyo alone . You can do the most important sights in both cities in one week.

10 days to two weeks in Japan – where to go?

During this time you will get all the highlights of a first trip to Japan. However, it then becomes very compact and the days are long. You have to be prepared to change hotels every 1-2 days and to travel around a lot.

3 weeks in Japan? Our route

In my opinion, the optimal travel time for Japan is three weeks. In 21 days you will get all the highlights. We were traveling in Japan for 23 days. After that we were “stunned” by the many impressions.

Next time we would plan an extra night in an onsen. Relaxation at its best!

Our Japan route:

  • Tokyo (4 days)
  • Hakone (1 night with private onsen)
  • Kawaguchiko (Fuji Lakes) – (2 nights)
  • Kanazawa (2 nights)
  • Kyoto (4 days)
  • Nara (1 night)
  • Osaka (3 nights)
  • Himeiji Castle (as a stopover)
  • Hiroshima (3 nights with a day trip to Miyajima )
  • Tokyo (1.5 days)

We pushed all other places we wanted to see on the next trip due to lack of time. Takayama and the islands of Okinawa are among them.

Four weeks and more?

Anyone who has more than three weeks to spare has the luxury of traveling the country stress-free and extensively. Then you can extend the 3-week round trip with Takayama and the Japanese Alps . You’ll still have time for Okinawa . Alternatively, you can relax for a few days in a classic ryokan with a private onsen. Japan really offers a lot of possibilities.

Conclusion travel route Japan

No matter how long you have time. It always depends on how fast you travel and what you want to watch. That is why we can only publish our personal thoughts, experiences and our route here. You can find more information in the remaining articles on our tour.

Book travel and flights to Japan

Before booking a flight, you have to consider whether you are looking for a more expensive direct flight or whether you want to book an open jaw flight (e.g. Frankfurt – Tokyo – Osaka – Frankfurt). Changing multiple times and thus saving money is “in”, but climate change is not okay for us. But you have to decide that.

In general, a return flight to and from the same city is cheaper (e.g. Frankfurt – Tokyo – Frankfurt) than an open jaw flight (Frankfurt – Tokyo – Osaka – Frankfurt).

We prefer to book direct flights. We have had stress with delays and the fear of missing a connecting flight too often lately.

We first looked  for our flights on Google Flights , then on Skyscanner. Then  checked directly on the websites of the  airlines ANA (All Nippon Airlines) and Lufthansa. We really wanted to book a direct flight from Frankfurt or Düsseldorf. Therefore, the Lufthansa website was the best place for us to book. So we could also redeem a few of the miles we had collected.

For example, you can fly much cheaper with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Qatar Airways via Doha, Emirates via Dubai, Etihad via Abu Dhabi or Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. In Europe, Finnair (via Helsinki) currently offers very cheap flights.

Note that there are two airports in Tokyo: Narita and Haneda . Narita is right out of the town and served by most international flights. A trip to the city (no matter if bus or metro) takes about 1.20 hours.

Entry requirements for Japan

It is easy for German citizens to enter Japan as a tourist.

Do i need a visa for Japan?

To enter Japan, you need a passport that is valid for at least the duration of the trip (at least six months are recommended).

A tourist visa is valid for 90 days. If you are staying longer in Japan, you can extend the visa on site by 90 days.

When entering the country, it is also important that you know the first address. We only had one phone number for our Airbnb as we were told that would be enough. The officer wanted to know exactly. Thanks to free WIFI, we were able to quickly find out the complete address and add it. Only then were we allowed to go further.

If you are in a hotel after arrival, this address is sufficient. From experience, you can also enter any hotel, if necessary the district (when entering Tokyo).

“Customs Declaration” and an immigration card for Japan. You have to fill out these two forms.

Vaccinations, first-aid kit and travel insurance for Japan

Recommended vaccinations for Japan

If you are traveling from Europe, no vaccinations are required for normal tourists for Japan. For trips to rural areas, the standard vaccinations tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, rabies and typhoid are recommended.

For long-term stays (e.g. studying), vaccination against hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis is recommended. Always consult a doctor for more information and advice on vaccinations. You should generally check your vaccinations before each trip and refresh them if necessary.

First aid kit for Japan

I had packed the most important medicines for Japan. Even if you can certainly get everything in Japan, we didn’t want to leave anything to chance in the event of illness. Because the package inserts in Japan are only in Japanese. I always want to have the most important medicine to hand quickly. That’s why I had the following with me in Japan:

  • Nasal spray (always in hand luggage)
  • Sinupret (for chronic sinus problem)
  • Hand disinfectant gel (as a water substitute, as there is often no soap) – you can also buy it on site.
  • pavement
  • suncream
  • Electrolyte-glucose powder, e.g. Elotrans
  • aspirin
  • Perenterol forte, Lopedium and Imodium acute (for diarrhea)

Which travel insurance for Japan?

Many holidaymakers only ask questions about travel insurance shortly before departure. But then it is often too late. If you fall seriously injured while doing sports or at work shortly before your trip, then maybe a lot of money is wasted.

Japan is quite expensive

Many think that Japan is one of the most expensive travel destinations in the world and are initially put off. While I was  touring Australia in the spring of 2017  , friends were in Japan at the same time. We exchanged views on prices for food and accommodation. We quickly realized that Japan is cheaper than Australia. You just have to know how and where to save money.

In general, your expenses in Japan are based on the type of travel. Would you like to stay in hotels with large rooms or is a capsule hotel enough? At Airbnb you can find cheap apartments. Even in guest houses (like an expensive ryokan, traditionally with futon but without food) you can stay quite cheap. In Tokyo and Kyoto in particular, these are cheaper alternatives.

Then you should think about how you want to travel around the country. Do you buy a → Japan Rail Pass  or are connections that take longer but are cheaper? Would you even like to drive a night bus (cheap and save a night’s hotel) or even travel around the country thanks to cheap low-cost airlines?

Travel by train with the Japan Rail Pass

Since we didn’t just visit Tokyo, of course, we ordered the Japan Rail Pass. This can only be bought by foreigners living outside of Japan.  

This Rail Pass includes a kind of  flat rate for train  travel on all Japan Rail “JR” trains within three weeks. Perfect for us as we traveled around Japan for about three weeks. The pass currently costs 448 euros for three weeks (2nd class).

The Japan Rail Pass is also available for 7 days and 14 days. Since March 2018 the Japan Rail Pass can also be bought in Japan. However, it is more expensive on site. As an alternative to the Shinkansen, there are night buses and domestic flights that we did not use. 

We only had to go by bus to Hakone and on to Kawaguchi-ko , as no trains arrive here. The Hakone Fuji Free Pass (3 days) was  worth it for this region  . This included the transfers and all sightseeing buses and cable cars.

Traveling by train in Japan is really a very pleasant, faster and stress-free way to get from A to B. After all, the “bullet trains” in Japan are on time, you have a lot of legroom and the whole system works perfectly. I am really excited!

Public transportation in Japan

Traveling around in Japan is not only thanks to the  Japan Rail Pass totally easy. In addition, the infrastructure with public transport is ingenious. No matter where you want to go, the connections are there.

The infrastructure is perfectly developed. The network is great. If there is no train, there is a bus. They are also very comfortable and (over) punctual.

“Airpass” for travel by plane

Similar to the Japan Rail Pass, the largest airlines in Japan offer inexpensive domestic flight tickets as passes. A comparison to traveling by train is therefore worthwhile. Here, too, you often have to buy the tickets before you travel from abroad.

The following passes are available:

From Japan Airlines: JAL Oneworld YOKOSO Airpass, Visit Tohoku Airpass and the Welcome to Jaopan Airpass.

Condition:  Only for passengers traveling to Japan with a Oneworld airline (see here) and residing outside of Japan (only one pass per passenger). Valid only on domestic flights operated by Japan Airlines (JL) and Japan Transocean (NU).

From JTA Japan Transocean (NU, part of Japan Airlines): Okinawa Island Pass.

Condition: For travelers with an international round-trip ticket and residing outside of Japan. Valid on all JTA Japan Transocean (NU) domestic flights between Okinawa, Ishigaki, Miyakojima, Kumajima and Yonagunijima.

From ANA: ANA Visit Japan Fare.

Conditions: Must be resident outside of Japan (proof required). Valid for passengers with a stopover in Japan and a return flight from Japan. Valid for a maximum of 5 domestic flights. Passport only allowed when issued outside of Japan.

IC cards (Suica card and Pasmo card)

So-called IC cards are perfect cashless payments in Japan. The most popular of these are Suica, Pasmo and Icoca. If you have one of the IC cards, you can use almost all trains, metros and buses in Japan’s cities to pay with it.

What is an IC Card?

IC cards are rechargeable cards with which you can comfortably travel on public transport. You can use it to pay at so-called vending machines (drinks machines that can be found everywhere). You can also pay in convenience stores (Seven Eleven, Lawson), lockers, shops and restaurants. By holding the card against a touch display for about a second, the payment is carried out.

Money can be loaded onto these cards at the machine and can thus use all means of transport. It’s much easier than buying a new ticket every time. You also save a few cents per ticket.

General misconception: The Suica Card is better than the Pasmo Card.

That used to be the case. The  Pasmo Card  has the same validity as the  Suica Card .

You can use both cards to ride the subway and some buses in the following cities:

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Hiroshima (except buses)
  • Nara
  • Himeji
  • Fukuoka
  • Sapporo
  • Sendai
  • Yokohama
  • Kamakura
  • Hakone
  • Nikko
  • Nagoya
  • Kumamoto
  • Beppu

More and more cities are being added. Check the internet for security.

You pay by placing the cards briefly on the touch field of the gates at metro stations or buses.

Buy a Pasmo and Suica card

IC cards can be bought at many ticket machines and ticket counters at major train stations.

Example Pasmo Card (the same applies to the Suica): Costs: 500 yen deposit + 1500 yen top-up. One Pasmo card is valid per person; it cannot be used by more than one person. With every payment you will see how much the trip cost and how much credit you have left.

At the end of your trip, you can return your cards at the drop-off points at Narita and Haneda Airports in Tokyo or at Osaka Airport . You will then receive both the deposit and your remaining balance in yen.

The IC cards are no longer valid if you have not used them for 10 years.

Which travel guides are best for Japan?

For the Japan trip we bought some travel guides, phrasebooks and illustrated books. What I like best is the English-language illustrated book-travel guide mix Japan Traveler’s Companion.

Money and credit cards in Japan

What is Japan’s currency?

The official currency of Japan is the YEN (JPY). The Japanese yen fluctuates very often. 100 yen is currently approx. 92 cents, or $1 is approx. 110 yen.

There are ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 notes in circulation. Coins are available in the versions ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, and ¥500. With the coins, we initially had the problem that we could not tell which coin was the gold one with the hole. So that you don’t face the same problem, here is a short explanation: Gold with a hole = ¥5, silver with a hole = ¥50.

How do I take money to Japan – credit card or cash?

In principle, you can exchange some cash at the bank you trust before your trip. However, it is generally sufficient if you withdraw money with a credit card after your arrival at the airport in Japan. There are ATMs everywhere and, thanks to a good travel credit card, you can withdraw money in local currency without having to pay any fees.

You will also get the better rate if you withdraw money directly in Japan. In US, banks can pay for the service.

In general, people in Japan pay in cash quite often.

Language – Japanese or English?

Thanks to my co-author Chris, I am well prepared: he kindly sent me a document including an mp3 file so that I can learn the most important sentences and words in Japanese. What initially sounds like a tsunami made of letters doesn’t sound that difficult after listening to it several times. Thanks Chris, I’ll take your advice and listen to the words daily.


Richard Webb’s book 80/20 Japanese,
  including audio files, was recommended to me for this purpose  . I regularly crammed this in combination with the Duolingo app for Japanese before the trip. Very intense and not easy, but it was fun.

Nevertheless, you can get along very well with English in Japan. All main routes and the metro are also written in English and the younger Japanese can all speak English very well.

Tips as a Google Chrome browser extension:

How often did I find it while planning my trip that I suddenly landed on a website that only displayed Japanese? Thanks to this extension for the Google Chrome browser, you can display the meaning of the Kanji when you mouse-over.

Learn the most important words in Japanese for the trip (will be added)

If you don’t have time to learn Japanese, I’ll give you the most important words and formulations here:

  • お は よ う ご ざ い ま す OHAYOUGOZAIMASU (Oh-ha-yo-go-za-i-mas) – Good morning
  • こ ん に ち は KONNICHIWA (Kon-ni-chi-wah) – Hello
  • こ ん ば ん は KONBANWA (Ko-n-ba-n-wah) – Good evening
  • ま た ね MATANE (Ma-ta-ne) – Bye

Many now think that “bye” should mean Sayonara. I’ve now learned that Sayonara is the more formal word for it. Usually, in everyday life, people say Matane.

One of the most important and most used words during the trip was “Sumimasen”. The Japanese like to apologize and always do so. You should do this too.

  • す み ま せ ん SUMIMASEN (Su-mi-ma-sen) – sorry (sorry to disturb you)
  • ご め ん な さ い GOMENNASAI (Go-men-nah-sai) – I’m sorry.
  • あ り が と う ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU (A-ri-gah-to go-za-i-mas) – Thank you (formally with the addition of Gozaimasu)
  • お お き に OOKINI (Oo-ki-ni) – Thank you very much (is often used in Kansai, especially in Osaka Prefecture)
  • わ か り ま せ ん WAKARIMASEN (Wa-ka-ri-ma-sen) – I have no idea / I don’t know.
  • は い HAI (Hai) – Yes (like Hai pronounced only harder and and shorter A)
  • い い え IIE (Ii-e) – No (but is never used. Japanese don’t say no. More like “maybe it is possible”)

For example, if you want to ask for an English menu, you can just ask for it with “Eigo?”. It is often understood.

  • こ れ は な ん で す か? KOREWANANNDESUKA? (Co-re-wa-nan-des-ka) – What is it?
  • そ れ は ど こ で す か? SOREWADOKODESUKA? (So-re-wa-do-ko-des-ka) – Where is … (that)?
  • か わ い い KAWAII (Ka-wa-ii) – sweet (in the sense of golden. A very often used word. Japanese think everything is sweet)
  • す き SUKI (Sue-ki) – I like that. I like you.
  • き ら い KIRAI (Ki-rai) – I don’t like it. I do not like you.

Packing list for Japan

What do I take with me, what do I pack? Questions that I ask myself before every trip. In addition, I had the “Squeezy” backpack from Tatonka in my luggage  . You can pack this backpack up tiny. I use it either for dirty laundry or for short hikes without a camera backpack.

The main luggage is the new  Tatonka Yukon 50 + 10 liters  . Great backpack, very comfortable and completely sufficient. This backpack fits into the shelves on the Shinkansen train (there is very limited space for suitcases on the train). In between we washed laundry several times and therefore only had underwear and socks with us for 5 – 7 days.

Since the weather in Japan can be very mixed, I advise you to pack at least a softshell jacket and a windbreaker with rain protection. In addition at least a warm sweater, long sleeves and T-shirts.

When it comes to shoes, be sure to look for comfortable models as you walk a lot and you have to go up a lot of stairs. Since you can get slippers everywhere, I could have left my flip flops at home.

For the Hakone , Fuji Lakes and Kanazawa (rainiest city in Japan) region, I was happy to have my hat  in my  luggage. Because with 5 – 8 degrees it was sometimes not only windy but also cold.

My little Platypus bottle , which I always fill up with water when I travel to save plastic, was back in my luggage.

You must definitely not forget a travel adapter . Since I always have a lot of technology stuff with me (laptop, iPad, camera, drone, cell phone, …) I  bought a  small power strip.

Food in japan

We claim: Japan has the best cuisine in the world. For three weeks we literally ate across the country. Hannah has summarized all of our highlights for you here:

Ordering food is often easy for non-Japanese people

Imagine visiting Germany without speaking German. You want to order something to eat and have no idea what’s on the menu. English menus or menus with pictures of the dishes are very rare, right?

In Japan this is very different. That is why there are English menus almost everywhere, menus with pictures of the dishes or even the dishes in wax form at the entrance area as a replica. Japanese stand on it. You can find these detailed replicas of the dishes everywhere. There are even stores where you can buy these wax or plastic dishes. And they are always full.

Typical picture, in front of every restaurant in Japan you will find a display case with the dishes on offer, modeled from plastic.

Or there are tablets or machines in English, alternatively with pictures of the food. Here you press the buttons of the chosen dish and the food is delivered directly to the table. As a last resort, there is the Google Translate app for smartphones. Thanks to this, you can photograph characters and ideally the app will translate the name of the dish correctly for you.

If necessary, there are hands and feet with which you can make yourself understood. Thanks to gestures, we had a great evening in an isakaya (pub) in Nara without being able to read Japanese. We were also served a very good dish without knowing what we were ordering.

Before the trip: book accommodation

Since we traveled to the cherry blossom and we were told that Japanese people book their hotels at least 6 months (!) Before the holiday, we knew: With 2-3 months before the trip, we are damn late to look for accommodation.

When looking for accommodation, it depends on your requirements. A large room with a private bathroom or can it be a dormitory room with a shared bathroom? Large rooms in hotels or via Airbnb are expensive, especially in Tokyo.

In Japan there are apartments (Airbnb), business hotels, hotels, love hotels, hostels and ryokans.

Business hotels are cheaper than hotels, apartments are usually cheaper than business hotels and hostels or capsule hotels are the cheapest. On our route, all of the ryokans recommended to us were already booked out. Book in time.

On our last night in Tokyo we either wanted to stay in a capsule hotel, love hotel or an expensive hotel with a great view. We decide spontaneously (it was a hotel with a view of the Tokyo Tower).

Incidentally, we only reserved the last accommodation 1 week before departure. In Tokyo , Kyoto and Kawaguchi-ko the first choice was already gone. In Miyajima , all cheap and affordable accommodations were fully booked.

Nevertheless, we found quite cheap accommodation for our travel time during the cherry blossom season. One thing must definitely be clear to you: Accommodation in Japan is expensive, a hotel room that offers a lot of space is almost unaffordable. At least in Tokyo.

How to find cheap and good accommodation (price-performance ratio):

  • Ask friends for recommendations for accommodation. (If you have any who have already been to Japan. I had received a lot of tips. Unfortunately, we were way too late to book the hotels, so all the recommended accommodations were really already booked).
  • Research travel blogs for recommendations.
  • Check which accommodations are rated well on TripAdvisor (independent platform). You can buy reviews on other platforms (e.g. booking.com, so they are not always “real”). You can enter the date directly on TripAdvisor and the prices and availability on the various platforms (booking.comagoda) will be displayed.
  • So it came about that we booked a total of accommodations on booking.com, agoda and Airbnb.

Before the trip: Pocket WIFI or SIM card?

Before traveling to Japan, I already knew that all the friends at the airport had borrowed Pocket WIFI routers . So I also made myself wise whether it would be better to buy a SIM card or rent a pocket WIFI.

I came across the video, “How to survive your first hour in Japan (Tokyo)”, which explains why a pocket WIFI is better for us too. Sure, there are two of us and we also have a laptop and iPad with us. This means that we can access the Internet with all devices if we have problems with the existing WIFI in our accommodation (I speak from experience).

Through the video I came across the recommendation for the provider  “Global Advanced Communications rental” . The booking was completed quickly. A confirmation email came with a link to online payment by credit card. 10 minutes later I had reserved our Pocket WIFI for 23 days.

A short time later I received an email with a detailed description of where to pick up the router at Narita Airport.

Immediately after our arrival, we went to the post office to pick up our package with WFI router, return envelope and charging cable including an explanation. Switch on, connect your mobile phone to Pocket WIFI and start surfing. Everything went smoothly.

We were very happy with the router. We had good reception almost everywhere. You just have to make sure that you deactivate all automatic updates on your mobile phone and laptop. Otherwise the maximum amount of data per day will be used up and the service will be very throttled. At least that’s why we suspect that the network was very slow.

Shortly before the return trip, we put our router with accessories in the back envelope and thrown it in a mailbox at the airport. We had to squeeze the envelope through the slot because the envelope was almost too big. Even a week after returning to Germany, I didn’t hear from the provider. So I assume that everything went smoothly!

Visiting an onsen despite having a tattoo?

The Japanese relationship with tattoos is extremely difficult. In Japan these are the hallmarks of organized crime. Tattoos are only slowly becoming popular as an ornament. Nevertheless, you are denied access to a public onsen with a tattoo.

Our tip: We have chosen an accommodation with a private onsen in Hakone. Alternatively, you can put band-aids over your tattoos, as long as they don’t cover your entire body. Would have been difficult with us.

What else you should know about Japan

Japan has about 126 million people. Almost 35 million of them live in Tokyo.

Important holidays on which one or the other attraction may be closed:

  • New Year: January 1st
  • Age of majority: second Monday in January
  • State Foundation Day: February 11th
  • Constitutional Remembrance Day: May 3rd
  • Nation Day: May 4th
  • Children’s Day: May 5th
  • Labor Day: November 23rd
  • Birthday of the emperor: December 23rd

Do you have any other travel tips for Japan that we absolutely need to know? Leave a comment!

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