15 Things to Know Before Going to Japan

It’s always a good time to go to Japan, but do you know everything you need to know? Make sure you’re fully prepared with our comprehensive list of the 15 things you really need to know.

#1 The Cold Drinks…Are Really Cold!

Flickr | Tatsuo Yamashida

In Japan the customer is really always right. When the customer orders a drink they always get tea that was just brewed, or an icy cold drink usually served in a refrigerated glass. Serving a lukewarm drink will be seen as rude and that the beverage isn’t freshly made.

#2 Hotel Prices Vary Wildly

Flickr | Jeff Krause

The difference between weekend and weekday hotel prices are huge. For instance, a famous hotel opposite the Red Brick Warehouse Mall in Yokohama, charges more than double the weekday price for the weekends. We recommend, if possible, to travel Japan on weekdays.

#3 Taxis are Pretty Pricey

Flickr | Hajime Nagahata

In Japan, taxis are quite an expensive way to travel, especially from the airports to the cities. If possible use other modes of transport to get around. In some cases, you may also have a night surcharge added when traveling late at night.

#4 Hang Up the Phone on Public Transport

15 phone.jpg
Flickr | Shenghung Lin

On public transport in Japan, it’s advised that you don’t talk on the phone and switch your phone to silent out of respect for the other passengers, or switch off completely if in the vicinity of the priority seats.

#5 But be as Noisy as You like with Noodles!

Flickr | Toomore Chiang

You may already be aware, in Japan a good loud slurp while eating your ramen is seen as a sign of enjoyment. What you may not know, is that originally the noise comes from eating traditional buckwheat or soba noodles where it is easy to let out a slurp sound. But that’s not the case with ramen, slurp away and let the chef know how much you’re enjoying it!

#6 Consumption Tax Set to Rise Again

Flickr | m-louis

The consumer tax in Japan rose from 5% to 8% in April 2014. A further 2% rise to 10% had been scheduled for 2015 but has been delayed until April 2017.

#7 Give up Your Seat to Those in Need

Flickr | Kohei Uesaka

Priority seats are found on most public transport systems around the world. The difference in Japan is that people rarely use them and save them for those more in need, if you are seated in one, make sure to stay aware of your surroundings and give it up to disabled, elderly or pregnant commuters.

#8 Speak Japanese?

Flickr | yari hotaka

Obviously, Bringing along someone who knows the language, if you don’t speak or understand any Japanese, will save you a lot of time. Of course it’s not absolutely necessary as the Japanese are very kind and helpful people, but generally the standard of English is not too great.

#9 Escalator Etiquette

Flickr | Yu-Ching Chu

In Japan, escalator rules and order are important, but also a little confusing. In Tokyo people stand left to let people walk through on the right. In Osaka it is the opposite, stand right, walk left. Probably best to just do what everyone else is doing!

#10 Power Needs

Flickr | Alex.W

Depending on where you’re coming from you may need a plug adapter or a power converter. Japan uses 2 pronged plugs, check to see if you need an adapter. You should also check the voltage in your country, in Japan the voltage is a fairly low 100 volts, which could cause problems if your items have higher requirements to run optimally.

#11 No Staring Contests

Flickr | Vladimir Pustovit

It’s considered pretty rude to stare at people in Japan. Of course this is the case in other countries too, but coupled with Japan’s slight conservatism and shyness, it can cause people to feel quite uncomfortable.

#12 Smoking Laws

Flickr | Katya Mokolo

A growing number of areas in Japan are banning smoking in public places, including on the streets. In most of the busiest and wealthiest city districts if you want to light-up outside you’ll need to find a designated smoking area.

#13 Where to Avoid

Flickr | Joel Plunkett

Tokyo’s red-light district is in Shinjuku, and in the later hours of the night you may be pestered to go into some of the seedier bars and establishments. Although Japan is considered a very safe country in general, it may be better, especially for women walking alone, to avoid this area if possible.

#14 No Worries Over Counterfeit Money

Flickr | aotaro

Japan has one of the most technologically advanced and cleanest currencies in the world. The Yen notes include holograms, watermarks, latent images, pearl ink, microprinting and intaglio printing. So yeah, it’s pretty safe!

#15 Those Appetizers Aren’t Free

Flickr |又齊

In some restaurants, especially Izakayas, you’ll be served an appetizer along with your first drink and hot/cold towel (oshibori) . That appetizer, called otoshi, is not free and you are not given a choice, but much of the time it is used instead of a table cover charge, usually 200 – 400 Yen.

Hopefully you are now a little better prepared for your trip to Japan!

Why not check out some of KKday’s cool Japanese activities and things to do!