Travelling in Japan is – in a word – suberashii. Wonderful. But like all new places to visit, there are a few things we wish we’d known about before we arrived in Japan. Here are three things that will make your time in the Land of the Rising Sun even better.
One thing that strikes you when you arrive in Japan is the weird diametric sense of time you get here.
On one hand, there’s the ultra-modern high-tech non-stop vibrance, the bright lights, high-speed trains and excitement of Japan. But on the other hand, there’s a beautifully quaint old-world feel to the country.
And they work perfectly together.
On the busiest broadest neon-lit Tokyo street, there’ll be a dimly-lit cosy izakaya or a little ryokan with a dark-wood entrance and moss-clad shrine.
Or as you board the bullet-speed Shinkansen train, you can pick up a traditional bento from the station to munch on as you ride across the country, tilting round bends at 320km/h.
Meanwhile, in little towns barely on the map, an ancient sushi bar will have touchscreen menus and high-speed wifi.
It’s an anachronism that makes sense.
3 things you need when you arrive in Japan
Perhaps the best thing about Japan is just how accommodating the country is. Things are organised to make life easier.
As long as you know the system and the tricks, you’re sorted.
These three things will make your life so much easier as you explore this truly amazing country.
Japan’s rail network is incredible. It’s so comprehensive. It will take you to the furthest points on the map from river valley onsen towns to mountain peaks in the ski fields.
These passes are only available to foreign-passport holders, so it’s a purely tourism-driven programme.
National Rail Passes
Having a JR Rail Pass is easily your best bet.
It includes trains right across the country, as well as Shinkansen and a couple of ferries.
Often buying tickets for each train journey is confusing, stressful, fiddly and complicated. As well as more expensive, but this Rail Pass covers you for your whole trip.
Regional Rail Passes
If you only want to travel in a specific region or prefecture, buying a JR Regional Rail Pass is way cheaper. You just select the area you want to travel in, pick how long you want your pass to last for and pay.
You can even drill down deeper and choose smaller areas within the six main regions to save more money.
The only downside to this type of pass is if you go beyond the region you’ve paid for, you need to get a different ticket.
Or you can drive. Here are our tips on driving in Japan.
Buy your JR Regional Rail Passes here.
High-speed internet in your pocket with portable wifi
Having access to the internet when we’re in an overseas destination is a must, but finding a shop and working out the best price for a sim card and data prices is one of the least fun things to do on holiday.
This pocket wifi device gives you unlimited internet across Japan, allows 10 people to use it at the same time and gives up to 187.5mbps.
All you do is book your wifi rental here then pick it up at the airport of your choice. It’s so simple and way cheaper than most in-shop deals.
You can rent a pocket wifi on its own or include it with your JR Rail Pass tickets.
Peace of mind with an airport meet & greet
I remember the first time we arrived at Tokyo’s Narita Airport like it was yesterday – it was actually about 12 years ago! We didn’t know where to go, we didn’t know how to buy train tickets or get into the city.
It was only the charity and grace of a complete stranger that we managed to find the right platform and transfer to Shinjuku.
The JR Rail Meet & Greet service gives you total peace of mind and takes the stress out of those first few moments in Japan – and they’re so formative when you’re on holiday.
On our last trip to Japan, we arrived at Narita in Tokyo, heading south to Okinawa. We thought it would be pretty straight forward but it turns out it was really complicated, with a transfer across the city to Tokyo’s other airport.
If only we’d had a Meet & Greet!
You can book your Meet & Greet here.
A local meets you at arrivals, helps with your rail passes, wifi collection and your onward journey.
It means you can focus on enjoying every minute of your time in this extraordinary travel destination.
For more of our stories about Japan and what we’ve discovered on our time here, check out our library of stories on Japan here.