10 Things you need to know before visiting Japan

Japanese menu

Having finally arrived in our first destination, let me share with you my first impressions about Tokyo and 10 things you need to know before visiting Japan.

Safety in Japan

Japan is a super safe country. No matter, if you walk through the streets with your phone or bag open, you really don’t need to be scared anywhere. 

Japanese people are very polite, honest and well behaved. The criminal rate is super low. People even leave their cars open when going to the supermarket, leave the cell phone on the table in a restaurant when going to the bathroom, or their bag super wide open on a chair next to them where loads of people pass by.

During my time in Japan, I didn’t meet any suspicious or creepy person and felt totally safe walking around Tokyo by night, even alone as a woman.

I believe, because the gap between rich and poor is not as big as in other countries, there is less criminality and people don’t really steel from each other. However, I cannot verify this, it is just a thought.

Tokyo is very safe by night

CASH vs CARDS

One thing you need to know before visiting Japan is that you need to pay almost everywhere by cash. Even though, they are super developed and forerunners when it comes to technology, for some reason they don’t accept payment by cards. Just in some bigger supermarkets we were able to pay by card.

So, make sure to always have cash with you and immediately withdraw some when landing in Japan at the airport.

English Language 

You will notice that English is still not widely spoken in Japan, even though in bigger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka it is pretty tourist/foreigner friendly. 

Signs are in 2 languages and the people speak good or broken English. Even if they don’t, they are still super polite and will always try to help you anyways. Either with hands, feet or Google translator, for example. So, don’t be scared about that language barrier. 

Toilets in Japan

Going to the toilet is quite an experience in Japan. You will find lots of buttons with different options of what to do next, such as bottom shower, blow dryer, seat heater, massage options, automatic flushing and much more. 

What you need to know before visiting Japan about toilets
Toilets in Japan

SIM CARD vs WIFI

One thing you need to know before visiting Japan is that SIM cards can be pretty expensive in Japan, depending on how many GB you want. You really don’t need to buy a SIM card though as public WiFi can be found almost everywhere in big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.

Smoking, Eating and Drinking 

Another thing you need to know before visiting Japan is that smoking, eating and drinking is kind of forbidden during walking. Or at least it is seen as very impolite, if you do so. You will find lots of signs telling you this.

Look out for designated smoking areas in the city. If you have take away food, just stand in a corner outside, eat your food and then continue your journey.

I believe, it is made this way to not burn someone by accident with a cigarette, or spill your drink/food on someone else when in a crowded place. I actually like it because it also makes you enjoy your food much more than when you eat rushing from one place to another.

On the contrary, they do smoke in restaurants which I was not used to anymore.

Eating our way around Japan
Eating our way around Japan

Trash Bins

For some reason, it is very hard to find bins on the street for your trash. I ended up carrying my own trash around all day. 

I believe, it might be to create awareness of how much trash one person actually produces per day! Shocking!

The best is to eat your food in front of the place where you bought it and then just throw it away there immediately! For example, 7-11 stores always have bins at the exit.

Tips in Restaurants

While in some countries tips are obligatory, in Japan it is almost seen as an insult. You never give tips in Japan, as most of the times there is a table fee included already, meaning that you pay like 1€ per person once sitting down.

However, they usually compensate this fee by providing a small appetiser or snack for free.

Japanese menu
Japanese Menu

Fruits and Vegetables

While Japanese food is super delicious, you will notice that certain things are more expensive than others. Fruits and vegetables are super expensive, for example 100g of grapes cost around 8€, watermelon 12€, apples 2€ a piece and so on.

Tattoos in Japan

The last thing you need to know before visiting Japan is that they don’t really like tattoos and some places don’t even allow people with tattoos, such as some Onsen (hot spring).

That is due to the fact that mainly criminals (yakuza) in Japan cover their bodies in tattoos. So, don’t be surprised when people look at you weird if you show off your tattoos.

Tattoos in Japan
Tattoos in Japan

For more tips about visiting Japan, please check out Paolo’s youtube video: 10 Must Know Japan Travel Tips or 50 Must Know Japan Travel Tips.

I hope those 10 tips will help you when visiting Japan to be prepared and less surprised in some situations. 

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what surprised you the most about Japan?

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