Japan is a very beautiful country to visit. For english speakers, there might be challenges we are not used to. But hey! that’s what makes travelling more fun and interesting. It is always best to be aware and be prepared so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest. Before you pack your bags and go, here are some things to note:
1. OTC (over the counter) medications are not as readily available.
Even the typical ibuprofen or pain relievers aren’t easily found so it’s best to carry some with you just in case. Bringing a few pieces of your preferred brand for anti-allergy and pain relievers do come in handy. In the event you forgot to bring some, you have to look online for the equivalent of the medications available in their local pharmacy, since the brands in Japan are different and is in Kanji or Japanese language.
2. Tissue papers
While packing your stuff for your Japan trip, it’s really not needed to bring tissue. You’ll be surprised that while walking in the busy streets, they actually give away free tissue, along with some advertisements of course. Also, all public toilets in japan are equipped with tissue paper.
One more thing, you will notice some signs in the restrooms ( see above). Don’t be confused. Yes, they do throw their toilet tissue paper inside the toilet bowl. Reason for this? Unlike most of the places in the world, Japan has water soluble tissue and is safe to throw into the toilet.
3. Cash Only please
Don’t rely solely on your credit or debit cards because most of the stores in Japan only accept cash. Credit cards are used in big establishments and hotels. Make sure to have extra cash with you because they come in handy to buy foods and drinks. There are money exchange in the airport, some near the metro and some in town. I suggest you have your money changed when you are already in Japan. Since the rates change everyday, exchange a couple of hundreds in one town to another. In my experience, we had better rates in places far from Tokyo.
4. Trash bins in public: Rare to none at all.
Don’t be surprised if you won’t see any trash bins in public. This encourages people to minimize trash and keep trash to themselves and dispose it in proper locations (your home). They have a strict rule on garbage separation that has said to have been started since 1990s. The way rubbish separation/recycling rules are very strict and somewhat complicated for typical international tourists that it became impossible to expect every tourist/non-tourist to obey the rules, so they removed the trash bins on the street. I think this “no trash bin” in sidewalks is a good thing. I never saw an insect in Japan –roaches, flies, bugs … nada. And I think this is one reason why streets are very clean 🙂
I advise you to bring a small plastic bag in your backpack to put trash.
5. Body language and hand signs are helpful in communicating
Not many Japanese can speak or understand english but they are very willing to help you in case you are finding your way around. Hand gestures while speaking helped us communicate with the locals. I also downloaded an offline English-Japanese dictionary.
6. Establishments open late and close early.
Like USA and other western countries, most business establishments such as malls open around 9am and close around 6pm. If you need anything in the middle of the night or early morning, you can go find 24 hour places like Lawsons or 7eleven.
7. No free Wifi
You can probably get free and good wifi in your accomodation. Other than that, you have to pay for your own. In the airport, you can choose between getting a sim card equipped with data or rent a pocket wifi for your stay. Prices will depend on the data plan you will choose.
*TIP: Before going to Japan or any other country, make sure your phone is open line/ unlocked.