Japan is the creator of serenity. With pristine streets, kind people, and organized crowds, Japan could possibly be my favorite country. Every detail of Japan has been thought through, from the direction that a torrii gate faces, to the organization of the food on your plate. They are advanced in what they think to be the most important. You won’t find many credit card machines in Japan, but you will find the most efficient, clean, and rapid trains in the world. Japan and it’s culture is beautiful, and a wonder to the rest of the world. Which is why everyone should visit Japan at least once in their lifetime.
Currency: Japanese Yen ¥ (click for current conversion rates)
Language: Japanese or Nihongo
Visa: Not for visits under 90 days, proof of onward travel/ return ticket required (click for more info)
Wifi friendly: No, but you can rent a pocket wifi. Apply for it online here before your trip and pick it up at the airport.
SIM cards: Available, but I never needed one as I had a pocket wifi and all of Japan uses an app called LINE to contact each other (similar to WhatsApp).
Hostels: Compared to the rest of Asia, Japan’s hostels are pretty expensive starting from 2,000 yen and up.
Hotels: A budget hotel pricing can start from around 4,000
Capsule Hotels: Capsule hotels are a unique experience in Japan, made for the hardworking businessmen who may have missed their last train back home. Most are made for males, but you can find all female capsule hotels. These range from 3,000 yen to 4,000 yen
Food & Drink
There are several different types of food to eat in Japan and it doesn’t all have to be expensive. From ramen, to yakiniku, to sushi, you’ll never have a bad meal. The tricky part though is how to order. If you know just about as much Japanese as Arnold Schwarzenegger, no fear, there are plenty of restaurants which don’t require speaking. Many “fast food” ramen restaurants provide a machine that contains the different options to choose from. Simply make your choice, press the button, and a ticket will pop out. Hand the ticket to the person behind the counter and they will prepare your dish.
If you are looking for cheap sushi, head over to any 100 yen Sushi Restaurant like Hamazushi or Kappa Sushi where sushi is, you guessed it, 100 yen for two pieces of nigiri.
For drinking, the Japanese have this wonderful thing similar to happy hour called nomihodai, and it’s a 2 hour all-you-can-drink drinking fest. Almost every bar has their own type of nomihodai and prices range from 1,500 yen ($15) to 3,000 yen ($30).
The house beer on tap is called namabiru, beer= biru, and cheers= kanpai
How to get there
The International Airports in Tokyo are Narita (NRT) Airport and Haneda Airport (HND). From Narita Airport you can take several different trains to get to Tokyo all varying in speed and prices: the JR Narita Express (NEX) train 3000 yen; JR Sobu line (Rapid Service) 1320 yen; Keisei Skyliner 2360-2630 yen; or the Keisei Limited Express 1190 yen.
The train and the subway are available for travel around Tokyo. JR is the main train line in Tokyo and stops at several different stations. It is efficient, quick, and clean. The metro is the cheapest form of transportation. The Tokyo metro and the Toei Lines are the two main subway lines. Make sure you buy a prepaid Suica or Pasmo card (500 yen) at any station so that you don’t have to constantly stop and buy a ticket.
Bonus Traveler hint: pick up one of the paper magazines at any stand in the subway station that has a map of the different lines. They are old school, yes, but are easy to navigate and are extremely useful if you find you are lost.
The JR Pass is available to foreigners visiting Japan. The pass is $253 for 7 days. While this may seem expensive, when you add up the number of times that you will be on and off the train including the bullet train, the costs even out. For more information, click here.
Everyone should try the bullet train at least once during their travels. The prices are steep starting from $138 for one way to Kyoto, but it’s an experience in Japan. Even though the food is expensive, the bento boxes are delicious and the cabins are clean and comfortable. Once you’ve experienced the bullet train at least once, travel by overnight bus is also possible, but the prices vary depending on when and where you are going. For example, travel from Tokyo to Kyoto can range anywhere from about $50- $100. Willer Bus Travel has an English website here.
Phrases to Know
These are phrases that helped me get around Japan even though I didn’t speak the language.
Excuse me= sumimasen, (soo-mee-mah-sen) can be used if you accidentally bump into someone, or if you need to grab someone’s attention to ask a question.
Thank you very much= arigato gozaimasu (ah-ree-gah-toh goh-zye-mahs), you can shorten this phrase to arigato which is more similar to “thanks”.
I don’t speak/know Japanese= nihongo ga wakarinai, (nee-hone-go ga wah-kah-ree-na-ee)
Where is ______= doko wa ______ desu ka (doh-koh wah ______ dess kah)
This = kore, best used in a restaurant if you can’t pronounce it, can’t read it, but can see the picture and the price.
No= iie, this is the proper translation, but is rarely used as it is considered rude. I found that just saying “no” or “nai” will do the job.
Yes= hai, (hi, like our version of hello)