What to know for a trip to Japan

Who I am
Martí Micolau
@martimicolau
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Japan is an intriguing destination like no other country.
You will be dazzled and fascinated by the creativity of this people who know how to combine millenary traditions with the most advanced technology and sophisticated. You will be immersed in Zen Buddhism and robotics, between hyper-modern metropolises and placid rural villages!

Whatever your passion, whether you are a lover of sushi or anime and manga, followers of meditation or nerds in search of the latest technological advance on the market, the richness of culture and hospitality that you will find will make your visit to the land of the Rising Sun. a simply unforgettable experience. Here's what to know for a trip to Japan.



Index

  1. Best time
  2. Required documents
  3. How many days
  4. How to dress and what to bring
  5. To see
  6. Getting around
  7. What to book in advance
  8. Accomodation
  9. Where to eat
  10. How much
  11. How to pay
  12. Safety
  13. Useful advice and rules of conduct
  14. User questions and comments

Best time

E' early spring or late autumn. When rainfall is not abundant and temperatures are much more acceptable than cold winter or hot and very humid summer.
Spring is undoubtedly the top as every year the wonderful show of the cherry blossom, the so-called sakura.
The hanami which, literally, means "admire the flowers", is a real tradition that began 1.300 years ago and is practiced not only by tourists but also by the inhabitants themselves. There are tours organized ad hoc to follow the cherry blossom.
Nothing to take away from the autumn period during which nature gives the best of itself with the warm colors of the foliage of the maples in the first place.



Required documents

Passport valid. Travel visa automatically issued to customs upon arrival in Japan; it lasts 3 months and cannot be extended. Since 2007, a photograph has been taken and fingerprints have been taken at customs. The return flight ticket, L 'address and contact details of at least the first hotel where you stay.
Declare and prove that you have one amount of money sufficient to support themselves for the duration of the stay.
Strongly recommendedhealth insurance since health care is private in Japan.
Always useful, just in case, to bring one international credit card, accepted almost everywhere.

How many days

  • Minimum travel time: at least 8 days
  • Recommended duration of the trip: at least 15 days

How to dress and what to bring

Considering that the recommended seasons for a trip are mid-seasons, it is necessary to bring clothes of half weight; comfortable, informal and in breathable fabric. Keep in mind that, in every season, there are abysmal temperature changes due to the air conditioning "shot at 1.000" in clubs, shopping centers, buses and trains. For this reason it is advisable to always have a scarf or a foulard and a sweater or sweatshirt at hand to protect yourself.
Rainproof and umbrella always in the backpack.

Comfortable shoes for long walks and they are also easy and comfortable to put on / take off quickly (ideal the types without laces) since it is customary to remove your shoes when entering temples, Zen gardens, private homes, characteristic ryokans and some traditional restaurants. To this end, it is very useful to always carry with you even a couple of spare socks.

Don't forget theuniversal power adapter: the current is 110 / 120V and the sockets are therefore different from ours.



To see

The first time in this land means Tokyo and Kyoto. To see both just enough, consider at least a week.
In Tokyo, the various districts must be explored, the Imperial Palace, which are among the 10 Things to see absolutely.
In Kyoto are not to be missed Fushimi Inari, the icon of the country itself; the bamboo forest ad Arashiyama; the Philosopher's Walk; the Kinkaku-ji, the Kiyomizudera, the charming neighborhoods of Gion and Pontocho and the characteristic Nishiki Market. Discover them better among the 10 things to see absolutely.

A second time in Japan is an opportunity to discover other places like Hakone, one of the most renowned spas; Takayama, emblem of feudal Japan; Osaka, the capital of Japanese gastronomy famous for its castle; Shirakawa-go, remote mountain village with gassho-style houses; Kamakura famous for the great Buddha; Nara and its deer park; Hiroshima, a modern city famous for the tragedy of the Second World War. Finally, those who cannot give up a few days at sea can reach the north, ad Okinawa, the coastal area with the most beautiful sea.

  • If you are visiting the destination for the first time: Tokyo (Akiabhara, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Asakusa, Ueno, Takeshita Dori, fish market). Kyoto (Fushimi Inari, Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, Philosopher's Walk, Kinkaku-ji, Kiyomizudera, Nijo-jo, Gion, Pontocho, Nishiki Market)
  • If you are returning to the destination: Takayama, Kanazawa, Osaka, Hakone, Hiroshima, Nikko, Nara, Shirakawa-go, Okinawa

Getting around

The transport system is super efficient.

To move from one city to another the best way is the train; many routes are served by Shinkansen, very high-speed bullet trains (eg Tokyo-Kyoto ¥ 13.600, about € 114,00).
It is super affordable Japan Rail Pass (7 days from € 249,00).

In Tokyo you travel by subway; there are two companies: the JR (Yamanote Line) and Tokyo Metro. The cost of the ticket varies according to the mileage. It is highly recommended to have the Pasmo or Suica, rechargeable cards to climb to avoid having to buy the train ticket every time and waste a lot of time.

In Kyoto you can move either with the metro (2 lines) than with the bus. Also in this case the cost of the ticket varies according to the km (base rate from 1 to 3 km ¥ 210, about € 1,80).

Takayama, Kanazawa, Osaka, Hakone and Hiroshima are connected to Tokyo and Kyoto by trains. The same goes for Nikko, Nara and Kamakura. To reach Shirakawa-go you can choose between train and bus both departing from Takayama.



What to book in advance

Il volo to and from Italy is certainly the first item to book well in advance also to try to save a bit on fares.

- hotels they must also be booked in advance especially if you visit Japan in high season and / or during major events (such as cherry blossoms). In particular, move well in advance especially if you want to find a good choice also from an economic point of view and if you want to enjoy at least one night in a characteristic ryokan, a 360 ° sensory experience in the rather expensive and highly requested culture.

Buy the Japan Rail Pass online and then collect it on site at one of the proposed collection locations.

Always online book the Pocket WiFi, the portable router to connect to the Internet. You will collect it at the airport post office upon your arrival.

For long train journeys, if you don't want to take the risk of making the journey standing, it is advisable to reserve seats. There is no need to move long before, just go to the station ticket office even just 1 or 2 days before departure and book your seat.

Accomodation

Tokyo and Kyoto it's two o'clock base city where to sleep for the first time in Japan, for a journey that then touches the most iconic, the main and unmissable destinations. In both cities one cannot speak of a real center.
In Tokyo, we suggest finding accommodation in the neighborhood of Shinjuku, the most representative, the liveliest in the evening and the one which, with about 20 minutes by metro or train, connects all the other interesting districts (Shibuya, Ginza, Asakusa, Akihabara, Ueno). The districts of Asakusa and Ueno are perfect for finding cheap solutions, but in the evening they are a bit "dead".

The same goes for Kyoto: there is no real center, the city is huge and individual attractions are scattered almost everywhere. Metro and bus mandatory to move from one attraction to another. For this reason, the best choice is to find accommodation as close as possible to a metro or bus stop. Perfect the station area.

  • Tokyo Hotels and b & b from € 47,00 per room -
  • Kyoto Hotels and b & b from € 32,00 per room -

Where to eat

I restaurants are single-issue; it is very rare to find a place that cooks everything. The most typical places are the izakaya where you can spend at least ¥ 3.000, about € 25,00. To facilitate the interpretation of the menus, they are always displayed at the entrance perfect plastic reproductions of the dishes.

The cheapest restaurants are those of ramen (between ¥ 500 and ¥ 1.000, about € 4,00 and € 8,00), where to eat okonomiyaki, the so-called "Japanese pizza" which is a rich giant omelette, udon and tempura, tonkatsu , similar to our cutlet and yakitori, skewers of meat (they are very small, budget at least a dozen).
The highly prized Kobe meat it is sold by weight: minimum ¥ 4.770 per hectogram / € 40,00!
Sushi and sashimi start at ¥ 4.000, approximately € 33,00.

In ryokans it is possible to try the experience of Kaiseki: many small dishes with attention to the smallest detail (night + dinner and breakfast, from ¥ 20.000, about € 150,00).

Street-food par excellence of Osaka are the takoiaky, octopus meatballs (a portion ¥ 800, about € 7,00). For quick and cheap meals the conbini, open 24 hours a day, are perfect. Here you can find packaged products such as onigiri, sandwiches, salads, ice creams, fruit etc ...; but also buns, skewers, chicken pieces and hot meatballs.

How much

  • Cost of flights and travel: return flight € 900,00 - long-distance trains € 120,00 - medium-sized trains € 60,00 - single metro or bus ride € 2,00
  • Cost accomodation: € 30,00 / 40,00 hostels and capsule hotels - € 90,00 / 110,00 hotel voucher - from € 300,00 ryokan
  • Minimum daily budget for meals and attractions: a frugal meal (buying something quick in the conbini or ramen, udon or similar) costs € 11,00 - sushi or meat dinner € 50,00 - temples almost always free - Zen gardens € 4,00

How to pay

The local currency is the Yen (¥). € 1,00 = ¥ 119,34

The best is to arrive in Japan with yen. Therefore, exchange euros for yen in Italy before leaving. You will save time during your stay and the rates charged by banks are generally the cheapest.

NB. Not all branches have Japanese currency available, reserve the coin at least a couple of months before departure.

Alternatively, you can exchange euros at Japanese airport exchange counters. To find better ratesinstead of changing at the airport, go directly to the bank; there are dedicated branches.
It is also possible withdraw yen in cash using your own credit card or prepaid card at international ATMs available in post offices, in konbini of the 7eleven chain and in some stations.

CAUTION: some ATMs are often not enabled for international withdrawals and therefore it will not be possible to withdraw with an Italian card. Each credit or prepaid card applies different fees for withdrawals abroad. Check the amount of these fees by contacting the bank or company that issued the card.

Safety

Overall it is a Safe country.
Nevertheless it is always advisable to apply the normal precautions to safeguard your safety. In some nightclubs in Roppongi, Tokyo, there have recently been cases of robbery against foreigners after they had assumed drinks allegedly altered with sleeping pills. As well as pay attention to pickpockets on public transport.

The major risks may instead derive from events related to natural disasters.
Due to its morphological and geological characteristics, Japan is in fact considered a country at risk as regards volcanic activity, seismic activity and typhoon risk which, from September to the end of November, hit the country with a certain frequency and can be of medium or strong intensity.
The advice is to keep up to date with the local media and on the official website of the Farnesina.
The app (in English) for smartphones is very useful, containing advice and information in the event of natural disasters and allowing you to receive "early warnings" on emergencies and tsunamis.

Useful advice and rules of conduct

  1. L'bow it is the way used to greet and thank. Depth and duration of the bow are proportional to the social status of the person in front of you.
  2. Do not display the tattoos in public; avoid public baths (onsen) or cover them with plasters. In Japan, tattoos are in fact associated with the "yakuza", the Japanese mafia.
  3. Don't blow your nose in public as it is considered extremely crude. Locals tend to hold back until they find themselves alone.
  4. Never eat and drink while walking. If you can't do without it, stop in a secluded corner and have your snack or drink; once you have finished your snack, resume the march.
  5. Strictly respect the lines to get on and also to get off public transport.
  6. Avoid getting dirty. Cleanliness is an essential element of every citizen's conduct. There are no garbage bins around. The rubbish produced is kept and thrown away once you return to your accommodation.
  7. Smoking only in designated areas. This is also true in open spaces.
  8. On means of transport or in public places avoid carrying bulky backpacks on your shoulders.
  9. No talking on the phone or listen to music without headphones on transport. It is highly recommended to turn off the ringer.
  10. We sit on the ground in private homes and more traditional restaurants. The traditional way of sitting (seiza) consists of bending the legs, placing the knees on the ground and placing the buttocks on the soles of the feet crossed or juxtaposed. The most comfortable alternative is the one with legs open crossed (only for men) and bent legs placed to the side (only for women).
  11. Don't cross your legs. The ideal Japanese posture, a sign of good manners (eg during an interview) requires you to sit with your legs together parallel and your hands on your knees.
  12. Avoid kissing, hugging and hugging in public. The displays of affection are considered an intimate moment to be confined to the private sphere.
  13. Always keep a calm attitude: you do not laugh out loud, you never raise your voice, your joy or anger is not manifested in a too blatant way.
  14. Take off your shoes to enter temples, Zen gardens, private homes, ryokans, massage centers, more traditional restaurants.
  15. Business cards: the Japanese have a kind of manic obsession. Bring a good supply and always deliver them with two hands.
  16. At the restaurant, as soon as you sit at the table, each diner is given a wet napkin (oshibori) used to clean hands before eating.
  17. Forks and knives are practically non-existent and impossible to find. Do not pierce the food with chopsticks and never leave them upright. This gesture in fact recalls the incense sticks used in funeral ceremonies.
  18. At the table, never pass food with chopsticks. This gesture is carried out in funeral rites, when some bones of the deceased, after cremation, are collected and passed from one member of the family to another with chopsticks.
  19. Noodles and udon go strictly eaten with the "suck", thus making noise. To show that you are enjoying the dish.
  20. Food is consumed down to the last grain of rice. Advancing food is considered irresponsible and thankless. According to Buddhism, food waste is a lack of respect and compassion for the plant or animal lives sacrificed for the preparation of the dish.
  21. It is not customary to leave a tip. It could also be considered an offensive gesture.
  22. Always use both hands when holding out something, for example the banknotes must be placed in the special saucer (strictly two-handed) and not placed in the hands of the other person.
  23. If you get a chance to toast say "Kampai". Don't say "cheers" which in Japanese means something else entirely ...
  24. Number 4 is absolutely to be avoided. In fact, its pronunciation has the same sound as the word "death"; it is therefore considered a bad luck to the point that in some hotels, condominiums and hospitals you go from the 3rd to the 5th floor.
  25. Travel / health insurance: recommended.


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