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Travel Tips

Tips for traveling in Japan

This section provides some handy information for you when visiting Japan; including the accessibility of English, discount tickets for foreign travelers, access from airports, and more.

Accessibility of English in Japan

The English level of Japan has raised a lot in the recent years. It is still quite difficult in smaller cities, but the main cities would have people speaking English or other languages at stores and hotels in order to help foreign visitors. Plus, most Japanese staffs are quite nice, they will try their best to help you even if they cannot understand you! Also, in recent years, there are more and more foreigners who are working in Japan, so you may run into a staff that is from the same country as you are.

Best Time to Visit

It is hard to say when is the best time to visit Japan, because it has a different charm each season. It is a country where four seasons is very distinctive so you have different sceneries, different events, different food you can find each season.

  • In spring, you can see the famous sakura (cherry blossom) everywhere in Japan. You could find a place in the park and sit under a sakura tree to enjoy while drinking and eating at the same time.
  • In summer, there are various summer events all over Japan. Starting with matsuri and firework shows, there are also summer exhibitions and events ran by different companies including the big TV stations in Japan and music companies. There are so many to see and visit during this season.
  • In autumn, Japan is famous for its beautiful view of maple leaves. A lot of people from all over the world come and visit during this season; especially photographers.
  • In winter, there is snow in the northern side of Japan so you can enjoy winter sports and winter festivals. Other than that you can see beautiful illuminations decorated across Japan for Christmas.

Even though Japan is a great country to visit at any time of the year, there are a few period of times that we would not recommend. In Japan, there are three main holiday periods; the periods are Golden week in May, Silver week in September, and the end and beginning of year breaks. During this time a lot of the business may not open or there may be more tourists everywhere because a lot of Japanese people are on holidays as well. When you are planning the trip, it is best to double check online so you can avoid the crowds and shops’ closure. During the vacations, including the end of year and beginning of year holidays, the public transportations and the convenience stores will operate as usual, but it would not be the best time to visit Japan because most places including restaurants would be closed as well.

For more information about holidays in Japan, please go here.

How Many Days

According to the statistics, there is a golden route that a lot of Western visitors go on. It is said to enter from East Japan and leave from West Japan. The main routes goes from Tokyo → Hakone → Mt.Fuiji → Nagoya → Kyoto → Osaka.
The recommend length of stay will be around 10 to 14 days. A lot of people also visit Takayama (Shirakawago), Kanazawa, Hiroshima, and Miyajima; if you would like to visit them, it is better to stay for a longer period of time. Or you can also split the trip into a few different times so you can have a more laid back schedule.

How to Get Around

The public transportation system in Japan is very well developed. Train, bus, coach, and ferry; you can always find a way to get there without driving by yourself. Other than the IC cards useable almost all over Japan, there are also other area tickets that you can use with a valuable price. For example, Tokyo subway pass, Kyoto 1 / 2 day pass, Kansai Thru pass, Hiroshima’s 1 day streetcar and ferry pass, and much more.

For more information about Tokyo Subway pass, please go here.

Application

Airbnb, NAVITIME for Japan Travel, Japan Connected free Wi-Fi by NTTBP, Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association (スマホdeタッくん)

Airbnb icon
NAVITIME for Japan Travel
Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi
Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association

You can install these application from below:

Wi-Fi SIM Card & Pocket Wi-Fi

Since smartphone is so popular around the world now, there are a lot of options for getting Wi-Fi / internet service while you are traveling.

The best two ways are:

  • Rent a pocket Wi-Fi
  • Rent / buy a SIM card

You can also use public Wi-Fi for free.

  • Japan Connected free Wi-Fi by NTTBP
  • Free Wi-Fi & TOKYO
  • Wi-Fi PASSPORT(Soft Bank)

For detail information please go here.

IC Card

instead of buying tickets each time, we would highly recommend you using IC cards. IC cards costs 500 yen each card and you just have to top up for traveling. The price of traveling is cheaper when you use IC cards. When you are preparing to leave Japan, you can return the IC cards at the offices at the stations and the 500 yen will return to you. However, the unused top-ups will not return to you, so try your best to leave as little money in the card as possible. But you can always keep the cards for the next journey to Japan! The IC cards are used all over Japan so you can use them even if you are in a different city.
Not only you can use the IC cards for traveling, you can also use them to pay your Taxi, food you buy at the convenience store, drinks you buy at the vending machines, and much more. If you do not want to bring much cash on you, you can also top-up the amount you would like to use in your IC card so it makes it more convenient for you.

Other than IC cards there are JR passes or Metro passes that you can buy for cheaper traveling. For more details, please go here.

Just be aware that the ticket machines do not accept credit / debit cards, they only accept cash.

Traveling with Suitcases on Bullet Trains / Shinkansen

There is not much space on the bullet trains (Shikansen) for suitcases. There is only a small space behind the last row of seats. It is best to try to have fewer luggages or you can always use the delivery services from hotels. Delivery services in Japan are quite efficient and the price is not too expensive, it could make your traveling much easier since you would not have to have large bags with you while moving around.

Rush Hours

Rush hours in Japan usually run from 7am to 9am in the morning and 5pm to 8pm in the evening from Monday to Friday. Tokyo’s rail / subway system is especially packed during the rush hours.

If you need to catch a flight it is best to give yourself a bit more time for traveling. It will also take a lot more effort to get on to the train if you have big suitcases.

Around the morning rush hour, until about 09:30am, on most lines there is a “Women Only carriage,

Those carriages are usually located at the very end of the trains, just be aware of it while you travel during the rush hours. The carriages will have stickers looking like this image.
It is not illegal for men to travel on those carriages during the rush hour, but you may not be very welcomed by the women in the carriage. Other than the morning rush hour period, the carriage is the same as all other carriages and is available for everyone to use.

Japan Rail Pass

JR lines run through the whole country but it is separated into sections due to the geography; including East Japan, Central Japan, West Japan, Shikoku, Kyushu, Hokkaido. The JR Pass could be used all over Japan and it is also available for the Tokyo Monorail for going to Haneda airport.

In order to purchase the Japan Rail Pass, you will have to buy the Exchange order in your home country and bring it with you to exchange it into a Japan Rail Pass before you start your visit.
There are two types of JAPAN RAIL PASS: Green (for first class Green cars), and Ordinary. Each of these types is available as a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day PASS.

Type:
Green
Ordinary
Duration
Adult
Child
Adult
Child
7-day
38,880 YEN
19,440 YEN
29,110 YEN
14,550 YEN
14-day
62,950 YEN
31,470 YEN
46,390 YEN
23,190 YEN
21-day
81,870 YEN
40,930 YEN
59,350 YEN
29,670 YEN

For more details please see here.

Tokyo Subway Ticket

There are three types of tickets: 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours. Within the hours, you can take unlimited rides on all Tokyo metro and Toei subway lines.

Tap this to show the tableClose
Adult Child
24 hour 800 yen 400 yen
48 hour 1,200 yen 600 yen
72 hour 1,500 yen 750 yen

There are several places where you can purchase them; you can also purchase the exchange order in your home country.
Please refer to the details here: Tokyo Subway Ticket

Other than the Tokyo Subway tickets, there are other discount tickets which you can choose from so you can make the best out of them while you visit Japan along with the JR pass.

Please refer to the following link: Discount Tickets

Convenience Store & Vending Machine

The convenience stores in Japan have almost everything you can think of. Not only food, you can find products such as cosmetics, tissue paper, detergent, and much more. The convenience store also sells alcohol and cigarettes if you need them. They are sold 24 hours as well. The chain convenience stores in Japan often have their own brands or would have limited collaboration products on sale. Many people are interested in the collaboration snacks or food, sometimes it gets so popular it might be hard to find them!
There is also ATM machines, ticket machines, and printers in the convenience stores. The ATMs at Lawson and 7-Eleven accept all kinds of credit cards including foreign credit cards; we would recommend using one of their machines to withdraw money because they accept more types of cards than the banks’ ATM machines.
On the other hand, vending machines, something really famous in Japan, are found everywhere in Japan; places you wouldn’t think to see a vending machine, you can find it there as well! The variations of vending machines could surprise you. There are vending machines selling all kinds of things from the normal drinks to SIM cards even to eggs! Try to find some interesting ones while you visit the country.

Exchange Rate

The exchange rates of 2016/09/23 (This rate is NOT real time) are as following:

Currency (Unit = 1)
EX) 1 USD = 101 JPY

USD($)0
GBP(£)0
EUR(€)0
TWD($)0
RMB(¥)0
HKD($)0
KRW(₩)0
AUD($)0

If you want to know real time rating please check here.  Japan has an image of being expensive. But if you are not too picky with hotels or restaurants, you will be able to travel with a lower price.

It is always better to bring cash with you before you come to Japan but if you need to exchange money in Japan, here are some places that you can do so:

Bank

The three major banks in Japan are Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFJ), Mizuho, and Sumitomo Mitsui. The banks operate from 9:00 to 15:00, Monday to Friday. Some banks will have exchange machines as well which would be operating from 9:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday.

Post Office

Most post offices would be able to do money exchange as well. It is open from Monday to Friday and operates between 9:00 to 16:00.

Travelex

Travelex stores have several locations throughout Japan, including the airports; it usually gives a better rate than the banks. Every location has a different operating hour; please check the website for the details.
Please click the address and check the working hours on google map.

Exchange Machine

There are various exchange machines located at hotels, airports, department stores, and much more. It may be the most convenient way for you to exchange money.

For people who are planning to stay in Japan for a longer period of time

For people who are planning to stay in Japan for the long term or students coming for a few months, the most inexpensive way to transfer money would be using TransferWise. The commission for transferring money is much cheaper comparing to the banks. The more amount you transfer the more money you will be saving, that is why it is a good tool for people who are going to be staying in Japan for a longer period of time; especially when you are going to open a Japanese bank account.

Access from Airports

Access from airports in Tokyo

Access from Narita airport to Tokyo

  • Narita Express (NEX): the ride is about 1 hour and it is about 3000 yen.
  • Limousine bus: the ride takes about 85 to 145 minutes, and the price is 3100 yen. But it varies depending on the bus company that you pick from. The buses run between Tokyo station to the airport and Shinjuku station to the airport.
  • Shuttle bus: The shuttle bus runs between narita airport and Tokyo station, Ginza station, Ooedo Onsen Monogatari. It takes about 1.5 hours and the price is only 1000 yen. It is 2000 yen during midnight and early morning.

Access from Haneda airport to Tokyo

  • Keikyu Main Line: This airport express train leaves from Shinagawa station and goes to the Haneda airport international terminal. It takes about 20 minutes and the price is 410 yen.
  • Haneda monorail: The monorail runs between Hamamatsucho station and Haneda airport. The normal train takes about 30 minutes and the fast train takes about 20 minutes. The price is 483 yen.
  • Limousine bus: The limousine bus runs between Tokyo station and Haneda airport takes about 25 to 45 minutes and it is 930 yen. Midnight price will be 1,860 yen.

Access from airports in Osaka / Kyoto

Access to Osaka

  • Haruka: It takes about 50 minutes to get to Shin-Osaka Station from Kansai International Airport (KIX). The open ticket is 2,260 yen. This would be the fastest way to travel from the airport. If you have a JR Pass this would be the best choice for you.
  • Limousine Bus: It is 1,550 yen from the airport to Osaka. It takes about 1 hour without traffic.

Access to Kyoto

  • Haruka: This is the fastest way to go from Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto city center. It brings you directly to Kyoto station in 1 hour 15 to 20 minutes. It is an open ticket of 2,770 yen. If you have a JR pass, it will be the best choice for you.
  • Limousine Bus: The ticket is 2,550 yen and it takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes without traffic.
Credits for images

Updated: 2016/09/23