First Time in Japan: 11 Things That Surprised Me

FIRST TIME IN JAPAN: 11 THINGS THAT SURPRISED ME

I admittedly knew very little about Japan before I stumbled upon extremely cheap tickets to Tokyo last year and impulsively booked my flight; I was aware that Japan had excellent cuisine and countless temples but this is pretty much as far as I could get. I didn’t really know what to expect, besides the clichés we see on TV: electronic everything, dense hordes of commuters and incredible fashion.

Some of these stereotypes turned out to be veridic.

But in other aspects, Japan and Japanese people are nothing like I imagined them to be. I’ve been pleasantly (and not so) surprised, after two weeks of criss-crossing the country. Here are, in no particular order, my impressions on Japan. These are purely personal and I don’t necessarily think of them as generalities, just mere interpretations of the complex Nippon culture.

There are relatively few cars in Japan

There are many more bicycles, pedestrians, trains and buses than there are cars in Japan – despite the country being home to over 125 million people and being one of the world’s leading automotive forces. But after renting a car to tour the Japanese Alps, I can see why there are so few cars in the country: tolls can cost as much as $25 each way for a 50 kilometre stretch and petrol prices are completely prohibitive. This is not only good news for the environment, but also for noise pollution; Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are surprisingly quiet (pair that with extreme politeness of Japanese drivers, and it’s possible you won’t hear a honking sound for the entire duration of your trip).

Few places accept card payments

For a country so notoriously technologic and forward-thinking, Japan has serious lacks as far as electronic payments are concerned. I’ve only been able to pay with my credit card ONCE since I’ve been here (two full weeks!). It’s a good thing Japanese people aren’t into stealing stuff because I’ve never carried this much money in my wallet. Pickpockets in Europe would have a field day following me around town!

Japan is incredibly safe

first time in japan

Twilight in Gion

Case in point in the previous statement. I’ve rarely felt unsafe in my travels but Japan has got to be the least worrying place I’ve been to. My biggest concern is usually to make sure I don’t board the wrong train, not if I should avoid that alley or cross the park by myself. I am always street smart but I feel like I don’t have to be super conscious of my surroundings here – stealing, aggressing, mugging or taking advantage of another person just aren’t part of the Japanese culture (I’m not saying tragedies don’t ever happen, but that they are much less frequent here than in other countries). With just two (!!!) gun-related homicides last year, suffice to say that Japan is an ideal country for a solo female traveller.

English is seldom spoken

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled in Europe where English is quite common, but English isn’t widely spread in Japan. Not that this is a bad thing per se; it simply makes interactions more difficult than I’m accustomed to. There doesn’t seem to be English-speaking TV channels available and local popular music is notoriously Japanese-oriented (ever heard of the J-pop phenomenon?).

Mind you – I’m not one of those “let’s have the ENTIRE WORLD speak English” advisers. English isn’t even my first language, remember? But I do think of it as the universal language, one a whole lot of people on the planet speak at least a little bit of, and the key to most communications for visitors in foreign countries.

Basic notions in Japanese are required to travel in Japan, even in Tokyo.

Japanese people are extremely well-mannered

This didn’t come so much as a surprise, but more like a confirmation of my expectation. Everyone I’ve met so far has been perfectly polite and proper. It’s really quite endearing! I’ve said and heard Arigatou gozaimasu more times than I can count, and have been met with a sincere smile every time.

Every station has a different jingle

first time in japan

Kyoto Station

Subway and train stations in Japan use musical jingles to announce the imminent arrival of a train or closing doors. But these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill “to-do-doom” jingles, it’s a full on symphony at times, lasting as long as 10 seconds (I counted). I’ve never heard the same jingle twice as of yet.

I actually did a bit of research on the subject since I suspected this wasn’t simply due to creativity on the train operator’s part, and indeed, there’s science behind it: jingles were initially created to encourage timely but unhurried boarding and disembarking. Departing train melodies are arranged to invoke a feeling of relief for passengers having just boarded the train; in contrast, arriving train melodies are configured to cause alertness in travellers and commuters who might have dozed off during the ride.

Japan can be hard to navigate when you are not riding a Shinkansen

I came to that conclusion the hard way: it’s not because a train says it’s going to X that it’s the fastest train to that destination (for example, visitors in Tokyo should board the Osaka-bound Shinkansen for Kyoto, and not a Kyoto-bound train). It takes a while to become familiar with train lines and to know the difference between local, express, super express and limited express trains. One shouldn’t automatically assume that all trains are lightning fast in Japan, because they are not.

Japanese culture is so incredibly alive

first time to japan

Matsumoto Castle

Perhaps due to blatantly low immigration (roughly 90% of the Japanese population is of Japanese descent) and a somewhat closed-off attitude, Japanese traditions have remained fiercely strong over the past centuries. That is not saying that Japan is permeable to outside influences, but its culture and its history are constantly showcased throughout various events around the country, significantly more so than other places I’ve been to. It seemed to me that instead of being uninterested in what their home country has to offer like most Westerners, Japanese are fundamentally intrigued and fascinated by their own heritage. National tourism is extremely high around here, and although that could partly be explained by the fact that most Japanese workers get short holidays, making it difficult for them to travel overseas, I think they are simply genuinely interested in celebrating their customs. As they should!

Japanese people are incredibly helpful

The Japanese’s level of customer service certainly goes hand in hand with their naturally courteous manners – I’ve rarely felt more cared for as a customer than I did in this country. It seems that it would be unthinkable for them to leave a visitor, especially a foreigner, hang high. Some people have literally gone out of their way to show me to my destination (an elderly lady in a udon shop even offered to take me to the train station, which turned out to be a 30 minute walk!) and I genuinely appreciate their efforts despite our mutual lingual difficulties.

But on the other hand, I think this obsession with being helpful sometime leads to complicated yet totally avoidable situations. I’ve sometimes been led in the wrong direction or given incorrect information (and I could tell the person helping me had no idea what they were doing, and I’m pretty sure they knew I was aware of that, making our interaction even more uncomfortable), all for the sake of avoiding to utter the words “I’m sorry, I don’t know”. A wrong answer is better than no answer at all, from what I gather? I realize it’s irrational to hold their obsession with impeccable customer service against them, but sometimes an honest answer is all a girl needs.

There are vending machines everywhere

first time in japan

Just a sample of the vending machines inside the Hiroshima Tourist Office

I was sort of expecting this to be a myth but it really isn’t: I suspect there are more vending machines in Japan than humans. Outside apartment buildings, on railway platforms, inside subway stations, on street corners, these machines offer all kinds of drinks from warm green tea to coffee shots and regular OJ for roughly $1. Japan has your hydration levels at heart.

WiFi in Japan SUCKS

Let’s get this out of the way: Japan has failed in everything pertaining to WiFi. The access, the reliability, the speed, everything about it sucks. My theory is that Japanese mobile phone plans are extremely generous as far as data is concerned and that nobody in this country actually needs public WiFi. But it does make it hard for visitors to make an impromptu status update or to look up something on their phone. I mean, even freakin’ Starbucks doesn’t even have free WiFi, for heaven’s sake! Save yourself the trouble and get a MiFi, seriously.

Have you been to Japan? What were your first impressions of the country?

80 Comments on First Time in Japan: 11 Things That Surprised Me

  1. Charlie
    April 4, 2015 at 9:02 am (2 years ago)

    Every time I read a blog post on Japan it makes me want to go even more. The country sounds absolutely fascinating.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 20, 2015 at 3:23 am (2 years ago)

      It really is fascinating, so different than what we’re used to.

      Reply
    • Eddie Silva
      January 26, 2016 at 9:02 am (12 months ago)

      I was stationed in Atsugi Japan for 3 1/2 years when I was in the Navy. I loved every minute of it! The Japanese people are so friendly and are the most respectful people I have ever encountered in my 20 year Naval career. I was more concerned with offending them than I was anything else. You definitely need to go visit. You will love it!

      Reply
      • Marie-Eve
        January 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm (12 months ago)

        What a great story Eddie! Thanks for sharing :-)

  2. Aleksandra
    April 4, 2015 at 10:52 am (2 years ago)

    Japan is my biggest dream I really hope to make true one day :) Great post, very useful!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 20, 2015 at 3:23 am (2 years ago)

      Glad I could help Aleksandra! :-)

      Reply
  3. Mailee Yang
    April 12, 2015 at 2:04 am (2 years ago)

    I am going to Tokyo for a week this Summer and am so excited. I am definitely going to keep updated on your blog so post all of the advice you have!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 20, 2015 at 3:20 am (2 years ago)

      Tokyo is immense, it was so hard to see everything. I hope you enjoy your trip!

      Reply
      • Annerose Sedran
        March 9, 2016 at 9:51 am (10 months ago)

        A good way to get around metropolitan Tokyo is to get a one or two day ticket for the hop on hop off Skybus. The Ciry Tour Bus is great for Hiroshima too. In Kyoto these facilities are not as good. The K’loop Bus to most of the world heritage listed spots only runs on weekends and public holidays but there are other ways to get around. Go to the Tourist Information Office at the station when you arrive. They speak good English and can give you all the advice and maps you need to catch local trains and buses.

  4. Brett
    September 9, 2015 at 8:34 am (1 year ago)

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with most of the list. Perhaps it’s because I’m married to a Japanese which makes my visits “home” much easier. She’s right about safety and the food is great. I’ve never had a problem with WIFI though and people try to speak English as much as possible.

    I highly recommend going.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 9, 2015 at 11:03 am (1 year ago)

      I don’t recall telling people not to go to Japan :-) These are just observations from my trip, and they are highly subjective. Sorry to hear you don’t agree!

      Reply
    • Mrs H
      April 6, 2016 at 5:06 pm (10 months ago)

      Visited March 16: no problems at all with WiFi.

      We found the lady st the ticket desk in Tokyo station incredibly efficient and knowledgeable about our train journey plans – she did it all & it all went like clockwork. As a local said to us “of course …this is Japan”.

      We miss it every day!

      Reply
      • Marie-Eve
        April 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm (9 months ago)

        I think I may just have been unlucky with WiFi because my experience was awful! Loved the trains though.

  5. Raymond D. Sweet
    November 22, 2015 at 4:16 pm (1 year ago)

    Japan is cleaner than clean. People don’t litter there. Well not i Gifu or Kyoto. Not even cigarette butts. I did have an issue with police in Tokyo. I asked him for directions, but that turned into him wanting to see my passport. He however didn’t want to see anyone else’s passport. And I fussed about 15 minutes. Tokyo was too overwhelming and I just went back to China early.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 23, 2015 at 4:42 pm (1 year ago)

      Oh my, you thought China was less overwhelming than Tokyo? I would’ve never guessed that!

      Reply
  6. Natalia
    November 29, 2015 at 9:17 am (1 year ago)

    I spent two weeks there too with a very basic japanese I learned in Spain. I loved it there and it makes me really said to not be able to go back soon.

    WIFI DOES suck. Not only you have to register your email and therefore access the internet to confirm so you can use the wifi. But they also have things like only 30 minutes access twice a day etc. And even then the free wifi is not that great. I stayed in an old hotel and they had no wifi, the only place that had free wifi was 7-eleven. I would stand outside and use wifi – not for long because it was weird to be doing that haha! But if you accessed one 7-eleven’s wifi, you would be automatically able to access on any other. No matter the city.

    And the broken english drove me crazy. Sellers can sort of speak something. But regular people just walkin around? Very difficult. Although some Japanese randomly surprised me by their perfect Spanish or English. It was crazy!

    Anyway I loved it :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 22, 2015 at 10:01 am (1 year ago)

      Yes, Japan is a land of surprises :-)

      Reply
  7. Judith
    December 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve just returned from a long-planned one month trip to Japan (not my first visit, but a wonderful one,) I agree with everything you said in your blog. The things you didn’t mention that I would give a little more airspace to are ..the wonderful food, markets etc. And I would highly recommend trying to stay in Kyoto for as long as possible, even foregoing Tokyo completely and concentrating on the Kansai region, travelling between Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. We stayed nine days in Kyoto and STILL didn’t see everything we would have liked to! I think it is one of the best cities in the world..

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 22, 2015 at 9:59 am (1 year ago)

      Yes! Kyoto is such a great base, easy day trips and plenty to do in the city itself.

      Reply
  8. Annabel
    December 10, 2015 at 9:06 pm (1 year ago)

    I agarre with many things in your post. To solve the WiFi issue I rented a mobile WiFi device for 12 dollars a day and I had wonderful internet all the time (even for Skype/FaceTime calls) I totally recommend this since you can use google maps to use the correct trains (express etc). Using the Shinkansen is really helpful, one morning I was in Kyoto and that afternoon I was in Tokyo for dinner. Major stores will accept credit cards. Also I found a couple of small souvenirs stores that received them so I had no issues. I payed attention to the jingles and I think it’s the cutest thing. Also some stations play sounds of birds too. It’s a whole new experience :) everybody is really polite and the country is safe.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 22, 2015 at 9:58 am (1 year ago)

      I did rent a MiFi device as well and it was very helpful, especially with train schedules.

      Reply
  9. Richelle
    December 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm (1 year ago)

    I totally agree with Kyoto that someone mentioned. Definitely worth staying as long as you can. I made a trip there twice. One with my family of four (sons were 4 & 1) and my parents. We were a big crowd and it was difficult to travel around town. I’m happy that I didn’t bring a stroller though. We only stayed for two nights and was supposed to have 3 days but the first day was traveling day and turns out there was a typhoon. Our Shinkansen was canceled for the first leg. So we had to take regular JR train to Hiroshima. Even then, we had to move our time schedule back which left the first day with no sight seeing, just dinner from a block from our Hotel. The second time, I went with two friends because the first time wasn’t enough. We stayed at an apartment two blocks from the station for 3 nights 4 days. Kyoto is an amazing city, I highly recommend the Gion area because it has everything. Your shops are there and some land marks and shrines of course. I have lived in the Yamaguchi area for almost three years now and I can honestly say that Kyoto has more English speaking Japanese than where we are. I was extremely surprise that I was conversing with a lot of them. The cusine are all wonderful but not so much for those who are vegan since a lot of the food is either in meet broth or fish. There is however very few that offers Veggie option. One of my friend that came with us is vegan and we did tried a couple places in Kyoto that are Vegetarian cusine. I absolutely recommend trying it even if you aren’t vegan and open to any food. It was our best meal there.
    The Japanese culture and the people are by far my favorite. Customer service is amazing like you say. A lot of the places when you buy something, they take the bag around the corner and hands it to you then and then walk you out the door and bow and says thank you. And sometimes they will walk you out the door first and then hands you the bag then. They are very polite and I adore them so much. I do nots peak any Japanese but I have picked up some words and phrases here and there and even when elderly tries and talks to my children and I, I still don’t quite understand. There’s mostly charades and hand gestures. I will definitely miss this place once we move back to the states. I have a couple friends who moved back to the states and are always saying they can see themselves retiring in Japan.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 22, 2015 at 9:58 am (1 year ago)

      Oh yes the Japanese are very polite! I did enjoy my stay immensely :-)

      Reply
  10. Michael
    December 30, 2015 at 4:50 am (1 year ago)

    Thanks for this blog entry, I enjoyed reading it a lot.
    I am looking forward to visit Japan for 2-3 weeks in the next couple of years.
    Have you been hiking there on your trip? I wonder what it is like to climb any volcanos.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2015 at 2:01 pm (1 year ago)

      I haven’t done much hiking but friends of mine hiked the Takachiho No Mine and loved it!

      Reply
  11. Ellen
    January 15, 2016 at 9:50 am (1 year ago)

    I absolutely love Japan and the Japanese people. I cannot find one negative comment to say about Japan – food is excellent, people friendly and very helpful and the beauty of Japan is breathtaking!! I would go there every year if possible.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm (1 year ago)

      OMG the foooood! I know! I didn’t have a bad meal in the three weeks I spent there.

      Reply
      • Dhiren
        March 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm (10 months ago)

        How many days is the minimum to see the Japan.?And which cities,days of stay and any other suggestions,please.Thanks.

      • Marie-Eve
        March 20, 2016 at 9:06 pm (10 months ago)

        It’s hard to tell, it depends on your interests and budget! I would say three weeks is a good timeframe to see most of the ‘must dos’ but then again, these will vary according to each person.

  12. Lorraine
    January 19, 2016 at 10:17 pm (12 months ago)

    I miss Japan!! I miss the food, the vending machines and even the warm toilet seats!!! Lol. Although english is seldom spoken it is a very tourist friendly country with lots of signs and machines with english translations.

    I did alot of research before visiting Japan and I found the suica card very useful, you load cash on it and use it to make purchases almost everywhere. Purchases such as train fare, restaurants, clothing outlets, mini marts ..etc It beats carrying a whole wade of cash and when you leave you can return the card and be given the remainder of the money that you did not spend. They are very easy to obtain and to load cash on. Digital credit how awesome is that! :D

    I totally agree with you, Japanese people are very well mannered and polite. I remember seeing these directors of massive corporations thanking each other by continuously bowing lol it was like they were having a competition on who can bow the lowests and thank eachother the most.

    It was a pleasure visiting this beautiful country and its amazing people. I will definitley be returning. Great blog entry, very much enjoyed the read.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 20, 2016 at 11:48 am (12 months ago)

      Oh my God I wish someone had told me about the Suica card! It would’ve made my life so much simpler.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, Lorraine!

      Reply
  13. sandra moreno
    January 21, 2016 at 11:43 am (12 months ago)

    I am going to Japan in two months and by reading your post i’m even more excited!!! I’m not a big fan of sushi but still excited for the food!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm (12 months ago)

      Yay for Japan! Japanese cuisine is so much more than sushi – I only ate sushi two or three times over the course of three weeks. My favourite foods were udon noodles, yakitoris, and katsudon.

      Reply
    • Annerose Sedran
      March 9, 2016 at 10:03 am (10 months ago)

      Ive been told the Suica and Pasmo cards are only for the Tokyo area. Other cities have their own. I found it easy to get an international travel card from my bank and load it with yen before I left home. It’s accepted in most stores, even for smaller amounts at the myriad of convenience stores all over Japan which also have ATMs where you can draw cash on the card without incurring withdrawal fees from your bank. Anything left when you retun home can be exchanged again.

      Reply
    • Annerose Sedran
      March 9, 2016 at 10:07 am (10 months ago)

      I’m in Japan right now travelling with my 21 year old grandson. Everything you say is true and travelling here is an absolute pleasure. 25 years ago when I came the first time there was absolutely no signage that you could read – everything was in Japanese and the only English words we heard were righto and lefto!Today its so much easier because most signs also display all directions and place names in Roman letters, making it so easy to get around.
      The Japan Rail pass is great if you plan on travelling to different cities by bullet train and also saves you a lot of money because it covers not only the shinkansen but all regular JR trains, buses and ferries. However, you must get one before you leave home because it’s not available in Japan. I ordered mine from the US and I received it 3 days later as promised via Fedex. In Australia they insisted on ordering it a minimum of 9 days before your departure date, it is sent to you by regular post and they could also not guarantee when it would arrive. (Not good enough and too risky. I’ve waited more than 2 weeks for something to arrive in the past.)
      What also really impresses me in Japan is their attitude to each other. Everybody does their utmost not to offend – there is none of that sense of entitlement – it’s never a question of “as long as I’m ok” but rather ” do it for the greater good of all”. There is absolutely no littering, nobody is loud or aggressive, even when they have drunk too much, people assist each other, they say please and thank you, their service is the best ever and they take great pride in what they do or provide, be it the street sweeper, the bus driver, the waiter, the salesperson or the railway staff. They wear surgical masks when they have a cold not to spread germs to others (now in spring they also wear them a lot to prevent pollen allergies from flaring up, so I was told). There are a lot of old people here – life expectancy is high – and they are treated with great respect by all. I also appreciate the great sense of family that still exists here. You often see extended families on outings together over weekends.
      The obvious absence of gaffiti is also so.refreshing and the trains remain spotless and run spot on time too down to the minute. The stations look like the best airport terminals in the world, with every type of shop and amenity you could ask for. You could eat off the floor although this would definitely be frowned upon.
      As far as the problem with carrying cash is concerned, I was advised to get an international debit card from your bank. You change your travelling money into yen and it’s deposited into the card account. You can draw money at any of the multitude of convenience stores located all over Japan (eg 7/11; Lawsons; etc) which all have ATM’s and there is no withdrawal charge from your bank. Anything left in the card when you get back home (doubtful) can be transferred back into your local account.
      Another point of interest is that the Japanes do not seem to go in for tattoos or unusual body piercings, at least none that are visible and I’ve not seen a single tattoo parlour anywhere. I was told yesterday that some of the onsen will not allow anyone with a tattoo to go in. These hot public baths/ springs are extremely popular here. Males and females have separate facilities (since you go in in the nude).Everyone has to have a good wash/shower right there before you enter the water. You come out red like a lobster but you sleep like a log afterwards so I can highly recommend it! Most hotels have their own .
      I’m thoroughly enjoying the trip and can only recommend it to others. If you live in Australia, it’s no more expensive than home and often cheaper. We’ve had great meals for about A$12 where the locals go to eat on their way home and the convenience stores (konbini) have good fteshly packed meals too for even less. A great sandwich is around A$3.50. Buy some before you catch the shinkansen. Everybody does it and it costs a lot less than from the trolley which comes around on the train. The price of regular coffee is more than double.
      Bon voyage!

      Reply
      • Marie-Eve
        March 11, 2016 at 11:10 am (10 months ago)

        What a wonderful comment Annerose! Glad you are enjoying Japan.

  14. Sandy
    February 12, 2016 at 1:48 pm (11 months ago)

    I went to Japan last year for the first time. I was there a month visiting my son, daughter in law and new Grandbaby. I had a wonderful experience there. I was staying in Yokouski . I walked around by myself. I was able to purchase items with ease. They were helpful when I was confused with my money. I always felt very safe in every city I visited. The hardest thing for me is I’m not a fish eater unless it’s shellfish. Also the noodles didn’t agree with me. But I didn’t lose any weight. Lol I hope to go back to visit one day.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm (11 months ago)

      Yes Japan is a very safe destination to visit, harming other people in any way is just not part of their culture (generally speaking of course!).

      Reply
  15. Michelle
    February 13, 2016 at 7:09 am (11 months ago)

    I travelled around Japan for 3 weeks, between Tokyo, Mt.Fuji, Kyo to & Hiroshima. It was breathtaking! The mix of beautiful traditional culture & the modern cartoon like style & technology was something I had never seen before.
    I found Japanese people so unbelievably helpful. Blatantly Scottish looking, I stood out when lost & looking at maps but never lost for long as someone always stopped to help, despite the language barrier.
    We chose autumn (mid October) to travel as I wanted to see the colours in the trees but I found it seemed more like late summer there, the heat in Tokyo & Hiroshima was immense.
    Travel was stressful, I couldn’t believe the size of train stations, with shopping centres underground & several floors above, it was a bit overwhelming when hot, tired & carrying a backpack.
    You MUST try a capsule hotel!! It was bizarre but excellent, immaculate & very cheap to stay. I found prices in Japan generally quite expensive though we managed ok.
    I’m now learning Japanese & I will definately return again, hopefully more confident & able to get around easier! I can’t praise the country try enough.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm (11 months ago)

      You must have had a wonderful trip at these destinations! :)

      Reply
  16. Kiah
    February 13, 2016 at 8:15 am (11 months ago)

    If you go again, check out hyperdia.com for train timetables, it will allow you to choose local trains or shinkansen. Also, Starbucks does have free wifi, you just need to be able to read Japanese to sign up for it, if you have the google translate app you can draw the kanji and hiragana and it will translate it for you :) also, you can buy data only sims from Yodobashi, but they’re only in the bigger cities.
    I have found after living here that considering it is considered to be such an efficient country, the beauracracy is terrible!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 13, 2016 at 4:44 pm (11 months ago)

      I did, hyperdia.com was so useful! :-) I will note Yodobashi for my next trip, thanks Kiah!

      Reply
  17. Patricia Murashige
    February 16, 2016 at 2:58 am (11 months ago)

    Just came off of a 8 night stay ( we both agreed it wasn’t enough) in Kyoto and loved every minute! I have been to Japan before about 10yrs ago, but was on a whirl wind tour of 5-6 cities in 8 nights and didn’t really get the “real feel” of Japan. I did stay in Kyoto for 2 nights and knew I wanted to go back on my own some day and just do my own thing.
    We,l that day came in January 2016. I did go with someone that has never been to Japan and he fell in love.
    I agree with your observations, the people are very kind and gentle people.
    I have own notes as well: if you need help say on the streets or train station, just ask a young lady between the ages of 25- 35 or so. They have been the most willing to help even if their English is not too good( their words)! It sure is better than my no Japanese self.
    And it really is important to have the address of wherever you are headed to at hand.
    Let me tell you.. 30yrs ago it was worse, no one ( maybe an exaggeration) in the travel industry spoke or understood English well. And there were no phone apps like translator and the likes. I suppose that was what held me back from going back to Japan until this year.
    Yes you can definitely get lost in the train stations!!
    I love sushi too, but we only got to eat it twice in 8 nights. Lol!! Like you said there’s so many other foods to eat. So no one should be afraid to go to Japan just because they don’t like sushi.
    I’m researching places in Hakone next trip.
    Another note: I booked mid January because the air and hotel were very reasonable. It’s a slow period and the weather was perfect. Just bring awarm clothes and you will be very comfortable. We are from Hawaiii and loved the weather.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 29, 2016 at 8:45 am (11 months ago)

      Fantastic to hear you loved Kyoto as well!

      Reply
  18. jen burns
    February 18, 2016 at 10:08 am (11 months ago)

    We went to visit our son last year and you hit the nail on the head! Things I would add? No one talks. You could hear a pin drop at the train station with hundreds of people there! My other surprise were the toilets sunk into the ground.. If you had bad knees you were in trouble. Although I loved seeing the world my son lived in I was happy to come home. :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 29, 2016 at 8:43 am (11 months ago)

      Yes those toilets are not very user-friendly, haha! Only encountered them once. Thank God!

      Reply
  19. Emma
    February 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm (11 months ago)

    I’m moving to Japan next year and this post was super interesting! I’ve heard there are tons of vending machines everywhere… so weird but awesome! I love your blog by the way!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 29, 2016 at 8:42 am (11 months ago)

      Wow, moving to Japan! What an amazing journey you’ll have.

      Reply
  20. Kathy
    February 18, 2016 at 9:59 pm (11 months ago)

    I spent 10 days in the kyoto, osaka, Hiroshima, okayama area. I loved it. Saw a baseball game in osaka, yay osaka tigers !! Went to nara and spent time with the deer. I am saving up agian to go back. I was at a tempe in kyoto and felt so calm, I know there was traffic on the other side of the wall (near kyoto station ) but I felt so ‘at home’, I still get a little emotional thinking of it. My son lives over there teaching, 4 years now. He loves it over there, everyone ask me when he is coming home, I tell them he already is. So here is going I can save up to go back in 2 years. I missed it before I left.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 29, 2016 at 8:42 am (11 months ago)

      What an amazing trip you had!

      Reply
  21. Anna
    February 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm (11 months ago)

    Thanks for the tips. I never cash with me and glad to know what to prepare for. Our accommodation is through air BnB, pocket wifi is provided, hopefully won’t need to rely on wifi. :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 29, 2016 at 8:23 am (11 months ago)

      Looks like you’re all set! :)

      Reply
  22. Bev
    March 3, 2016 at 3:43 pm (11 months ago)

    My daughter has lived in Japan for 13 years now married to a Japanese man with 2 children. I have visited several times and each time grow to love it and the friendly, polite people more finding new and interesting things to do each time. Have been fortunate to enjoy the very traditional Japan as my daughters inlaws are very traditional farmers. I have never been to such a safe clean country, I think every one owns a broom. Although I miss my daughter and her family. I can see why she lives there. Their work hours leave much to be desired and family life suffers. Working up to 10 12 hours a day. We Australian wouldnt know how to cope. Bev

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm (11 months ago)

      That is true – the Japanese work ethic is very intense, and it is actually a good thing when you fall asleep at your desk because it means you have been working hard. They only get a few days off every year. Very different!

      Reply
  23. Sheri
    March 15, 2016 at 4:38 am (10 months ago)

    What a nice post. I’m going to Japan for a month in a week and can’t wait. Glad I read this. :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 15, 2016 at 5:23 pm (10 months ago)

      Have a wonderful trip!

      Reply
  24. Cathy
    April 6, 2016 at 7:52 pm (9 months ago)

    I super love Japan! Been there twice, went to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya. People are extremely polite and helpful despite communication barrier. Japanese always follow lines. Inside the trains all phones are on a silent mode, and they are very quiet. I can see that love for their country prevails in every individual. I will definitely go back , this ime to explore the provinces.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm (9 months ago)

      Wonderful! Let me know which provinces you’ll be visiting!

      Reply
  25. kelli love
    April 7, 2016 at 1:56 pm (9 months ago)

    I am going to Japan in a couple of months. Would really like some must see things in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka- as these are the cities that we have booked our accommadations . We will be gone for 10 days. I want to make the most of it. I am really nervous about not speaking Japanese.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:18 pm (9 months ago)

      You’ll get by not speaking any Japanese but do carry a small dictionary just in case. It’s hard to recommend things not knowing what you like – but the Edo Museum is Tokyo is amazing, as are the fish market, the SkyTree, Sensoji Temple, and Shibuya. Kyoto is a big as well but more accessible; my favourites includes Arashiyama, Kenkoji Temple, Gion, a half day trip to Nara, and the Fushimi Irani shrine.

      Reply
  26. cloudy
    April 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm (9 months ago)

    hi, my sister and i plan a japan trip in 5 years so we can learn a litlle japanese.
    we plan to visit hokkaido, kobe , osaka and nara maybe aichi.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:11 pm (9 months ago)

      In five years? Isn’t it a little early to start planning? :-P

      Reply
      • cloudy
        April 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm (9 months ago)

        nope it´s never to early . we plan to learn japanese before so .

  27. Sandi
    April 24, 2016 at 11:08 am (9 months ago)

    I lived in Japan from 1972 until 1976. I loved every minute of it. I lived in Yokohama and worked in Yokosuka and the round trip drive every day with my husband gave us time to ourselves and I found something new every day to see. I listened to the Armed Forces radio going back and forth and listened carefully to the “phrase of the day”. The Japanese will surprise you. The learn English in school but their social graces sometimes keeps them from using it for fear of making a mistake or offending. My home, even after all these years is still decorated with an oriental flair. I received a teaching degree in oriental flower arranging while I was there and took a week touring the country side and staying in Ryokans (sp?).
    What a wonderful journey! I would go again in a minute! Social Security does not allow for such luxury.

    Reply
    • Sandi
      April 24, 2016 at 11:15 am (9 months ago)

      Ps. I’m sure it has changed immensely after 40 years but I
      would l love to see the changes.

      Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:49 pm (9 months ago)

      That must have been a wonderful adventure!

      Reply
  28. Julia
    May 3, 2016 at 11:51 am (9 months ago)

    Such an insightful post! That’s so interesting about the different jingles on the subway.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm (9 months ago)

      Thanks! I had no idea either before I started researching for this post while in Japan.

      Reply
  29. Maffei Bell
    May 17, 2016 at 10:55 am (8 months ago)

    I am going to Osaka and Kyoto for 6 days. Can somebody give me ideas of what are the most important things that I need to experience in these 2 wonderful places as a tourist.

    Reply
  30. Zoe
    June 14, 2016 at 10:38 am (7 months ago)

    Depending on what you are relying on the wifi for… (IE. As long as you have wifi where you are staying) I have found the wifi here to be very easy to access (in Tokyo). There is wifi at almost every metro or train station, almost every conbini has their own wifi (and you’re only ever about a block away from some kind of conbini in Tokyo!) Starbucks wifi is also free but it has a weird system where you have to sign up for it beforehand (you can’t sign up for it by using Starbucks wifi…)

    Most smartphones can show you your location on a map without being connected to any internet or wifi now too.

    I’ve been here for about 2 months without wifi and while sometimes it’d be nice to have… It’s very easy to find!

    Reply
  31. Jean
    July 24, 2016 at 12:27 am (6 months ago)

    Went to Tokyo in late June this year on a ‘wanted to go all my life’ trip. It was everything and more! From the ease of travelling around Tokyo with a Suica card (With the one exception being the confusion of Shinjuku station) to the food to the people. Loved absolutely every minute – even when we didn’t get to see Mt Fuji due to rain and fog – the explanation from our guide about the mountain being ‘shy’ and the sheer loveliness of the travel there to and from Tokyo made it worthwhile. I felt safe everywhere we went in Tokyo. Thoroughly recommend everyone travel there at least once and I’m already planning another trip next year :-)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 25, 2016 at 11:30 am (6 months ago)

      Sounds like you had an amazing trip! Glad to hear.

      Reply
  32. Angela
    September 23, 2016 at 10:49 pm (4 months ago)

    I just returned from a 10 days trip to Japan, what an amazing country to visit, I would go again in a heartbeat.
    Really loved it ♡

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 25, 2016 at 7:19 pm (4 months ago)

      Amazing, glad to hear!

      Reply
  33. Felipe
    November 26, 2016 at 4:22 pm (2 months ago)

    What a lovely describing of Japan! I just came back from my holidays starting from Osaka heading up to Tokyo also staying in other more cities. Whilst reading the article brought me a huge miss from there. You have it on perfect details!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 1, 2016 at 10:40 am (2 months ago)

      So glad it brought back good memories for you. I too like to re-read this post and remind myself of my trip!

      Reply
  34. Bon
    January 6, 2017 at 11:44 am (1 week ago)

    I love this topic but I have to disagree with the last one. I stayed in Japan for 10 days just recently and I must say that most of their public Wi-Fi connections are pretty fast you just have to be patient in making an access.

    Reply
  35. Azusa
    January 6, 2017 at 3:34 pm (1 week ago)

    Hi. As a Japanese, I am very pleased to have read your good impression of my country! Thank you very much for sharing your experience.
    About wi-fi, I think it is one of the problem to solve, and gorvenment thinks the same way. They say they will set more free wi-fi by 2020 when the Olympics will be held, so I hope it will be easier for people to travel :)
    I wish you to visit Japan again (spring season is the best! and Gifu is one of the nice place to spend relaxing time in nature) and have wonderful experience again!

    Reply
  36. Nicole
    January 7, 2017 at 3:54 pm (1 week ago)

    The article is great if you are a tourist or live in a tourist city. I worked in the real Japan out of the shadow of the main tourist centres and unfortunately did not have a great experience.

    Reply

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