It’s very true that nowhere compares to Japan! From an English persons’ perspective, it’s completely other-worldly!
There were so many things when I first arrived that I completely fell in love with, like the completely random mixture of architecture, the most beautiful sunny skies even in the winter & of course, how kind and gentle the people are wherever you go.
However, there were SO MANY THINGS I wish I knew when I first arrived here!
If you a first timer in Japan, then it’s natural to become a bit overwhelmed. Especially when you don’t know how the different systems work, figuring out the ropes while trying to live each day of your to the max!
Recommended Post: Packing My Life Up To Move To Japan
If this is you then check out this list of my top 3 things to do AS SOON as you arrive in Japan that’ll save you a lot of time and energy!
Enjoy & safe travels!
Get An IC Card
I would definitely, 100% recommend everyone who visits anywhere in Japan to get an IC card. They act as an electronic wallet & are a great, convenient way to get around Japan; it allows you to swipe in and out of the ticket gates without any hassle (just like an Oyster card).
Not only that, as well as being able to use them on trains, buses and subways, they can be used as a method of payment within some shops, coin lockers and vending machines.
Children are also able to get IC cards, so they make life that bit easier if you’re travelling in a group of different ages.
To get a card, it’s super simple. All you have to do it go to an IC machine in a subway station, select your language & follow the instructions. The card itself only costs between 200-500 yen (about £2-£5), although, you will have to pay 1000 – 2000 yen or more to actually receive the card.
When you pay for it, the correct amount of money will be taken as payment for the physical card and the rest of the money will be topped onto it for spending.
There are two types of card that you can get: The Pasmo card and Suica card.
They are pretty much the same although they are sold by different companies. Like Visa Debit Cards or Master Cards, they can be used in the same way but are owned by two separate businesses.
IC cards don’t expire for up to 10 years so make sure to keep hold of it for the next time you visit Japan!
Just a side note: IC cards cannot be used on express trains or Shinkansen bullet trains, so make sure you get separate tickets for them!
Learn Some Basic Phrases
There is not a lot of situations more awkward or embarrassing than trying to buy something in a shop or asking for help without knowing some basic, Japanese language.
It’s true that you can get around Japan, especially places like Tokyo, knowing very little Japanese with lots of obvious hand gestures & bowing.
Also, a lot of signs are conveniently written with the English alphabet as well as in Japanese. However, not knowing any Japanese at all will be very tricky.
Japanese people are very kind in general but they will appreciate it a lot more if you try to speak a small amount of Japanese rather than not trying at all. Knowing some simple phrases will help you out a lot by being able to communicate on a basic level.
Some handy ones are:
こんにちは (Kon-ni-chi-wa) Hello
ありがとうございます (A-ri-ga-tou go-za-i-masu) Thank you very much
お願いします (o-ne-ga-ishi-masu) Please.
すみません (su-mi-ma-sen) Excuse me.
はい (hai) Yes.
– This can also be used to say “I understand”.
いいえ (iie) No.
ごめんなさい (go-men na-sai) I’m sorry.
大丈夫 (dai-jou-bu)？Are you OK?
– You can also use ‘daijoubu’ for ‘It’s/I’m fine’. I usually use this to politely refuse when cashiers give me a plastic bag in shops.
名前は_ (“Nam-ae wa ”) My name is __
何 (Na-ni) What?
どこ (Do-ko: “Where?”)
どちら? (Do-chi-ra: “Which?”)
Adding ‘desu ka’ to the end of phrases makes it sound more polite. For example, when asking ‘where?’, say ‘doku desu ka’, especially when talking to strangers.
Unlike a lot of places in the world, free wifi is far and few between, even in places like Tokyo. You don’t want to get stranded in a new place, with a different language and alphabet and have no idea how to even get to your hotel! So, I recommend getting a portable wifi box when you visit Japan.
When I first arrived, I had maps and addresses printed in a whole folder full of documents as a safety net. Overall, getting to my housing agent was a pretty long-winded and stressful experience. Looking back, I wish I had just got myself some portable wifi at the airport; I could’ve gotten around a lot easier & I could’ve simply researched anything I needed to know.
Pocket wifi is available to buy at the airport, delivered to your hotel or bought in certain shops within Japan.
You can rent out these little boxes and a lot of them have unlimited internet access, which is pretty darn useful. However, in a lot of cases, if you go over a certain amount of GB, the internet will slow down.
Pocket wifi is great because it supports all devices: iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, PC, Mac, cameras, and other portable consoles. On a lot of them, you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. This is perfect for if you are travelling as a family or in a group of people.
This post by Tokyo Cheapo, shows you some of the best options for portable wifi as well as 30% for their readers. Definitely worth checking out if you want to get the best bang for your buck.
I hope that you found this blog post useful! If you did, please feel free to share the love on social media and join the Hello Vegan Bee mailing list for updates on other super helpful and informative posts in the future!