5 Points You Should Know About Before Going To Japan

  • CULTURE
  • Are you going to Japan for you next vacation? Undeniably, Japan is a charming country regardless of the season in which you go and places you visit: there will always be something that impresses you. Japan is one of those countries that can convince many tourists to pay it a second visit.

    You may have learnt some useful phrases or words like “Arigato” and “Ikura desu ka ?” to make your journey easier, but did you know that Japan has some unique norms that may be different from your home country? This article will tell you the top 5 points that are worth noting before going to the Land of the Rising Sun.

    1. Money Talks

    In Japan, business is mostly dealt with using cash. Yes, that’s right, most shops do not accept credit cards. Apart from that, not all ATM machines are inaccessible 24/7, and many are closed after 7 pm. This may pose difficulties for people who are used to credit cards being accepted everywhere.

    Despite the fact that Japan is a developed country that even boasts high-tech public toilets, Japanese society prefers dealing with cash over credit cards. This is because the Japanese banks use a unique system that imposes exorbitant fees for every transaction. To avoid having to pay high fees and bumping up the prices, stores tend to not accept credit cards. Nevertheless, you can still use credit cards to make your payments in some larger supermarkets or luxury restaurants, but be aware that fees will be imposed.

    What is the best way to go about this? You have no choice but to bring the whole stack of cash with you. No worries, Japan is internationally recognized as one of the safest countries in the world. However, even Japan is not 100% free of pickpockets. So, though you don’t have to be too worried, you still have to keep an eye on your belongings. Common sense prevails in everywhere in the world.

    2. The Crazy Transportation System

    The transportation system in Japan may be very different (and more complicated…) from your home country’s. In Japan, in every region there are DIFFERENT types of railway trains operated by DIFFERENT companies in the same area. There are big companies like JR which provides service for entire Japan, and regional subway systems like Tokyo Metro that only provides service in the Tokyo area. Not only train companies but also bus companies are abundant in Japan. So it is not surprising to find out that one place can be reached in more than 5 ways!

    As a general rule, taking the bus is always going to be cheaper, and the drawback is that it takes longer to get to your destination. On the other hand, trains are always going to be more expensive but you will get there faster.

    Other than this, the fare calculation can sometimes give you a headache too. There are some routes that require you to pay an extra fare, this usually happens when the train that you are boarding is operating on a track that belongs to another train company as well. Just make sure you know the right fare out before taking your trip! But no worries if you make a mistake, if it turns out that you have to pay more you can pay the additional fare at the service window without problems.

    3. Age Constraints

    In Japan, you have to officially be 20 years old in order to drink or smoke legally. So, if you have children under 20 accompanying you during your trip in Japan, please DO NOT allow them to take any alcoholic drinks including Sake. According to the Japanese laws, both seller and buyer can be fined if found guilty of selling alcoholic drinks to people under 20.

    However, it is alleged that this law has largely been ignored by Japanese society. Underage drinking and smoking are still prevailing among Japanese youngsters. But still, the only thing I can advise you is, you don’t want your money to be taken away by the police right? Better not take the risk.

    4. Let’s Go Out for Lunch!

    It’s lunch time! Are you feeling hungry? If you are a food lover, please listen up now. If you plan your trip well, you can pay a lot less for your food! In Japan, most restaurants have a policy that I like to call the “cheap for lunch, expensive for dinner” policy. Almost every restaurant in Japan will have discounts or promotions during lunch hours, which are typically from 11 am to 2 pm. On the other hand, dinner in Japan is often quite expensive, prices for exactly the same food typically go up around 6 pm or 7 pm. The difference in price can be as high as 50%!

    If you wish to pay less for dinner, the good news is that convenient stores and department stores sell discounted Obento (boxed meals) during dinner hours, usually starting around 8 pm. Obentos are cheap even before the discount (they can cost as little as 300 yen), so it is always a good option for settling your hungry stomach regardless of the time of day. Another nice option for budget travellers are fast food restaurants like Sukiya (すき家), Yoshinoya (吉野家) and Matsuya (松屋), at these family-friendly chain restaurants food is sold at a price from around 500 Yen.

    In short, eat at restaurants during lunch hours, and avoid them for dinner if you don’t have too much money to spend.

    5. Bicycle Registration

    Bicycle and umbrella theft are the most common crimes committed in Japan. Umbrella theft? Really? Yes! It does not happen all the time, neither does it happen everywhere, but it contributed to a large portion of the statistics in reported crimes. Okay, enough about umbrellas, back to the topic. In an effort to reduce the theft of bicycles In Japan, all bicycles must carry a registration number. If you have lost your bicycle, you can report it at a police station. This is when the registration number comes into function. The efficient and capable Japanese police will try to track your bicycle, and quite often they will actually find it and return it to the rightful owner.

    The other side of this great system is that it is actually illegal to ride a bicycle which does not belong to you. Even if you find a deserted bicycle next to a road, you can not ride it. If you are found doing so by the police, you can be charged for theft! Crazy right? This is Japan! Nothing can surprise you!

    All in all, Japan is a unique country with amazing scenic views and a very interesting culture. On top of that, some of the “weird” practices in Japan have stunned the world, making it an even more interesting place to visit. Examples of other things that are often considered strange by non-Japanese people are the “no tipping” policy, “no walking while eating” social rule, “no talking in trains” social rule, and so on.

    If you search the internet you will be able to find a looong list of example rules or laws that make Japan stand out. Just make sure you are a bit familiar with them before boarding your flight, or you may get yourself embarrassed (or worse, fined). Maybe you can say that Japan is crazy, but I would rather say that it is a country with endless possibilities. Let’s explore this isolated, beautiful world full of extraordinary customs!