Japan is a country with a unique culture and heritage. First-time travelers might not know what to prepare to survive in the Land of the Rising Sun. So here are some guidelines for those who are traveling to Japan for the first time in their lives.
Japan is a pretty modern country and there are many items that you can get in Japan. However, for a start, you might want to get yourself an international universal adapter. Japanese electrical plugs have two non-polarized pins which handle low voltage.
As for money, Japan’s currency is the Japanese Yen (¥) or “円” in Japanese writing. Also, it is best to bring your own toiletries and medicines instead of buying them in Japan because most of the items in drugstores are labeled in Japanese.
Upon arriving in Japan, there are two documents to fill in which are the Embarkation/Disembarkation Card and the Customs Declaration Form. For those with a long-sightedness problem, especially the elderlies, no worries! There are long-sightedness glasses prepared at the counter for you to use when filling a form. The lens power ranges from high to medium, to low! After you are done with the check-out procedures, you might want to buy an Internet package and get yourself a taxi or take a train to your hotel.
For the Internet, you can check with your local Internet provider for roaming plans before coming to Japan. For more information, you can check this website.
Moreover, Japan has several free Wi-Fi spots mostly available in airports, hotels, some railway stations, and in cafe and restaurants which you can connect to. Depending on where you are staying, you might not even have to get yourself an Internet package!
In Japan, you can choose to travel to your hotel either by bus, train, taxi, or limousine. For those who choose to travel by limousine, you might want to make a reservation prior traveling to Japan. Luggage delivery services and handphone rental services are also available in airports. For more information, you can log on to your airport’s website.
Just arrived in Japan and realize that you have forgotten your toothpaste? No worries! Convenience stores, or “konbini” (コンビニ) as the Japanese call it, are one of the shops that are present on almost every street in Japan. The three major convenience store chains are 7-Eleven (セブンイレブン), Lawson (ローソン), and FamilyMart (ファミリーマート). Items sold ranges from food to stationeries, magazines, and toiletries. Not only that, some of these convenience stores also provide services such as courier and postal services, photocopy and fax services, and ticket service for concerts, theme parks, airlines, etc.
If you are on a tight budget for food, here is a tip; most supermarkets give discounts on fruits and vegetables that are either blemished, overripe, or otherwise not fit for sale at a full price. Usually, from around 7 to 8 pm, most supermarkets will start marking down prices with discounts that can go up to 70 or 80 percent for unsold food such as bento (弁当) sets, sushi (寿司), spaghetti, and more.
Speaking of the supermarket, you might want to bring along a reusable shopping bag as some supermarkets in Japan might charge you for a plastic bag, while some might offer discounts if you don’t use plastic bags.
If you woke up in the middle of the night craving for a home-cooked Japanese meal, do not worry! Japan has a number of chain restaurants that are open for 24 hours! 24-hour restaurants include Sukiya (すき家), Yoshinoya (吉野家), Nakau (なか卯), and much more. Whereas fast food restaurants include McDonald’s (only some selected chains are open for 24 hours), MOS Burger (モスバーガー), First Kitchen, and more.
Discount stores in Japan include Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ), which sells cosmetics, food, medicine, etc., 100 Yen shops such as The Daiso (ザ・ダイソー), Book Off (ブックオフ), which sells secondhand items that are still in good condition, etc.
You came across a duty-free shop in the airport, and then while walking on the street, you saw a tax-free shop. What is the difference between these two? The answer is: Duty-free shops are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties (such as import tax on things like liquor, tobacco, and perfume), whereas tax- free shops are only exempt from the payment of consumption tax.
In Japan, the consumption tax (also known as VAT, GST, or sales tax in other countries) is a flat 8 percent on all items and is scheduled to increase to 10 percent in October 2019. For duty-free shops, one does not have to show their passport; but for a tax-free shop, visitors have to provide their passports to claim the tax. Tax-free shopping is only eligible for visitors with a temporary stay status. Those who are working or staying in Japan for more than 6 months are not eligible.
Tax exemptions are only available for consumable items (food and beverage, tobacco, medicine, cosmetics, batteries, and film) and general goods (electric appliances, clothing, handicrafts, watches and jewelry, shoes, and bags). A tax exemption or refund can only be claimed with a purchase of 5,000 yen and above but less than 500,000 yen for consumable items, and 5,000 yen and above for general goods. Both categories cannot be combined to reach the minimum spending amount.
After shopping, the store will attach a proof of purchase document in your passport which you must keep. Upon departure, the customs office will collect the document. Purchased consumable goods will be wrapped in each store and must be kept unopened during your stay in Japan. You must bring along your purchased items with you upon leaving the country.
Trains and buses are easily available in the country and are very convenient to use. Taxis are much pricier, therefore trains and buses are recommended. However, be sure to do some research and check out the time of the last trip of trains and buses so that you can include them when planning your trip. Depending on places and on train and bus companies, most of them end their service for the day sometime between 9 pm to 12 am.
Here is another helpful website that can help you in looking for the best route and transportation option to reach your destination. Train tickets can be purchased through a machine in stations and an English option is also available!
Before hopping on a bus, be sure to have extra coins with you. There is a money changing machine next to the driver but sometimes, the machine might run out of change. If you want to avoid all that, you can apply for an IC card. IC cards are rechargeable cards that can be used to conveniently pay fares on public transport which range from trains to buses. Some IC cards are specifically for tourists only with some discounts. Check out this website for a guide on IC cards.
For those who are wondering about the prices of food, taxi fares, household items, etc., here is a pretty helpful website to plan your budget. Without a doubt, Tokyo is the most expensive city in Japan!
So if it is your first time in Japan, do not fret! The Japanese are overall kind and helpful people which you can approach for help despite the language barrier. But of course, make sure to do a thorough research before flying. Have a nice journey!