If you’re an anime or manga fan, you’ve no doubt dreamed about a trip to Japan. After all, what better way is there to indulge in your otaku cravings than with a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. But don’t go too crazy just yet. Before you go to Japan, you should know that it’s a very different country from any other nation on Earth, especially if you grew up in the West. If you haven’t taken the time to do your homework, you may find yourself so overwhelmed when you land that your trip is completely ruined.
So, before you go, read about these four essential things that you need to make your visit to Japan a success, and have your otaku friends gushing with jealousy!
Things to Know Before You Go to Japan
A Solid Understanding of Cultural Differences
As I already mentioned, Japan is a very different country from what you’re probably used to. This is especially true in the cultural norms that the Japanese people practice. Since the Japanese place a very high emphasis on respect and manners, you could end up insulting someone, even if you don’t mean to. The last thing you want to do is alienate yourself by being just another rude “gaijin.” Before you go to Japan you should do your research on their cultural differences.
Bow, Don’t Shake Hands
You probably grew up shaking hands as a form of greeting. This won’t get you in trouble in Japan, but it will make you stand out. In Japan, people bow when they greet each other, apologize for a mistake, say thank you, and bid each other farewell.
Do NOT Tip Your Waitress
In the West, not leaving a tip makes you seem rude and snobby. In Japan, it’s considered a grave offense. If you tip, you’re saying that the employer doesn’t take care of their employees or pay them enough. Remember – Japanese waiters and waitresses may not make much, but they do get paid more than is typical in the West. They’re doing fine without you.
Be Considerate on Public Transport
If you’ve ever ridden the subway in New York, you’ve probably seen people talking on their phones, listening to music, etc. In Japan, that’s considered extremely rude. The trains are often cramped and uncomfortable enough without more disruptions. If you ride a train or bus, silence your phone, use earbuds if you listen to music, and talk in a low voice.
Transportation During Your Trip
There are only two ways to get to Japan – by boat or by plane. Once you’re in the country, you have more options. Some of the most common ways to navigate around Japan include:
- Public trains (including the Shinkansen bullet train)
- Rental cars
- Bicycle rentals
If you do opt to rent your own car, before you go to Japan you should understand that certain regions of Japan stay congested constantly, especially in Tokyo. People also drive on the right side of the road. My personal recommendation is to use the public transit options instead of renting your own vehicle. Whatever option you choose, ensure that take the time to shop around and find the best deal that will save you money and protect your investment.
A Schedule to Visit Your Must-See Destinations
For the otaku, Tokyo is like heaven on earth. You could spend an entire week in Tokyo, and still not everything you like. That being said, Tokyo isn’t the only great destination for otaku. JW Web Magazine listed the following as some must-see attractions around the country for anime and manga lovers:
- The Ghibli Museum
- Pokemon Center MEGA Tokyo
- Gundam Base Tokyo
- Dogo Onsen
- The Tokyo Anime Center
- The Kyoto International Manga Museum
As I said before, you probably won’t get to see everything that Japan has to offer in one trip, so you have to prioritize your schedule.
A Credit/Debit Card and Plenty of Cash
In case you weren’t aware, Japan uses the Yen as currency. According to the Google conversion app, $1 and £1 are currently worth about ¥108.94. Aside from the conversion rate, you also need to understand that accessing cash in Japan isn’t as easy as other places.
ATMs are scarce, and usually, have strict limits on how much you can withdraw per day. The average daily limit is around ¥100,000. Your best bet is to bring about half of the amount you think you’ll need in cash, along with a credit/debit card as a supplement. While it’s always a gamble to bring a lot of cash anytime you travel, Japan is a much safer country than many others. So long as you’re cautious, you should be fine.
As a final note – don’t forget to call your credit card company and tell them the dates you’ll be traveling out of the country. If you don’t, you might find your card getting declined.
Visiting Japan is no doubt going to be epic! You’re going to feel like you’re in a cotton candy dream! But before you go to Japan, be sure to follow up on all these tips so you don’t run into any roadblocks or awkward situations. And happy travels!