Japan Travel Guide: Five Common Tourist Woes & How to Deal with Them

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’d know that it’s not the easiest destination to plan a self-guided holiday for. From mixing up your transport passes to struggling to get around, here’s a Japan travel guide with a round up of solutions for the most common tourist woes faced when visiting Japan for the first time.

#1 Which transport pass do I need?

We know… There are so many transport lines in Japan, it’s hard not to get confused!

You’ll still need to check which lines your destination stations are one, but this guide should help:

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  • Japan Rail (JR) Pass — Recommended for travelling between prefectures
    One-time payment only  Unlimited rides on the JR network  Shinkansen bullet trains

    You must’ve heard of the JR Pass. At over $300 a ticket (7-day, Nationwide, Ordinary), you might be surprised that it is the most popular transport pass in Japan. Although it may seem pricey, it’s actually the most economical means of making long-distance trips around Japan. While the JR subway has stations and lines within the cities, it is most famous for the shinkansen (bullet) trains that connect the prefectures. Only tourists (foreigners) are eligible to purchase this pass (outside of Japan), which entitles travellers to unlimited rides on the JR train, bus, and ferry.
    Book your Japan Rail Pass here!
  • Suica/ICOCA Card — For use within the city
    Top-up as you go  Used on the city network lines  Can also be used at selected stores

    Only covering one city? If you’ll be spending your entire trip in just one prefecture then you may not need the JR Pass. The Suica and ICOCA cards are similar to the ez-link cards that we have in Singapore: You load it up with cash credits, and use it to pay for transport. It can be used on most city networks, and also at vending machines and convenience stores!
    Get your Suica or ICOCA card here!

There are also region-specific variations of unlimited-rides passes:

With these, you can take almost all the subways, private railways, and buses in the relevant district, except those on the JR network. The passes also entitles you to free and/or discounted entry to selected attractions.

Cabin-sized luggage should fit in the rack above the seats comfortably, but if you have larger articles with you, try to get seats at the end of the carriage–there’s more space there. (Image credit: Keith Pomakis – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5)

Bonus tip:
If you’re travelling from the airport to the city via JR, do note that the allowance is two baggage per pax (per bag: the sum of the height, width and depth below 250cm; weight below 30kg).

#2 Why can’t I find a dustbin?

It may sound like a silly question, but when you have a handful of trash from all that snacking, you won’t find it funny.

japan travel guide

Japan is also big on recycling! (Image credit: Jorge, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

There are very few garbage bins in Japan, and this is apparently part of an anti-terrorism initiative. All litter bins are privately owned by store owners, and there aren’t many around. Here’s what the locals do: Keep some folded plastic bags in your purse, and use it to store whatever trash you have along the way. Once you find a bin, toss it out and replace your “purse bin” with a new bag.

#3 “I don’t understand anything!”

It’s true that Japan is a lot more English-friendly than before, but a lot of the older Japanese are still not fluent in English. And since they’re often the ones at food places and shops, there’s high chance of you getting lost in translation. In the more rural areas and villages, the street signs (if any) are mostly in Japanese as well. Another thing–food menus are usually not translated either.

There are several places where they’re more likely to speak English though: The airport, train stations, and hotels. If you’ve any questions, try to ask as many of them when you find someone able to help. If you really understand zero Japanese, we recommend downloading some useful apps on your smart phone. There are plenty that can help you find your way around, translate information, and more. Most of these need a stable internet connection though, so a have WiFi router handy.

japan travel guide

You will need an internet connection if you will be depending on transport and map apps to get around.

RELATED: Get UNLIMITED 4G high speed internet with ChangiWiFi at as low $5/day*!

Bonus tip:
Print out the names and addresses of your accommodation and destinations with the Japanese translation, and show it to the locals when asking for help!

#4 “Oh no, I don’t have enough cash…!”

Yup. That’s a common problem.

Most of the ATMs in Japan are local only, and don’t allow international withdrawals. That, coupled with the fact that most stores don’t accept credit, makes for a slightly tricky shopping spree. If you’re planning to shop, make sure you bring enough cash to cover your expenses for the day!

japan travel guide

Most ATMs in Japan do not accept international credit/debit cards, but if you really need to withdraw cash, your best bet would be at post offices and 7-11 stores. (Image credit: Kozo (Own work) [GFDL , CC-BY-SA-3.0  or CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Also, when it comes to souvenirs, it’s always wise to walk around before buying. While there isn’t really a prominent bargaining culture here, prices of these products tend to get cheaper as you get further away from the main tourist attractions. If there’s no rush to buy the items, just walk around and who knows, you may see it again at half the price!

RELATED: Universal Studios Japan, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Fuji-Q Highland, and Keisei Skyliner (Airport-City train)   

#5 Where can I get last-minute necessities?

Forgot to pack extra underwear? Or left your phone charger in the hotel?
Whatever it is, the kobini will have it!

Introducing kobini, the Japanese convenience stores. If you’re lost and need anything, this is the best place to seek refuge. You can refuel with instant meals, stock up on personal care items, buy any last-minute essentials, and more. Most importantly, they have clean, well-equipped restrooms!

It’s like walking into Hogwarts’ Room of Requirement–it’s literally got everything you need.

Check out Love & Travel: 1 Week Honeymoon in Kansai, Japan, We Put Hong Kong’s Most Popular Food to the Taste Test, and Totoro Theme Park, Super Nintendo World, and The 2020 Olympics!

Ready to embark on your adventure?
No matter which region you decide on, grab the Japan Rail Pass, an efficient and economical means of getting around Japan. Reserve your ChangiWiFi router for UNLIMITED internet 24-7, at as low as $5/day*. Beat the queue and book those attraction tickets and day tours with us—no frills, no fuss.