Our favorite travel resources include Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and CouchSurfing.
Bring lots of patience. The Japanese people have tons of it. They are not complainers and simply smile back to those who are complaining to them. You won’t usually get your way on the little things, so back down.
Do not bring a roll of toilet paper. It bulks up your bag and most bathrooms have TP. Just put a little bit in your purse for the times when you hit a bathroom without TP. Note: most bathrooms have no soap for hand washing or towels/dryers.
In most areas, general pedestrian and bicycle traffic will not speak or warn you of their coming. They’ll just push you aside or whip past you on their bike….on the tiny sidewalk. There is little “excuse me”, “passing on your right” or bell ringing. Look before you step out of line or you may get a bumping.
Have plenty of Yen in your pocket. Many places do not take credit cards, including most grocery stores. For two people, budget style, plan on $10 for breakfast, $25 for lunch and $45 for dinner. You can eat more cheaply if you cook for yourself or eat some cup ’o ramen once in awhile.
If you plan to visit many cities, you may want to invest in a JR Rail Pass. Do some research on hyperdia.com to get an idea of fares. You may be better off paying for individual fares if you do not train extensively. Reserved seats will cost you more. For instance, we paid $1172.00 for a 14 day pass and only trained $946 worth.
Japan is a fairly expensive destination. Excluding flight, our costs averaged $225/day. We did no major tours, nor did we rent a car or have any fancy meals. Spain averaged $214/day w/car and Peru was $114/day w/great tours.
Garbage cans are a rare find while walking about. The best locations are inside women’s bathroom stalls or the platforms of train stations.
There are drink vending machine everywhere, even in the countryside, so you will never be thirsty.
It is common for rice and noodles to be served at the same meal. You may also have some potatos or yams with those meals. White bread is the norm, as is white rice and white noodles, except soba, which is buckwheat. Wheat bread is nearly impossible to find. Watch out, carb haters.
Japanese couples get married any day of the week. Western style weddings are very popular and many hotels specialize in hosting weddings. Very few have religious ceremonies or get married in churches.
Most Japanese are not religious, yet throw a rock and you are mostly likely to hit a shrine or a temple. Shrines have tori gates and are Shinto. Temples have structures like gates or not and are Buddist. Many Japanese visit these places to “pray”, really give offerings and ask for their wishes to be granted.
Slippers. Many places in Japan require you to take off your shoes; hostels, restaurants, bars, homes. If you have any foot issues, get squeamish wearing slippers that many people have worn before you or you are a male with a shoe size over 8, bring your own slippers.
Japanese people love to throw the peace sign up with every photo that is taken of them. Even those standing in solemn Hiroshima Peace Park; even the bride having her photo taken with grandma. I asked a local why and even they didn’t know. Give it a whirl…..Peace!