15 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan

15 tips for first-time travelers to Japan – This could be just what you need before embarking on your journey. Travelling to Japan for the first time can be an exciting experience full of cultural wonders and unique adventures. Japan is unlike any other destination.

The country provides unparalleled travel experiences, with attractions ranging from futuristic cities to old temples, unique cultural experiences, and traditional tea ceremonies.

15 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan

No matter how much you have travelled, this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. The neon lights, food, customs, culture, and heady blend of ancient and modern require some adjustment, especially for first-time visitors.

Keep reading for some helpful hints to help you navigate your first Japanese experience and hopefully avoid any social, financial, or practical issues along the way.

15 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan

Here are some essential tips for first-time visitors to this captivating country:

Bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off

Comfortable walking shoes are essential. You will most likely have to remove your shoes frequently at religious sites, traditional inns, and some restaurants; you will thank yourself later if you pack slip-on shoes.

Many visitors prefer to wear socks because they will be slipping into a pair of communal slippers after removing their shoes.

Learn to use a bidet toilet

Japan’s high-tech electronic bidet toilets, known as “washlets,” will wash and dry your delicate parts at the touch of a button. Other Japanese toilet customs may surprise you.

Motion-sensor-activated sound machines are designed to conceal sensitive sounds. Expect dedicated toilet slippers in establishments that do not allow shoes. However, it is worth noting that towels and hand dryers are frequently in short supply.

It is wise to learn a few words in Japanese

A good idea is to know a few Japanese words and phrases before arriving. Knowing a little Japanese can help you be a more polite and respectful visitor.

It is recommended to learn the following: Hello (Konnichiwa), Thank you (Arigato), Delicious (Oishii), Cute (Kawaii), and Excuse me/sorry (Sumimasen).

Learn how to queue

The Japanese are known for their neat lines at check-out counters and train platforms. However, once the doors open, it is a race to the seat.

Be prepared for the weather.

Summers in Japan are hot and humid, which increases the risk of heatstroke. Carrying water, and a folding umbrella (which also serves double duty in the event of a sudden shower), with UV protection is useful.

Late June marks the start of the annual rainy season when it can rain nonstop for days; this can last a few weeks or the majority of July.

Purchase a data-heavy SIM card at the airport.

Finding your way around in Japan can be challenging. The address system is notoriously difficult to navigate, even for locals, so smartphones with navigation apps have proven to be a huge help for travellers.

This means you will be using a lot of data while travelling, so get a data-heavy SIM card at the airport when you arrive.

Pack light for your visit to Japan

Hotel rooms tend to be small, especially in cities, with little room for large suitcases, which can also be a pain to wrangle on public transport. Packing light is always a good idea, but it is especially advisable in Japan.

Religious sites like Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines do not require dress codes. High-end restaurants, bars, and clubs occasionally do, but this usually means no sleeveless shirts or sandals for men.

Keep in mind that when dining out, you may have to sit on the floor, which can be uncomfortable in short (or tight) clothing.

Japanese etiquette is strict

Their etiquette is very strict and formal. For example, it is considered impolite to talk on the phone on trains and buses and to point with chopsticks. Eating in public is also generally considered inappropriate. It is considered a bad form to eat in public, especially when walking.

Have plenty of cash on you.

While Japan is widely regarded as a modern country, one modern Western practice that has yet to gain traction is the ability to pay for everything with a credit or debit card. It is still a cash-based society, so keep plenty on hand.

The next challenge is withdrawing money, as only ATMs in specific locations, such as post offices and convenience stores like 7-11, accept foreign cards.

Carry your passport around

Foreign nationals are required by law to carry their passports with them.

Bring your passport and shop tax-free.

Foreign visitors who stay in Japan for less than six months are eligible for tax refunds on most items. If you spend more than 5,000 yen ($50) at any store, you are eligible for a tax refund. This means that they will receive a discount on your purchase.

Visit the convenience store to save money on food.

This may sound strange, but Japanese convenience stores (konbini) serve delicious food. So, if you want to save money on food, stop by convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, and Family Mart to get sushi, onigiri (rice balls), and other tasty treats.

Get a Suica card

A Suica card will make your life a lot easier. It is an electronic public transit card that allows you to load prepaid money onto a card that you can use to ride the subway or train (it also provides a small discount).

It can also be used to pay at numerous vending machines and convenience stores. This will make using public transportation much faster and easier. Suica cards can be purchased at most subway and train stations. Trust me, you don’t want to waste time with paper tickets.

You may or may not need a Japan Rail Pass.

The simplest way to travel by bullet train (shinkansen) is to purchase a Japan Rail Pass. That being said, you might not need one. The Japan Rail Pass does not cover all bullet trains in Japan (but it does cover the majority).

Before your trip, figure out how many bullet train trips you intend to take and whether the cost is justified. The typical train journey from Tokyo to Kyoto would take nine hours, but with a bullet train, it will take just three.

Download the Google Translate app

During your stay in, the Google Translate app will come in handy. It allows you to take a picture of the Japanese text and then provides an English translation (roughly). It is so useful for reading signs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions.

When Traveling with Children to Japan, are there any Child Seat Laws I Should be Aware of When Renting a Car?

The country has a national child restraint law that requires any child up to four years old to travel in a forward-facing car seat and children up to six years old to travel in a booster seat or on a booster cushion.

Is $5000 Sufficient for a Trip to Japan?

Yes, $5,000 is usually enough for a comfortable trip that includes airfare, lodging, food, and activities. Many people believe that travelling to Japan is expensive, but the costs vary. Affordable options for where to stay, eating out, and transportation accommodate various budgets.

What Works Best in Japan: Cash or Credit Card?

Cash remains the most popular payment method in Japan. Although cards and other cashless payment methods are widely accepted in urban areas, you should still carry some traditional cash with you.


Japan is known for its strict etiquette, which can be intimidating to first-time travellers. However, their traditions are no more formal or restrictive than in many other destinations around the world.

Furthermore, most locals are eager to assist or excuse foreign visitors for any perceived mistakes. Although, as with almost anything in life, expectation management is essential.