1. Bring cash!
Plastic is bad news in Japan. Traditionally it is seen as greedy and corrupt and Japan is most definitely a cash economy. ATM’s are hard to come by, many of which only display instructions in Katakana and will only accept Japanese issued cards. Of course, many shops in the larger cities such as Tokyo will take card payments at the till, but with the Yen currently down, now is the time to spend Japanese money within the country to make the most out of the exchange rate.
2. Wifi?? What wifi?
As we all know, Japan is hugely advanced technology-wise, with nearly all mobile devices in Japan coming equipped with 4g and most communication being done via email, not text. Wifi is available at various cafes and restaurants but in my experience they are slow to work and tricky to get logged in. For example, the Starbucks complimentary wifi will only allow you to log in via email, meaning that you already have to be connected to another service in order to access their internet. So, how to share those beautiful shots on Instagram without racking up a soul destroyingly large phone bill? Get yourself a portable wifi. The small, (iPhone-sized) device logs onto the server and provides you with wireless internet for a monthy fee. If you are travelling around the country and won’t be staying at a permenant venue with wifi capabilities, I would absolutely recommend investing in one of these badboys. You can purchase your own pocket wifi at various electronics or mobile phone shops in the cities but these tend to involve very long contracts with all sorts of hidden costs for early termination etc. Alternatively, you could rent a pocket wifi month by month. The company I use is called Let’s internet jp and it’s brilliant. I had my wifi sent to my address, complete with charger and instructions and the company charge me $35 p/month for unlimited usage. When I’m done, I send the wifi back in the post to them and my contract is cancelled. The service has been a life-saver as I really don’t know what I would’ve done without the aid of Google Maps and iTranslate for the last 5 months.
3. Brush up on your Japanese
Despite English being taught as a subject in Japanese schools and an incredible amount of marketing and advertising being displayed in both Katakana and Romaji (English), I was very suprised at how quickly I had to pick up some basic Japanese. Now I’m sure this is partly down to my European naivety. My experience of foreign language is limited to say the least but various holidays in the Costa Del Sol have ingrained a little pig-Spanish in me that can always be translated to Italian, Greek, even Polish with a bit of imagination. I mean, the French just look at me and seem to know I’m a Brit and immediately launch into English. I confess, I did blindly assume it would be the same over here. First lesson there Lilykins, when travelling don’t assume anything! The Japanese will always address you in their language first, so it’s a great idea to learn a couple of responses before you arrive. I would recommend: Eigo ga hanasemasuka? which means “Do you speak English?” For more useful phrases, check out my SImple Things blog post here.
PRO TIP:: If travelling somewhere via taxi it’s a great idea to get the address down in Katakana (the symbols) rather than Romaji as many of the taxi drivers who may speak English, might not be able to read it.
There is a culture in Japan of taking your rubbish home with you. It certainly seems to work here as the Japanese are very talented at following rules. I have seen next to no litter since I have been here, yet I’ve also seen very few bins. This was massively irritating for me the first couple of weeks as I’m used to having a bin on every corner in London, however there seems to be far more litter as well? Hmmm…anyhow, when off on a day out, bring a bag with you! There is nothing more annoying than having to cart round an empty plastic bottle or having the mayonnaisey contents of a sandwich wrapper all over your purse.
Not. The. One.
5. Getting Around
When I learned that I would be living in Osaka, I had visions of a beautiful Zen city. A cherry-blossom filled metropolis with Umeda and Osaka castle on my doorstep. The reality is of course, party true but Osaka is a busy, economic hive of activity with nearly 19 million inhabitants. You certainly cannot walk from one end of the city to the other, as I imagined! The transport in Japan is stellar in some ways, (504.9km from Osaka to Tokyo done in just over 3 and a half hours!) however the connections aren’t great and you should be prepared for a lot of walking or cycling, certainly more than I was used to in the UK. Train tickets from the local stations are relatively cheap compared to the exorbitant Shinkansen and you can also update your train fare as you go, from the English display Fare Adjust machines which allow you to pay up without being fined. Which is a brilliant idea I would love to see the Southern Service employ!
Have you discovered any suprising things on your travels? Or have any questions about what to expect in Japan?
Hey! I’m Lily @Lilydelalala, a twenty-something actress and blogger and an avid lover of gin and Joy Division. I recently swapped the rolling hills of Surrey to live and work in Osaka, Japan with my wonderful partner in life and crime, Vincent. My blog is where I capture the everyday adventures we experience in the land of the rising sun.
If you’re looking to visit this beautiful land or want the inside on travelling, make sure you subscribe at http://lilydelahaye.wix.com/madeinosaka or follow me on Twitter @Lilydelalala or on Instagram @lilydelahaye
I look forward to getting to know you and may our feet ever be itchy!