January 10, 2019

Japan Travel Tips: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

– 10 things to know before you go to Japan I'm Chris, this is Topher, we're Yellow Productions

We do travel guides that are fun, informative, and entertaining This is part of our series on Japan We've got over 100 other videos on Japan, but after you watch this one you'll be well-versed to come to this country Many people think that Japan can be difficult to get to, hard to navigate, it's like the land of foreign things But I'll tell you that is not so, and after you watch this video, you'll be a pro at Japan and if you want some specific travel guides on specific places, well, check out some of my other Japan travel videos

The first thing to know before you come to Japan is about etiquette and rules Japan is a country of rules and to make things work, you should learn to follow them The Japanese have a specific way of doing almost everything As a foreigner, you might get a pass, they might understand if you don't understand but it is better if you try to understand so I'll give you a few of the Japanese etiquette basics First of all, the typical greeting is a bow and the deeper the bow, the more respectful it is

So you'll see a small bow to big bows and if it's a bigger bow, that means they are giving you more respect They have a certain way to sit if you're at a table that doesn't have chairs and you're on a tatami mat, there's a certain way to sit but they'll probably expect if you understand, and you just sit how ever you wanna sit But if you ever find yourself on a tatami mat you'll need to take off your shoes Expect to take off your shoes in certain areas of Japan Don't ever step on a tatami mat in bare feet

Tatami are straw mats, by the way If you hand something to somebody or they hand something to you, it'll be with two hands so give it to them with two hands and receive it with two hands When you're paying for things in a shop, you will find there's a little money dish Put your money in there, they will put the change back in there for you The Japanese are happy to help, but they are often shy and so if you find that they don't respond quickly right away, it's because they're shy, maybe not because they don't wanna help or they don't understand, and when they do help they will often really go out of their way to help you

The second thing to know before you come to Japan is about the language It's Japanese of course, but there's different dialects throughout the country If you're speaking in English to Japanese, they may not seem like they know English when they're looking at you or how they respond but it's often because they're just shy They often also understand more than they can speak You may find that the way they'll respond is by going to get somebody else or perhaps writing it down

Just speak slowly and speak with basic words if you find yourself in a little bit of English/Japanese trouble Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are all pretty well signed in English, particularly the public transportation so if you're in the big cities you won't have an issue getting around if you don't speak Japanese I will say that is not so much the case in the suburbs If you're in the smaller towns in Japan, the stations are just in Japanese, so good luck (chuckles) It's also good to have your hotel and destinations written in Japanese, just in case you get lost and you need to ask for help

You could always show somebody the card that has that written in Japanese And if you're trying to speak Japanese and you don't know it, just try the English variant For example, hamburger is often (speaks in foreign language), coffee is (speaks in foreign language) But I'll say it's good to learn some basic Japanese, a basic word I use all the time when I want water, it's (speaks in foreign language), or if you want beer, it's (speaks in foreign language) You say that, chances are you'll get what you want

The third thing to know before you come to Japan is about timeliness In Japan, being on time is very important You will find that stores close and open promptly at the time posted to the minute Bullet trains have to run within 15 seconds of their posted schedule, otherwise they're not considered on time If you've made dinner reservations, make sure you are on time

If you're five minutes early, chances are they won't seat you 'til it's actually your dinner time And if you come 15 minutes late, well, you might as well forgot that you had that reservation anyway 'cause they figured you weren't coming Distance is often measured not in meters or miles but in walking time, so things will advertise that they are a one-minute walk from the train station or a zero-minute walk which means they're basically right on top of the station Related to time zones, Japan is just one time zone for the entire country so that makes setting your watch pretty easy if you're traveling around, and also the calendar is different They measure it based on the emperor and things like that and so if you look at dates and you don't understand, well, that's because they've got a different way of doing dates

The fourth thing to know before you come to Japan is about public transportation In short, public transportation in Japan is amazing I will say, be aware of rush hour and the last train Last train time's often around midnight If you miss it, you are kind of stuck and if you're wondering why I'm talking about public transportation in a canal, well that's because there's some boats that run on this canal here in Osaka

And if you're wondering where I'm shooting this, I'm shooting this in Osaka in the Namba district around Dotonbori, this is the Dotonbori Canal If you wanna know more about like how to ride the trains in Tokyo and Osaka, I've got separate videos on those But if you're taking public transportation, you should note that on the trains and subway, there is little luggage storage So Japan offers these luggage shipping services that essentially you can pay and have your luggage shipped so that you don't have to carry it with you on the trains I will also say the train stations, they are amazing, but they can be confusing

So if you're on the train and you're in the station and you can't find where you're going, just remain calm, that's the first step Don't rush for your train, there will be another train, I guarantee it, well unless it's the last train But these trains, they come very very frequently in Japan The Yamanote Line in Tokyo comes almost every couple minutes so just take the next one Also in the train stations, they have these neat coin lockers where you can store your luggage

The coin lockers are great, but make sure you remember where you put your luggage, in what locker, otherwise you'll be probably looking for your luggage for a long time Japan offers this great thing called the JR Pass The JR Pass it's for foreigners, unlimited, Japan Railways trains Japan Railways is the main train operator, but there's other companies too so just be aware that your JR Pass will not go on all trains in Japan, just the ones operated by JR If you're driving, I've got a video on that too

Check out my video on driving and renting a car in Japan, just don't drive in the big cities Drive in the suburbs, it's pretty nice and okay Their expressways are actually quite good You might also hear of something called a limousine bus Those often pick you up from the airports

It's not a limousine, it's really just a bus Maybe kind of a nice bus (chuckles) but it's not nearly a limousine Also there's really no Uber or Lyft or any app-enabled ride companies here, just taxis You're gonna have to hail one down the old fashioned way Also, bicycling is pretty popular right here

Just park in a legal spot, otherwise you might find people picking up your bicycle and towing it away and if you are riding a bicycle, ride it on the sidewalks That's where you ride your bike here So if you're also walking on the sidewalks, beware of some of the bicycles that may be riding there too The fifth thing to know before you come to Japan is about food, Japanese food is awesome, excellent There's great food to be had all throughout Japan

People often think of Japanese food as noodles, sushi, and yakitori, but I'll tell you Japanese food is so much more than that But let's start with noodles, ramen is probably one of those quintessential Japanese dishes If you're eating ramen here, make sure to slurp your noodles (slurping) That is considered a compliment to the chef if you are slurping so you'll hear most of the locals slurping their noodles when they eat it They are not being rude

It's considered quite polite actually Some other great things are things that are called (speaks in foreign language), D-O-N Typically those are bowls, rice bowls, that have something on top (speaks in foreign language) is a rice bowl that has breaded fried pork on top (speaks in foreign language), it's a tempura bowl

One of my favorite chains in Japan is Pepper Lunch, and their locations are dwindling but it's fast food steak It's delicious, they have another one called Ikinari Steak The Japanese love pudding There's pudding all throughout the country, so check out the pudding while you're here They have green tea matcha everything

Green tea pudding, green tea drinks, green tea, green tea, green tea The fruit here is really good It may seem really expensive, but I will tell you the fruit is worth it The strawberries will probably be some of the sweetest strawberries you've ever had in your life Cantaloupe here too doesn't taste like cantaloupe anywhere else

And also, people think food in Japan is expensive and let me tell you, it does not actually have to be expensive If you're going to Tokyo, you can watch my video on cheap eats in Tokyo It's pretty applicable for a lot of the big cities in Japan Many restaurants, they'll have the sort of plastic replica food out in front so you can take a look in the windows to decide what you want Many restaurants in the big cities will have English menus, just ask if they have an English menu

If they don't, then use the point and order method Point at the menu and say this one That is typically a phrase they understand in most restaurants Some restaurants, they won't have menus or order takers They'll just have vending machines

Pretty popular at ramen restaurants In that case, there'll be a vending machine out front You put your money in the vending machine, push a button, it spits out a ticket, and then you'll take that ticket in with you and kinda put it down on your table and that is how you order Japanese pubs are called (speaks in foreign language) and you should be aware if you're going to a (speaks in foreign language), they often have a time limit on how long you can sit at the table before they kick you out If you go to a fine dining restaurant that has tatami flooring, which I mentioned earlier in the etiquette section, make sure to take off your shoes before you go on the tatami mat

New trend in Japan maybe in the last 10 years are the standing restaurants, popular in the train stations You'll find standing noodle restaurants, standing sushi restaurants Space is so limited, they have no chairs and you stand to eat Another great place to eat are convenience stores, Japanese convenience stores in the big city seem to be almost every block 7-Eleven, Lawson Station, FamilyMart are some of the big ones and if you're thinking 7-Eleven in the U

S or some place like that, these are nothing like it They're food, delicious, and it's brought into their stores multiple times a day Another great place for food in Japan is at department stores The big department stores will typically have a food floor in the basement, you can get cheap to-go food there and then they will often be marking that food down late in the evening, 10, 20, 50% off even, to make sure it gets sold

Another trend in Japan is pancakes, pancakes are very popular here Not pancakes for breakfast, pancakes for lunch and pancakes for dinner In Harajuku in Tokyo, you'll find long lines for pancakes Also a couple, another new trend in Japan, new, you know, the last 10 years, something like that, maid cafes These cafes where the waitresses dress up as French maids to serve you, you'll find those in Akihabara, in Osaka, in Denden Town

So if you wanna be waited on by a Japanese girl dressed up as a French maid, check those out And finally I just include this one 'cause it's got the word restaurant in it, there's a place in Tokyo called the Robot Restaurant, and they do serve food but not really It's just restaurant in name It's a really awesome dinner show, one of the coolest I've been to If you're going to Tokyo and you like robots and big things and lights and things that flash, then check out the Robot Restaurant

The sixth thing to know before you go to Japan is about money and you should know that in Japan, cash is king Credit is not accepted ubiquitously You will find a lot of restaurants and shops are cash only so make sure you get some yen, bills and coins The coins, quite valuable here Hundreds, five hundreds, 500-yen coin worth about five U

S dollars I mentioned earlier but when you pay in a shop, they'll have a tray, that's where you put your money in That's where the change will come back for you Always make sure to hand it with two hands and receive it with two hands as well

Many people think that Japan is expensive, but I will tell you I think that Japan is probably one of the cheapest countries in the developed world I find trips here to actually be quite inexpensive and the only comparable countries are Portugal and Taiwan for development to inexpensiveness ratio And if you're looking to stay cheaply in hotels, check out Toyoko Inn It's a business hotel, the rooms are small but they are clean and so that's something you don't have to worry about here that if you get something cheap, cheap food and cheap hotel, you don't have to worry about it being filthy or a place you don't wanna stay or something you don't wanna eat, and if you wanna eat really cheap, eat in convenience stores and the Yoshinoya, one of the cheapest Japanese staples with their beef bowls Also, if you wanna know more about money you can check out, I gotta whole video talking about money in Japan

The seventh thing to know before you go to Japan is about tipping, and this one's really short Don't do it, they don't tip in Japan Actually, tipping in Japan is considered rude It's like you have too much money and you pity them and that's why you need to tip them to give them money It's doesn't matter where you go, whether you go to restaurants, whether you ride a taxi, whether it's the bellboy in the hotel, they do not expect tips and in fact they don't want your tips, so for those of you who love tipping, get over it, they don't tip in Japan

The eighth thing to know before you go to Japan is about trash and trash cans There are very few public trash cans in Japan The first few times I came here, I had trash and I was looking to throw it away and I couldn't find trash cans for the life of me and then I figured out trash cans are in a few places They're at convenience stores, they're in train stations, they're on bullet trains There are often no trash cans in bathrooms where you might expect them

There's often no trash cans in big public areas expect the ones where tons and tons of tourists go In Japan they expect you to basically take your trash home with you, and that might be back to the hotel If you wanna know more about trash cans, I gotta whole video about trash cans in Japan The ninth thing to know before you go to Japan is about toilets, and the toilet are usually these typical amazing TOTO toilet that have a bidet and a wash and are heated and are like the most futuristic high-tech toilets ever But it is Asia, and so you will find some squat toilets

Actually in some parts of Japan, particularly the rural areas, the public toilets will only be squat toilets And so if you are confronted with a squat toilet, well, you need to make sure you face the right way and that's usually in the direction of the porcelain hood Whatever you do, don't do your business into the hole It'll splash, do your business into the flat part But back onto those amazing toilets, 'cause I think that's more interesting than the squat toilets, is the amazing toilets

Sometimes they're called a washlet or an ostamat You might see signs in bathrooms or doors that will advertise them If you sit on the toilet and water runs, don't think you break it That's what I thought the first time I sat on one of them It's just running water to heat it up in case you want to use the wash or the bidet Those toilets are a great way to clean yourself

They often often have dryers so after you use the water, you can dry your bottom Sometimes they'll have music, extra sound In public bathrooms, though, it's worthwhile to note that there are often no paper towels The Japanese typically carry a handkerchief wherever they go to dry their hands or their shirt or their pants, so be aware that there are typically no towels Also if you're in hotels or restaurants or things like that, you may encounter slippers in the toilet

Those are toilet slippers, those are for you to put on when you go to the toilet so that your feet do not get dirtied by the dirty dirty toilet, and you don't take the toilet dirt into the rest of the place that you're in The 10th thing to know is about hotels, so I thought it was only appropriate to do this one in a hotel This is the 51st floor of the Osaka Marriott, so that's the night view of Osaka in the background So to describe Japanese hotels in four words, I would say clean, functional, small, and tired, yes tired I find a lot of the, blah blah blah

Look, I talked for like seven minutes about hotels, so if you wanna know more about staying in Japanese hotels click the link in the upper left to check out that video right now Well hey, that's it, those are all the major things you need to know before you go to Japan, you are well armed to visit the Land of the Rising Sun If this was your first time at Yellow Productions, make sure to click this yellow ball to subscribe for our fun informative travel videos every week Or you can click up here or over here or links in the description below to watch some of our other videos

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