Travel Tips: Japan

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Flickr CC (c) Moyan Brenn

So you’ve been inspired by our recent posts on Japan and you’ve decided to book a trip with one of our amazing agents at WIT — lucky you! A fascinating blend of old and new, Japan has loads to offer travelers in the ways of entertainment and historical sights!

Know Before You Go. Here’s a quick list of travel hacks to remember while in Japan:

Tipping isn’t necessary.

Before you pull out the change, know that tipping isn’t big in Japan. Waiters, bartenders, hairdressers, bellboys — all are paid a sufficient living wage and don’t depend on the tips of others.

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Flickr CC (c) Dmitri Fedortchenko

Take off your shoes.

In most countries, it’s typically and polite to take off your shoes once you enter someone’s house — and Japan is no different. Pay attention to some traditional restaurants and public bathhouses, which also have a shoes-off policy.

Bowing and greeting.

These days, most Japanese will expect a Western handshake from a Westerner, but it never hurts to try the bow. Bend your body 15 degrees forward in a casual setting; in a more formal situation, bow deeply from your waist.

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Flickr CC (c) Ivanwalsh.com

Get Suica cards.

Suica, or “watermelon,” cards are your quick ticket to anywhere in Tokyo — metro, light rail, and some items in convenience stores. Available for purchase in most transport stations.

Drink the water.

Tap water and bottled water are safe to drink in the city. Be sure to stay well-hydrated — Tokyo tends to have a fair amount of air pollution, and in the summer is often hot and humid.

Carry tissues with you.

Tissues are often handed out for free on popular street corners in Tokyo. Most public bathrooms are ill-equipped, may be out of toilet paper or lack any hand-drying facilities.

Rent a wireless router.

A “pocket Wi-Fi” is one of the most valuable tools for your trip to Asia. You can use it to connect your smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc. to unlimited data, and make calls via Skype. These pocket Wi-Fi devices are available at most Japanese airports.

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Flickr CC (c) Antonio Tajuelo

Invest in a Japan Rail Pass.

If, like WIT agent Pam, you take the train to cities like Nikko and Kyoto, be sure to buy a Japan Rail Pass. It’s available only for foreigners, and must be ordered before you enter Japan. Passes are available in economy and superior class. Ask your WIT agent about obtaining a rail pass before you leave — call us in advance, sometimes these take a few weeks to order.

Learn a bit of Japanese.

As with anywhere, a little goes a long way. Knowing just a bit of conversational language will help when interacting with the locals. We recommend podcasts to pick up the basics: http://www.japanesepod101.com/

WIT Agent Pam just returned last week from her trip to Japan. Call her to ask about her impressions of the Land of the Rising Sun: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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