5 unnecessary things tourists do when traveling in Japan

By Alex Sturmey

Having lived in Japan for a number of years, including a brief stint acting as a volunteer guide (mostly shouting: “This way!”), I’ve witnessed tourists make the same travel mistakes again and again; things that may feel like the most necessary course of action for any well-prepped traveler but, to me, seem kind of avoidable.

To help promote its new Luggage-Free Travel service, JTB, Japan’s largest travel agency, and GaijinPot have teamed up to reveal the most common unnecessary things tourists do when traveling in Japan — and how avoiding these practices will make your trip easier and way more fun.

1. Booking bullet train tickets too far in advance


To give you some idea of how frequent and efficient Japan’s shinkansen (bullet trains) are, if you wanted to leave from Tokyo station on a random Saturday morning and get into Kyoto by the afternoon, you’d be able to take a 2 hour 18 minute train every 10 minutes. A shinkansen is much more like a bus than a plane in that there is almost no protocol you need to go through to get on one — like, a really fancy, super high-speed bus.

Though you can book shiteiseki, or reserved seats, for a small additional fee beforehand, which means you need to pick a certain train to get on, it’s easiest to opt for the jiyuseki, or non-reserved seats. Non-reserved seats usually make up three or four cars of the bullet train, meaning the chances of getting a seat are typically pretty high. Outside of peak times like public holidays (please do check if its a public holiday as that is an entirely different kettle of fish), you can really just wander up to a bullet train whenever you feel like it — with a valid ticket of course — hop on and be on the other side of the country in no time and with little to no advanced effort at all.

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© GaijinPot

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Bothering to speak Japanese. As soon as you start to speak Japanese to someone, they start speaking English, Spanish, French, .....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Reserved seats are always nicer than non-reserved.

Not necessarily. If you're a couple/family then yes I agree. Different story if you're a solo traveller & want to 'choose' who you'll sit next to for the next 3-5 hours. Shinkansens are rarely packed (outside obon, golden week and a few other dates).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Personal experience that WIFI point is absolutely correct those thinking about travelling to Japan get a sim card as soon as possible on arrival its not just the internet its the mapping system that can be a great time saver.

Bring at least 20,000 yen with you on arrival, in a Country where cards usage is still scarce it'll save you some frustration.

Those tourists dragging their bags around major cities in Japan are generally Chinese tourists on shopping tours in Hong Kong some shops actually have special spots where they can park these bags.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When using JR Pass I normally book shiteiseki (reserved seats) the evening before. So (Japanese etiquette-wise) I should just rock up on the morning and the worse that will happen I'll get a jiyuseki (non-reserved) ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@expat: Attempting to use foreign-issued credit cards at Japanese bank ATMs to withdraw cash.

Thank Ghosh for 7/11!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Attempting to use foreign-issued credit cards at Japanese bank ATMs to withdraw cash.
5 ( +6 / -1 )

Bring anti-perspirant, the Japanese deodorant is rubbish. Also, women shouldn't rely on Japanese sanitary protection, it's pretty basic.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Reserved seats are always nicer than non-reserved. Also, if passing Fuji you can secure a window seat on the side of the train with the view. A window seat also lets you control the blind. Nothing worse than wanting to see the scenery go by when the business travelers slam the blinds down in order to sleep midday.

As for toiletries, if you are particular about brands or not interested in trying to decipher a language you can't read, bring your own.

And contrary to the writer's advice, a packet of wipes is a must. Yes, generally washrooms have the amenities required; however, when they don't--and it happens--you are up the creek. You know which one. I have given that advice to numerous people. Many have made a point of thanking me.

I'm all for touring around with a single carry-on suitcase and a bag to double as tote & laptop bag. There's space at the back of a train car (I usually ask for the last seat) or in the overhead bins for a 21" bag.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I would advise travelers to Japan to always carry at least 20,000 yen or more in cash. Still some places don't accept credit cards.

Agree. My wife and I usually carry much more than 20,000 each when we visit Japan and we're both still here to tell the tale.

Also next time we visit we will occasionally be using a luggage delivery service - we weren't really aware on our previous visits just how available and (from what I've heard) efficient they are.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Decent advice. I would advise travelers to Japan to always carry at least 20,000 yen or more in cash. Still some places don't accept credit cards.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

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