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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