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Japan – 10 Things You Should Know About Backpacking There

Tokyo, Japan

Japan, the land of the rising sun is a travel destination and a dream for most people. However, I think it’s important to gain an understanding of the culture. It’s essential to know certain things before you get on the plane to Narita.

1. Getting into Japan

Currently, it’s pretty much impossible to go to Japan as a tourist due to the pandemic. However in normal circumstances, if you’re a British citizen, you will be allowed a maximum stay of 90 days. It’s important to consider that once you arrive in Japan, you must go through customs. The immigration officers will ask about your purpose in Japan and you may even have your bag searched. The best way of getting into Japan is by plane and many airlines can take you there. Unfortunately there isn’t a cheap way of flying to Japan from the UK.

2. Public Transport is World Class

Taking a taxi in Japan is expensive and unnecessary as Japanese cities have incredible public transport systems. The best I had ever seen in the world, every city has its own fantastic subway system. You can pretty much go everywhere you need to go. The best way to go in between cities is by using the Shinkansen railway which you can buy tickets right before the departure time.

3. Safety

Japan is possibly the safest country in the world, you don’t need to worry about having your wallet stolen or being scammed. Violent crime is almost nonexistent within the country. You can literally leave your car unlocked without the fear of it being stolen. One thing you should be careful of though is going to places that are run by organised crime groups. Looking for trouble anywhere is a terrible idea.

4. It can be Expensive

Travelling on a budget isn’t impossible, however you must consider that cash is heavily used. ATMs can easily be found in convenience stores and a few places also take card. Accommodation, especially in Tokyo can be pricey. If you want to save money, it’s recommended to stay in hostels or even capsule hotels. It’s also recommended to get food from convenience stores as it’s the cheapest place to get food. What you must consider is that tickets for the Shinkansen train, staying in hotels, eating good food and buying decent souvenirs will set you back a lot of money.

5. Not Everyone can Speak English

An interesting aspect of Japanese culture is that even if you don’t look Japanese, people will still try to speak with you in Japanese even if they can speak English. Even then, not everyone in Japan speaks English. This is the case even in the places that are popular with tourists. Before going to Japan, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few phrases so you know how to order food at a restaurant for example.

6. The Food is Excellent

When people think Japan, they think of sushi, however there is so much more to Japanese cuisine. Japanese dishes such as ramen and curry are much more common than sushi. You won’t struggle to great and affordable places to eat and at some places you can order your food on a machine. An important word of advice is that if a restaurant looks like it is only tailored towards tourists, i.e has a menu completely in English, you should avoid it. This is because these places are not authentic, the food quality will be sub-par and the prices will rip you off.

7. Don’t be an Imbecile

Respect and honour are known to be paramount within Japanese culture. When that stupid excuse for a Youtube star, Logan Paul went to Japan he was being extremely disrespectful, don’t be like him. It’s important to consider certain customs such as taking your shoes off in certain indoor settings and being loud in public will not be accepted.

8. Tattoos Make People Uncomfortable

If you have visible tattoos, it may make people uncomfortable, this is because tattoos are associated with the infamous yakuza and it’s extremely rare to see ordinary Japanese people with tattoos. Because of this, some places like onsens and gyms may ask you cover where your tattoos are.

9. Japanese People will Welcome you

There is a huge misconception that Japanese people are racist and intolerant to other cultures. While it’s true that Japan is one of the most homogenous countries in the world and they definitely do treat foreign people differently, Japanese people are extremely welcoming to tourists.

The place I stayed in Kyoto had some food that I was allowed to take for free and there was sign saying that the food was halal, which goes against the narrative that Japanese people are Islamophobic. The people working at that place were incredible, when I told the receptionist I needed a taxi to go to the train station, she went out of her way to give me a lift. I felt like everywhere I went people greeted me with a smile and were curious to know where I was from.

10. Bins are Incredibly Hard to Find

Even though Japan litter-free streets, finding a bin can be a challenge and I recommend having a shoulder bag while walking around to put your litter. Littering is never done by anyone and while it’s hard to find bins, you can find them in public bathrooms and train stations.

Japan is a fantastic travel destination and I hope to eventually return. It’s one of my favourite countries I’ve been to and there is so much more that I have to see.

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