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Are you preparing for a trip to Japan? Have you booked the tickets or planning to book them soon? Are you excited/happy/confused about the upcoming Japan trip? Here is a list of things to remember while traveling to Japan:
The trains are very punctual. True. However, the proverbial 13-sec average late running time is probably not true. While the Shinkansens are rarely ever late, the local trains do arrive late by a minute or two quite frequently. So if you have a narrow gap in between connecting trains it is better to plan for alternatives. Also, the train stations are huge and often have more than 30 platforms. Figuring your way out can often be challenging, even with all English signage.
Hardly anyone speaks…and it’s not just about English
Honestly speaking, the Japanese are a very quiet lot. They hardly ever speak in public places. Mobiles are supposed to be kept on silent mode in trains, buses, and trams. No one breaks that rule. It can be a bit unnerving at times when there is pin-drop silence in an overcrowded train. Quite a surprise for Indian tourists like us. The only people we found talking on the trains were invariably international tourists.
English is rarely spoken and apart from train and bus stations, there aren’t too many places with English descriptions. However, people were quite helpful and literally walked a hundred meters to show us the directions when asked for.
Finding your choice of food can be challenging
Being omnivorous, I did not find this to be a problem. But there are no English descriptions on most items, including food items. We used to have Bento boxes from 7-11 or Family Mart stores. I never found a box with an English description. So if you have any dietary restrictions or reservations, you may have a hard time explaining this to the store owner. Also, some food items can taste/smell very different from your usual diet. Be open and appreciative about what you eat.
Footwear restrictions are a real thing
I had read about this before traveling to Japan but never gave it a serious thought. Even in India, we do not enter a house wearing shoes. But I never expected to leave my shoes outside a hotel lobby and to change to a different indoor shoe before entering the reception area. Some of the hotels do allow shoes, but wearing them inside the room is a strict no-no. The hotels will provide you with two kinds of shoes and you are expected to use them appropriately.
The hotel rooms can be quite small
The rooms are neat and equipped with all necessary amenities. The staff is friendly but the language barrier is real. The room sizes really bothered me. The bed and bathroom sizes can be quite small in an average business hotel. Check the room sizes before you book them online.
Vending machines are literally everywhere
Most of the vending machines dispense only beverages. And they are slightly more expensive than the regular stores. So while you can buy a bottle of green tea even in a remote place, be prepared to pay a few extra yens. And vending machines for other items are not much common. Although we did find some for ice-creams and chocolates, family marts and 7-11s are much more frequently available.
Use the coin lockers
I had no idea about the coin lockers before this trip. It became my favorite thing to remember after I returned. The coin lockers are used for luggage storage for the whole day, or even for a few days. The Japanese people use them frequently while traveling. The prices vary slightly across cities, starting from 300-yen and going up to 700-yen for a day for different sizes of lockers. The lockers are unmanned and are available at all train and bus stations. You can just store your luggage at the station, complete your day trip and shift to a new place, utilizing the time wisely.
Everyone drinks green tea, a lot!
It’s not just about the hot beverage that many of us have at home. The vending machines dispense off several cold versions of this beverage. There are dedicated green tea parlors in all the markets. I have even had green tea ice cream! Almost all the restaurants and food joints have several choices of green tea, even the likes of McDonald’s have it! If you are planning to get some food souvenirs back home, green tea chocolates and candies are a must.
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