theladysnarkydame: (special snowflake!)
[personal profile] theladysnarkydame
 So, sometime in the next few years -- lets say three years from now -- Chad and I want to vacation in Japan.  

Neither of us have ever left the country, which means we're taking the time to do some research (and save some money).  Also to learn at least some serviceable Japanese -- I've picked up some phrases from years of watching anime, but that's not really going to cut it for actual useful conversation.

Now, I know at least a few of you fine folks have traveled there (some of you have lived there!  I'm super jealous, btw) -- can I ask you for some tips?  

Just things to look into (phone use, what to definitely pack, what to definitely NOT pack, what do we do if Chad has an asthma attack and for some reason we don't have his inhaler?  What phrases should I add to my vocabulary?).  

Help me, f-list, you're my (best) hope!

Date: 2017-06-06 06:15 pm (UTC)
xparrot: (happy seal!)
From: [personal profile] xparrot
Oh oh oh awesome! :D Japan is a great first-non-English-speaking country to visit, it's extremely tourist-friendly and has so many amazing sites to see. And especially if you stick mostly to the bigger cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, most of the public transportation and tourist things have English signage, plus especially in Tokyo a lot of people will speak varying degrees of English.

A few notes while I think of them -- could definitely have more, and if you want to ask any specific questions just email or message me!

Trip timing -- if it's at all possible, don't go in the summer. Japan gets almost tropically hot, with 100% humidity (Kyoto especially averages 95-105 F, noon through midnight, from about June through early September.) The best times to visit are April and October-November. April and November are also high tourist seasons but there is reason for that -- the sakura are out in April, which is gorgeous, and the autumn leaves are out in November, which are also gorgeous. October has generally great weather and slightly less crowded tourist spots.

Transportation -- Japan has some of the best public transportation in world -- I lived there for 3+ years and never needed to drive a car once, you'll be able to get almost anywhere you want to go by train or bus. If you plan to be there a couple weeks and travel around the country between cities, it's worth it to buy a Japan Rail Pass, a special deal only available to foreign tourists that covers all JR railroads (and maybe the bullet train? Umm, you will have to research that -- I never actually could get one myself as I wasn't on a tourist visa.) Not all the RRs are JR but enough are to make it worth it.

(Also, a transportation tip, if you're in a city and it's been a long day and just want to get back to your hotel, taxis are quite cheap and give excellent service. There is no tipping, either -- that's true everywhere, no tipping at restaurants, either (in fact tipping is considered kind of insulting.))

Phones -- I can't help with that, it's been a few years now and the technology is changing too quickly! You can rent phones at the airports, but these days it's probably easiest to just get an international plan for your cell phone? (You may want to double-check that your phone will actually work in Japan, at least as of a few years ago they were on a different network -- kind of G5? -- so some American phones couldn't connect. Anyway, you should do some research, check online for your type of phone.)

Japanese language -- you probably know it already but the most important for tourists to know is "[X] wa doko desu ka?" which is simply "where is [X]?" and people will typically be eager to tell you; if you can't understand their directions they will often walk you where you need to go. Especially in a train station, if you go to any of the staff with questions they will do their utmost to guide you to wherever you want to be. But random passersby are often very happy to help out tourists (if you just stand on a street corner with a map and look baffled someone will often stop to check on you.)(The Japanese tend to both love being tourists and having tourists visit and admire their hometowns, and especially in the cities they're used to it from both sides.)

Medical emergencies -- whoops I actually don't know this one, I never dealt with it when there! There is an emergency number I'm pretty sure, but it's not 911? There are a lot of hospitals and clinics all around though, and yeah, people are quick to help tourists in distress. Depending on what your medical insurance is like, you may want to look into a travel insurance plan just to be sure; coverage for a single trip is generally quite cheap and easy to apply for.

One more tip, I would pick up a copy of Lonely Planet - Japan (the latest edition you can get) -- they are the best travel guides I know, not only great for recommending must-see spots for trip-planning and also local restaurants and things, but also have cultural tips (like the no tipping) and insider looks (They tend to be written by a combination of locals and foreigners living in the place). We relied on Lonely Planet with all the countries we visited and they pretty much always steered us right.

Have fun, eeee! :D

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