Japan travel tips: What to plan and what to skip 

Lifestyle
08 Jul 2024
8 mins read
Written by Riona lye

Travelling to Japan is always an adventure! Whether you’re exploring bustling Tokyo, historic Kyoto, or the scenic beauty of Hokkaido, there’s always something unique to enjoy.

 

That said, some things are definitely worth planning for, while others you might want to skip. To make your trip as efficient as the Japanese trains, we’ve put together a list of what’s worth doing and what maybe is not.

 

And trust us, you’ll be surprised how long that list is!

 

Let’s kick start!

Worth It

Timing and Logistics

Now, we all know how efficient and punctual Japanese transport is. Sure, Google Maps tells you exactly which platform to go to and when the next train is arriving. But don’t let that efficiency make you complacent!

 

japanese train station

 

The real adventure? Navigating the train stations. Big city stations can be a maze. Take Shinjuku station, for example – it has 200 exits! End up at the wrong one, and you might spend more time than you’d like finding your way.

 

So, don’t just YOLO it. Use Google Maps to figure out which direction major landmarks or destinations are in. Follow the signs to the exit you need.

 

Pro tip: Buffer in some extra time when travelling between places. Even the most careful travellers can miss a sign and end up lost. The last thing you want is to stress out over a time-specific itinerary.

 

And when you first arrive, there’s usually a shuttle bus or train from the airport to the main city. However, if you’ve been flying for hours or land late at night and feel jet-lagged, consider staying at an airport hotel or taking a cab to your hotel. Sometimes, spending a little extra is worth it when you’re exhausted!

Advance booking is key

queue in Japan

 

Get ahead of the game! Secure those express passes or grab special event tickets early for the hottest attractions. While some places are cool for walk-ins, places like USJ call for a pre-booked pass to breeze past lines and save some yen. Tokyo Skytree? Just stroll right in — no fuss about reservations needed! Flexibility and planning make for a stellar adventure.

 

Speaking of trains, know when to book ahead and when to wing it. Google Maps or local tourist centres are essential for the latest timetables. During peak times like the golden week or the sakura season, snag those bullet train tickets in advance to ride stress-free.

 

And don’t forget the last train home! They roll earlier than you’d think, so if you miss it, it’s cab or hoof-it time. While we’re on trains, load up Suica on your iPhone for easy-peasy travel. Tap, reload, and go — it’s a snap!

Google Map is your best friend

Speaking of Google Maps, you’ve got to use this tool to your advantage!

 

Not only does Google Maps give you public transport options and schedules, but it also lets you create a list of attractions to help you plan an efficient itinerary.

 

And here’s a pro tip: Download the offline map before you head out. You never know when the internet gods might decide to take a break, and you don’t want to be left map-less in the middle of Tokyo!

Shoes

We’ve all heard the legendary 20,000 steps a day myth in Japan. Fun fact: it’s not a myth! So, let’s talk shoes — your most important ally in conquering those long marches. Leave those high heels at home — you won’t be needing them!

 

Pack one or two pairs of super comfy, lightweight shoes. You’ll be walking everywhere, so make sure they’re comfortable. Bonus points if they’re water-resistant! Opt for shoes with great support and durable soles to keep your feet happy and ready for all the adventures. Sure, you can buy new shoes in Japan, but with 20,000 steps a day, your feet will break into blisters faster than your shoes can break in.

 

And for recovery, bring some compression stockings. You can find them for much cheaper in Japan. Wear them to sleep, and your legs will be back to factory mode, ready for another day of adventure!

Hotels

For some, hotels are just a place to crash; for others, a good night’s sleep and a leisurely morning with a nice ambiance are essential. So, pick your hotel based on your budget and preferences. But don’t forget that location is key! That extra 10-minute walk to the train station every day might not seem like much, but add that to your 20,000 steps, and it can feel like a marathon by the end of the day.

 

If you’re planning to hop between cities, avoid booking too many hotels. Instead, stay in central locations and do day trips. For example, book a hotel in Osaka and take day trips to Kyoto or Nara. This way, you avoid the hassle of packing, unpacking, and moving around constantly.

 

Your hotel’s neighbourhood matters too. Staying near the central train station makes it easier to get home after a long day. Plus, having “your” convenience store nearby or “your” favourite breakfast spot can make a lot of difference to the start and end of your day. A nearby Donki (Don Quijote store) for late-night or early-morning runs can be a fun bonus too.

 

hotels near Japanese train station

 

So, when you’re feeling tired and moving at a sloth’s pace, a convenient location can make all the difference!

Shopping research

You might think, “I’ll just walk in and see what to shop and decide later.” Trust me, that’s the last strategy you want to go with. You’ll definitely be super overwhelmed. Imagine Donki’s catchy jingle blasting in your ears while every item on the aisle screams, “Take me home!”

 

If you don’t plan your shopping, you’ll end up walking more than you need to. Remember, those 20,000 steps a day aren’t just a scare tactic; it’s a reality.

 

Research the products you want to buy, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of shopping. You probably won’t be able to read much Japanese, and you won’t know what’s worth stocking up on when you’re standing in the middle of an overwhelming Don Quijote. You’re surrounded by items worth their weight in gold, and you might have no idea what to buy. A list on your phone with pictures can be a lifesaver.

 

Create a sensible shopping route so you’re not lugging tons of stuff around for ages. Research by your interest.

 

And as for clothes, don’t pack too much. Places like Uniqlo are cheap. Pack clothing for the first day or two and buy the rest. You also don’t need too many sets as laundry is easy, whether in your hotel or at laundromats outside.

Backpack for your back

Make sure to invest in a high-quality backpack. You’ll want to spare your one-sided back muscles from doing all the heavy lifting. Opt for something lightweight and easy to access. If you’re not used to walking everywhere, your back will thank you for being prepared.

 

Throw in a reusable bag if possible and stash it in your backpack. Plastic bags are rare to come by out there, so having a place for trash with small Ziploc bags will save the day.

To consider – also known as ’not worth the trouble’

Don’t sweat the meal planning

Let your inner foodie go wild! Japan is a culinary paradise with endless delights to savour.

 

Japanese food

 

Ditch the over-hyped joints and uncover hidden treasures. These lesser-known eateries often serve up equally delicious dishes without the hassle of long lines. Relish the thrill of exploring and stumbling upon a charming little spot.

 

But a quick tip: if there’s a must-visit place on your list that requires a reservation, get ahead of the game. Some places only take bookings once a year or month, so be sure to mark those crucial dates on your calendar!

Strict itinerary

Don’t let your itinerary turn into a straitjacket! It’s all about striking a balance and leaving room for spontaneity.

 

Skip the overload of pre-trip details. Having a rough plan is awesome, but diving too deep can take the fun out of your adventure. Embrace the unexpected moments that make travel truly unforgettable.

 

Keep your schedule loose and flexible. Packing in too many timed activities can leave you feeling rushed and confined. Instead, sprinkle in alternative plans and explore different options in each area. Look into alternative travel routes from your base — this can unlock new adventures and give you the freedom to change plans on the fly!

Before you go…

Hey, fellow Singaporeans! Heading to Japan? Don’t forget your amaze card for an epic adventure!

 

 

The amaze travel card saves you money on exchange rates, making it the perfect companion for your trip to Japan.

 

Pair it with any Mastercard bank card or top up your amaze wallet, and you’ll:

 

  • Enjoy fantastic FX rates with every global purchase.
  • Earn InstaPoints on FX spends and cash them in for sweet cashback or discounts on overseas money transfers.

 

PS: Haven’t got your amaze card yet? Sign up now before your trip kicks off!

 

*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.

close icon
Select location
Australia flag
Australia
Austria flag
Austria
Canada flag
Canada
Global flag
Global
France flag
France
Germany flag
Germany
Hong Kong flag
Hong Kong
India flag
India
Ireland flag
Ireland
Japan flag
Japan
Malaysia flag
Malaysia
Netherlands flag
Netherlands
Singapore flag
Singapore
United Kingdom flag
United Kingdom
close icon

Change location and language

You are on our United States of America website. Select below to change to another location.

Save changes
close icon
Select a language
English (EN)