Tuesday 7 November 2023

There's not many countries that I've visited in the last few years that I'm in a rush to go back to, but I'd love to see Japan again (mostly for the food). We spent just over a week travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto and I think we managed to see all the cities have to offer. On my next trip I'd love to also visit Osaka and try all of their famous street food. If any of these cities are on your bucket list, keep reading to find out 5 tips for travelling to Japan in 2024. 

1. Research the best time to go for what you want to see.

We visited in February because it's when we kicked off our Asia trip, and it was definitely cold! We did manage to see Mount Fuji which as told by our guide, is very dependent on what the weather is like that day. You can take a day trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo. We paid £45 which included pick up from Ueno station and drop-off (1.5 hour journey), and we visited 3 locations. We couldn't actually go to the 5th Station (entrance to the mountain) as it had been snowing and so the roads were too slippery, but we did get great views of Fuji from Kawaguchiko lake and Oshino HakkaiTo increase your chances, the best time to visit Mt Fuji is between November and February

If you're more interested in cherry blossom season, then the best time to visit is in the spring (late March/early April). There's no shortage of cherry blossoms in Tokyo, one of the more popular places to see them is at Ueno Park. If you want to find somewhere a little less crowded, head to the English Garden in Shinjuku Gyoen. If you're in Kyoto, you'll want to see the 'weeping cherry tree' at Marayama Park. 

2. Purchase a SIM or eSIM for Japan.

The first question on most of our minds when we land in a new country is - how can I get connected to the internet? Your best choices are either purchasing a local sim or carrying a portable Wi-Fi device. Mobal specialises in providing contract-free Japan SIM cards and Japan eSIMs for travellers, whether you're going to be visiting briefly or staying long-term. If you need any help they provide English customer service and their profits also go to charity. 

The best part about purchasing an eSim is that you don't have to risk misplacing your old sim and you don't have to queue up at the airport at one of the kiosks either! 

3. Get an IC card at the train station.

I'm not sure if the situation has improved since I went to Japan in 2018, but the train stations in Japan were probably some of the most confusing I've been to! Firstly because there is barely any english signage and secondly, there were 2 main train/metro companies and it wasn't always clear if the ticket you had bought covered your journey. 

To avoid this I suggest you firstly get an IC card from the ticket machine, which is essentially like an Oyster card. You can tap this at any of the stations and means you don't have to keep buying single journey tickets. Secondly, use Google Maps! This will make getting to your destination 100 times easier as it will give you the correct platform and everything too. 

4. Stay in a traditional ryokan

You could choose to stay in a chain hotel that you're familiar and comfortable with, or you could properly immerse yourself in the Japanese culture and stay in a ryokan. A ryokan differs from a hotel in that you'll usually sleep on a futon bed and the rooms will be quite minimal and the floors are usually made of 'tatami' matting. Not exclusive to ryokans as you'll see these everywhere, that Japanese toilets have a lot more functions than your regular toilets back home!

You will find a wide selection of ryokans in Kyoto and can vary from budget accommodation to the more luxury style. Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe is a highly rated on in the Gion area in the centre. 

5. Be mindful of cultural differences

Once you've got over all the water functions your accommodation toilet has, there are some other things you should be mindful of when visiting Japan. 

1. Don't eat and walk - even though Japan is full of wonderful street food, you'll never find anyone eating and walking at the same time as it's frowned upon. If you order something in one of the food markets, just stand to the side and eat it if you can't find a place to sit. 

2. Make sure you're in the right train carriage - as passed 6pm, some trains have 'female only' carriages (which I think is great). You'll also find that locals form an orderly queue by the train doors when waiting to board, so there's no pushing and shoving to get in. 

3. Slurp that bowl - it's actually a sign of respect and that you've really enjoyed your meal! 

I hope you've found this post useful. If you have any other questions about Japan, feel free to message me on my socials or check out my travel guides below!


3 days in Tokyo, Japan

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