Planning a outing to the land of the rising fun? Listed below are about a generous pointers.
[This feature originally ran in 2016, so I’ve made a few changes to ensure it’s as relevant as possible in 2019. Enjoy!]
When you grew up taking half in video games, likelihood is you might per chance well per chance presumably even be feeling some form of connection to Japan. So quite quite a bit of the iconic games we all played – and the consoles we played them on – came from this densely-populated island nation. Perchance you’re even planning a outing over there for the cherry blossoms in April, or to hit up Tokyo Sport Present in September.
This option needs to be generous if a outing is on the playing cards and you possess got no longer spent worthy time in Japan sooner than. You furthermore mght can honest also desire to study out my profiles of two of Tokyo’s most legendary sport arcades – Taito Hi there! in Akihabara and Sport Heart Mikado in Takadanobaba.
Here we bolt…
1) Suica is your friend
The first instruct you ought to perform while you happen to reach in Japan is salvage either a Suica card or a Pasmo card. It makes no accurate incompatibility which one you to think – they’re functionally the the same, perfect sold by varied companies, but be warned: you will be making a Horde vs. Alliance-vogue choice, so perform the honest instruct and think the one with the penguin.
Both methodology, these pre-paid shuttle playing cards fabricate public transport a accelerate. A median day getting round Tokyo, as an instance, sees you swapping between the subway programs and JR trains as you navigate the metropolis’s complex rail community, and these playing cards work across all the pieces, together with buses. It’s no longer perfect Tokyo, either, but most areas of Japan.
Suica/Pasmo also just as a virtual wallet, so that you just might per chance well per chance presumably spend the credit to lift drinks or snacks at merchandising machines, or pay for purchases at convenience shops and in a form of varied outlets. They are able to’t be passe for bid trains, bullet trains and long distance buses, but some sport arcades utilize pre-paid playing cards as perform some cabs. Recharging them is easy, too, and might well well also honest even be accomplished at designate machines in educate stations.
Watch, perfect salvage one.
2) Konbinis are your friend
Comfort shops, AKA konbinis, are plentiful in Japan. Very very plentiful, and they’re in truth a large helpful resource. Your sensible konbini is originate 24 hours a day, seven days per week, so whether you’re on the bolt and wish a snack, otherwise you’re heading abet to your hotel at the pause of the evening and craving something sizzling… or ultimate and chilly, the local konbini is the region to bolt.
Japan is a rustic the assign pleasure is taken in the effective of meals, no topic the assign or no longer it is sold, so that you just might per chance well per chance presumably feel agreeable counting on konbinis.
There are onigiri (rice balls) with a large form of fillings, sandwiches, salads, fruit and a few varied sizzling meals choices, from instant noodles and fried chicken to oden (issues adore daikon radish, fish truffles, tofu and laborious boiled eggs in a gentle-weight soy broth), with some seasonal variation. And because or no longer it is Japan – a rustic the assign pleasure is taken in the effective of meals, no topic the assign or no longer it is sold – you might per chance well per chance presumably feel agreeable counting on konbinis. They’re re-stocked daily, too.
Plus, you might per chance well per chance presumably pay for all the pieces along with your Suica or Pasmo card. Many offer varied products and companies adore procuring tickets for events and ATMs, but the frail shall be subsequent to no longer doable to navigate without lend a hand, whereas the latter brings us to our subsequent tip…
Three) Some ATMs aren’t your friend
A selection of ATMs in Japan gained’t settle for international playing cards, but increasingly, there are a heap that perform. The truth is, the living has improved drastically in the 20+ years I’ve been travelling to Japan, to the point the assign it’s by no manner laborious to salvage cash while you’re in a metropolitan space.
The principle areas to gape are 7-Elevens, Citibank ATMs or post areas of work – all of these possess foreigner-helpful ATMs. Many Family Mart and Lawson convenience shops possess adore minded machines now too. The spend of a 7-Eleven might well well even be the easiest, and they’re reasonably popular, so it’s perfect a topic of discovering one shut to your hotel/nearest station and having enough cash that you just don’t salvage caught in need of an ATM at the rotten time.
The truth is, whereas playing cards are extensively popular (and you might per chance well per chance presumably perform issues adore pay for apparel on a Suica card), Japan is restful something of a cash society, so fabricate obvious you might per chance well per chance presumably even possess loads on you always. It’s also a in point of fact agreeable region, so that you just in truth don’t desire to fear about carrying round cash.
four) The trains are unprecedented
Japan’s public transport map is advantageous, and it must be. The Bigger Tokyo Put has something adore 38 million of us residing in and round it, and a hub adore Shinjuku station has 1,000,000 of us passing thru it day after day. You would per chance well per chance salvage almost wherever in Tokyo the spend of a mix of the subway programs and JR strains, and trains most ceaselessly advance each jiffy.
No longer particular salvage somewhere? Are making an try to study when bid trains urge? There are a whole lot of helpful apps you might per chance well per chance presumably spend. I’ve passe Hyperdia (it’s on iPhone and Android) for years and love the methodology it reveals a bunch of varied choices for your chosen route, as successfully as the reality that it components in strolling time while you happen to might well well also desire to transition from, impart, a JR line to a subway line. It might per chance well well per chance also appear a shrimp of finicky originally – and does cost a small subscription price to instant for the time you’re in Japan – but I’ve found it worthwhile. As I said, even supposing, there are varied apps obtainable, so fetch the one who’s honest for you!
Traveling between cities is in most cases easy too, on account of the shinkansen (bullet educate) community. Tickets aren’t cheap, but the trains are hasty, traditional and oh so punctual. You would per chance well per chance book them as early as you like and there is consistently any individual who speaks English in the designate areas of work. (You would per chance well per chance even book thru the Successfully-organized EX app while you’re planning on travelling in central and western Honshu – i.e. between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and loads others.) When you’re going to shuttle to some varied cities within Japan, it’s price having a see into getting a Japan Rail Pass for limitless shuttle on the shinkansen. It ought to be bought sooner than you salvage to Japan, alternatively.
5) The trains are unprecedented (except round heart of the evening)
So yeah, the brief, atmosphere helpful machine that is Japan’s public transport map stops insensible round heart of the evening, and doesn’t initiating up all over again except 5am. Here is something to preserve in solutions while you’re planning on being out behind. Both fabricate obvious you’re within strolling distance of your accommodation, are ready to pay for a taxi (which aren’t in truth that costly and are reasonably convenient while you’re in a metropolitan centre) or possess some varied form of contingency opinion. You would per chance well per chance are trying and pull thru, as an instance, at a membership or a karaoke joint (in a inner most leeway). Or you might per chance well per chance presumably shatter at a web café, a large range of which shall be originate 24 hours and possess particular individual cubicles with reclining chairs. Some even possess showers, which brings us to our subsequent point…
6) You don’t desire to attach in a hotel
You don’t desire to attach in a Western-vogue hotel in Japan. When you’re planning successfully forward, staying at a ryokan (or ryokan hotel) is price having a see into, as they offer very outdated accommodation – tatami mat rooms, rice paper partitions, futons on the bottom, general bathing areas and loads others. – which is a advantageous methodology to salvage a taste of Jap custom. There are about a helpful choices to search out the ryokan that’s honest for you – web sites adore Booking.com, Japanican and Tripadvisor possess a “ryokan” checkbox when buying for accommodation, whereas Jap Guesthouses is a ryokan specialist.
Airbnb is price investigating too, even supposing the selection of listings has dropped seriously since new regulations came into attain in 2018 requiring hosts to leap thru a bunch of honest hoops.
There’s also that quintessentially Jap choice, the tablet hotel. These are reasonably general in well-known metropolitan areas and are certainly cheap. It’s price discovering out up a shrimp sooner than you commit, alternatively, as there are some rules and objects of files to be responsive to. Some are for men top in all probability, as an instance, whereas others possess separate ground for men and females. Exposed tattoos are a no-no so guarantee to preserve them covered while you might per chance well per chance presumably even possess them, or threat being ejected. Tablet motels most ceaselessly don’t possess valid storage for huge bags either.
Tablet motels are reasonably general… and are certainly cheap.
One closing instruct. You don’t desire to attach in a hotel, but while you perform, you might per chance well per chance presumably without a doubt perform it on a funds – seriously in Japan’s bigger cities. There’s an entire class of hotel identified as “alternate motels” which shall be there to cater to the assorted businessmen (and females) travelling within Japan. These motels are most ceaselessly regular, with small rooms and no principal views, but they’re in each single region, and it’s no longer laborious to search out one wherever you ought to attach. Every time I shuttle to Japan, I’m most ceaselessly in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, so I utilize the regular district I must attach in (in accordance to the assign in the metropolis I must bolt), then look for motels in that space on a region adore Tripadvisor with the “label” slider assign to between USD $50 and USD $Eighty. Your funds might well well also honest fluctuate, clearly, but I most ceaselessly feel adore I salvage helpful price.
7) Learning about a regular phrases will utilize you a long methodology
You needs as a method to salvage by reasonably without considerations in Japan’s biggest cities without worthy Jap, but making an effort is without a doubt liked, and likewise fun.
Learn to claim yes (hai), hi there (konnichiwa), thanks (arigatou gozaimasu), excuse me/sorry (sumimasen), I don’t ticket/I don’t know (wakarimasen) and ultimate (oishii). You furthermore mght can as successfully learn adorable (kawaii) and unprecedented (sugoi) for helpful measure too – you’ll be hearing these words loads.
Eight) Don’t be nervous to request for lend a hand
Jap of us will in most cases bolt out of their methodology to back you while you request. Now and again they’ll offer to lend a hand while you’re perfect standing round having a see misplaced. Many Jap of us – seriously in large cities – even possess no longer lower than a shrimp of English (even supposing they’re going to also honest no longer feel confident the spend of it), because it’s long been fragment of the faculty curriculum. It’s easy to salvage misplaced in Japan – seriously given the methodology addresses work, which we’ll salvage to in a shrimp, so are trying soliciting for lend a hand.
9) Win the arcade that’s honest for you!
No longer top in all probability does Japan restful possess video sport arcades, but they advance in all kinds and sizes. Unsurprisingly, there are many in Tokyo’s well-known geek district Akihabara, together with my favourite – Taito Hi there – a retro sport-filled gem of an arcade that is an unprecedented region to play shoot ‘em ups (aka shmups), combating games both popular and traditional, and a total vary of obscure and iconic titles. This isn’t perfect a large region to play – it’s a large region to glimpse, as right here’s home for deal of extremely professional gamers.
There are arcades all around the assign Japan even supposing, and one amongst the causes they’re restful popular is that they’ve varied. Your sensible Club SEGA, as an instance, has a bunch of varied ground, all catering to bid audiences and demographics. There might well well also honest be UFO Catchers on the bottom ground, then a ground for rhythm games, one for combating games, one for medal games and card-primarily based totally technique games, and one for purikura (photograph cubicles).
There are perfect so many issues to study out within these arcades, from multiplayer mech games to arcade variations of popular mobile titles. And all these ground and sub-genres allure to varied kinds of of us, ensuring that even when one space of the arcade loses repute, varied areas can lend a hand abet cash coming in.
It’s without a doubt price going to one amongst the huge mainstream arcades, and these aren’t laborious to search out. In Tokyo on my own you might per chance well per chance presumably fetch Club Segas, Taito Stations and the adore in Akihabara, Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Nakano and Ikebukuro, to title about a popular suburbs. You ought to also bolt to a specialist, whether that’s Taito Hi there! or something adore Sport Heart Mikado.
And while you might per chance well per chance presumably even be feeling adore venturing to Kawasaki – a brief educate budge in direction of Yokohama from central Tokyo – I’d totally recommend the Kawasaki Warehouse. This insane 5 storey arcade is themed after the Kowloon Walled City, with a distressed, rusty, climate-beaten exterior, subterranean tunnels main into and out of the arcade, and outmoded structures, storefronts and pipes inner. The theming is helpful, but the sport preference in all fairness large too.
Eventually, there are arcades which shall be extra adore amusement parks. When you’re heading to Odaiba (a popular vacationer vacation living and the region of the huge Gundam statue) you might per chance well per chance presumably catch about going to Sega Joypolis, which is extra of an arcade-centric theme park, with games on mechanical rigs and loads others. And while you’re in Shinjuku, VR Zone is price brooding about – it has VR “experiences” in accordance to Mario Kart, Evangelion, Dragon Ball and extra.
After which there’s pachinko and pachislot. Handsome perfect fortune with that!
10) Akihabara isn’t the ideal otaku choice
Akihabara is infamous for being the otaku hub of Tokyo, and while you’ve by no manner been there you ought to without a doubt are trying it out, because it’s stuffed with games and manga shops, electronics shops large and small, arcades, themed cafes (it’s maid café central) and, successfully, something an otaku might well well also obsess over. There are, alternatively, deal of varied choices.
In Tokyo, as an instance, you might per chance well per chance presumably head to Nakano Broadway, a 5 ground indoor mall that’s stuffed with shops promoting geeky collectible figurines and collectables. Ikebukuro also has some cool shops – chains adore Mandarake and Animate – and caters to female otaku, making for a accurate point of incompatibility.
Sport and manga/anime-centered areas might well well also honest even be found in quite quite a bit of the well-known cities. In Osaka, as an instance, the Akihabara equivalent is named Nipponbashi (aka Den-Den Town), so perform some discovering out in accordance to your vacation living. Oh, and whereas we’re talking about buying…
eleven) Stride on a spree for retro games and consoles
Immense Potato in Akihabara might well well even be the ideal-identified 2nd hand sport retailer for Western tourists, promoting a large form of traditional consoles, from NES and Neo Geo thru to Dreamcast, alongside games for in general each outmoded platform. Immense Potato, alternatively, is basically a series that started in Osaka, so there are a whole lot of in that metropolis, as successfully as a 2nd Tokyo retailer in Ikebukuro and one in Nagoya. The Akihabara living’s repute has resulted in a noticeable reduction in stock over the years, but there are deal of varied chains that stock retro consoles and games corresponding to Onerous Off/Book Off and Tsutaya, as successfully as deal of single living shops all thru the geek districts.
When you’re certainly assign on picking up some outmoded gemstones, you possess got regarded as making an try to utilize into consideration going to extra regional shops. I.e. are trying and scope out Onerous Off locations that aren’t in the center of whatever metropolis you’re in.
12) Enjoy files at your fingertips
Travelling in Japan is perfect SO MUCH EASIER than it as soon as used to be, and the motive being easy – phones, capsules and ubiquitous internet. Being ready to repeat and paste an address – in Jap – into Google Maps, as an instance, is an absolute godsend. Rather then bumbling round making an try to fabricate sense of an address (Japan makes spend of an totally varied map to what you’re doubtless familiar with) and hoping to advance abet across what you’re having a see for, you might per chance well per chance presumably simply bolt there. And while you’re no longer particular which educate strains to utilize? The web/educate apps fabricate brief work of such trifles.
Long account brief – look in case your cell provider has an limitless (or no longer lower than pleasant) files shuttle opinion sooner than you bolt. If no longer, rent a wireless router, SIM card or phone for your outing so that you just might per chance well per chance presumably even possess limitless files wherever you bolt. I passe to make spend of Global Improved Communications and it used to be consistently straightforward – the machine would be attempting forward to me at an airport utilize-up point or my hotel, then I’d perfect pop it in the post the spend of the fetch that’s supplied on my methodology in a international country. For the time being, I perfect spend my phone’s roaming opinion.
13) Set apart locations in Google Maps sooner than you bolt
Fragment of the fun of going in a single other country is researching the total cool stuff you’re going to abet out while you happen to salvage there, and with the lend a hand of Google Maps, this means you might per chance well per chance presumably land with maps paunchy of bookmarked locations – restaurants, shops, arcades, vacationer points of interest, and loads others. When you come across a helpful advice, perfect punch the Jap address into Google Maps and spend the assign efficiency (“favourite,” “desire to bolt,” “starred areas” or bear a new list) so it’ll appear on your draw.
When you come across a helpful advice, perfect punch the Jap address into Google Maps and spend the assign efficiency so it’ll appear on your draw.
A discover of warning, Google Maps isn’t foolproof and you clearly desire to attach some distance from being directed to the rotten region whereas you’re on the bottom, so it’s worthwhile making an try to hideous-test each living or together with notes. To illustrate, you might per chance well per chance presumably tumble into Boulevard Peek to make sure a store is the assign Google is saying it is, otherwise you might per chance well per chance presumably enter in relevant data alongside the bookmark, adore “this shop is on the basement diploma, sight out for a signal with this kanji.” To abet out that – and to alternate the title if it’s in Jap or an address, head to your bookmarks web notify.
Having bookmarks will back you lots in dense areas, giving you some orientation as to the assign the shops or arcades you certainly desire to hit are. It’s also worthwhile for meals, because it manner you might per chance well per chance presumably perfect bring up your digital draw to gaze what suggested choices you might per chance well per chance presumably even possess nearby.
14) If in doubt print it out
For an extra safety web, print out the paunchy address of your hotel or vacation living in Jap sooner than you bolt. This might well well also honest even be seriously treasured in smaller cities and cities, and ensures you’ll salvage the assign you’re going… even in case your phone and/or tablet runs out of juice.
15) Utilize the Google Translate app!
This app is enormous generous in a large range of cases. Whisper you ogle yourself in a cafe with out a English menu or English-talking staff – this might occasionally doubtless well well also honest be your top in all probability choice to work out what’s in truth on said menu.
You would per chance well per chance spend the digicam choice to salvage augmented reality-vogue translations of the text on the menu in accurate-time, but this does no longer consistently work seriously successfully, so that you just might per chance well per chance presumably also honest prefer to utilize a photograph of the menu then highlight text line by line (as in the photograph). It’s advantageous what a incompatibility it makes even being ready to utilize broadly what each menu merchandise is.
Google Translate might well well also also back you translate what a native speaker is saying, now to no longer mention letting you are trying and possess a dialog by also translating into Jap.
Sixteen) Let plastic meals be your files
That plastic meals in the entrance window of restaurants isn’t perfect generous for getting a sense of what the restaurant is all about – you potentially might well well also also simply present what you wish while you’re having a laborious time.
It be in truth laborious to salvage a corrupt meal in Japan, so salvage no longer be nervous to utilize a punt on a small gap-in-the-wall joint…
Japan has many, many kinds of delicacies so plastic meals will certainly lend a hand. It’s also a rustic of experts. Moreover izakayas – the Jap equivalent of pubs, serving a large form of snacks and meals, and kaiseki – multi-route haute delicacies, Jap restaurants are inclined to accommodate doing one bid instruct extremely successfully. So while you wish ramen you bolt to a ramen restaurant. Need certainly large eel? Stride to the eel region. Connected with sushi, kushikatsu, tonkatsu, okonomiyaki, yakiniku, curry, and loads others.
You ought to are trying and suss out some helpful choices for the meals you ought to are trying sooner than you bolt, but you salvage no longer desire to lock yourself into these. It be in truth laborious to salvage a corrupt meal in Japan, so salvage no longer be nervous to utilize a punt on a small gap-in-the-wall joint, or browse random restaurants the spend of the plastic say meals to back you ogle something that appears to be to be like appetising. Oh, and salvage no longer be intimidated by areas with merchandising machines out the entrance, either – Google Translate ought to fabricate brief work of these.
17) Phases, Jerry, ranges
This goes for many large cities, but in Japan seriously, there’s in most cases a advantageous quantity of stuff hidden out of gape. The massive subway programs of Tokyo and Osaka are home to deal of restaurants and shops, as an instance, whereas shops in most cases possess meals courts on their basement diploma, or quite quite a bit of ground of restaurants above. (These are ultimate, by the methodology, as they fabricate it easy to browse for the restaurant you wish.) Districts adore Shinjuku and Akihabara in truth possess a large range of stuff tucked away in abet alleys or underground, so a large fragment of the fun is exploring! That said, there’s going to be a large range of stuff that’s inaccessible unless you’re with a local – the density of one of the most well-known bar districts, as an instance, the assign there are 5 or six storeys of runt bars on avenue after avenue, might well well also honest even be both solutions-boggling and impenetrable.
18) Book tickets sooner than you bolt
It’s without a doubt price brooding about reserving one of the most well-known stuff you ought to abet out sooner than you bolt – partly to make sure a designate and partly to fabricate particular you know what you’re getting.
This goes for events which shall be successfully liked by tourists (corresponding to sumo – the assign you might per chance well per chance presumably hear to English language commentary via headset) almost as worthy because it does for extra Jap-centric stuff (adore going to a baseball sport) and there are 1/Three celebration products and companies that specialise in in truth going and buying for tickets for you, then sending them to your hotel. I’ve passe these for both sumo and baseball and it’s labored out large.
You furthermore mght can as successfully lift your Robot Restaurant tickets early too, because that say – whereas the well-known vacationer appeal in Kabukicho – is hundreds of fun.
It’s also price mentioning that the ideal methodology you’re getting tickets to the Ghibli Museum is forward of time, and you’ll desire to valid them months upfront. Even issues adore the Yamazaki distillery tour needs to be booked successfully forward of time.
19) Don’t attach in Chiba while you’re going to TGS
Are you planning on going to the Tokyo Sport Present whereas you’re in Japan? If that is the case, cool – perfect don’t fabricate the error of staying out the assign the say is in Chiba. Chiba certainly isn’t that some distance from the centre of Tokyo while you salvage an bid educate, and there’s perfect no longer that worthy taking place obtainable. You’re methodology greater off staying somewhere cool adore Shibuya or Shinjuku and commuting in. That methodology you might per chance well per chance presumably utilize perfect thing about the nightlife and no longer desire to sweat getting abet to your hotel. I most ceaselessly attach it up the jap aspect of the metropolis – i.e. approach Akihabara – to minimise the trouble.
20) Take into account of cultural differences
Here’s a shrimp of a no brainer, but it’s price surroundings apart a whereas sooner than you bolt to learn a shrimp of about potential faux pas you might per chance well per chance presumably fabricate, or stuff you needs to be responsive to. To illustrate, you ought to bow in a successfully mannered methodology (or incline your head if the living isn’t formal) while you happen to satisfy any individual and return a bow if one is disbursed your methodology, you ought to utilize off your sneakers when required (and while you’re then the spend of slippers utilize these off sooner than stepping onto tatami), don’t point along with your chopsticks, salvage no longer stand them honest in a bowl of rice or spend them to cross meals to one other individual’s chopsticks, perform slurp your noodles, don’t pour your admire drink – pour for others on your celebration and impart ‘kanpai’ sooner than drinking, don’t tip, don’t focus on loudly on public transport or fabricate calls on your phone, blow your nostril in restrooms as opposed to in public while you might per chance well per chance presumably, and connect some distance from strolling and eating when that you just might per chance well per chance presumably catch of. Oh, and try to be polite always, cos, y’know, it’s Japan.
I hope this has been generous – possess a large outing!
Cam Shea is Editor in Chief for IGN’s Australian notify crew and tries to exhaust as worthy time as that you just might per chance well per chance presumably catch of in Japan. He’s on Twitter.