Top Tips for Travel in Japan

Top Tips for Travel in Japan

Traveling to Japan will be arguably one of the most fascinating — and probably confusing — experiences of your life. Here’s a handful of tips to help you get the best out of it.

It pays to be transport savvy

Japan Rail Pass

Only available to visitors from outside Japan, the JR (Japan Rail) Pass offers unlimited use of Japan Rail (JR) trains for one to three weeks (including bullet trains, called Shinkansen in Japanese) and is a handy way to save money in the long run. For example, if you’re coming from Yokohama to Kobe for a game with a little sightseeing stop-off in Kyoto and Osaka, and returning to Tokyo within a week, a seven-day JR Pass costing ¥38,880 (approx. $350 US) will be cheaper than paying for individual bullet train and local train tickets. 

Domestic Airlines

If you plan to make only a single trip to another city, many of the domestic airlines like JAL Group (Japan Airlines), ANA Group (All Nippon Airways), Peach Aviation and Jetstar Japan offer incredibly competitive fares. Jetstar and Peach regularly offer flights from Tokyo to Sapporo or Fukuoka for around ¥5,000 ($50) each way depending on the season.

Subway: Pasmo and Suica

If you’re just looking at staying in the city centres, then pick up a Pasmo or Suica card. Available at most train ticket machines (for a ¥500 deposit), these cards are an ideal alternative to buying individual paper tickets — which are way too annoying to use — and can be topped up with cash as you go. They can also be used in selected convenience stores and vending machines just like a payWave contactless card.

Avoid the metro at peak hour if you’re claustrophobic because major lines get really squishy! Typically the busiest times are between 7:00 and 9:00, 18:00 and 19:00, and the last train which, depending on the line, usually runs somewhere between 11:30 and 00:30.

For information on getting to and around Yokohama specifically, check the Welcome to Yokohama page. 

Cash is king

Where to withdraw

For foreign cards, the best places to withdraw cash are postal ATMs and 7-Bank ATMs in 7-11 convenience stores. Be aware that Japan Post ATMs run on typical postal office hours, but 7-11s are 24 hours. Withdrawal fees depend on your bank, however they’re typically not cheap so it’s worth getting enough out to last you a couple of days. 

Daily budget

Depending on how much you like to drink and where you want to eat, around ¥5,000 will be sufficient for typical daily expenses like a cheap lunch, mid-range dinner and a few drinks at the match. Japan is relatively safe, so carrying more cash than usual isn’t an issue. Locals normally have at least ¥10,000 in their wallet and wouldn’t think twice about having it hanging out their back pocket. 

Location, location, location (know it)

There's a map for that

Unlike many Western cities, the Japanese street address system is a bizarre network of “chomes” (meaning divisions, pronounced “choh-may”), and difficult-to-decipher blends of numbers and kanji characters. The system is so intricate that even many taxi drivers regularly get stumped, so if you are in a taxi, it’s worth trying to find a landmark near your arrival destination to play it safe. In Yokohama, landmarks like the Yokohama Landmark Tower, Cosmo World, Yokohama Marine Tower and Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse are good ones to remember as you get to grips with the layout of the city.

Also, if you are looking up a location on Google maps, the app can get confused with English translations, so always copy and past the kanji version of the address into your route finder if there is one.

Here’s an example of this mix-up, International Stadium Yokohama where the rugby matches will be held is: 〒222-0036 横浜市港北区小机町3300. However if you put this in google translate to English, the address becomes 〒222-0036, Kanagawa ken, Yokohama-shi, Kohoku-ku, Wakanamachi 3300, a residential location about 15 minutes away from the stadium.

When you’re heading to a rugby game, you’d best refer to “International Stadium Yokohama” or “Nissan Stadium” in a taxi or when asking for directions. Be careful not to get this confused with the Yokohama Stadium, which is the home of the city baseball team, DeNA Baystars. 

Staying connected

Data SIM

For those with an unlocked phone, a data SIM could be a useful and affordable option. There are a number of different SIMs on the market; most airports in Japan will be stocked with counters offering rental SIM cards, as well as pocket Wi-Fi (see below). 

Pocket Wi-Fi

A rental pocket Wi-Fi is another option and one worth considering if you’re planning to work on the go, travel with a partner or just use a whole lot of data. They can connect to a number of devices at once and generally have larger data limits. Plus you can arrange everything online, before you arrive. Reliable providers include Global Advanced Communications, PuPuRu Wi-Fi, and Japan Wireless who all offer airport pick up, hotel delivery and self-addressed pre-paid envelopes for easy returns — just pop it in a post box when you’re done!

Free Wi-Fi

For free internet, hover around the nation’s ubiquitous convenience stores, major railway stations and fast food chains (like McDonald’s and Starbucks) most of which offer free internet of varying quality.

There’s also the “Free Wi-Fi Passport”, a service that hooks foreigners up to the 400,000 Softbank (one of the country's biggest phone providers) hotspots across Japan. All you have to do is call their toll-free number (*8180) from a foreign cell while connected to the Softbank network.

Yokohama Free Wi-Fi is a public network available in Sakuragicho Station Square, Nippon Maru Memorial Park, and Grand Mall Park.

Another alternative is to download an app which connects you to another of Japan’s major phone providers’ public Wi-Fi hotspots. Travel Japan Wi-Fi by AU and Japan Connected Wi-Fi from NTT Docomo are the most reliable, and fairly easy to use once you’ve gone through the rigmarole of setting up an account.

For sightseeing

Day trips

Browse the Welcome to Yokohama page as well as our activity listings for top things to do within Yokohama between matches. For those looking to venture out further, some of the nearby areas worth visiting include the hot spring hub of Hakone, the historic Kamakura (often referred to as ‘little Kyoto’), and Enoshima a small shrine-dotted island with incredible ocean views. All of these spots are less than an hour and a half from central Yokohama.

The Rugby World Cup is being held during one of the most temperate times of the year in Japan, so do get out and see the sights if you have the time. If you plan a day trip, try to avoid the weekend as it can get quite a bit more crowded when hordes of families are also trying to make the most of the good weather.

Many train companies offer special discount passes to tourists. The Hakone Free pass and Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass are two of the most popular ticket packages for day trippers, and usually come with coupons for restaurants and souvenirs in the area too.  

Trying not to embarrass yourself

Stick to the left

Unlike the US, but like Australia and the UK, the traffic here flows on the left hand side — and that’s all types of traffic; bike, car, train, and most importantly foot. To avoid swimming against the human tide, or blocking the tidy flow up the subway escalators, stick to the left.

Thank you for smoking indoors

Smoking is very much an indoor activity; smoking on the streets in general is frowned upon and can result in a fine. However, you will find fenced off smoking areas near many of the major train station outlets. In many bars, some cafes and restaurants, smoking indoors is completely OK, so if that bothers you ask for a “kin-en-seki” (non-smoking seat). The Food and Drink listings show you which places are smoking and non-smoking in Yokohama. 

Slurp and shout

Staying on the theme of dining, there are a handful of helpful tips you should know. To begin, audibly slurping up that hot bowl of ramen noodles is totally commonplace, so feel free to give it a go! To get a waiter’s attention in a busy restaurant, raising your hand or calling out “Sumimasen” (Excuse me) is the best way to go about it. It may feel rude but it’s protocol. 

Don’t tip

Tipping is not a common practice here, so don’t worry about it. However, many places often have a small “table charge” (like a service fee) so don’t be too shocked to see an extra few hundred yen added to the total bill amount. 

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