If you are thinking of travelling to Japan, here are some tips and ideas to help you make your trip even more enjoyable and memorable.
If you are a teacher, check out the ‘Japan Trip Tips’ in Teachers’ Domain for some ideas and advice from other teachers that will come in very handy for planning and successfully running a fabulous Japan Trip. Password is available on request through the contact page or you can email me at email@example.com for a password. よろしくお願いします。
Whether it is your first or tenth trip to Japan, it is always handy to hear what is popular, working, what to be careful of and some wonderful things to include or set up for your trip.
Below are ideas for a successful and culture-rich visit to the Land of the Rising Sun. Some ideas here are from me, others from teachers, lecturers and friends. If you have some fabulous tips to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add the ideas to the page.
Booking your trip
I advise choosing a company who knows Japan very well and caters for all different budgets, preferences and needs, such as Saizen Tours on the Gold Coast. This saves you time and you are confident that you are staying in quality, well-priced accommodation. Saizen also has access to tour bookings that are hard to get, or impossible with no contacts; like Mazda factory in Hiroshima and the Maiko Experience in Kyoto, just to mention two.
Food Allergy Printable Cards
Many people ask about these cards. Here are some that may come in handy when you travel. Click here to go to the site. There are 9 different cards to print and a blank one for use if you need. Thank you to justhungry.com for providing these. Here is one of them below.
These make public transport so easy and economical. Rail passes can be used on the Shinkansen, allJR lines, some JR buses and the JR ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima. The vouchers for the pass must be purchased outside of Japan and once you arrive, it is necessary to exchange the voucher for a Rail Pass. Again, Saizen Tours can arrange all of your Rail Passes should you decide on purchasing these. Children under 6 years old are free and 6 – 11 years old are half price which makes it great for families.
Which airline and airport?
It is beneficial to check different options for airlines and airports to make your trip as smooth as you can. If possible, a direct flight is preferable as it is so easy and everyone is fresher once they arrive in Japan. For example, Jetstar flies directly to Narita and Kansai airports which is great for Gold Coast residents. Brisbane residents may prefer to fly from Brisbane to Cairns and transferring flights there, rather than making the trip down to the Gold Coast.
Where to start your trip?
Some people find it better to begin in a smaller city rather than a huge city like Tokyo or Osaka. This can be a way to gradually ease yourself into Japan due to the fact that a number of people suffer from culture shock if they have not done much travel before and are confronted by the huge megapolis, and the crowded streets, stations and trains etc. If you fly into Narita Airport in Chiba prefecture, Narita City can be a wonderful introduction to Japan. Flying into Kansai Airport, I recommend taking the train straight from the airport to Kyoto and beginning your trip with the beautiful sights that Kyoto has to offer. Japan Rail Pass vouchers can also be exchanged at the JR Office in Kansai International Airport which makes it efficient.
Where to stay?
Accommodation is very important. It must suit your budget of course, however I think it is important to be walking distance from the station. Getting buses and taxis is time consuming and expensive. If you can walk to the station, it makes it much easier for you and the whole group. There is a wide range of price and style of accommodation. Traditional Ryokan (Japanese style accommodation) are fantastic for a cultural experience. Youth Hostels are excellent also as location and price are generally very good. If you can find a travel company that can recommend accommodation, this can save you time and also give you peace of mind. You can then be assured that your accommodation will be best suited to your needs, freeing you up to do other aspects of planning and preparation.
So many places……where to visit?
Regarding your itinerary, Dr Leigh Kirwan, Japanese language lecturer at Griffith University on the Gold Coast and President of the MLTAQ, sums it up well when he says that “the keyword is contrasts”, explaining how it is best to have the very best range of experiences you can. Dr Kirwan acknowledges that you will visit the large, built-up cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, however recommends visiting a smaller town in the beautiful mountains of Japan so that you can appreciate the real beauty of the country. Some possibilities are Nikko or Hakone near Tokyo or Takayama, situated two and a half hours from Nagoya. The possibilities are endless here. Just keep in mind that you do not want to spend more time in travelling to a destination than you have to explore once you arrive. Also there needs to be sights and activities to do in the town. New attractions and tours are opening up all the time. I am currently looking into the Ninja Village in Mie prefecture as an alternative to the Kaiyuukan (aquarium) in Osaka on our last day in Japan this year to give the students an unique experience, not to forget learning Ninja tricks and dressing up like Ninjas.
Some Other Useful Tips
- Remember that the 5% consumption tax needs to be added in to costings, otherwise there could be a not-so-welcome surprise at the end when you balance your budget.
- You will need to set up International Roaming on a 3G ( or higher) phone. A word of warning; incoming calls are at your expense at the high international rate so you will need to keep incoming calls brief or eliminate them as much as possible. Mobile phones can be rented before you travel which is also recommended. Phone cards can be purchased before you depart and used from Public Phones in Japan which is very cost effective method of contact while you are away. Wi-Fi is available at many places in Japan, making it ever so easy to have regular contact with parents and family with email or Skype, just to mention two.
- Learn a little Japanese before you go. See the Japanese for Travel section for some ideas, however hello, thank you and Japanese for beginning and ending meals are really appreciated by the Japanese. There are so many on-line programs and Apps to help out with your Japanese. Gambatte kudasai (try your best).
- Making 1000 cranes (or any cranes if you can ) and then taking these and placing them at Sadako’s memorial in Hiroshima is a wonderful activity. Friends and friends’ children can be involved in folding the cranes, then threading them and preparing the bag holding the precious cranes. If you then make a movie or photo album of this, it can raise awareness of Hiroshima Day, or Peace Day as it is often called, on August 6th.