Prepare for your first visit to Japan

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Your First Time in Japan: A Helpful Guide on What to Expect

Are you planning your first visit to Japan and feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!  Your favorite travel advisor team is here to give you a comprehensive guide on what to expect during your first time in the Land of the Rising Sun.

1. Cultural Etiquette:

Japan is known for its rich culture and strong emphasis on respect and manners. When visiting Japan, be sure to bow as a sign of respect when meeting someone new. You should also remember to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home or certain establishments, as it is considered disrespectful to wear outdoor shoes indoors.

2. Language Barrier:

While Japan is a modern and technologically advanced country, not everyone may speak English fluently. It’s helpful to learn a few basic Japanese phrases such as “hello” (konichiwa) and “thank you” (arigato) to make your interactions easier. Also, carrying a pocket-sized phrasebook or using translation apps can come in handy.

List of common phrases to use for your visit in Japan
Hello — Konnichiwa (こんにちは)
Excuse me — Sumimasen (すみません)
Yes — Hai (はい)
No — Iie (いいえ)

3. Efficient Public Transportation:

Japan is known for its efficient and extensive public transportation system, including the famous Shinkansen bullet trains. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of transportation options available, such as trains, buses, and subways, so you can navigate the cities easily.

4. Delicious Cuisine:

Japanese cuisine is renowned worldwide for its freshness, quality, and unique flavors. Don’t be afraid to try new dishes such as sushi, ramen, tempura, and tonkatsu. Be prepared for dining experiences that may involve sitting on tatami mats or using chopsticks, as these are common customs in Japan.

5. Stunning Landscapes:

Japan is a country of contrast, with bustling cities coexisting alongside tranquil temples and scenic landscapes. Be sure to explore the beautiful cherry blossom trees in spring, visit the historic temples and shrines, and hike up Mount Fuji for a breathtaking view.

Cherry Blossoms in Subashiri, Japan

Cherry Blossoms in Subashiri, Japan

6. Don’t tip at restaurants:

One of the first things you’ll notice when dining out in Japan is that tipping is not expected. In fact, it can be seen as rude to leave extra money behind. Instead, show your appreciation for good service by simply saying “arigatou” (thank you) to your server. And when it comes to eating noodles, don’t be afraid to slurp loudly – it’s actually a sign of enjoyment and respect for the chef.

7. Accommodations in Japan:

Whether you’re staying in a traditional ryokan (inn) or a modern hotel, you can expect impeccable service and attention to detail. Japanese hospitality, known as “omotenashi,” is world-renowned for its warmth and friendliness. From the moment you check in, you’ll be treated like royalty, with staff going above and beyond to make sure your stay is comfortable and memorable.

8. Cash is the preferred payment method in Japan:

While credit cards are accepted at larger stores and hotels, cash is still king in Japan. Be sure to carry enough yen with you for shopping, dining, and transportation, as many smaller establishments only accept cash. ATMs can be found in convenience stores and post offices, but it’s a good idea to withdraw money in advance to avoid any inconvenience.

9. Etiquette when visiting Shrines and Temples:

One of the most important aspects of Japanese culture is the proper etiquette when visiting shrines and temples. These sacred sites are places of worship and should be treated with the utmost respect. Before entering a shrine or temple, it’s customary to bow slightly as a sign of reverence. Once inside, be sure to follow any specific rules or guidelines, such as not taking photos in certain areas or refraining from loud conversations.


Chureito Pagoda in Arakura Sengen Shrine.

Chureito Pagoda in Arakura Sengen Shrine.

10. Explore beyond Tokyo

Another important tip for first-time visitors to Japan is to travel beyond the confines of Tokyo. While the capital city is a vibrant hub of activity, there is so much more to see and explore in this diverse country. From the historic streets of Kyoto to the stunning landscapes of Hokkaido, Japan is a country that is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Be sure to venture off the beaten path and discover all that Japan has to offer.

Let’s Plan a Trip to Japan

Overall, your first time in Japan is sure to be an unforgettable experience filled with cultural wonders, delicious food, and stunning sights. By being prepared and embracing the unique customs and traditions of Japan, you’ll have a trip of a lifetime.   Work with your Live Well, Travel Often travel advisor to find the best hotels and itinerary suited to your needs.  Start by exploring our travel guides for Japan or give us a call today!

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