Japan, the land of the rising sun.
MY story is from a small village in the coastal part of Japan. This village comes under the Kyoto prefecture. On a three day weekend break, I took a trip to the city of Kyoto.
It was a two hour drive plus a thirty minute journey by train to the city centre. Apart from being the nearest city Kyoto was also the cultural heart of Japan. It was jam packed with culture and tradition.
A walk through the streets filled me with excitement. At every turn my western perspective was challenged by something new and interesting cultural norm.
The city folk and friendly and helpful to tourists. There is stark contrast between them and the village folk. The village folk were friendly and helpful as well but they were warm too. I guess city life makes people too focused on their own self.
On the plus side, I am the very few westerners living in the village but in the city of Kyoto, there are many. This being an advantage to me as I get a lot of stares in my village but almost none in the city, this was some amount of relief.
The biggest culture shock I experienced in JApan was the same one mentioned by a female Australian traveller. The people are very polite and go out of their way to be helpful and kind towards you.
They always put others before themselves and will bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable. They made sure that I left the place feeling good about myself.
This at times tends to backfire because they prefer indirect mode of communication to show some displeasure and it can be very difficult for a westerner like me to pick it up.
This can lead to misunderstanding sometimes. At times I just feeling like saying, “Just tell me what you want or tell me what you mean!” at the top of my voice.
Nevertheless I have been here for two months and I will be here for ten more month and I am hoping to explore, understand and enjoy Japan more.
Here are some travel tips for Japan that might make your first visit easy.
Choose the Japanese international All Nippon airways. It is way better than other airlines like the United Airlines. The best part is that it has extra leg room, footrests and personal tv at the back of each seat.
For about $250, you get a pass that will allow you to access any JR line in the country for seven days, including several different shinkansen (high-speed) trains. This will be very useful as travelling by Japanese rail can get very expensive
If you are in Tokyo, Tokyo subway fares are extremely cheap (in the $2 range), but very easy to get from electronic ticket machines, which all have English menu options.
But outside of Tokyo this JR pass will be really handy.
Cash over card
Japan is a cash based economy and usage of card even at the most common places just as Mc Donald’s is not seen. So remember to carry cash, lots of it. Use cards like Capital one which don’t charge you extra for making foreign currency withdrawal and transactions.
Also carry a coin purse with you because everything from 1 yen to 500 yen is the form of coins. Thus there will be a lot of spare change to carry.
Convenience of the stores.
Convenience stores here provide all the experience you want. From heated toilet seats to semi nutritious food , you will also be escorted by the polite employees who will help you out with their cute English accents.
A lot of people don’t speak English so it is preferable that you learn some amount of Japanese. There will a lot of people who speak very basic English but you will mostly find them in big cities, metros etc. So that is where you should probably get all the help you need in advance before you head out to the city/ town or village.
Japan focuses a lot on hygiene and sanitation. But a lot of the public toilets don’t have soap dispensers. So get your own little soap dispenser or hand sanitizer.
Make the best of your journey to the Land of the Rising Sun
The Graphic image of the traveller , made from the photo submitted, was done by the author, The Brown Nomad.
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Author: The Brown Nomad
Also published on Medium.