With Japan just one year away, rugby fans are eager to know more about this unique destination and what to expect. In traditional Gullivers fashion, we're keen to ensure that everyone travelling is well prepared and we're delighted to release this content in conjunction with the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO). It's great to collaborate with the JNTO and produce 9 top tips for travelling to Japan! These really are the absolute must knows before taking your trip of a lifetime!
Japan is a country full of amazing once in a lifetime experiences and whether it’s the view over Kobe City bay from the top of Mt Rokko or the number of weird and wacky goods on offer at the country’s vending machines, you’ll no doubt be looking to share these with people back home. It's important to note that your 3G or 4G mobile phones will work in Japan, however roaming charges can be expensive and while Japan phone networks have long existed within their own bubble, there are a number of alternatives available to help keep you connected. One of these is rental wifi - a low-cost rechargeable dongle, reserved in advance and ready for collection at most airports, giving you unlimited internet access wherever you are for a set number of days. Otherwise, you can always opt for one of the many Japan-friendly data-only SIM cards on offer and purchasable both in the UK or from airports in Japan.
There is a perception of Japan as being a destination that is difficult to travel due to the language barrier. In reality, you will find that a majority of destinations will have signage and announcements in both English and Japanese, and that Japanese people, though shy, will be more than happy to drop what they’re doing and see how they can help whether it be using the English that they know, or by gestures and hand actions. That said, there may inevitably be some occasions when you want a back-up plan and there are a number of apps in circulation for those same situations. While you will be escorted by English speaking assitance and Gullivers Tour Managers for all tour travel, the Hyperdia app is your best friend when it comes to train travel, complete with route planners, arrival/departure platform indications and options to show only JR Pass-accessible routes. Equally, the Waygo app and the Japan Official Travel App will help you translate Japanese signage using your smartphone camera, and provide you with in-depth destination information respectively.
Although official figures have the population size shrinking, Japan’s cities are still relatively densely populated and larger tourist areas, in particular, can become pinch points for crowding. If you know you’re heading to somewhere firmly on the tourist map, it may be worth getting an early night and setting the alarm clock a couple of hours earlier in order to skip the crowds and make sure you’re able to experience Japan in all of its tranquility.
One thing that most people remark upon is how clean Japanese streets are; a surprise given how gargantuan a city Tokyo Metropolitan is as well as the relative lack of bins around. Cleanliness is a big part of Japanese culture, where littering is frowned upon, so it may be a good idea to bring a small plastic or paper bag with you while you’re out on the road for you to use to stockpile any wrappers and deposit them at the next bin you come across.
There is a big culture around gift giving in Japan and, whilst you won’t be expected to come prepared with anything, don’t be surprised if you are presented with one of the many artisanal goods that Japan prides itself on. This is largely to do with the Japanese attention to hospitality but something as simple as a keychain with the Union Jack will go much further that any tip ever would in showing your appreciation to whoever it is that has inevitably gone out of their way to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Bringing a couple of souvenirs from home will also mean luggage space on the way back for the number of intricate Japanese goodies you will find yourself bulk buying before your return home.
The fact that Japanese people enjoy gift giving so much is underlined by how adverse they are to receiving lump sums of cash. Tipping is generally considered rude in Japan where a ‘thank you’ will be warmly accepted, with the main exception of some tour guides who will occasionally accept a tip in cash enclosed in an envelope. More broadly, however, Japan is generally still a cash-based society where petty crime is so infrequent that it is commonplace for people to go about daily life with large sums of money on their person. Card machines are beginning to grow in number, especially in more cosmopolitan areas, but many will still not accept international bank cards so keeping a store of cash with you is always recommended. Find your nearest 7/11 convenience store (usually no further than 10 minutes walk from each other) or Post Office to make international cash withdrawals (check with your bank for more information on any applicable fees).
Trains run on time, prices are transparent and convenience stores are exactly what they profess to be. The latter, in particular, are a constant source of surprise to international visitors who never cease to marvel at the range of goods on offer and the quality of the food options provided at a low cost across any of Japan’s many convenience store chains (FamilyMart, 7/11, Lawsons, Circle K etc.). This mentality also applies to cafés, bars and restaurants. Built-up as they are, Japan’s otherwise modest looking cityscapes can often hide a treasure trove of tardis-like establishments, serving quality cuisine in creatively embellished settings. Don’t dismiss somewhere just because of its unassuming exterior or its fifth floor location. Look up and at the shop panels adorning the walls of most commercial buildings and even train stations - you will likely find something truly spectacular and unique.
Japan is a large country with a great deal of regional diversity, making it an endless goldmine of cultural treasures that will have you jumping on high speed trains from region to region. When hopping from one destination to another, Japan’s extremely efficient luggage forwarding services are the best way to get your luggage safely to your next destination. Your luggage is collected from your hotel the night before you travel (or very early the morning of your departure) and is delivered to your destination hotel on the day of your arrival. We will be making use of this service for our train travel (included in the price of the tour), and it is worth considering when planning your packing to have a good-sized day rucksack to carry any essentials (medicine, valuables etc).
With so much to do and see in Japan, it will feel like your time is limited and you can guarantee you'll be looking to make the most of your time there. Be prepared - the smallest things will make sure your journey around Japan and interaction with locals goes smoothly. Here's a few things to prepare:
This content was released in conjunction with the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).