17 Biggest Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Japan

Biggest Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Japan

Visiting Japan? Avoid the 17 biggest mistakes travelers make to ensure a seamless journey!

From choosing the right airport to understanding local customs, this guide will help you navigate the nuances of Japanese travel with ease.

Keep reading to make every moment of your trip as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. 😊

1. Choosing the Wrong Airport

The renowned Haneda Airport
The renowned Haneda Airport – Photo Credit: torsakarin/123RF.com

When traveling to Japan, the first thing that you need to consider is the airport. Choose the right airport to make your trip more convenient and cost-effective.

If your main destination is Tokyo, Haneda Airport is the most suitable choice. While Narita Airport is a considerable alternative, it’s quite far from the city ― roughly a 1.5-hour trip.

Since Narita is within the Chiba Prefecture, you’ll spend extra time to reach Tokyo via Narita Express. The additional travel time to central Tokyo means more expense on transportation.

If you arrive at Haneda Airport, you’ll reach Tokyo within 30 minutes via the Tokyo Monorail. Haneda is located within the central city, making it the best option for Tokyo tourists.

Travelers heading to Osaka or Kyoto must fly directly to Kansai Airport. Save time and travel challenges by choosing the closest airport to your destination.

2. Arriving During Off-Hours

Fast and efficient train in Japan
Fast and efficient train in Japan

Arriving in Japan during off hours has downsides. From 11 PM to 5 AM, most public transportation systems are already closed.

As such, you’re left to take a taxi if you arrive late at night or during the wee hours of the morning.

Plus, you won’t be able to avail of essential transport services during off hours. Wi-Fi rentals and prepaid travel card issuance normally operate within business hours.

So, plan your itinerary carefully to prevent transportation inconveniences.

3. Ignoring Public Manners

People following the queue up
People following the queue up

Public manners are something that Japanese people pay attention to. Respect their local guidelines, especially when in busy areas like Tokyo.

One common mistake among travelers is speaking loudly on trains. Avoid loud and casual conversations that disturb others.

Another oversight is when you abruptly stop on busy passageways to take photos. Snapping pictures can cause frustration among locals, so be mindful at all times.

Standing on the correct side of the elevator is part of the local etiquette. Be aware of your surroundings and queue up in an orderly manner. Stand on one side when entering and let others exit smoothly.

4. Misunderstanding Japanese Social Interactions

Busy scenes along the market street
Busy scenes along the market street

When traveling to another country, the language barrier is one common challenge among tourists. Social interaction in Japan varies accordingly.

Some locals are kind and accommodating to foreigners. Others may appear distant because they aren’t confident in speaking English.

Their hesitation is often mistaken as rudeness or unwillingness to help. To make your trip more convenient, it’s best to learn basic Japanese phrases.

Some common greetings are Konnichiwa (Hello), Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank you), and Sumimasen (Excuse me). Other basic words that bridge the language gap are Hai (Yes), Lie (No), and Please (Kudasai).

Google Translate is such a helpful tool when conversing with the locals. Translate complex sentences using the tool and make your Japan trip more enjoyable.

5. Failing to Plan Efficient Itineraries

The iconic Kamakura beach scene
The iconic Kamakura beach scene

Planning is an indispensable part of any trip. Make your trip seamless and comfortable with efficient itineraries.

If you’re exploring Tokyo for around five days, try to maximize day trips. Visit nearby places in the city like Yokohama and Kamakura, which are just a one-hour ride via train.

If you’re planning to explore Osaka and Kyoto, it’s best to spend longer days in each location. These locations are three hours away from Tokyo, offering a unique set of attractions.

For Osaka enthusiasts, some of the nearby cities are Kyoto and Nara. Both are good day trips since these are only 30 minutes from Osaka.

One crucial piece of advice before starting any trip is to check on Google Maps. Know the best route that allows you to navigate smoothly and visit different spots with ease.

6. Forgetting to Get a Transport Card

The ever-useful Pasmo Passport Card
The ever-useful Pasmo Passport Card – Photo Credit: PASMO

Forgoing the IC card is a mistake every traveler should avoid. This important travel card is your key to making your Japan adventure a seamless one.

Instead of paper tickets, the IC card is your go-to essential when traveling via train. You just tap them to pay your fee on different public transportation systems.

The IC card caters to all local trains, subways, and buses across the country. Some common IC prepaid cards are PASMO, Suica, and ICOCA

So, as soon as you arrive at the airport, avail yourself of an IC card. Use it to pay when transferring between train lines or using local buses and subways.

With your own IC card, you’re off to a smooth and hassle-free trip!

7. Relying Solely on Cashless Payment

Stack some Japanese banknotes
Stack some Japanese banknotes

In Japan, most grocery stores and shopping malls are now cashless. Attraction tickets are also paid via cards for added convenience. However, the majority of local shops and food stalls only accept cash.

Rural areas and some sections in the metropolis do not allow card payments. Most shrines and temples require cash when paying for souvenirs or giving donations.

Since cash is still the common payment method, make sure to bring yen during your visit. Prepare just enough cash to cater to your entire trip.

Having some cash while traveling is essential to avoid payment challenges. Plus, it gives you more options to try various cultural spots without the hassle.

8. Wearing Uncomfortable Shoes

Prepare your feet for the walking
Prepare your feet for the walking

If you’re a first-time visitor to Japan, you need to know that walking is part of your trip. You’ll be navigating through the train station and exploring tourist spots by foot.

For this reason, you need to invest in good walking shoes. Select comfortable footwear that is ideal for long strolls.

Another thing to consider for the footwear is the ease of usage. Choose something that is easy to wear to save you time.

Do take note that some traditional inns and pubs require visitors to remove their shoes. So, be sure to comply with the local culture at all times.

9. Shoe Etiquette in Japan

Adhere to the shoes-off policy
Adhere to the shoes-off policy – Photo Credit: vanbeets/123RF.com

As mentioned earlier, some establishments require you to remove your shoes. Adhering to their shoe etiquette is another thing to take into account.

In hotel rooms, private homes, and religious spots, take off your shoes before entering. If you’re unsure, you can look for a sign at the entryway. There are also shoe racks near the entrance to keep your shoes.

When placing the shoes, make sure to put them neatly on the rack. The toe section should face towards the door as part of their etiquette.

Also, don’t forget to wear socks and bring an extra pair during colder months.

10. Skipping Advance Bookings

The magical and vibrant atmosphere of Tokyo Disneyland
The magical and vibrant atmosphere of Tokyo Disneyland

Popular attractions in Japan are often fully booked, especially during peak seasons. Avoid any missed opportunities by booking in advance for top-rated tourist activities.

One example is the famous Ghibli Museum, where tickets always sell out fast. Because of the demand, you need to book months before your intended schedule. Plus, they do not sell tickets on-site, so there’s no other option than to purchase in advance.

Other crowd favorites are Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. These tourist sites no longer have on-site counters for physical tickets. So, don’t miss your favorite attractions by getting tickets ahead.

Read Also: Tokyo Disneyland vs DisneySea: 7 Key Differences You Didn’t Know

11. Availability of Public Trash Bins

Limited trash bins in the city
Limited trash bins in the city

Cleanliness is a core part of Japanese culture. However, you can’t find a lot of trash bins in the public. They are not readily accessible on most sidewalks and even parks.

The scarcity of bins means you need to carry your trash until you get back to your hotel.

To make your trip less stressful, it’s best to bring a small trash bag for your waste. Just dispose of them when you find a trash can or upon return to your accommodation.

Most vending machines also have their own recycling bins. These are, however, designed for cans and bottles bought from the machine.

Convenience stores also have their own bins. Bullet trains provide trash bins for snack wrappers and other waste to help you tidy up.

12. Ensuring Internet Access

Using the Internet while in Japan
Using the Internet while in Japan

Ensure a smooth and efficient trip across the country by connecting to the Internet. It’s a must to stay connected during your trip to maximize your time and streamline your itinerary.

Use the internet to connect to essential tools like Google Translate and Google Maps. With a Google map, it’s easy to find the best routes to reach your destination.

It also gives reliable directions and different travel options to fit your preferences. For a smooth internet connection, it’s highly recommended to buy a local SIM card.

Or, you can rent a pocket Wi-Fi device to get access to the internet. Another option would be to arrange your international roaming with your phone provider.

13. Disregarding Smoking Rules

Friendly reminder about local smoking rules
Friendly reminder about local smoking rules – Photo Credit: miluxian/123RF.com

Just like other local guidelines, smoking rules in Japan are highly regulated. In general, smoking in public spaces is prohibited.

There are only some areas marked as designated smoking spots. And if you step outside the section, you’ll be caught by the authorities and pay hefty fines.

There are some pubs and restaurants that permit smoking within their premises.

So, if you’re sensitive to smoke, confirm this with the bar before entering. Or, you can check the outdoor signs on the door if indoor smoking is allowed.

14. Dragging Luggage Around

Luggages during your trip
Luggages during your trip

While public transportation in Japan is seamless, there might be a drawback to it.

Train stations are mostly full of stairs, which means a hassle for those with big luggage. You need to carry your things all by yourself.

So, don’t make the mistake of bringing too much when traveling to Japan. Pack lightly and only bring your travel essentials for easy and comfortable navigation.

Maximize the laundry facilities in motels and hostels to keep your luggage manageable. This way, you won’t be carrying a lot of clothes.

Plus, packing lightly reduces physical strain on your body, especially for long travels.

15. Staying Only in Tokyo

Mount Fuji and its breathtaking beauty
Mount Fuji and its breathtaking beauty

There’s more to discover in Japan beyond its famous capital. Unravel more of Japan’s charms with local cities for a memorable trip.

Expand your travel scope and visit Mount Fuji, Nikko, and Kamakura. These are gorgeous tourist destinations that offer a unique side to Japan.

Luxuriate in the stunning natural landscapes and rich history through these tranquil places. There’s a lot to unpack in the countryside, from hot springs to teahouses.

So, if you want to make the most out of your trip, explore the less popular cities.

Other recommended regions are Kyoto, Osaka, Okinawa, and Hokkaido. These places enrich your overall travel for an unforgettable cultural experience.

16. Using Taxis Wisely

Some taxis in Japan
Some taxis in Japan

Traveling by taxi in Japan is generally expensive. Plus, finding them at night can be challenging. To illustrate, a trip via Osaka metro that only costs 240 yen is around 1,000 yen if riding a taxi.

That’s why if you’re exploring Osaka and Tokyo, the best way is to take the train. The extensive train networks offer seamless travel across the city.

So, if you want to save time and money, trains are highly reliable and cost-effective.

Plus, trains highlight authentic local transportation that’s one for the books. Unless you’re left with no choice, travel by train and be one with the locals.

17. Underestimating Travel Times

Display screens at a train station in Japan
Display screens at a train station in Japan

Public transportation systems in Japan are always on time. That’s why you should pay attention to the arrival and departure schedules.

Never underestimate the train schedules because punctuality is part of their culture. Be on the platform minutes before the scheduled time.

This is important because some stations are very large to navigate. So, finding your platform can be a challenge, especially for first-time tourists.

Know the train schedule in advance so you don’t have to rush during your trip.

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