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What to find out about traveling in Japan? 7 suggestions from frequent travelers

Japan has long captivated travelers.

But a lot of its most famous qualities — from the cuisine to the country’s nationwide culture of civility — can initially be befuddling for outsiders too.

To help travelers bridge the cultural gap, CNBC Travel asked frequent visitors for his or her single best piece of recommendation when visiting Japan.

1. Speak softly and carry your trash

“Japanese culture is about respecting your environment and the people around you. Don’t talk in your phone on public transit and in confined areas around other people.

Also, savoring your food is a very important show of respect, so don’t eat while walking. Instead, sit down and luxuriate in each bite.

Why travel interest in Japan has increased since the pandemic

And be prepared to carry onto your trash around town while traveling and sightseeing — possibilities of finding a trash can are slim to none! Locals generally bring a small bag to hold the day’s trash until they get home. Japan could be very clean, and you may find public bathrooms to be spotless in comparison with other countries. Basically, try to depart no trace.”

Tyler Monahan, New Jersey-based assistant golf caddie manager married to a Japanese citizen. He has made three trips to Japan totaling 155 days.

2. Punctuality is essential (as are jazz clubs)

“Trains are exceedingly punctual, so two minutes is an enormous deal — if it isn’t arriving at the precise time, it’s a unique train! If you miss a train in an enormous city like Osaka or Tokyo, one other can be there in minutes, so don’t sweat it. In the countryside though, it could possibly be hours, or tomorrow!

Unlike trains in lots of cities that pull up and permit loads of time for boarding, trains in Japan arrive and depart quickly. “Two minutes is an enormous deal,” said architect Henry Rose.

Source: Oliver Horovitz

Also, know the concept of “last train.” The whole train scene, each private and non-private, shuts down roughly between midnight and 5 a.m., which might seem a bit early in big cities, so be warned. In rural areas, it will probably be much earlier. Be prepared to take a cab, or should you’re into it, explore this nocturnal world — perhaps at a jazz club that stays open until the primary train starts — which in big cities is a whole economy unto itself.” 

Henry Rose, Seattle-based architect, who has made greater than 10 trips to Japan.

3. To meet people, get Japanese business cards

“Exchanging ‘meishi’ is a wonderful, and serious, tradition in Japan. Cards are presented with each hands and a deep bow. It can be probably the most unexpected and fun icebreakers you should utilize to fulfill latest people.

The creator, Oliver Horovitz (right), standing next to a person inspecting Horovitz’s meishi, or business card.

Source: Oliver Horovitz

Get cards printed entirely in Japanese — you should utilize Google Translate for the interpretation. The staff at Kinkos — positioned in all major cities in Japan — will walk you thru the entire process. After this, locals can be shocked, and absolutely delighted, that you’ve got meishi for them. During my last trip to Japan, I had 100 cards printed in Kyoto. I handed them out throughout the remainder of the trip, at all times to smiles.”

4. Bring fun socks

“Bare feet in Japan is an enormous no-no. Travelers should expect to remove their shoes often in Japan and may at all times have socks on after they accomplish that. The removal of shoes might even occur in places which can be unexpected, like a restaurant.

Travelers can consider tabi socks, a split-toe Japanese sock dating to the 1400s, which can be worn with thonged shoes.

Tina Horne | Istock | Getty Images

Also, it is not uncommon to have slippers on the entrance to public bathrooms, with the expectation that restroom visitors use these slippers and return them promptly. Be sure to only pack and wear your best (clean and hole-free) socks while in Japan. If you’ve got a group of fun or interesting socks, wear them in Japan where they’ll actually be seen and admired!” 

Jolaine Pfeifer, Aspen, Colorado-based school administrator. She has made nine trips to Japan, on top of spending her middle and highschool years in Yokosuka.

5. Don’t knock convenience stores

“Rest assured, the one resemblance these little oases should their U.S. counterparts is within the name! Stores like 7-Eleven and Lawson are immaculately clean and have absolutely anything you would possibly need, including a number of go-to items that I hunt down every time:

  • An ideal choice of onigiri, that are sandwich-sized rice triangles wrapped in seaweed and crammed with things like salmon, tuna, eggs and pickled plum.

Participants taste onigiri at a product meeting for 7-Eleven Japan in Tokyo on Jan. 23, 2024. Staff and suppliers gathered to debate flavors, textures and fillings for the Japanese riceballs, one in every of 7-Eleven’s most vital products, with greater than 2 billion sold every year.

Noriko Hayashi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

  • The coffee — especially at 7-Eleven. The automated state-of-the-art machines grind the beans and brew a few of the most effective coffee I’ve had, with a number of preference options like temperature, brew strength, milk, sweeteners and flavors.
  • These little bottles of flavored vitamin C shots called You-C1000, which I greatly appreciated within the winter on Hokkaido backcountry ski adventures. They are available tasty flavors like apple, orange or lemon and are a handy solution to get vitamin C day by day.”

Jeffrey Cole, Colorado-based leadership coach, who has made 4 trips to Japan, spanning the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern island of Miyakojima.

6. Hire a guide – even should you think you do not need one

“The language and culture barrier is real, and an area will show you things in places you’d never get to see on your personal.

I did this at Tsukiji Fish Market. I’d been there perhaps five times before, but finally took a guide with my grandfather, and it was a complete latest world. I’ve also done this at Akihabara Electric Town and for a number of culinary tours.”

Miles Ashton, a Chicago-based entrepreneur who has made greater than 10 trips to Japan, including a nine-month stint living in Tokyo.

7. Shop at Tokyu Hands

“Not only is the layout a blast, with a unique department on every level — however the merchandise is extensive and unique. There are 60 stores across the country, and so they concentrate on hobby, home improvement and lifestyle products.

It’s an incredible place to seek out inexpensive, non-touristy gifts. They have the most effective pens, papers, and organizers, in addition to camping supplies — if it’s small, efficient, and practical, they’ve it! 

Tokyu Hands, which has been rebranded to Hands, is known for selling themed household and sweetness novelty items.

Source: Oliver Horovitz

Two of the best things I’ve purchased are a collapsible Shoji lamp, and a circular cooler carry case that holds a flower-shaped ice pack for under your hat plus a freezable U-shaped neck ring.”

Kris Beyer, New York-based owner of Destroyer Park Golf Course. She has remodeled 20 trips to Japan and lived there as a toddler and teenager. Kris’ father, Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, was a famous wrestler in Japan.

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