Well, after about 5 weeks in Japan I want to write something. Isn’t my first time there, actually I’m kinda Europe-Japan commuter so I know most tricks and tips, and also most bad thing.
As a tourist
Well, I’m totally out of hotel and JR pass informations. 🙂
A big advice about Couchsurfing in Japan: Do your tasks earlier!!! Like, very very earlier. Couchsurfing in Japan is kinda hard to get. I never used but I know travellers who got in trouble without being able to find a host. Yes, is not an easy task like in another countries (Turkey for example, where is like a contest who’s hosting more travelers haha). So make your trip in advance as much as you can. Also, write to people 🙂
Getting in…is easy. Just book your ticket and be sure you have the right visa, an adress (host, friend, hotel, etc) and a phone number (in Japan). Also, be sure you don’t carry any prohibited things (like, food, vegetables, animals, spiders, fleas, lol.. :)) ). I had a bad experience in 2013 with a plant; so since then I’m traveling “light”.
Hitchhiking: forget it. Is prohibited by law, acces to Parking/ Service area is also prohibited by walking, highways are closed for walking and of course, is punishable if you enter there. Also, japanese don’t know what hitchiking is. But still there are a few people who did it (check hitchwiki). I still find it quite impossible. And I don’t really know if it worth. A flight from Tokyo to Narita can be 80 USD round way 🙂 Also, you can pay 30-40 USD just to go to the “exit” of the city, and don’t forget Tokyo actually is a whole region (Kanto) so good luck 😀
Usually 100 JPY = 1 USD
Transportation is expensive as hell. If you’re staying somewhere far from Tokyo Downtown, be prepared (you and your pocket) ecause you’re gonna spent up to 1000 JPY/ way 🙂
Food is cheap (with ~600 JPY you can eat enough, and that’s a full menu in an ordinary restaurant). You can also find in Konbini (convenience stores) something to eat but meh.. 🙂
For me being in Japan the food was so-so. Actually I used to eat more chinese and indian food. Japanese food is good, for those wo can taste raw fish/ meat/ egg/ etc. So Ramen, Gyoza, Chahan, Kare rules for me.
Water/ Tea/ Refreshing drinks about 100-150 JPY, stores and vending machines
Beer is about 150 JPY in stores. When going out be prepared to spend 1000 JPY (or 1000+ taxes). But, you can find for 600 in bars too. When I want out with a russian girl we found a nice pub in Roppongi where the beer was 600 JPY (plus taxes, +350 JPY paid once/ person as guest).
Tokyo in night is boring, I was walking with a friend for 10km, from Shinjuku to Ueno. Nobody on streets, like… nobody. 40 thousands millions people sleeping OMFG! Well, in Ueno we found some chinese prostitutes; can’t forget “masaj iku” (come to masage) and some girls holding a “Only 3000 JPY” board. Lol. That was at 4am in Ueno.
Still, Japan can be funny. There is still some hope, if you find right people 🙂
Language: Learn some Japanese or you’ll be dead. And I’m not kidding. Don’t expect 98.67% of japaneses to speak english. That means 1.33% of them are quite hard to reach :)) But still, body language works anywhere. At least in Japan you’re able to use Google Translate in a good way, well, try this with Georgian (Saqartvelo) where google don’t even know how to read this noodle style alphabet.
There are only a few cool japaneses and I’m happy I met some during those years. But usually they are travelers so they are different.
The really bad thing about Japan is the average age…which is pretty old. Like, most people are old and I think in less than 20 years japan will have 1/3 of the actual population, in the best case. So, what’s gonna happen with this country?
+++ Japan has a very negative birth rate. People love, get married, get a pet, work, live, get old, spend the money, die and…who’s gonna populate this country?
Well, that’s happening in most high developed countries but still, not in that way like, not that bad like in Japan. Manga culture, pachinko (slots) and video games ruined the future of such a beautiful country.
Usually Japan is a safe country. Like, there are not so many robberies, kidnapings or so.. But sometimes a bad guy wake up in a bad mood and push someone in front of the train (pretty common), enter with a truck in one of the biggest road crossings (Akihabara), or just kill someone randomly on street. Or sometimes someone is thinking to play Flight Simulator in real life and hijack a plane (ANA Flight 61) because “is cool”.
But don’t worry about this things. Cyanide and Hapiness, book your vacation in Japan because is safer than in Europe. Lol… Japan is still far more safe than 80% of the world.
Things to do in Tokyo
Tokyo Tower – Not only chineses copy things, japanese do it also. So if you miss the european lanmark, you can find it’s copy in Tokyo 🙂
Tokyo Sky Tree – The panorama is cool, but is kinda expensive and really, I don’t know if it’s worth..
Tokyo Disney Resort – Haha! Grab some friends and spend some days there. It totally worth the experience. And get a fastpass if you don’t want to spend 70% of the day waiting to catch a ride.
Akihabara – Manga, slots, cameras and any IT&C fan should go there. Is one of my favorite places on earth 🙂
Roppongi – I spent a night there in a nice bar/ barbeque. Jomon Roppongi, they’re open until 5am, they have good prices (beer and food) and also they have clients! And is pretty nice to sit fith your legs outside and drink there, chat and see other drunk japaneses trying to walk.
Experience the train/ metro at 4-6pm, it’s unique :))
Things to do out of Tokyo:
Fuji Q/ Fujiyama
Fuji-san, hike in night to catch the sunrise over the ocean
Ushiku Daibutsu: actually is pretty close to Tokyo in Ibaraki prefecture. And is really nice 🙂
Nikko, but is kinda far and
Nagoya – In my opinion, is better than Tokyo 🙂
Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto – cheap flights, beautiful places
Sapporo, I haven’t been there…but someday I’ll go. I think is far more different than all Japan, kinda cold and more “isolated” than the “normal” Japan.
Okinawa: pretty far and expensive…and as a tourist I don’t know if it’s worth (Thailand or Indonesia is far better).
Japan is extremely different than any other place on earth. And that could be good (for Japan culture fans) or dissapointing for those wo enjoy too much the “western” culture.
Usually, don’t expect too much socialization in Japan. There are very few japaneses which are open to western lifestyle and usually they were living abroad.
But overall, the Japanese experience it’s worth. In my opinion, is not a place to live (as foreigner) because the lack of socialization culture (and japanese lifestyle at all), but is a place to visit and enjoy it, at least a few weeks.