5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

prepare-japan-trip

Travelling to Japan takes more preparation than your average holiday – at least that’s what I found. Some things I wish I’d looked into earlier than I did, others I was glad that I had researched long in advance! Here are the five things I think everyone should do before getting on a plane to Japan:

Book hotels

So this may seem obvious to you, but I made the mistake of booking my flights long in advance then waiting several months before bothering to look into hotels. Hotels are expensive in Japan, especially during cherry blossom season! Don’t leave it to the last minute. For Tokyo, we ended up splurging on the wonderful Grand Hyatt Hotel for a few days, then being very disappointed by an APA Hotel in Shinjuku. Kyoto hotels seemed so busy at the weekends that we went to Osaka for a couple of nights before going there. If you want a more authentic experience, book a ryokan well in advance, preferably one that will serve food. If you’re thinking about trying a capsule hotel (I want to do this next time!) have a look at tips from Travel Outlandish!

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

If you are going to be taking a few trains while you’re in Japan, you need to buy a JR Pass before you get there. This will be a lot cheaper than buying tickets in Japan and will save you the hassle of buying a ticket for every journey.  We found that our pass was really convenient for travelling between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Arashiyama and Nara. You can even use it for the JR lines within Tokyo.

Order a sim card or portable wifi

You can have a sim card or a portable wifi device sent to your hotel so that it’s there when you arrive. I used Japan Wireless, although there are a few other companies offering the same service. I found having a SIM card with data to be incredibly useful for using Google Maps and looking up where to go next when we were out and about. No worrying about the phone bill when you get back home!

Learn a few words of Japanese

I found that the locals actually spoke more English than I expected, but knowing a few words of Japanese was still really useful. I loved memorising things from Lonely Planet Phrasebook and Dictionary, and it was small enough to carry in my pocket. I also found a few apps which were good for practising pronunciation, like ‘Mirai Japanese’.

Find out if you need to book things in advance

By the time I found out that you needed to make a reservation by mail for the magnificent Kokudera moss temple in Kyoto, it was too late! To visit an owl cafe, it’s best to email a few days in advance. If you’re into your food, you might want to reserve some of the top restaurants before you fly out to Japan.

Some things you don’t need to book in advance include your Pasmo (which can be used for public transport in different cities), the famous robot restaurant in Shinjuku, and seats on trains which can be reserved on the day you are travelling.

 

Have a look at my other posts for more tips:

 

If you’re going to Japan, is there anything more you would like to know about?

If you’ve been there before, do you have any other tips?

 

How to prepare your trip to Japan, from buying a Japan Rail Pass to booking a trip to an owl cafe!

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  • Thanks so much for the great tips! I’m going to Japan in August so this is super helpful.

    Best,
    Sarah

    • Hey Sarah, I’m so glad you found this useful! I’ll be posting some more articles about Japan soon so stay tuned 🙂

  • What great tips and I hadn’t thought about a wireless sim card! So smart. I am going to Europe this summer and am going to look into that. Thank you!

    • A SIM card is so useful for checking your itinerary Google Maps (and for Instagram too!). Definitely recommend looking into it.

  • Jacquelyn Lippert

    Keeping this in my back pocket for if I ever get to visit Japan! http://www.mixplorology.com

  • Hello! I love Japan.. I lived and studied there in college. Missing it!

    I’m also a blogger. I blog about art/lifestyle and diy mostly. I was searching for beautiful style blogs that I enjoy so that I can expand my blog community. <3

    I'm looking for any blog-community building advice you could offer as well! I think it's more tough when one has their own domain; it's standalone from the community. I've heard of bloggers promoting content through blog listings like bloglovin', as well as sites where you can earn promotional opportunities for having good content content like Advowire (https://advowire.com//users/profile/new?referral_code=AW36707). Do you use any of these sites to promote content or to collaborate with other bloggers? Do you know of other sites/resources you'd like to recommend?

    Thank you so much for reading! Hope to hear from you. xox

  • My boyfriend and I really want to visit Japan! Saving this for when we’re ready to book our trip!

    • I recommend going there beginning of April for the cherry blossoms! Next time I’d like to go skiing there or see the autumn colours. It’s possibly my favourite country to visit ever so 100% recommend booking that trip 🙂

  • Very useful tips. I hope to visit Japan in the next year or so.

    • Totally recommend it! Favourite country I have visited so far, I think.

  • I would love, love, LOVE to visit Japan. And I know I will do one day soon! Until then, I’ll keep on reading up about it and wishing I was there! Great tips! 🙂

    Technicolour Dreamer

  • Hi Anne- Sophie just come across your post on Pinterest and this is super helpful. I’m planning to go to Japan next Spring. Thanks for the tip about booking hotels in advance! Can you buy the JR ticket in advance online? We’re thinking 7 days in Tokyo, 3 in Kyoto and 1 in Osaka (and squeeze in Nara too!) do you think that sounds ok?

    Hanh | hanhabelle

    • It’s so nice to hear that you discovered my blog through Pinterest!
      Yes you have to buy the JR pass before you go to Japan as it’s not sold over there. Have a look at japanrailpass.net.
      Your itinerary sounds perfect. Definitely get Nara in there, that was one of the biggest highlights of my trip.
      Anne-Sophie xx

      • Great thanks for the tip and link! Yes my sister recommended Nara too 🙂

        I saw on your Twitter you’re going to Croatia? I’ve just come back from there, such an amazing country. Let me know if you want any tips 🙂 xx

        • Hi Anne-Sophie, I’m re reading your post again! I noticed you said the APA Hotel in Shinjuku was bad. This is where we’ve booked for our stay in Toyko, the reviews looked good but is it that bad?! Thanks for your help 🙂

          • Hey Hanh! The APA hotel was super basic, with the most tiny hotel room I have EVER seen. We had to jump over our suitcases to get to the bed. Staff at reception didn’t seem to know much English either so couldn’t help us to find things in the area. The location is great though and the room seemed clean, so it was fine for a few days. You might have a better experience than we did 🙂

          • Thanks for getting back to me Anne-Sophie! Oh dear that doesn’t sound good at all, I may have to re think that hotel. It did good reviews though and the hotels are getting booked up for our dates! x

          • If you’re not planning to spend much time at the hotel it should be fine though! We stayed at the Kabukicho Tower one, not sure what the others are like. x

          • Thanks, on 2nd thoughts the room is tiny compared to others!! We want to comfortable so managed to find a slighter bigger room else where 🙂 x

  • Great tips, I would absolutely love the visit Japan one day, it’s so stunning!

    Anika | anikamay.co.uk

  • I really want to go to Japan and so these tips are really helpful! Thanks 🙂

    http://www.wanderergirl.com

  • I would love to go to japan one day! this is such a helpful post x
    http://www.cheriexox.me

  • Winnie Shek

    Thanks for posting this, i’m heading over to Tokyo in Sept! This is great motivation and food for thought! I would love to travel out to Kyoto/Osaka and head to some onsens but with only being there for a short period i’m not sure if there’s enough time. Would it be worth an overnight trip?

    • Hi Winnie! How long do you have in Tokyo? I think Kyoto is definitely worth a trip to see the more traditional side of Japan. If you only have a few days I would say skip Osaka as there is less to see there. Nara is wonderful as well so if you like deer, parks, and temples you should go there.