Tips for visiting Japan – Part I – Preparing to Leave

When I first started writing JaPlanning it was always my intention, at the end, to create a comprehensive short-hand list of everything we learned about travelling in Japan for visitors to use.

Finally that time has come –  this is it guys, the motherload!

Over the next week or two I will be writing a four-part installment of all the tips you might need to prepare, travel to, and enjoy Japan.

This post will be a collection of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing to travel to Japan. It’s not an exhaustive list and is taken from the posts I’ve already written detailing our preparations for travel.

Part II will be an exhaustive list (or as exhaustive as I can make it) of all the tips we have to offer for your arrival in Japan, use of public transport, and ground work on Japanese etiquette. 

Part III and Part IV will cover specific tips and details for visiting ‘must-see’ locations in Kyoto and Tokyo along with some ideas to keep in mind for the final day of your travels.  

These posts may take me a little while to write.

But for now – let’s dive into preparing to leave!

Kally Harajuku Monique JaPlanning travel Tokyo Takeshita-dori fashion Japan

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
With a little help from Harajuku, you too can look this good!

Tips for planning your trip to Japan

Renewing your Passport (Australian):

  • Do yourself a favour and start nice and early.
  • Your photo guarantor can’t be your spouse, a relative or a housemate.
  • Make your photo guarantor a friend who you see regularly in case there’s an issue with the photos.
  • Know the requirements for passport photos and be fussy about yours.

Booking Flights:

  • Unless you’re planning a complex round-the-world trip save time and money by booking online.
  • To get the best deals book either very early or very late depending on your preference.
  • Search for flights on 3rd party sites (such as cheapflights) but book through the carrier’s website to avoid fees.

Booking Hotels:

  • Take five minutes out of your life to read Troo Adventure’s sage advice for booking a hotel in Japan.
  • Choose hotels that are Japanese owned and operated over Western hotels.
  • Consider staying in Shibuya, Harajuku, or Akihabara for that quintissential ‘Tokyo’ experience.
  • If you can afford it, consider staying at a Ryokan or Minshuku for a traditional experience.
  • Check the discrepancy between your arrival time and your hotel check-in time. Book early arrival if the gap is large!
  • Spend some time researching how to get from Haneda airport to your hotel. Try to avoid a taxi if you can – it will be especially expensive.
  • Book a hotel that is close to the Yamanote Circle Line. It will make travelling around Tokyo SO much easier for you.

The Japan Rail Pass:

  • The JRP is a heavily discounted rail pass that allows you to travel on the Hikari or Kodama Shinkansen and all Japanese Rail (JR) lines for the period that it’s valid.
  • You must book this pass via a vendor in your country. 
  • You will receive an exchange order in the mail that you exchange for the JRP in Japan at Shibuya Train Station at the Informaton Centre – West Exit. 
  • 7-day economy pass costs around $300 AUD. Without the pass a one-way Shinkansen trip to Kyoto will set you back $150 AUD so it’s a very good deal. 

Taking money to Japan:

  • Check the current exchange rate to budget effectively.
  • Take traveller’s cheques or cash to Japan.
  • Do not take money contained on a Visa, Mastercard, or Cash Passport. You will have a lot of trouble withdrawing your money.

Visiting the Ghibli Museum (Tokyo):

  • Book online via a vendor in your country.
  • You can not  purchase entry tickets to the Ghibli Museum in Japan. You must purchase them before you leave.
  • Including postage and booking fees it’s around $30 AUD to visit the Ghibli Museum.
  • You must bring your confirmation slip with the vendor stamp and passport to the Ghibli Museum to be granted access. 

Visiting WAK Japan (Kyoto):

  • Provides the opportunity to learn traditional Japanese arts.
  • Visit their website to peruse the large variety of courses available.
  • Lessons at WAK cost anywhere between $30 – $300 AUD. 
  • Book online via their website.

Visiting the Miyako Odori (Kyoto):

  • The Miyako Odori is one of many Geisha Dances that are performed during Hanami.
  • The Miyako Odori is performed at the Gion-Kobu Kaburenjo on the Hanamikoji-dori.
  • There are three ticket options (Special Class – $45 AUD | First Class – $40 AUD | Second Class – $20 AUD).
  • Tickets can be purchased by faxing (using an online fax service) to the number provided and leaving your email contact details. 
  • Make sure to bring a printed email confirmation of your booking to exchange for tickets at the Kaburenjo.

Choosing and packing Hand Luggage:

  • Choose a backpack with multiple pockets and compartments.
  • Make sure to take at least a bookmusic, and a games console to keep yourself entertained.
  • Keep it light – you’ll thank yourself later.
  • Make sure to pack painkillers. 
  • Consider asking your GP for a brief script of anti-anxiety medication. Some flights are distinctly unpleasant. 
  • Make sure to take some Japanese Yen with you so you can buy transport, food, and drink when you arrive. I took 40,000 JPY ($400) which was more than enough.

Packing your Luggage:

  • The Golden Rule for Packing: Less is More.
  • Choose a smaller suitcase to prohibit overpacking.
  • Choose luggage that’s on wheels. Nearly all of Tokyo’s train stations are below ground and there’s a lot of escalators, stairs, and ramps to go up and down. Actually carrying luggage doing this would suck.
  • Try to keep your luggage under 10 kilograms (again, you’ll thank yourself later).
  • Jump online and check your airline’s baggage limit. Test your baggage weight at home by weighing yourself then standing on the scales holding your luggage and subtracting the difference.
  • For a trip between 10 days to 1 month divide your days travelling by three and take that many day’s clothing.
  • Choose comfortable clothes made from natural fibres.
  • Choose shoes with sole support that don’t enclose the ankle. 
  • Restrict big items, accessories, and makeup (coats, boots, sunglasses, scarves, perfume etc.) to only 1 item each. 
  • Choose your camera wisely. Do you need a DSLR if someone you’re travelling with has one? Are you a committed photographer or will you be satisfied with happy snaps?
  • Ask yourself carefully – do you need your laptop?
  • Don’t pack toiletries – buy them when you arrive.
  • Do make sure to take comprehensive medical supplies. 
  • Adequately research your power adapter requirements.
  • Don’t bother taking a hairdryer – the voltage difference will render it useless! 

Departure from home

  • Check if you can book-in online with your airline. If you check-in online first you can speed up the booking-in process and, often, end up standing in a shorter line.

During Flight

  • Dress in layers. You may go through different climatic conditions. Being stuck in a woollen jumper in 30 degree, humid Changi airport wouldn’t be pleasant!
  • Wear shoes you can slip on and off.

I hope these tips can get you started on the right path to Japan.


Next post: Tips for visiting Japan – Part II

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

Image Credits:

[Feature Image: Monique Nielsen]

[Image Credit (1): Monique Nielsen]

What’s your best tip for preparing to travel?

7 thoughts on “Tips for visiting Japan – Part I – Preparing to Leave

  1. Pingback: From Haneda to Home – a dubious end | JaPlanning

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