VISIT JAPAN: 12 REASONS THAT WILL MAKE YOU PACK YOUR BAGS AND GO
I think of Japan as a wonderland. I love the country’s cities and countryside as well. This year we spent over a month in Japan to explore Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and a little of its surrounding areas. It was a unique experience which we’ll never forget. My favorite city is Kyoto because of its beautiful architecture and history. Japan was on my bucket list for some time now but I always considered it to be too expensive for my budget travel. However, it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong because Japan is not just a possible destination for budget travelers but a must visit as well! I can’t wait to visit this beautiful country again next year until then I have my beautiful memories.
Japan is one of the biggest and most popular geek travel destinations. And for a good reason! No matter what you’re into; geek lifestyle, geek culture, geeky food or any tech or beauty product you will find it in this country. Even more, it’s probably invented and produced here. It’s every nerdy person’s dream, and it was mine too. It still is. I can’t wait to return and explore more of this wonderful country.
Until then, I have my memories and a couple of good tips, advice and general but important info for you.
So, what makes this country so special to be adored all over the world?
Let’s find out!
1| It’s Cheap
Probably the first thing people always say about Japan is how expensive it is. Which is a false truth, because it is expensive if you only consider that it’s a country in Asia and compare it to Thailand, Vietnam, or China. However, Japan is a first world country and the prices are simply according to that. Even less, most things were cheaper than in the UK, France or even in Hong Kong and Singapore just to mention a few.
Of course, there are high-end places, especially in Tokyo where you can easily spend a month’s salary on a dinner. But you can find plenty of places where you can get cheap accommodation or authentic and tasty food. We found very cheap flats on Airbnb. Our cheapest stay was in Osaka center for $16 a day for the two of us. In Tokyo, we stayed in Shinagawa area 10 mins from central Tokyo with the underground. We rented a beautiful 1 bedroom flat for $35 per night.
You can easily manage a day on $50 or little less even in Tokyo including all (accommodation, food, travels, and tickets).
2 | The always beautiful Cherry trees
We made our priority to visit Japan during Sakura – cherry blossom. It’s not just beautiful but a very important Japanese tradition. When there is Sakura there is Hanami as well. “Hanami” means flower viewing and Japanese people keep this centuries-old tradition of picnicking under the trees well and alive. You can practice Hanami all around Japan the time depends on which part you’re visiting. Earliest in January in Okinawa and latest in the beginning of April in Tokyo. Do consider that most parks, shrines will be packed because both locals and tourists are eager to see the beautiful blossoms.
3 | Yummy Food
We must talk about food. Japanese food is one of the favorites and admired world wide. It’s healthy and tasty.
And the best part is: it can be also cheap if you put some extra effort into finding the right places. You can buy fresh and authentic food in shops, markets, from vendors and restaurants. From snacks to full meals you can find cheap and yummy, authentic eats.
I took the shots above in the flat we rented in Tokyo. The two meal, fresh orange juice, and the strawberries cost us $3.50/person. We bought them from a local shop. The cheapest shop we found was in Osaka, called Super Tamade Kujo shop. You can also find good food for a good price in Tokyo at Kinokuniya Supermarket.
There are also many street vendors and fast food restaurants. Don’t get fooled, these are freshly made and authentic. So much so most locals eat at places like these. You can have a full menu as seen below for $4.
Don’t worry there are also many authentic and beautiful restaurants you can try. You just have to leave the center mostly but not necessary. We found a lovely, little Sushi place close to the popular Shibuya station called Uogashi Nihon-Ichi. Here we ate about 12 pieces per person and it cost us $10 per person. It was a standing Sushi bar offering freshly made pieces and free tea. It’s called Uogashi Nihon-Ichi, they have a couple of restaurants all around Tokyo. You can even buy their signature cup for $5.
One other thing you should definitely try is Chanko-Nabe the Sumo wrestlers special soup. In case you can’t get a ticket to a popular Sumo wrestling show you can still go to Kappo Yoshiba restaurant which used to be a Sumo training stable and taste a traditional Chanko-Nabe that makes Sumo wrestlers so big and strong!
4 | Beautiful History and traditions
Japanese people are very proud of their traditions and work hard to keep it alive. They enjoy participating in any ways from a young age. They are welcoming and happy to introduce you to their culture when they see you’re open and respectful towards it. In Japan you can see these beautiful places in all their glory because they’re kept in great condition.
There are many shrines all over the country. One of the biggest you can find is in Kyoto called Fushimi Inari Shrine. These shrines are usually jammed. However, in the bigger Shrines, there are so many little paths you can choose from that you’ll find a quiet, less touristy one for sure. Some of them you can visit during day and night as well. Which you should definitely try. I loved to visit them after sunset, because it really felt like all the magic and history really just came to life. And the best part is that they’re free to visit.
5 | Easy to get around and communicate
We heard and read on so many different pages about the difficulty of getting around in Japan. Also, about how Japanese people don’t speak any English. Everything is written in Japanese first (obviously) but then you can find the English translation under the Japanese on every map, signs everywhere in Tokyo, Osaka, and in Kyoto as well. Not to mention that at every station there is a tourist/information point where the staff speaks good English. Although, we even stopped people on the street and haven’t met anyone who couldn’t understand and wouldn’t be able to help us with directions.
6 | The People are super Kind and Welcoming
Every single person was polite and kind towards us. It really made our stay even more enjoyable and pleasant. We could only use a couple of sentences but everybody was encouraging and were happy that we try and learn something about their language and culture. I think people are very kind and polite all around Asia but Japanese people are definitely like to make the extra mile to make you feel welcome and happy when visiting their country.
7 | Real Life Magic Land
Japan has many parts where you can feel as if you’re Alice and you just stepped into Wonderland. You’re going to feel the country’s uniqueness even if you’re a well-seasoned traveler. Japan is most certainly a country that’s magic gets under your skin! Our favorite was Dotonbori in Osaka. We could wander around for hours and not get bored. The variety of lights, colors, scents, and sounds have a hypnotic effect that makes you forget about all your problems to bring pure joy you may last had in your childhood.
8 | Calm, Safe, & Clean
In most of the time, media like to represent Japan as this overpopulated, crowded and crazy place. 90% of the time it was calm, clean and felt %100 safe all the time. There are parts of Tokyo that are very touristy and where lots of locals work as well so it’s more than natural that those stations will get busy during peak hours and in peak season. But that’s not how Japan feels like if you visit and take the time to get to know the cities’ other parts as well and not just the main attractions.
The public transport not just easy to use and clean but often there are empty seats. There were more empty seats left in Japan than in London, Paris or Barcelona. Also, we found that people are a calm and actually wait in line before getting on the trains. If full, they wait for the next one. There was no pushing at any station we visited, not by the staff or by other passengers. Also, you may know this already.
But Japanese trains are also very precise there wasn’t a train rolling in late during our visit.
Japan was hands down the cleanest and safest. No matter if we were in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. Again, our favorite was Osaka. You can get Tokyo’s modern vibe, history, and even visit the countryside. For a lot less money and there are even fewer tourists blocking your way. Even in Tokyo, you will feel safe during day and night.
Ticket prices are the most expensive in Tokyo.
You can also buy a Japan rail pass, most convenient and fast but not the cheapest. For 1-week pass prices start at $250.
If you want to travel cheap in Japan you have to travel by buses. We traveled from Osaka to Tokyo for $25. The bus was clean and comfy.
As I mentioned there are crowded places especially in Tokyo. The crowdiest place we visited was the famous Shibuya crossing. And it was indeed crowded, but it didn’t feel worse than for example Oxford street or Piccadilly in London, UK.
9 | Cosplay & Anime Heaven
There are tremendous options to gets enjoy anime and cosplay here. You don’t even have to visit shops or conventions just walk down the streets. Harajuku street fashion is big. Takeshita street in Tokyo is one of the best places to meet people who enjoy cosplay. Don’t be afraid and go talk to them! They will most certainly understand your love towards it and will happily talk about it.
Want to visit a convention? Here are the 10 biggest ones in Japan.
10 | Sake
When in Japan you should at least try Sake. Even if you’re not much of a drinker. Japanese like to drink, mostly beer and Sake. Sake is a traditional drink, which you can find in most restaurants and shops. They even display barrels in many parks around Japan. One of the biggest barrel displays you can find is in Tokyo at the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Not to mention the beautiful design they create for the bottles. Which makes Sake not just a great drink but also a superb souvenir as well.
You can, of course, try it at any restaurant in Japan or go on a Sake Brewery Tour, we had been in a great one in Osaka,
11 | Futuristic & Modern
Most people find Japan utterly exciting because of the duplicity it represents. Future and the past don’t just exist next to each other but complete each other. This duplicity, unfortunately, can be found in fewer countries every year. As technology evolves history and traditions die out. While Japan is easily able to keep its historical charm even when at most stations and shops there are already robots helping you to buy tickets or find your way around the store. Our favorite little helper was Pepper. At most places, he only speaks Japanese but you can ask an employee to help you talk to him. Or just shake his hand or hug him.
Want to know more about this cutie? Here you can do just that.
12 | Vending Machines & Taxis
Vending machines are really everywhere and taxis are truly expensive. We found the machines useful. You can buy a quick snack or a drink when you’re in a hurry but want to try a Japanese product. Most of the machines we found were packed with Japanese products we haven’t yet tried. Taxis are expensive for sure. But they look very elegant inside and out. The drivers are polite and eager to help you with everything including taking your luggage to the front door. Most taxis in Japan can be compared to those private, luxury companies we have in the west. Although, there are more and cheaper taxis popping up in Japan as well. You can find them easily just by looking at the car or the drivers. The cars are usually less attractive and the drivers don’t wear any uniforms. Prices start at $7 (sitting in) and $5 every km with formal taxis and at $5 and $3-4 with the new ones. Although, I would like to mention it is only expensive compared to most Asian countries not to other first world countries.
Japan is still on our list for next year as we want to go back for another month or so. We would love to get to know their breathtaking nature and countryside even better. Last but not least, visit a huge cosplay convention!
What’s your favorite thing about Japan?
Thank you for reading!