What You Should Know About Japan 

February 25, 2018


Welcome back to Nippon! If you follow me on social media, you’ll know I’ve been trekking around Japan since basically the start of the year. My trip is almost at it’s conclusion – it’s flown by. As much as I’d love to stay here forever, I am looking forward to going home and taking a few days to reflect on all I’ve seen and done. I have SO MUCH to share with you and a whole lifetime of memories (plus thousands of photos but let’s not think about the editing process just yet). Before we get into it, I thought I’d do a general overview post about Japan. It seems a lot of people aren’t sure what to expect…

The People Are Incredible

Kind, welcoming, and helpful to a fault. I find the Japanese people to be amongst the nicest and most hospitable worldwide! Incidentally, a lot of people speak pretty good English, but don’t use it due to fear of messing up. I found I’d get out one of my few Japanese phrases and then as I lost my way conversationally, we’d switch to English and 9 times out of 10 the Japanese friend would have great conversational English. At least compared to my stuttering attempts!

Buildings Get Chilly

Most buildings in Japan are designed to be “disposable”; that is, every few decades they are destroyed and then rebuilt from the bottom up. I think the average lifetime of a building is about 40 years. This means that they can get super-cold in Winter as buildings tend to lack double-glazing, internal insulation and central heating systems. If you visit during the Winter (holla) you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time huddled around the nearest kotatsu (an ingenious heated table thing).

The Transport System Is Incredible

The trains are simply outstanding; heated, clean, efficient. And always BANG ON TIME. Train drivers are taught to stop the train within inches of the doorway and carriage, so when you line up for your car, you are literally at the door. No hawking your suitcase through three carriages! I think the one single thing I might be able to find fault with is that the Metro and subway lines aren’t 24 hours. But then, we only just reached that point in the UK (and only on two lines) so hey.

The language barrier isn’t as bad as you might think

There definitely exists a language barrier, but you won’t be completely cut off unless you’re visiting a very rural area. If you speak zero Japanese, it’s not insurmountable to getting around – although, I wouldn’t advise visiting with literally no words or phrases memorised! I made sure to learn a bunch of basic phrases in my first couple days so I could interact, get around, buy stuff and so on. Most train stations have English names of stations printed on the map, plus there are English announcements on the majority of trains (excluding some of the local lines) and buses to help you out.

Learning to read Japanese is a bit trickier – there are three different character systems and the grammatical structure is very different to English. Luckily, it’s a lot simpler and more logical than English! I’m learning to read Japanese at the moment and will report back.

You will need to learn basic customs

A lot of people describe Japan as a culture shock. Yes, the culture is very different – but it doesn’t need to be a huge shock! Read up on it first. Most of the key customs are based around hygeine and general public decency, so add in a bit of common sense and you’ll have made a good start. I’m sure there were times I messed up and did something awful without realising, but there’s a big difference between attempting to fit into a different culture and just blatantly not giving a shit. Look around guys; if the locals aren’t doing it, then you shouldn’t be either.

I’m considering compiling my own blog of basic customs and cultural tips but there’s tons of material out there already. You don’t want to be that foreigner – like it or not, when you travel you are representing your country. This is especially true in a country like Japan which has a very small expat/Western community.

It’s not too expensive

People kept asking me how I was going to afford to live here for two months. Er, quite easily seeing as I normally live in London! I can’t speak for the rest of the UK, but food, alcohol, transport and tourist activities (museum entry and so on) is all cheaper here in Japan than it is in London. Even in Tokyo!

The one area that’s probably roughly the same costwise is accommodation and rent. I worked out accommodation costs; the average night in a hostel for Tokyo is around £20 a night and maybe £12-15 around the rest of the country. The one part of my stay where I rented somewhere it was considerably more expensive than my London house (although also a lot nicer than my home). My London rent is about £17 a day and it was £26 a night for me in a shared house in Tokyo. I should point out that I’m on quite low rent for London. Hostel and hotel-wise; I have no idea what a London hostel would cost but I expect it’s about the same as Tokyo. I’ve also found once you delve into “posh hotel” realm, it’s a similar price wherever you go. No such thing as a budget Hilton, is there?

I think where Japan gets expensive is when you start going shopping. Which leads me to my next point…

The Japanese LOVE shopping

There are shops and malls EVERYWHERE. I went to some really off-the-beaten-path areas and at no point was I less than 20 minutes from a 24 hour shop. You’ll find a shopping mall attached to every major station; often underground or 8+ stories high. Even if you’re not normally a big shopper, you’ll likely get roped in to some shopping at some point. I’ve learned that I am a total sucker for traditional wood-carvings, and also, there is no limit to the amount of Sailor Moon merch I’d like to stuff in my backpack. Curse you, feeble baggage allowance!

It’s incredibly safe

I don’t think I can name a country that’s safer for solo female travellers! The crime rate is exceptionally low in Japan and it’s consistently placed in the top 10 safest countries globally. Even without the statistics, you’ll feel a lot safer here. I realised after the first week I felt a lot calmer when I was walking around. Suddenly, I twigged that I’d stopped watching over my shoulder when walking home as I normally do in London! Male harassment is also non-existent here; it’s like taking a break from the normal slog of female existence. Hurrah!

Have you been to Japan before and what did you notice?

Outfit: Konnichiwa jumper (here) – c/o Joanie Clothing // beret – vintage from Big Time Kumamoto, Y800 // skirt – Miss Patina (similar here)

10 comments so far.

10 responses to “What You Should Know About Japan ”

  1. I didn’t know how low the crimes rates were for this place. Pinning and awaiting further updates about your trip

    Mel ✨

  2. Ahh this is great! I’d love to visit Japan, perhaps I should if it’s more affordable than London and with less harassment on the streets. Your outfit is so cute as well. Hope you’re well x

  3. I wholeheartedly agree about the feeling of safety and the people – so kind, helpful and considerate. And they are definitely so much better at English than they think they are.

    I so wish I’d continued to learn Japanese. I did a term’s worth when we arrived here in Wellington and even dipped into some Kanji online, but it petered out after we moved out of the centre of the city. Poor excuse really!

  4. Jane says:

    Japan is now creeping up my list of places to visit next. Especially because it sounds so easy to get around and safe – it’s getting harder to organise travelling with friends nowadays, so if I’m looking at a solo trip next year that might be the way to go!

  5. WhatLydDid says:

    I’d absolutely love a post on observing local customs! It’s interesting and important to learn these things

  6. Oh wow I have always wanted to visit but now I NEED to go and I want to take the whole family. Really hoping my book gets a publishing deal out there and there’s been interest as that would be the perfect excuse. You lady are as beautiful as ever and we need to meet SOON! Will you do a vegan eating guide around Japan too as I’d love to read that. Whatsapp me when you’re back xxx

  7. Laura says:

    seeing little snippets of your japan adventures has really convinced me of adding it onto my travel list – i really want to go! and when i do, i’m sure i’ll come back to this and your other posts, haha! also, you look really cute! xx

  8. Ooh, you’ve made me want to visit Japan even more now. It seems like a brilliant place to visit. P.S I absolutely love your jumper. Want! 🙂

  9. Audrey says:

    Such a cute outfit, especially the sweater and skirt! // I didn’t know about disposable buildings; that’s really interesting. I wonder how sustainable that is 😮 // YES to the transport system!!! The States can learn a thing or two from them T_T // It’d be really interesting to read a blog post to learn how to learn basic customs, which could be applied to any culture! Like, what kind of things should we look out for/do some research on? -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  10. Liyana says:

    Love this post! I was there for about a week and a half and enjoyed it a lot. Can’t imagine how much fun it would be to stay for two months. Some of my favourite moments from my trip: http://rougeandruche.com/2018/04/01/japan-photo-diary/

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