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The time has finally come for you to head over to the Land of the Rising Sun!
You’ve spoken about Japan to friends, read about it in blogs, and watched every anime you could think of, but you’re still uncertain about what to expect.
Japan, as with most Asian countries, is an entirely different culture from the West. You don’t want to feel awkward and out of place because you didn’t do your homework beforehand.
Why take our advice? Well, we live here! We went through all, and I mean all, the trouble of trial and error, so you don’t have to.
Here are our 7 essential items you’ll absolutely need to survive your trip to Japan.
1. Comfortable Slip-on Walking Shoes.
In Japan, you’re going to walk A LOT. So, the more comfortable the shoe, the better, especially when you are on your feet all day browsing the storefronts in Omotesando or trekking through one of Japan’s many beautiful parks.
So to keep your feet free from painful rubbing and aching, we recommend shoes with memory foam technology. These style of shoes really help given the amount walking and standing you’ll be doing throughout your stay.
Now, note that we also said slip-on shoes. That’s for an excellent reason.
In Japan, it can be seen as rude to wear your shoes in certain situations, such as entering someone’s house. In fact, most Japanese homes have a genkan, an area just inside the front door specifically for the removal of shoes.
This is also the case in many Airbnb houses, some traditional restaurants, and in hotels with Japanese style rooms.
By the way, if you are new to Airbnb, you can sign-up using my link to get $33 of Airbnb credit which you can instantly use for your first stay.
And with all the times you will be removing and putting on your shoes, why not make the whole process a little easier by getting some slip-on, without the hassle for shoelaces.
This is why my husband and I love the GoWalk series (mine is similar to this) and Slip-On series (he has this one) from the Skechers brand, which are available for both men and women. It proved to be the best for walking the cities of Japan, being both memory foam and slip-on.
Japan may be known for being high-tech, but it still has a strong cash culture. And many restaurants and shops will not take credit cards. This becomes even more prominent the further you travel from major cities.
You can exchange your currency for Yen at the airport, but you’ll be getting most of your cash from ATM machines that accept foreign cards.
Previously, only the ATMs at 7-11 could be used for transactions using foreign cards.
Now, you can use the following ATMs to withdraw cash with your international card:
- Japan Post ATM
- Lawson, Ministop, and Family Mart convenience stores
Depending on how many people you’re paying for, expect to spend around ¥15,000 – ¥20,000 (or 134–179 USD) per day for expenses such as food and sightseeing. If you are going shopping for souvenirs, consider bringing a little more. Hey, we didn’t say Japan was cheap.
It might seem a bit scary carrying such a large amount of cash on you, but Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. It is not unusual to find someone with tens of thousands of yen in their wallet.
The chances of your wallet getting stolen are pretty low (but not impossible). In fact, you have a better chance of someone chasing you down or turning in your wallet to the police than stealing it.
For tourists that use Bitcoin, there is a sprawling Bitcoin scene in Tokyo. However, do not count on establishments accepting any crypto-currency as they do in some parts of Europe.
3. Portable or Pocket Wi-Fi.
This is probably one of the most critical things on this list. You’re going to need Wi-Fi to access train routes (we’ll get to that soon), maps, and a Google Translator App. You’ll also need to be connected to check the weather and to find events or points-of-interest.
You can buy a data-SIM card, but the registration process can be a pain. The simplest way to access the internet outside of your room would be to rent a portable Wi-Fi that you can slip into your pocket.
We recommend PuRuRu Wi-Fi because of its high-speed and unlimited data. In fact, we tested Pupuru Wi-Fi, and it’s the fastest of all Wi-Fi rental services we’ve used in Japan. We also suggest Ninja Wi-Fi if you’re a light user as their Wi-Fi service is capped at 3GB per day.
Both companies offer to ship the device to your hotel or airport. When you are finished, pop it in the envelope provided and send it back from any post box.
4. Google Maps app or HyperDia.
Google Maps. Google Maps is excellent when traveling around Japan. In Tokyo, it is useful for planning our routes on public transport. It tells you exactly which train or bus to take and when to take it. It also gives you the ability to plan when you arrive as well as when you leave.
Google Maps is also excellent at helping you find convenience stores, shops, or services. Just type in what you are looking for, such as ‘ramen.’ And boom, Google Maps will come up with some options around you and give you the route to it!
But Google Maps isn’t always the best when there are delays or changes to schedules. So be careful when you have to be somewhere at a precise time. It also has trouble locating you for GPS navigation while walking around Tokyo, as the buildings interfere with your GPS signal.
So be prepared to walk the wrong way a few times while you determine which left is the left your phone is telling you to walk! That said, we’re long-time users of this app, and we couldn’t imagine traveling without it.
HyperDia. For even more precise and accurate route planning, there is Hyperdia which is up-to-date and has accurate timetables. But HyperDia’s app isn’t free, though it is free to use by visiting the website. HyperDia is excellent if you have a JR Pass as the route search allows you only to ride the trains that are covered by your JR Pass.
Recommended read for you: 9 Must-Have Apps To Download Now For Your Japan Trip
5. Power Banks.
Your mobile phone and pocket Wi-Fi devices are going to be running continuously throughout the day.
So a power bank with enough mAh or battery capacity for 2-3 full charges should be more than enough to keep you going all day. Be sure to store it appropriately inside your bag.
Some cafes may contain power sockets for you to charge your phone. But it would be a shame to force yourself into a long wait in a busy café, nursing a donut and latte, just for the sake of charging your phone.
Japan is a great place to buy tech gadgets, but that’s not true with power banks. Power banks are expensive in Japan and only provide a small mAh capacity.
For this reason, we recommend that you get your Power Bank from your home country and get the one with the highest mAh capacity. Our favorite power bank is this one. You may also consider the newer model with gigantic mAh capacity.
6. Towelette or Handkerchief.
Don’t forget a towel! Not only great advice for interstellar hitchhikers, (ugh, my husband insists that SOMEONE will get that reference…) carrying a face-towel or handkerchief is also quite useful in Japan.
During the summer months is when carrying a small towelette is the most useful; there’s no way you’re not going to sweat. The heat is one thing, and the humidity just makes it worse.
Another reason is that public restrooms usually don’t have paper towels to dry your hands. This may seem like a strange practice, but the reason for it is an effort to cut down on unnecessary waste from paper towels. So when you think about it like that, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing after all.
You can find bathrooms with hand dryers, but it’s not something you tend to see in older buildings or small cities. So, unless you’re the type to wipe your hands dry with your jeans, it’s best to bring along a small towel.
7. An IC Card.
Buying paper tickets each time you want to take the train can be very annoying. It could also be the reason to miss the train. If you’re traveling in Japan without any type of train pass like JR Pass, then an IC card is the next best thing to have.
IC cards work as prepaid cards. You can buy it on any ticketing machine at the train station. Most ticket machines have English options which make things even more convenient.
Depending on the ticket machine, you can buy Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, or PiTaPa IC card; they’re all priced the same. We recommend Suica because you can get on trains with premium seats called Green Car. Also, only the Suica IC card has an iPhone app that allows you to recharge it with a credit card.
To use an IC card, all you have to do is place the card over the card reader at the gate. The fee is automatically deducted. The price is also a little bit lower than that of paper tickets.
IC cards can be used on most buses, convenience stores, and even vending machines! When you’re ready to go home, you can withdraw the remaining cash on the card, however, you have to return the card.
And that’s our list of 7 must-have to survive your first Japan trip. We hope this article will lead to some modifications in your suitcase!