going to japan or know someone who is? here's 7 things to be mindful of for traveling in japan
Seven mistakes you don’t want to make on your next trip to Japan. You’re listening to the daidokoro video podcast. Hi, I’m Pat Tokuyama and you’re about to discover some of the tastiest ways to feed your mind, body, and soul. A pharmacist by training, you may know me as the founder of all day I eat like a shark, the food blog, YouTube channel, or as author of several Japanese cookbooks. If you desire to live a healthy life and are looking for a different way forward with a hunger for growth, then this video podcast is for you!
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So after living in Japan, and also traveling there multiple times over the years, there’s a few things that I always like to share with friends or people who are going to Japan for the first time. And that has to do with expectations as well as a little bit of preparation ahead of time, when you’re out and about in Japan walking around if you’re hungry, and you want to go grab something to eat. Or if you’re doing some shopping. One thing that you want to be mindful of is that some stores may not accept credit card or debit card for payment. A lot of times they require cash. And if you’re used to paying with a debit card or credit card, like a lot of people do in the United States, then this might be a little bit of a surprise to you, especially if you’re thinking that Japan is a modern society or country. In fact it is but they still have some older traditions in place, and one of which is payment with cash.
So if you are not sure where the best place to get your cashes for your trip, I think there’s a couple places that I would suggest the first is going to be 711, which has ATMs on site, as well as the post office. So both of those places are places that I would go if I needed to get some foreign currency and not only has to do with Japan. Also, I would suggest if you don’t have one already to get a fee free ATM card or debit card. So certain banks like Fidelity and Schwab, both of which I use offer fee free ATM usage. So as long as it’s part of the network, usually it’s the visa network. So you got to make sure on the ATM machine that it has that visa logo on there. And if you use it, you’ll get all of your ATM fees refunded. Plus, you’re going to get the best exchange rate. If you don’t have one of those ATM cards or accounts. Yes, I would suggest signing up for one because it’s not only free to have the accounts, but it’s also going to save you money, especially if you’re going to be withdrawing a lot of cash on your travels or even at home.
Second mistake you want to avoid is that if you are going to be using a credit card or debit card, make sure that you’re going to be using one that does not have foreign transaction fees. So if you go through a lot of credit cards, or if you’re not really familiar with a credit card that you signed up with, you might want to double check either with customer service or just taking a look at the terms and the pricing that you received with your credit card to make sure that you’re not going to be getting charged for each transaction because sometimes those foreign transaction fees are relatively high. And you don’t want to be surprised after your trip when you get home with a bunch of different foreign transaction fees, which can add up.
The third thing has to do with shopping. So if you’re shopping a lot, you want to be mindful of getting a tax refund, especially if you’re going to be over the threshold for getting that refund in the first place. So usually, if you’re in a department store, for example, they’ll have a special tax refund area or office to which you can go to get your refund before you leave. And that can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re doing a lot of shopping.
The fourth mistake would be missing out on a restaurant that does not have an English menu or even English speakers. To me, one of the adventures of travel is not being able to communicate or not being able to read something, it’s sort of like being a kid again, where you don’t really know what’s going on around you. And you might need some help. So sometimes this turns out really well. And you might discover something delicious or amazing. And sometimes it might not turn out that well at all, at least you tried and who knows maybe things will work out. And I think things usually do work out. But if you do go to a restaurant in Japan without an English menu, and without an English speaker or staff, chances are it’s going to be a little bit of a different experience than one that caters to tourists, that has things available for the customers. I think the farther that you go out from a major city, the more opportunities that you’ll have to experience something like that where the locals eat, for example.
So the fifth mistake I think would be to not get out of the major cities and out of the major tourist areas and explore more of the rural side of Japan. So more of the countryside, where things are quieter and things I guess are more natural. There’s a lot of nature things if you’re into that, of course where you can experience and enjoy the beauty and despite being a very small country, there’s a lot of quiet, relaxing, scenic places that you can visit where you totally feel like you’re in a different country, different place different world and isn’t that why we travel in the first place?
And the sixth mistake would be to miss out on some sort of a cultural event or celebration or festival. So festivals happen all throughout the year in Japan. I think the most fun ones, in my opinion are the ones that happened during the summer because there’s a lot of food, the weather is warm, usually it’s pretty hot, and then there’s fireworks. So try to time your visit around festival season or a festival or if it’s not a festival, some sort of a celebration or cultural event. And if you’re not sure where to find that, make sure to check out the link in the show notes for more info, the last and most important thing is going to be not taking into account or forgetting that in Japan, there’s certain travel periods or holidays during which businesses may be closed and or a lot of people are traveling within Japan.
And then those two seasons are Obon, which is towards the end of summertime and usually in August and then also Golden Week, which is in the springtime around May, April May timeframe. So that is when you want to try to avoid travel if possible, because chances are the hotels are going to be expensive flights or trains are going to be expensive or hard to get if at all and or some of the businesses or restaurants and shops that you want to go to might be closed because of that. So those are seven things not to do or to be mindful of on your next trip to Japan. And I think those are some of the most important especially if it’s your first time there or if you’ve been there before, but if I missed anything, feel free to leave me a voicemail for a comment or a question for a future episode. Make sure to check out the show notes as well for additional info. Hopefully this is helpful for you and will help to make your next trip to Japan a little bit less stressful and better planned.
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