How to prepare yourself for a trip across Japan and what to pack?

Well, almost every blogger has a packing list, which seems to be very popular and easy findable by search engines. Even though I’m not really a huge fan of these kind of posts a trip to Japan simply requires it. It is more as a reminder to myself and reference to compare with once we return. Then I’ll be able to give you a proper advice.

So, when the final decision was made, we’ve set down and calculated the best amount of vacation days, costs and cheapest flights. The hardest part was to find a “decent” connection from Dublin. Those just slightly cheaper ones were available, but whole trip would span across 19-22 hours, and we would lose 1 additional day just to and from Japan. Luckily, we’ve found affordable connection that starts 6AM in Dublin, and lands next day 6AM in Tokyo. In total 2.5 + 11.5 hours of flights, 8 hours time difference, and only 2.5 hours layover in Frankfurt. 14 hours against 22 = more time to Japanise! 🙂

When dates and tickets were organized, we needed to take the trip organization to a local level. I had 4 points of interest, Tokyo, Climb mount Fuji, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’ve left the rest to Dina, and she did a hell of a job. I did not even start exploring what and how, she had plenty of suggestions, and all of them were awesome.

In that process we learned that travelling in Japan might be a bit more complicated than on majority of other places. First of all, language is a huge problem. Finding information that is correct and you can trust it is not really that easy. For example, booking a hut on Mt Fuji requires you to call and make reservation in Japanese language. There are couple of huts that can receive a call in English, but those are not affordable or were not free. Besides, Japan is 8 hours ahead of us, so by the time we get up, let’s say early 8 o’clock, it’s already 4 PM in Japan, and you can call only in the morning. 🙂

Luckily, as we got used to AirBnB’s one of our hosts took care of it, otherwise I’m not sure how would we accomplish the Fuji climb. 🙂

Then, just as we thought we are good to go with micro planning (within the cities), information came from a friend (and later confirmed) that we can’t drag our big luggage with us on the Bullet trains, but we have to send them day earlier to be delivered to our destination. Since we are using AirBnB, it’s kinda not too comfortable relying on the bag delivery to a destination that you will visit in advance, and you have no idea where that location is at all.

So we had to pack smart, but yet again, our Tokyo host steeped in. Since we will be at his stay first 6 days, and last day, we can leave our luggage in Tokyo and travel light to our remaining destinations.

Big Bag For Japan

And when we’ve finally thought we are over with shocks, a new one. Our phones will apparently not work in Japan, as even my phone provider here in Ireland is not capable of confirming me if they have a contract with any network in Japan. According to their website – they have no partners there.

My attempt to check if there are available local SIM cards resulted with contradicted information. Apparently, only those having residence in Japan are eligible to buy SIM cards with phone and SMS options, while only recently there are Data SIM cards available for tourists.

Again, our host is renting his apartment with Portable WiFi, so we will be covered while in Tokyo, and hopefully we will manage to buy or rent some local portable WiFi. Who would say that such hi-tech country is having such weird or strict rules? 🙂

It seems that since recently (I’ve read a news just a few days back) there are Data SIM card vending machines on main Narita airport, but yeah, we are not flying to Narita. 😀

Now, when we were done with all these shocks, and had all places booked we started exploring if there are any rules what to and what not to do in Japan. I do expect cultural shock, and since I really like Japan I was already aware of few things from the list, but some are quite new for me too.

Just some of “does” and “don’ts” in Japan:
– do not stick chopsticks into your food (I’m never doing it, friend thought me this some 20 years back)
– do not tip anywhere, you might offend people (New)
– do not pour drink to yourself (?! Well.. OK, I will not.)
– do not pour soy sauce over rice (?!)
– do slurp as it is confirmation that meal is good
– do not eat while walking down the street (I did not know that is considered rude, but I consider it rude and hate doing it anyway)
– do not point with your finger showing things – (but, I’m a tourist, how can I show something or direction? 🙂 )
– do point to your nose if you are talking about yourself or saying “me”
– do not talk loud (I’ve heard about it, but I’m loud and I don’t hear myself … )
– do not clean your nose in public or loud (how can anyone clean nose silently? 🙂 )
– do not sneeze in public (HOW?? I can’t control my sneezing!)
– do wear a mask if you are ill (OK… I hope I will not need it)
– do not have holes on your socks – it’s apparently a terrible offence, so terrible that you need to have spare socks with you all the time (?!?! – OK, will have them!)
– do not ever enter home in your shoes (this is well known, but I expect some small room in the entrance where you take off your shoes, no?)
– do not form a single line for all the toilets, wait in front of one and enjoy, it’s not first come first served. (?!)
– do have your own toilet paper or tissues!
– public squatter toilets are opposite of old European ones, so turn back to the doors, not to the wall. 😀 – (I used it last time in elementary school when I was 7 :s )
BTW, where is the water coming from then?
– do not enter the toilet in same slippers you got when you entered the restaurant – there are separate ones for the toilet (OK, good to know.)
– do have have cash, as most of the restaurants do not accept credit cards – (Whaaaaaat?? – OK, apparently all small convenient stores are equipped with ATMs…)
– do not hold hands, kiss or touch in public
– do not open doors for others
– do bow when others bow to you, but do not bow back in convince stores
– do say Gomen’nasai if you do something wrong (It means sorry)
– do not open or close taxi doors – driver will do that automatically
– do use both hands to give and receive gifts and business cards
– do use “san” after the adults name
– do use Japanese even if it’s only a few words
– do not show tattoos around

Beside above mentioned there are some general suggestions:

– keep everything clean – Japanese like clean (So do I, so no problems there)
– avoid number four and shirts with it – apparently number 4 sound similar to “death”
– round bronze coin with no numbers and a hole should be 5 Yens, not a billiard token 🙂
– round silver coin with a hole and just number 50 should be 50 Yens.
– learn some Japanese – (What, why? When? Jeez, OK, I’ll try…)

In regards to “learn some Japanese” – I tried it, and I liked it. I can read both hiragana and katakana, a bit slower and with some errors, but it is doable. I was able to read “Arigato” in Japanese restaurant just a few weeks back. 🙂

Japanese Phrasebook

After reading so many things it’s not easy to stay calm. By any means I do not want or plan to offend anyone, especially not our hosts, but when the cultural difference is so big it might happen that I’ll end up being called rude. I do apologize in advance. 🙂

JR Passes And Planning

Once we were informed about basic things about Japan we started preparing detailed itinerary per location and organizing our transportation. We’ve figured out that trains are really expensive for us coming from Europe, but luckily there is a thing called JR-Pass. It is unlimited and very discounted train ticket available for tourists. It must be ordered in advance and delivered to your address outside of Japan. Yes, it seems that Japan is one of those countries that cares about their visitors. 🙂

Then, I wanted to save the map of Japan to my Nokia, but … It’s not possible. Wait, what?

Yep, you can’t get (yet) an offline Here map for Japan. Oh, damn, I’ll download Google maps for offline use than… No you won’t. It’s not possible.

Apparently, Japanese government is very careful and just a few years back even the detailed map of Japan was not available as Google map. It’s still not available as off-line version. Luckily I’ve found some apps per city, so we have maps of Tokyo and Kyoto on our phones, and for the rest we’ll try to find a good old paper map.

Again, who would say… Such a regular everyday thing that is available in Europe and US. 🙂

Beside regular packing list, since we are heading to climb Fuji, our bags got bigger for hiking equipment.
Our list of things not to forget, as follows per category:

Documents and money:
– Flight tickets
– Passports
– JR passes
– Hotel reservations (on two locations where there were no AirBnBs)
– Some Cash
– Health insurance (We bought a yearly one before heading to Australia, and that’s the best)
– Itineraries
– AirBnb contact Information

– Fill in the travelling form so that our cards don’t get blocked

MS Keyboard

– Battery power bank (Got 20 000 mAh power bank that should last for a few days on the road)
– 3 Universal power converters
– DSLR Camera with a spare battery
– 4 SD Cards (128GB in total, cleaned)
– Compact underwater camera for quick shots on the go
– Mobile phones
– Portable MobileInternet (If we manage to get a SIM card that will work in it)
– Kindles
– SELFIE STICK (Yep, don’t judge me!)
– Chargers (Mobile phones, Cameras)
– Superportable Universal Microsoft Keyboard (Oh yes! I’m digitalizing things on the go this time!)

In the bags:
– Hiking shoes
– Hiking sticks (damn, they don’t fit in… no sticks)
– Torch Lamp
– Waterproof Jacket
– Warm shirt
– Hat and scarf (Yep, it can get quite cold on the top of the mountain)
– 5 t-shirts (will buy some more in Japan, “I love Umag” is packed 🙂 )
– one pair of short summer jeans
– swimming suite
– spare shoes (two pairs)
– one light trousers
– 7 pairs of underwear
– 10 pairs of socks – all are brand new, no holes whatsoever 🙂
– gifts for AirBnb hosts 🙂 (It’s nice to be nice, right?)
– microfibre micro towels
– Angry birds traditional hats
– Travelling pillows

– Portable first aid kit
– Sun block cream
– deodorants
– shampoos
– toothbrushes
– bug repellent


No, we are not packing umbrellas – We live in Ireland. 🙂 If you know what I mean. If you don’t, come visit. 🙂

Basically, that’s it.

The only thing that remained are those final preparations before a longer trip:
– inform our landlord about our absence (He needs to fix a few things in the apartment anyway so, that’s done)
– wash the clothing
– pay all the bills (Except water bills, as they are late. (Local thing, google Ireland and Irish Water protests) :D)
– In the last week make sure that you eat all food that might expire from your fridge (Damn, there are a few pints that might expire tonight. 🙂 )
– water plants and make a small hack to keep them moist while you are away
– Re-check that everything is turned off in the apartment
– Lock the apartment and enjoy the trip 🙂

Check-list might change a bit, but I’m more interested comparing things mentioned here today about Japan and Japanese customs when we get back. 🙂

And till then, stay tuned on my blog, FB page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. 🙂



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