Due to its popularity, Japan remains among the top country’s Filipino travelers want to visit. I can only agree that this is a good choice since the country has so much to offer. Even though it is famous for being expensive in terms of commodities, transportation, and accommodation, I urge Filipinos not to be discouraged. In fact, there are a lot of budget-friendly places you can go and do while in Japan. Another fear is the possibility of visa denial. In my experience, as long as you comply with the requirements, rejection is unlikely.
Having traveled to Japan back and forth a lot, until I became a long term resident, I learned valuable lessons you might find helpful. Here are some travel advice you need to consider when going to Japan. These all hold true and if followed correctly, I assure you that your Japan trip will be a memorable one.
1. Rule of Thumb: Do not convert.
One unfortunate habit that I finally let go was converting currencies. Back then, I would always convert everything from Japanese Yen to Philippine Peso before purchasing anything. This made my first few months in Japan difficult. I would always say that everything is expensive! A bottle of water converted to Php is 46! I cannot help but to blurt out the thing that all Filipinos complain about when in abroad –“Ang mahal!” But then I realized, that Japan is a highly developed nation and that I should gradually adapt their standard of living. If I continue to compare an item to that of those items found in Divisoria, I can never buy anything. Thus, I stopped converting. It was a good move for me since I found out that I had fewer frustrations and, eventually, was able to acclimate to the Japanese prices.
2. Uniqlo offers good winter clothes.
If you are traveling to Japan in winter, purchase your clothes from Uniqlo. No, the clothes you got in ukay ukay to beat the Baguio cold is not enough for Japan’s winter. Filipinos often make this mistake, and sadly I was one of them.
Before I left for a Japanese winter, I bought some winter clothes at ukay ukay, and boy, was I regretful about that. I never knew that Japanese winter is freezing cold, thus those jackets I bought were practically useless. So here is what you should do. Invest in a good winter jacket, may it be from Northface or Columbia. If you don’t have the budget then I suggest you purchase some thermal underwear (top and bottom) from good brands like Marks and Spencer. Get one jacket, too. When you arrive at the airport, go straight to a Uniqlo Store where you should buy a winter coat. It is a wise move, not only that it has good quality, but also it is cheaper here in Japan, compared to Uniqlo stores in the Philippines.
3. Capsule hotels are perfect if you are traveling solo.
Personally, I prefer staying at capsule hotels compared to dorm hostels. Why? They are everywhere in Japan. Next, though they are cheap, your privacy isn’t compromised. Finally, they have sento or public bathing, and it is for free. Sento is one of the pillars of Japanese bathing culture. Here, you get to bathe butt naked in a pool of natural spring water. You can also do sauna afterward.
There are a lot of capsule hotels that offer free sento and sauna facilities. I suggest that you book your accommodation using Traveloka. This way, you get to reserve your own capsule slot easier and faster. These get booked easily, I’m not even surprised, so you better book in advance to look forward to that experience.
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
There are certain things we do in the Philippines that are not acceptable in Japan. Eating while walking is one of them. Japanese people view eating as sacred. Not in a religious way, they just respect the act itself. Thus, you will notice their beautifully prepared meals or packed bento boxes. The act itself should be enjoyed, thus you should not walk while you eat.
Another is being too loud in a public transportation such as the bus or the train. People would call on you if you talk or laugh too loud on these types of public transportation. Playing of loud music is also frowned upon. Also, jaywalking in Japan is illegal. You may be fined or disciplined. In fact, most people in Tokyo would not attempt to jaywalk in front of a kid because that is not educational.
Finally, you return the dishes and trays to the vendor. In other countries, they make use of disposable cups or bowls, so it goes straight to the trashcan. But in Japan, food courts give you real dishes. You have to return these to the vendor, separate your trash accordingly and return the tray.
5. Observe your escalator manners: Tokyo on the left, Kyoto on the right.
This is one of the unspoken etiquettes that I wish Filipinos would adopt. Sadly, we still have a long way to go. But now that Duterte is the President, this is not impossible to be imposed soon. Go Duterte!
In Japan where rushing is normal, people stand on the left side of the escalator to give way to those who are in a hurry. For Kyoto, it is on the right. Keep in mind that when you are traveling here, this rule should be observed.
6. Learn the basic Nihongo.
This means, strive to learn the basics aside from Arigatougozaimasu. Truthfully, Tagalog and Nihongo have the same vowels, so you will not have difficult time learning. Besides, from all the animes you’ve watched, I bet you’ve already learned some, by heart!
The Japanese will really appreciate it if you take the time to learn their language. Here are some of the few you have to understand: Sumimasen (excuse me or I’m sorry), gomenasai (I’m sorry), ohayogozaimasu (good morning), ikura desuka (how much), and konnichiwa (hello).
7. Budget Price but Big on the Flavors.
Yes, I know that most, if not all of you, will be on a budget. I recommend getting a meal at Jonathan’s, a popular Japanese restaurant that you can find practically everywhere. Or try Japan’s version of Jollibee, the Saizeriya.
Other alternative includes Coco Curry, which has delicious and big servings of curry and rice. Like Jonathan’s, they are everywhere, too. You can also have savory ramen at small ramen shops. You can actually identify one if they have ticket vending machine outside. Just select your ramen order, pay, get a ticket, go inside and give your ticket to the chef. Finally, you can go have your fill at Shakey’s Pizza. They have all-you-can-eat meals in their Shibuya and Kyoto branch. For a really budgeted meal, resort to a convenience store which carries bento boxes that are equally decent as well.