If you're here, you've opened my 2024 calendar!
First of all, thank you so much for your support. In designing this calendar, I loved going back through my photos from time spent in Japan across 2014-2016 (when I was on the JET Programme teaching English in Hokkaido), 2017, 2019 and 2023.
Now, since Japan was rated one of the best countries to visit and reopened their borders in late 2022, the country has become more popular than ever. Whether you are planning a trip, or living vicariously through recommendations, I hope these tips help!
digital SIM card❗️
There is a fairly new, convenient and WAY cheaper option to connect your smartphone to data in another country: e-SIM cards. Download the app, make an account, pre-pay, and follow the instructions. Then you can be connected as soon as you land in the country.
I recommend Ubigi! Use my referral code for a discount: SSD67P6G
Also, most Tokyo train/subway stations have a free wifi network, which you can join in a pinch.
To Japan: JAL and ANA are both lovely. I used ANA from London to Tokyo Haneda (which is a newer and far more central airport than Narita), and I think ANA is better value for money.
Consider searching Skyscanner on private browser mode (so they have a harder time tracking repeat searches, cookies, anything that could tamper with the price)
Within Japan: in addition to the airlines you see on websites like Kayak and Skyscanner, low-cost carriers include Peach (mainly out of Osaka), Vanilla, Jetstar, Skymark, and Air Do (to Hokkaido). As with any LCC, pay attention to restrictions and extra fees for carry-on/checked baggage etc.
These can be booked in English on the airline sites
Japan Rail Pass is an option to save money with a foreign passport. Must be bought BEFORE you enter the country e.g. online.
Note the significant price increase in October 2023 means the JR Pass will no longer pay off unless you go a very long distance. Check this calculator to see if a pass would be worth it for your plans.
Google Maps does a pretty good job of mapping your routes and costs through Tokyo and surrounding areas.
Important to note there are several different companies running trains within Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan, Toei Subway, and JR (Japan Rail), among others.
If you buy an IC card called Pasmo or Suica at the machines, you can transit between all of them by tapping the machines on your way through. Then you don’t have to deal with buying tickets and exact coin change. However, the card does not always work for longer-distance train rides, such as shinkansen (bullet trains); those require a separate ticket purchase, that is best to reserve ahead of time at the main shinkansen station (i.e. Tokyo Station in Tokyo or Kyoto Station in Kyoto) or any JR station with a “midori no madoguchi” みどりの窓口 (green service desk).
Digital IC cards are also available on Apple Wallet. If you navigate within the app to “Transit Passes,” you can load money via your credit card/Apple Pay.
💸 Cash vs credit card?
Credit card should be fine for booking hotels, but confirm beforehand (or book online via booking.com or similar and their payment system will handle it).
For everyday life - restaurants, shopping, etc. - cash is preferred. Petty crime is uncommon and it is safe to carry around wads of cash. Stores are used to making change, even for a ¥100 purchase from a ¥10,000 bill.
Tips are not expected nor accepted in restaurants.
Would recommend budgeting around ¥10,000/day to comfortably enjoy food, attractions, and souvenirs.
Top Recs by City
Must-see: Shinjuku Station
Must-eat: Yoshinoya - have
a beef bowl served to you in less
than a minute
Must-see: Tetsugaku no michi, the
Must-eat: Rich matcha soft-serve
Must-see: Dotonbori canal
Must-eat: Okonomiyaki with
seafood, bonito flakes, seaweed,
mayo, and savoury sauce
For more specifics by city, check out my photo books 📚
Know where & when you're visiting Japan, and want more recs? Ask me!
Happy to help and wishing you safe travels! :)