Public transport in Japan is fantastic. They operate JLR high-speed trains, normal trains and inner-city underground networks.
Taxis are expensive but completely avoidable if you read the public transport routes. In addition, interpreting public transport routes is very easy within main city stations.
The more remote you go, the harder it is to find both people or ticket machines with translation to English.
When you do use public transport there are a couple of rules you need to be aware of to stop you being rude.
Firstly, Japanese queue:
At stations (train and underground), you will find painted floor markings which correlate to gender, age, disability etc. Find the category that suits you best and stand in that section at the back of the queue.
Japan has a high population, and as such public transport is crowded and when in use, personal space bubbles just do not exist.
This is especially so around midnight at Tokyo station, which is the last and busiest train of the day. If you catch this, you will get to live the famous YouTube video experience of being physically pushed into a train.
I do not suffer claustrophobia, but I was hyperventilating from anxiety during this experience. Worth a try, just the once.
Activities for Fun
A common pass time in Japan is anything to do with comics, anime, arcades or karaoke.
The streets are commonly sandwiched between arcades full of claw based machines and other weird and wonderful games.
Other than games, these Arcades have various styles of photo booths where both locals and tourists alike pose for photo shoots.
These vary from romantic shoots, with scenic backdrops, or comedy ones with filters and Clip Art like Snapchat.
Another typical Japanese affair is to book a Karaoke booth.
This is one to be careful with though, as there are two very different type:
One is just a bunch of mates drinking all inclusive alcohol and singing bad karaoke.
The other is KTV’s, which are more like brothels pretending to be karaoke joints.
One thing I missed while in Japan was the ability to go to a normal bar and have a beer.
Normal bars as we know them in the UK are very rare in Japan.
Instead they have their own weird version of bar which I can only describe as themed escort bars — not strippers or prostitutes; just company and conversation accompanied by an entrance fee and a bar of young girls dressed in weird themed outfits. It might be French maids, pirates, Alice in wonderland, monsters, cats — all sorts.
However, the ‘in thing’ is for these girls is to be 17 years old.
Perhaps this is an attractive age to be in Japan; I just found it creepy.
Japanese Culture Stereotypes
In terms of stereotypes I had before coming to Japan, many were proven right, the main one being their respect based culture which is aligned with a rigid rule based mentality.
This is illustrated by their orderly queues, their lack of eating in public and their low theft crime and various other ways.
Overall rules and respect are very integral components of the Japanese lifestyle.
Next, I believed that Japan would be heavily influenced by comics and anime. And it is.
In Japan kitsch is cool.
I also expected there to be more geisha’s.
My friends and I learned of an area they frequent in Kyoto so went on an adventure we deemed ‘geisha hunting’. Unfortunately though, we didn’t find any. Instead it was like hunting for a rare pokemon and coming out defeated.
Also the formal japanese dress style is like the Scottish kilt. Its publicised as common but in reality it is only for formal occasions and tourists.
I had also hoped that I would see the beautiful cherry blossom trees. However it turns out they are only really in bloom for about a month from late February typically and apparently this is the most expensive time to go to Japan. I unfortunately missed it.
Tourist Things to be Aware of
Firstly it is worth noting that English in Japan is quite rare, so prepare yourself for this.
The Japanese are like the English. Their language is so common in their world their have no need to learn another. Therefore, it can be very lonely and difficult to communicate in Japan — especially the more rural you venture.
Weird fact, but toilets here are far more confusing.
Many have the equivalent of a remote control on the arm, play music and operate as a bidet. Failed attempts with buttons can cause a soaking of the entire bathroom, so beware.
It is also important to know that the weather in Japan has a wide temperature range so it is worth checking the forecast and packing appropriately.
Accommodation wise there are many beautiful hotels around but I would recommend at least once you stay in a capsule hotel. These are essentially bunks for either one or two people which have literally everything you need surrounding you.
The other end of the scale is to try a love hotel. These are native to Japan and are basically themed rooms for romantic stays but the themes are so bonkers they warrant a visit if you can afford them.
The items listed above are only a small fraction of the cultural differences between life in the UK and Japan, but these are some of the key ones that stood out to me.
To summarise, the lifestyle in Japan is much cleaner, much more conservative and respectful, as well as being more organised and regimented.
However, in my opinion, I think it might also be more lonely.
The lack of bars, nightclubs, group dining places and general chaos that I’m used to in Scotland would be a void in my heart than Japan could not fill.
Although to trade it in for a constant feeling of safety in an area with little to no crime, as well as knowing your country promotes an eco-friendly recycling culture — then perhaps these attributes are enough to desire change for.
Either way, I highly recommend everyone visits Japan at least once in their life!
Its honestly like nothing I had ever seen before. Maybe you’ll feel the same way!
Thanks Krypto Flamingo, I now know what to expect when travelling for the Rugby World Cup later this month! If you are lucky enough to have booked your tickets but not yet your accommodation, then check out the Trippki for your perfect hotel.
Written by guest blogger Krypto Flamingo