Japan is a country that all travelers should experience at least once, even if you only have a passing interest in the culture. Sleek, futuristic skyscrapers share space with serene temples and Shinto shrines – while the Japanese look to the future and innovate, they are also very much protective of their past and heritage. If you ever looked into visiting, but haven’t yet, consider joining AESU on our Essential Japan tour, which covers nearly all of a typical first time trip’s itinerary! It’s easy for the senses to feel overwhelmed after clearing customs, but here are some tips to help you get the most out of your first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun!
The Language Barrier
There’s no sugarcoating it – Japanese is one of the most difficult languages in the world for Westerners to learn. You have three different scripts, around 2000 Chinese characters called kanji to memorize (for basic fluency, anyway), and a grammar that is not intuitive to English speakers. That being said, it’s not super difficult to get by in Japan without any language ability. Signs and announcements in train stations, roads, and many tourist attractions are rendered in Japanese and in English, so you’ll always be able to tell where you’re headed. English is commonly taught in the Japanese school system, so you might chance upon an English speaker – although most Japanese either won’t remember what they learned or will feel too self-conscious to use it. The Japanese people love it when a foreigner speaks to them in their language, so learn a phrase or two to really endear yourself to the locals!
Japan has one of the most well-developed public transportation networks in the world, so plan on using the bus, train, and subway systems extensively during your trip, especially if you’re sticking to the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Instead of fumbling around your change purse every time you need to hop on, consider getting an IC contact card at the airport. This will allow you to load up a prepaid card with cash and use it to pay your fares. You can even use it to pay for items at most Japanese convenience stores! While there are many different IC cards out there, the two most commonly used are Pasmo and Suica, so look for one of these two.
While IC cards can be used to pay at the convenience store, you’ll likely need to use another payment method for restaurants, tourist attractions, art galleries, and more. And it’s worth noting that many Japanese establishments do not accept credit cards – even those issued in Japan. Ensure that you have plenty of cash for your daily travels – Japan is a safe country, and many salarymen are known to always carry a month’s worth of expenses in their wallets! Luckily, it’s possible to use your Western bank card at some ATMs in the country to withdraw cash – the most convenient way is at the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store, but Japan Post offices also accept Western cards at their machines. Take care to note your daily withdrawal limit – and make sure to inform your bank of your travel plans before you leave!
Explore the World with AESU!
Are you ready to plan an adventure of a lifetime? AESU offers unique, thrilling travel programs for college students and young professionals at affordable rates. Each trip is action-packed and informal—designed just for people your own age. We are also able to design custom tours just for your group.
Experience an exhilarating adventure in 2022 on the Cosmopolitan, Great Escape, Greek Island Hopper tour, and more! 2022 tour dates are now available! If you have any questions or want help booking your next adventure, please contact AESU by calling 800-638-7640, or fill out the contact form found on our website. Follow AESU on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.