geisha in kyoto
A geisha walking on street in Gion district, Kyoto.

I know every trip will be better when you have a companion, because you can both taking pictures of each other, sharing taxi fare, chatting to kill idle time, or help each other in unexpected incidents. However, recently I received many questions about “how to travel to Japan alone because my companion fails to get a visa (the most common reason) or must join an unexpected job”. I have been visited Japan 4 times in which I completely done 2 solo trips. With a lot of experience that I got after these trips, I want to write the following useful tips, so your upcoming trip to Japan even if you are going alone will still be promising. So, to plan a perfect trip to “the land of the rising sun”, before you go I think you should know these Japan trip tips especially for your first-time visit. Let’s check out our Japan travel tips blog regarding what to know before traveling to Japan including what you need to know before going to Japan, things to know before traveling to Japan for first timers as well as Japan travel advice, Japan travel advisory to help you have a smooth trip!

Kyoto Ancient city
Kyoto ancient capital city. | what you need to know before going to japan
Takayama Old Town
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo | what to know before traveling to japan
matcha at kiyomizu dera
Matcha at Kiyomizu Dera

#1. Always bring enough cash

Japanese yen. | japan travel tips blog

Lots of restaurants, shopping malls, bars, pubs, and shops accept international credit cards, but Japan is still a place that using a lot of cash. Because local shops, small shops will not accept credit cards, and many places even have credit card machines but do not work with international cards. So it’s best to bring 5,000 – 10,000 yen every time you go out.

#2. Japanese manners: Must know do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture

Japanese tea ceremony (Chado)

If we go into detail, there will be thousands of manners and etiquettes in Japanese culture, but below are the most important things that I can summarize:

  • Do not receive or make a phone call when taking public transport in Japan, if you must answer, speak quietly and quickly end the call.
  • Don’t point at others with one finger.
  • Always remove your shoes outside before entering areas such as ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), onsen baths, main halls of shrines, temples. You will have a locker to store your own shoes outside, when entering the onsen, you will use the slippers of that onsen area.
  • Always line up.
  • Remember to wear a mask when you have a cold or cough.
  • Do not take pictures of others without their permission.
  • Do not take pictures of Geisha and Maiko while they are walking on the street without their express consent.
  • Do no tips when dining at a restaurant in Japan.
Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). | things to know before visiting japan
Diners dining at Omoide Yokocho alley, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Do not tips at any restaurant. | things you need to know before going to japan
geisha in kyoto
A geisha walking on street in Gion district, Kyoto.
gion district geisha kyoto (5)
You only allow to take photo of Geisha or Maiko with their permission.

#3. Make the most of Coin Locker

Coin Lockers are very popular in Japan, you can find them in any famous place to visit or train station. Coin Locker allows you to put your luggage into to free your hands to go out and explore comfortably instead of having to drag your luggage with you. But there is a very high chance that coin lockers are used up at train stations. But you can use Coin Locker in shopping malls or famous tourist attractions. If you temporarily forget where your Coin Locker is, just bring your receipt and ask staff at information desk. I once forgot my Coin Locker position and just go to the tourist information counter, they can immediately look it up for you, print out a map for you to find very carefully.

#4. Staying in a hostel/dorm in Japan

9 Hours Capsule Hotel | things you need to know before going to japan

Japan has many very modern and clean hostel/dorm chains among the places I’ve been to. When staying in a dorm, you will save 1/3 of the accommodation cost compared to renting a hotel which is very expensive in Japan. However, when staying in a hostel/dorm, please note the following things:

  • Do not disturb other guests.
  • After self-cooking, remember to clean it up.
  • Pay attention to the operating hours of that hostel/dorm.
  • Check check-in and check-out times carefully.
  • You can rent many services at a hostel/dorm such as bicycles, buying sightseeing tickets, let buy them comfortably because the price is not much different from buying right at place.
Cheapest hostel in Osaka Japan Coffee & Music Hostel LnK (1)
| things you need to know before going to japan

Cheapest hostel in Osaka Japan Coffee & Music Hostel LnK (1)

#5. Don’t come late when traveling by public transport

japan public transport
Japanese queue culture is admirable | things to know before visiting japan

Many of you think that the departure time at 12:30PM, passengers will start boarding, but no, 12:30PM is the exact time the train starts running. You should come 15-20 minutes earlier to boarding the train. Especially, if you take Shinkansen without a reservation, you should go early to get a good seat.

The same goes for bus, if you come late only 1 minute, it is enough for the bus to have already passed your stop. All public transport in Japan running on time unless there is a technical problem.

japan public transport
Subway station | japan travel tips blog
tokyo subway
Tokyo Subway is main and popular means of transportation in Tokyo. | what you need to know before going to japan

#6. Notes when entering Shinto shrines

There are specific rites of worship in Shinto. In general, engaging in the following actions will suffice for any foreign visitor.

Cherry blossoms at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the must visit place in Kyoto. | what you need to know before going to japan
  • There will always be a purification trough with running water for you to clean up yourself (body self-purification by water). Use the trough respectfully.
  • At the trough, use the ladles to catch the water. Wash your left hand, then your right hand. Finally, pour some water into one hand and use it to rinse your mouth.
  • Under no circumstances should you spit in the trough or wash your hands on it.
  • At the donation box, put coins in, bowing twice, clapping once, bowingn again and praying.
| what you need to know before going to japan
Chozuya Purification Trough at Meiji Jingu Shrine | what you need to know before going to japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine - One of most famous shrine in Japan (14)
Thousands of Torri gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine. | what to know before traveling to japan

Japan trip tips: #7. Dress comfortably when visiting castles

Japanese ancient castle 15
With a height of 40 meters, the castle is the greatest architecture in Osaka at the time. | what to know before traveling to japan

Although it’s beautiful, but Japanese castles were once fortresses, so the architecture inside is very zigzag and meandering, especially to climbing up to the high attics to enjoy the panoramic view of the city, you won’t find any elevator, so should note to dress comfortably if in your schedule to visit a certain castle during the day.

Japanese ancient castle 3
Himeji Castle was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (culture) in 1993. | what to know before traveling to japan

#8. Check forecast for seasons & festivals

Full blossom at Kanazawa, Japan yesterday
Full bloom cherry blossoms in Kanazawa | things to know before traveling to japan

For any trip to Japan, the two most important forecasts are the Sakura Forecast (Cherry blossoms season forecast) and the Fall Foliage Forecast. If you don’t like those 2 seasons (I think you’re lying) you should still check these seasons because usually in the Sakura season, the room rates will have a much more expensive than usual.

Takayama Hokke-ji Temple garden with stone bridge in autumn | things to know before traveling to japan
Hokkaido in autumn | things to know before traveling to japan
Hakone autumn3
Autumn leaves in Hakone. | things you need to know before going to japan

#9. Take advantage of convenience stores

You may be familiar with the convenience store culture in your country, but Japan is where this culture is more popular. You can buy almost anything here from drinking water, lunch box (according to me, it is very delicious), to printing, mailing, buying tickets, everything can be found here. Convenience stores are open 24/7, so if you go alone and can’t find a place to sit while waiting for your train, you can stop by here to sit comfortably because there is also Free WiFi.

Japan tips for first timers: #10. Buy a sim card when you come to Japan

The reason is very clear, we cannot live without the Internet. Although many public areas such as JR stations and shopping malls, all have free wifi, but Sim Cards in Japan are inexpensive, you can visit convenience stores, BIC Camera stores to buy easily and stay connected.

Yokohama, Japan sunset skyline.| what to know before traveling to japan

What to know before traveling to Japan: #11. Use Google Maps to get around on public transport

In Japan, Google Maps works very exactly and effectively, every train, every bus is updated exactly to the minute. If you are not good at navigation, Google Maps is the most effective solution.

Vibrant and sparkling at night in Ginzan Onsen Town, Yamagata. | japan tips for first timers

Japan travel tips blog: #12. Don’t buy a JR Pass if you travel a little

JR Pass | japan tips for first timers

The JR Pass is sold by the Japan Railways (JR) association is one of the most efficient passes in the world. It is especially attractive when traveling alone in Japan because you can be flexible with your itinerary. However, the JR Pass is only really useful if you intend to traveling through many different cities with too long distances from each other. If you only traveling between many cities but are located in a specific region, you should buy a JR regional pass. For example, if you only traveling in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, you only need to buy the Kansai Pass is enough, which will save you a lot of money. To buy and see more information about JR pass here.

Kansai-Hiroshima JR Pass
Kansai-Hiroshima JR Pass | japan tips for first timers

Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, to and from Tokyo you can refer to


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