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  • Writer's pictureWanderlust Mike

Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun: Our Unforgettable Journey through Japan


Japan - the pearl of Asia. So much culture and history, we were honored to visit. Beautiful kimonos, graceful dances, festive shrine floats, and majestic temples. I hope this post helps inspire you to explore this wonderful nation.


While Japan, from North to South, is about as varied in temperature and climate as the United States, the early Spring appears to be the best time to catch the cherry blossom season.


Sakura, or cherry blossoms, represent renewal and the shortness of life. Hanami, or the tradition of holding a picnic party under the cherry blossoms, is very popular during this time. You'll find many Japanese sitting under the blossoms, with their shoes sitting next to their blankets. The cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan.


Always trying to find the best cultural, historical, and natural experiences when we travel, we journeyed to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Takayama during the cherry blossom season in the first half of April.



map showing tokyo hakone kyoto and takayama japan
Our journey through Japan





TOKYO


We began our adventure in Tokyo, the capital of Japan and most populous metropolitan area in the world, with a population of over 37 million people.


On our first day in Japan we explored the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. We were fortunate enough the catch the Tsukinami-sai ceremony, which takes place at 9:00 am on the 1st and 15th day of each month. Shinto Buddhist monks pray for peace, prosperity and the safety of the nation.


We also explored the Akihabara neighborhood, where our hotel was located. The street was full of bright colored buildings, souvenir shops, and food options. There were also many young women in mini skirts trying to get us into their clubs. But since we're gay men, we weren't interested - lol.


Tip: The best place to buy souvenirs in Japan is in Tokyo, where they have the largest selection and best prices. They have everything you'd find elsewhere in the country.



The Akihabara


The next day we explored the Imperial Palace, or Chiyoda City. This is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. We strolled through its beautiful grounds and found a watch tower, blossoming cherry trees, and even a small waterfall feature. The gardens had the best cherry blossom blooms to date! We also explored Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in the city center.



Watchtower at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

My husband with the cherry blossoms - Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Full Moon Bridge (Engetsu-kyo) - Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, Tokyo

At night, at the stylish Suigian Restaurant in the Chuo City district of Tokyo, we enjoyed a wonderful Japanese meal accompanied by traditional, cultural dance.


Tip: Suigian Restaurant was difficult to find. It's in the basement of a building complex. The most direct path to it is to find Yakuso Shrine in the courtyard area. You'll find a small sign for the restaurant, along with stairs going down, adjacent to the shrine entrance.



Our meal at Suigian

The cultural presentation at Suigian Restaurant

The next day we enjoyed a tea ceremony and very informative lesson at Shizu-kokoro in Tokyo. Chado, or the way of tea, is more than just a ceremony here in Japan. It's an art form.

Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the culture of Japanese tea.


Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation called tencha, in which powdered matcha was placed into a bowl, hot water added, and the tea and hot water whipped together, was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monk Eisai on his return from China.



Traditional tea sweet (red bean paste-filled mochi) at Shizu-kokoro


The Senso-ji Temple and Kaminari-mon Gate in Tokyo, Japan, are definitely a must see location. The main path is lined with souvenir shops. But it can get crowded!


Senso-ji is Tokyo's oldest temple. The first temple on this site was founded in 645 AD. During World War II, the temple was bombed and destroyed during an air raid on Tokyo. The main hall was rebuilt from 1951 to 1958.


Tip: It's probably best to get to Senso-ji Temple soon after it opens at 6:00 am, or right before it closes at 5:00 pm.



Busy Hozo-mon Gate at Senso-ji Temple


Nezu-jinja Shrine was serene and quiet, compared to Senso-ji, with its green bridge, gold trim, and row of small red torii gates.



Nezu-jinja Shrine

We didn't get to every place we wanted to visit in Tokyo. The Shitamachi Museum, which displays traditional, historical Japanese life, was closed for reconstruction. And we didn't make it to Ueno Park either, although we intended to do so.


And I had truly hoped to enjoy a traditional Kabuki theater performance at Kabukiza Theatre as well. But by the time I had figured out the ticketing system on their website, all of the best seats were already taken. Kabuki is a classical form of Japanese theater, mixing dramatic performance with traditional dance, elaborate costumes, and face make-up.



Day trips


A possible day trip from Tokyo is to the town of Nikko (Shinkyo Bridge, Tosho gu shrine, Taiyuin byo shrine).


You could also take a day trip to the iconic Chureito Pagoda, inside the Arakura Sengen Shrine. The shrine is located in the town of Fujiyoshida, which is also a day trip option from Hakone, Japan (see HAKONE below). A photo of Mount Fuji from that pagoda is the thumbnail of this blog post.


A day trip to the next town in this post, Hakone, is also possible from Tokyo.



Shinkansen (bullet trains)


We boarded a train at Tokyo Station, utilizing our Japan Rail pass, to travel to our next destination of Hakone. We traveled from Tokyo to Odawara Station by bullet train, then from Odawara to Hakone-Yumato Station by local train.


Japans electric bullet trains, or shinkansen, are amazing! The trains travel between 100 - 200 miles per hour! Japan's first shinkansen rail line was built in 1964, and since then they have perfected this mode of transportation. It's quite a sight to see trains whizzing within feet of each other at over 100 miles per hour! They're so fast, smooth, and luxuriously comfortable.


If the United States had such a network of trains, could you imagine how much easier travel would be? No TSA security checks, no baggage check-in, larger seating space, much cheaper and safer than airplanes, multiple points of entry, larger windows, no cabin pressure issues, zero air turbulence, able to enjoy the landscape, etc.



The fastest shinkansen (Hayabusa, 200 mph) at Tokyo Station

Japan Rail Pass


Our Japan Rail pass wasn't cheap, costing about $700 a piece for a 14-day Green Car (first class, reservable seats) pass. Our passes gave us unlimited rides wherever we wanted to go between cities. And if you use the official Japan Rail website, you can also reserve your seats in advance. Our passes gave us access to the Tokyo Monorail system as well.


There are no individual tickets with a Japan Rail pass. We simply used our pass with a QR code on it to enter and exit each gate. You can also purchase non-Green Car, or regular, passes for less money. That would also give you the added flexibility of riding whenever you choose, provided there's a seat available on the train.


Tip: I found it most convenient to travel between hotel check-out/check-in times. That way we never had to worry about storing our luggage or taking it with us while we went sight-seeing. For example, if check-out time was 11:00 am, and check-in time at the next hotel was 3:00 pm, we'd travel between 11 to 3.



A Japan Rail pass



HAKONE


Hakone, Japan, is known for its thermal hot springs, or onsen. Hakone is an active caldera, releasing heat and steam and sulfur on to the surface. It is also known for Lake Ashi. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from the lake.


In Hakone, we stayed in a beautiful traditional ryokan, Senkei Annex Yamagaso. These types of rooms have woven tatami mat floors, rice paper and wood paneled walls, thatched roofs, and futon mattresses for sleeping on the floor. Aside from the Hobbit-sized doorways (I'm 6'4"), the dwelling was quite comfortable. They gave us yukata robes to wear as well. We also had access to a private onsen, or thermal bath. We stayed in the Yamabuki room, which had a separate bedroom, kitchenette, toilet, and a shower and tub outside.



Smiling in my yukata at Senkei Annex Yamagaso

Main entrance courtyard at Senkei Annex Yamagaso at night

We loved the shops and restaurants along National Route 1, just South of the Hakone-Yumato Station. And crossing Yumato Bridge each day, with a view of Haya River, was a special treat as well.


Utilizing our Hakone Freepass, we took a local bus to the Hakone Jinja Shrine. The shrine is on a hillside situated between Lake Ashi and a beautiful forest of tall trees! It is most famous for Heiwa no Torii gate, which is located in the lake.


A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto Buddhist shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the worldly to the sacred.



My husband at Hakone Shrine

Dragon fountains at Hakone Shrine

Heiwa no Torii gate - Hakone Shrine

We took a local train from Hakone-Yumato Station to Odawara. Odawara Castle, Japan, was the largest Castle we saw during our adventure. You can even dress as a samurai at Tokiwagi Gate Samurai Hall!


While only the 7th largest in size in all of Japan, Odawara Castle will always be number one in our hearts. The cherry blossoms were beautiful there!



Odawara Castle

The Hakone ropeway and funicular takes you from Gora Station to Souzan by funicular, up to the sulfur plumes and famous black eggs of Owakudani Station, then down to Lake Ashi at Togendai Station by ropeway or cable way. You could easily spend half the day enjoying the ride and exploring each station.



Sulfur plumes at Owakudani Station

Black egg candies at Owakudani Station

Another location you could enjoy in Hakone is the Open-Air Museum, which can be easily accessed by local train at the Chokokuno-Mori Station. The museum is a collection of indoor and outdoor sculptures and exhibits.


The Hakone sightseeing cruise on Lake Ashi could also be fun. If it's a clear day, you should be able to see Mount Fuji from the water!


You could also take a day trip to the iconic Chureito Pagoda, inside the Arakura Sengen Shrine. The shrine is located in the town of Fujiyoshida.




KYOTO

We left Hakone and traveled by train (Hakone-Yumato > Odawara > Kyoto Station) to the wonderful city of Kyoto! We stayed at the Granbell Hotel Kyoto, which was central to all of the activities and places we wanted to explore. We stayed in their Japanese style premier twin room, which had ample space. Their breakfast buffet was good as well.


Kyoto was our favorite city because there was so much culturally to see and do! Our hotel was within walking distance of Yasaka Shrine, Otani Sobyo Shrine, and Chion-in Temple, all of which are located in proximity to beautiful Maruyama Park. We spent a wonderful morning perusing their grounds. It gave us time to contemplate and enjoy the wonderful union of man and nature that Japanese shrines are intended for.



A pagoda at Chion-in Temple

There are five geisha, or geiko, districts in Kyoto - Kamishichiken, Gion Kobu, Ponto-Cho, Miyagawa-Cho, and Gion Higashi. Each one holds a yearly dance performance which is available to the public. This is called an Odori. We were fortunate enough to witness the Gion Kobu district performance in April called Miyako Odori. Our favorites were the synchronized maiko (geiko in training) dances. The geiko performances were very dramatic and beautiful as well. They also used stunning backdrops depicting the four seasons of Japan.


Maiko during Miyako Odori (Autumn backdrop)

The next day we explored the famous rows of red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, took in amazing views of the city from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and enjoyed a fantastic private tea ceremony and dance session with a maiko at Gion Kiyomizu.


Worshipers have donated torii gates to express prayers and appreciation since the Edo period (1603-1868), and Fushimi Inari Taisha is now famous for its Senbon Torii "Thousand Torii" gateways. There are actually many shrines, and a nice bamboo forest, at Fushimi Inari Taisha. We encourage you to explore the mountain as much as possible.


Tip: Get to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine early (it's open 24 hours), and climb up the hill of torii gates as high as you can to help avoid the crowds.


Our private maiko tea ceremony, dance, photo opportunity, and question & answer session at Gion Kiyomizu was incredible! When I asked my husband if he had any questions for our maiko, he replied, "No. She is just so beautiful I want to marry her!" lol. Her okiya (geisha house) does not allow us to disclose her name or face. Wearing our kimono and obi was also a unique and memorable experience.



My husband at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Our private maiko session at Gion Kiyomizu

The following day we explored Nara Park and Todai-ji Temple, and Nijō Castle as well. The statue of Buddha in the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji is massive! 49 feet (15 meters) tall! And the views from Todai-ji Nigatsudo (February Hall) were beautiful.


We met many, many friendly deer at Nara Park. If you bow to them before you feed them, they will bow back. This was incredibly cute! But some can be a little too friendly. They poked me in the butt with their sharp antlers demanding I feed them a rice cracker. Ouch!


Tip: You can purchase rice crackers from multiple street vendors around Nara Park to feed the deer. One bundle of round-shaped crackers cost us 200 yen ($1.30). They ask that you only feed the deer these crackers and nothing else.


We recommend you find isolated deer to feed. You can find them scattered throughout the park. When they gather together to feed they can become quite aggressive.



A deer and a cracker vendor at Nara Park

View from Todai-ji Nigatsudo (February Hall)

Higashi Ote Gate at Nijo Castle

The next day we explored popular Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and adjacent Tenryu-ji Temple, the famous golden ️Kinkaku-ji Temple, and enjoyed a medley of traditional Japanese performing arts at Gion Corner.


Tip: Arashiyama bamboo grove is open 24 hours. Since it is very popular, we strongly recommend getting there early, or perhaps right before sunset.


Tenryu-ji Temple has a beautiful garden, Sogenchi Teien, which is definitely worth exploring. And at the top of Arashiyama bamboo grove is a great hillside garden with scenic views and a small admission price, Okochi Sanso Garden. There is also nearby Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama, with habituated macaque monkeys you can feed using purchased snacks.


If you can only attend one traditional Japanese performance during your trip, try the one at Gion Corner. We enjoyed watching a tea ceremony (Chanoyu), Koto music, flower arranging (Ikebana), a Bagaku dance, Kyogen comedy skit, puppet theater (Bunraku), and a beautiful Kyomai dance performed by two maiko all in one show!


My husband at Arashiyama bamboo grove

Golden Kinkaku-ji Temple

The medley of performances at Gion Corner

Additional places you can go around Kyoto include Minamiza Theatre, which has traditional Kabuki and other performances. Tofuku-ji Temple, which is best seen with its Autumn colors. Or Miyagawacho Theatre, which sometimes hosts geisha odori performances.



Day trips


Nara Park and Todai-ji Temple were a day trip for us, since they were 45 kilometers to the South in Nara, Japan.


Himeji Castle would be another great day trip, being one of the largest castles in all of Japan! It was 128 kilometers away from us in Kyoto, or a 2.5 hour train ride away. This is closer to Osaka, Japan, should you choose to go there.


Koya San monastery and cemetery on Mount Koya, which is 122 kilometers away, or a 3.5 hour train ride. This is also closer to Osaka, Japan, than it is to Kyoto.



Transportation


To get around the Kyoto area we utilized an ICOCA tap card. This is good for all public transportation. You can refill the card at an automated ticket kiosk whenever necessary. Simply tap it where you see the IC logo.



ICOCA card, purchased at an automated kiosk machine



TAKAYAMA


We ended our adventure in Takayama, Japan, one of the top festival towns in the entire country, with their Spring (Sanno Matsuri) and Autumn festivals. We took a shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya, then a local train up into the mountains of the Gifu prefecture of Japan.


We stayed at the Zenko-ji Temple, a Shukubo, or temple lodging that allows visitors to stay overnight. The accommodations were similar to a traditional ryokan. Our room was very nice, with a heater/air conditioner, toilet, shower, and even a combination washer/dryer. We stayed in the Flower room. There was also a common kitchenette and dining area, as well as a common sitting room.


Our bedroom at Zenko-ji Temple

The waterfront along the Eastern side of the Miyagawa River was beautiful, with its traditional wooden buildings and cherry blossoms. It is here that you will find the Miyagawa Morning Market, which runs daily from 7:00 am until noon.


We visited the Miyagawa Morning Market twice because we enjoyed it so much! Beautiful cherry blossoms, delectable street foods, collectible handicrafts, and colorful shops. The street vendors are primarily on the waterfront side of the street, and shops are open on the adjacent side.


Be sure to cross scenic and iconic Nakabashi Bridge on your way to the market as well. This is where they line the festival floats in the morning, and where they begin the parade at night.


Images from the Miyagawa Morning Market

View from Nakabashi Bridge

Portable shrine floats (yatai) lined up along Nakabashi Bridge

Takayama Spring Festival


The Takayama Spring Festival takes place each year on April 14th and 15th. The Night Festival, or parade, only occurs on the 14th.


Here's the basic schedule:


9:30 am - gathering of the shrine floats, or yatai. We witnessed this on Nakabashi Bridge (see photo above).


10:00 am - Karakuri marionette performance in the street intersection adjacent to Akiba Shrine and Hie Otabisho Sanctuary near Nakabashi Bridge.


Tip: To avoid the elements, you can watch the performance from under the gazebo at Akiba Shrine. Just get there early (like an hour early).


1:00 pm - Gojyunko Procession between Hie Shrine and Hie Otabisho Sanctuary.


2:00 pm - another Karakuri marionette performance in the street intersection adjacent to Akiba Shrine and Hie Otabisho Sanctuary near Nakabashi Bridge.


6:00 pm - Night Festival, with eleven, lantern-adorned yatai floats paraded through the streets (April 14th only).



Here are the official details >> Spring Takayama Festival (Sanno Matsuri)


Note: Rain will cancel the outdoor events. They've apparently had rain most years. We had sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s (21 - 26 C), so the travel gods were definitely smiling upon us.


Tip: There is an English speaking information booth at the Jinya-mae Morning Market located here, adjacent to Nakabashi Bridge.



Karakuri marionette performance on select floats

Cart in the Gojyunko Procession

Night Festival Parade of the Yatai

We absolutely loved the festival and the town of Takayama! It is probably one of the best cultural events we've attended anywhere in the world! We highly recommend it. They have an Autumn Festival, October 9th and 10th, as well.


There are other places, outside of the Spring Festival, I wish we had explored. They included Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato), which is a beautiful collection of historic buildings, the Sanmachi Suji old town neighborhood, and the Matsuri no Mori festival museum, with life-sized floats from festival.


A great day trip from Takayama would be to visit the snow monkey park, Jigokudani Yaen-Koen! This is where Japanese short-tailed macaques bathe in hot springs to keep warm during the colder months. It's 176 km, or a 3 to 4 hour drive, to Snow Monkey Park. 5 hours by public transit. Nagano Station appears to be the closest train station. You'd take a bus from there.



My husband along the Miyagawa River - Takayama, Japan

We already miss Japan. We're talking about returning during the Autumn season, so we can witness the beautiful colors of the Japanese maple trees! We hope to return and explore more of this beautiful country some day soon. We recommend you discover its beauty for yourself.





ADDITIONAL INFORMATION


Transportation


This has already been mentioned above, but we used the Japan Rail Pass to travel between cities. We purchased a 14-day, Green Car pass, which allowed us to reserve seats on each train.


In Tokyo, they no longer have PASMO tourist passes available. We paid per ride for local subways. To use the automated ticket machines:

1. Select English

2. Select Find by station name

3. Enter your destination station

4. Select Pay


Be careful boarding the subway trains. Express lines, which use the same tracks as local lines, don't stop at every station. The signs at the platform above each train track should tell you what type of train will be arriving next - express or local.


Tip: You may want to recalculate your Google map directions when you reach the transportation station, especially if you arrive past the boarding time listed, to help ensure you have the correct boarding time. This will assist you in boarding the correct train.


Public transportation information on Google maps


In Hakone we utilized the Hakone Freepass. This is a smartphone only website which offers 2-Day and 3-Day passes. We purchased them online, specifying the first date of use. When you approach a ticket gate, you bypass the gate and look for an attendant station with a small, yellow scanning device. You scan your active QR code at the scanning device. I say "active" because they want to see a small, animated train GIF running next to your QR code. Screenshots of your QR code are not sufficient.


We simply stayed logged-in to the Freepass website, so we could tap on the URL link on our phones and open our QR code immediately. Freepass allowed us to take local trains, buses, funiculars, cable cars, and even a boat around the lake. It was definitely easy to get around using it, and worth the hassle of opening our active QR code each time.


Our Hakone Freepass active QR code screen


To get around Kyoto we utilized a rechargeable ICOCA tap card. This is good for all public transportation. You can refill the card at an automated ticket kiosk whenever necessary. Simply tap it at the entrance and exit gates where you see the IC logo.



Language


Japanese has only pure vowel sounds, a = ah, e = eh, i = ee, o = oh, u = oo, and y = ee as well. This makes pronunciation easy. Here are the phrases I used most often while we traveled:


• Hello/Goodbye - Kon'nichiwa/Sayōnara (pronounced "koh-nee-chee-wah" and "sigh-oh-naw-rah")

• Bye - ja nae (pronounced "jaw-nay" and used if you'll see them again soon)

• Yes, no - Hai, i i e (pronounced "high" and "ee-ay")

Please - Kudasai (pronounced "koo-dah-sigh")


Thank you (very much) - Arigatō (Dōmo arigatō gozaimas')

• excuse me - Sumi ma sen

• I'm sorry (informal) - Gomen'na sai


Dining/food

• Water, please - mizu, kudasai

• Rice - gohan

• Fork - foku

• Coke - kōkusu

• Tea - ocha

• Tasty/delicious - oishī

• The bill, please - Okanjō, kudasai


Where is the/a _____? - _____ wa doko des' ka?

• Bus stop - Bas tei

• Subway - Chika' tetsu

• Train station - E' ki

• Airport - Kū' kō

• Convenience store - Konbini

• Ticket machine - Kenbai'ki

• Toilet - Toire

• ATM machine - ATM'a ki


Where is the bathroom? would be "Toire wa doko des' ka?"


• left/right/straight - Hidari/ migi/ massu'gu (This is so you'll understand their directions)


Do you speak English? - Eigo hana shi mas' ka? (pronounced "ay-ee-go Hanah she m-ah-s kah?")

• How many yen? - Nan en des' ka?

• 0-1-2-3-4-5 - Zero, Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go

• 6-7-8-9-10 - Roku, Sebun, Hachi, Kyū (Q), Jū (Jew)



Food


Let me start by saying we're not foodies. Food is fuel for us. Protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, etc. While we do try and at least sample the local cuisine when we travel, we're definitely not adventurous when it comes to food.


There were surely some sushi and sashimi places around, but most local restaurants we found served noodles, tempura, and other local dishes. We enjoyed noodles (ramen, soba, udon) in a savory broth the most.


I'll confess, we did eat at McDonalds or Denny's once or twice. And we found some good, microwaveable Japanese food, like a refrigerated bowl of udon noodles, at their 7-11 convenience stores!


I noticed that almost every dessert seemed to include mochi - rice that has been pounded until it becomes gummy. They wrapped everything in a slightly sweet mochi skin - red bean paste (most common), custards, fresh fruit, ice cream, etc. If you attend any tea ceremony while you're in Japan, the sweets they serve you before you drink the bitter matcha tea will certainly include mochi.


Tip: Outside of big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, some shops and restaurants only accept cash. Always carry some Japanese yen with you in case you get hungry.


Note: Japanese restaurants don't do special orders. The food comes as described on the menu. If you have a food allergy, such as dairy, they will not alter the food to accommodate you. For example, if the menu says "cheeseburger", you cannot order a hamburger without cheese. Just order something else instead.


Some of our foods in Japan


Coin Laundry (pronounced "koin randori" in Japanese)


Since we only travel with one carry-on bag and five days of clothing, we wash our clothes every so often during our travels. There are laundromats, or coin laundry as they call it, scattered everywhere. Some are even open 24 hours.


All coin laundry we encountered charged 400 yen ($2.60) to wash one load, 100 yen ($0.65) per 8 - 12 minutes to dry. They require the use of 100 yen coins.


Tip: If there are no coin changing machines in the laundry room, look for a nearby drink machine (they're everywhere) and make change by purchasing a hot or cold drink from it. The coin changing machines only take cash or large coins (500 yen). They don't accept credit/debit cards.


Tip: Use the Camera feature on your Google Translate app to read the procedure on the laundry machine... unless you can read Japanese, of course.


A koin randori - washing machine (blue), dryer (never blue)

Culture


Where to begin? There are plenty of cultural differences between Japan and where we reside in the United States. Here are just a few:


Trash - There is no trash on the streets of Japan. It is as spotless as Singapore or Switzerland, if you've been to either of those countries. No cigarette butts, no chewing gum, not even any graffiti. The only time we ever found any trash on the streets is when a tourist dropped it there. Please don't be one of those kinds of tourists. Respect the country and culture you're in.


Tip: There are no public trash cans, with the exception of train stations or airports. You should carry a small trash bag with you to collect your trash throughout the day. Dispose of it when you return to your lodging.


No shoes - If you go anywhere with traditional tatami mat floors, shoes are not allowed on them. The same goes for other places where you might sit - picnic blankets, seats, benches, etc. Please remove your shoes and leave them outside of the perimeter of the sitting area.


Toilets - They do come with electronic spray, bidet, and seat warming functions. But these functions can be used optionally. I tried them multiple times, even increasing the spray level. All they did was make a big, wet mess. But not to worry. You can still use the toilet the good old fashioned way as well. Oh, and their toilet paper is so thin it's sheer!


The people - The Japanese are usually reserved and quiet, not making any eye contact. We noticed that they, in general, do not consider it rude to bump into you while they are in motion. They will also politely insist that you follow whatever procedure they have in place. We called it "persistence, with a smile." But if you approach them needing any help, they are very friendly and absolutely go above and beyond to assist you.



Electrical outlets


Japan uses the same electrical plugs and outlets as the United States and most other countries from the Americas, Type A. They also use 100 volts of electricity (U.S. uses 110V), so no power convertor is necessary for most Americans.



You can leave any questions you may have in the comments section below. I hope this information helps!

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