It has been a while since I last wrote anything in this blog. So this time, I’ll share one of my most recent experience: traveling alone to Japan. Understandably, some people showed concern for my decision, with Japan being a non english speaking country and all. However, as it turns out Japan is extremely tourist friendly. I must say, it is one of the safest countries in the world. As for why you shouldn’t worry about visiting Japan:
- Most of the personnel at important tourist facilities speak english. This means people at the airport, train stations, tourist informations, post offices, and tourist spots can speak english. Well, not always fluent but enough so that you can ask directions, popular tourist destinations, train schedule, etc. Of course you can’t expect everyone to speak english, especially at restaurants. But usually they have an english menu available at hand.
- Friendly, helpful people. Japanese people won’t get angry at you if you mess up a bit. I had once used an icoca (public IC transit card in Japan) with insufficient amount of money inside it to pay bus fare. It took some time to pay the remaining amount using cash, but the bus driver didn’t scold me. Compare this to South Korea, where I got scolded just because I used a bunch of small changes when paying for my food. You can ask people around, and although they might not always be able to reply in english, they’ll try to help you anyway. One japanese was kind enough to let me ride in his car because I won’t make it in time to go to Nijo castle if I go by bus, but that’s for another story (thank you Nishitani-san!).
- It’s safe! Sure sometimes the Japanese TV channel shows some news about homicide, but since I come from Indonesia it’s pretty much nothing compared to the horrible stuffs back home. I didn’t even need to worry about theft. There were several occassions when I left my luggage unattended when going to the bathroom, and they’re still exactly at the same spot where I left them when I got back.
- English signs readily available. Most of the tourist attractions have both japanese and english written on them, so you don’t have to worry about finding your way.
And as for what you should prepare before going to Japan:
- Coin purse. Yes, the japanese coins range from 1 yen up to 500 yen (around 5 USD) while paper bill only start from 1000 yen, and people usually pay by cash in shops. So expect to accumulate a massive amount of coins.
- Itinerary, especially when traveling in the city areas. Due to the railway in Japan being owned by several different companies, you might end up having to pay a lot of money if you transfer a lot of times. Make sure you plan ahead when moving around, which gives us..
- Internet plan. If you’re going to stay for about a week or more, then by any means get a data plan. Chances are that you will travel around a lot, and you are going to need a data plan to access sites like Hyperdia which provides train schedules. I used bmobile’s sim card which provides a data plan for 14 days, priced at 4000 yen. And trust me, it helped me a lot.
- JR pass. Gives you unlimited access to JR trains including shinkansens (except the Nozomi and Mizuho types), ferries, and buses. Useful if you’re staying for more than a week, where you’re bound to travel around a lot. I abused mine by traveling using shinkansen between Hiroshima, Kyoto, Tokyo, and up to Nikko (I can go all the way to Sapporo but there doesn’t seem to be anything up there). Also, you can save a lot of money inside Tokyo if you move around only using the JR lines.
And that’s it for today. I’ll post details of my solo traveling in the following posts!