Japan Holiday Tips for Beginners


If you have 12 days of leave in a year, use them up to travel to countries you have never been before. It is fun and has positive effects on personal and interpersonal health, business performance and community welfare.

Based on a research done by US Travel Association for several years, employees who take time to travel are proven to work more productively, have higher moral values and rarely lose focus on their jobs. Moreover, traveling also reduces stress and fatigue.

One of the popular destinations for Indonesian travelers today is Japan. “The land of the rising sun” has become more open to tourists, and has even started giving out free visa entry with pre-departure registration for Indonesian citizens with e-passport, since December 2014.

“You only need to bring your e-passport and a piece of form printed and filled,” says Nuniek Tirta, a blogger and homemaker, who applied for visa waiver at the Japanese Embassy in May. After obtaining this, she is no longer required to register for the next three years to stay in Japan for 15 days.

So what are the things to prepare when you travel to Japan?

1. Learning Japanese Habits

Icha Pranatasari, a 22-year-old Indonesian student studying in Japan, shares her experience on the culture shock she had when she first arrived in Japan.

“Japanese are very obedient and respectful of the rules,” she says, adding some examples she often finds every day, from queuing and not cutting lines, not crossing when the red light is on, to putting trash to the bin.

Before leaving, try to be more discipline so that you would not feel out of place when you are there. Although it may sound insignificant, those things could make you frustrated because you are not use to doing it.

“Almost everything feels different, especially things related to time management,” Icha says. “Here, you’ll be surprised finding out that every public transport comes and goes exactly on time. For example, a train could leave at 18.07,” she explains.

If your bus, Metro train, express train Shinkansen, or other public transport ticket printed departure time at 09.52, it means exactly that. They will not wait for three minutes only to depart at 09.55.

2. Choosing the Right Time to Visit Japan

Fall and spring are the most popular seasons for tourists because these seasons are too cold or too warm – very suitable from people who are used to tropical climate.

In spring, you can watch the beautiful cherry blossoms. This scenery would be easy to find in big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, usually from the end of March until mid-April, and will last until 14 days if the weather permits.

You can also visit Japan during the school holidays, like Nuniek who went during the Eid holidays three weeks ago. She bought the tickets for herself, her husband and two children since last year. Flying with a budget airline, the one-way Jakarta-Osaka ticket cost her around JPY57.377 (*USD523, Rp7,000,000) for 4 people. If you are choosing this option, make sure that your plan is already fixed and buy travel insurance long before your departure date to protect your trip budget in case there is any disaster preventing you from leaving, while also cover your health during your entire stay in Japan.

For snow seekers who want to visit during winter, either to ski or snowboard, you can go to Hokkaido or Honshu, two popular islands that are known to have the best snow conditions and resort facilities in Japan.

3. Minimizing Luggage

“We went using a budget airline without any checked-in baggage, and each of us bring a cabin bag which contains our clothing items for a week,” Nuniek says.

Several items, i.e. coat, socks and a pair of comfortable shoes are better worn and kept in your cabin luggage so that you would have a spare of clothing during a lay-over at another country. According to Icha, wearing clothes in layer that are easy to take off would help a lot in adapting to the drastic temperature changes when you are staying inside and outside a room.

Choose a comfortable pair of shoes that you can easily put on and take off. In Japan, you will spend quite a lot of time shoeless, e.g. when eating at traditional Japanese restaurants, visiting shrines, using public toilets, etc. If you would like to keep it easy when going through a body scanner or changing shoes when entering certain places, wear stockings or socks, and avoid footwear with laces.

4. Choosing Accomodation

If you are looking for a unique Japanese experience, stay at Ryokan or Minshuku. Both have the same characteristics as a privately-owned guesthouse offering bed and food.

The rates for these types of accommodation are more expensive than hostels or rooms listed on Airbnb – Ryokan would cost around JPY 6,000 (*USD54.64, Rp 732,000) a night and Minshuku for JPY 4,000 (*USD36.42, Rp 488,000). However, the hospitality is guaranteed at these traditional lodgings and you will experience unique Japanese cultures, i.e. sleeping on tatami and futon – Japanese roll mattress, wearing yukata, borrowing geta – Japanese traditional sandals – for outside stroll or even going to the public bath.

“If you want to save up, you can stay at a capsule hotels. They are unique and only cost around JPY 3,000 (*USD27.31, Rp366,000) per night,” Icha suggests, adding that these hotels are mostly located in Tokyo and Osaka.

5. Installing Useful Apps for On-the-Go

Google Translate

Just like in Korea, there are not many English-speaking people in Japan. However, cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are quite tourist-friendly, so you can find more signs in English and officers speaking English in those three cities.

“Other than those three locations, you might need to rely on body language if you want to communicate with people,” Icha explains.

If you do not want to spend time learning Hiragana and Katakana upon departure, do not forget to install Google Translate app on your mobile. This app can translate characters just by scanning them with your mobile phone camera. It also provides two-way automatic speech translation.

Available on App Store dan Google Play.

Hyperdia App

“It is better to travel with trains, because taxis are quite expensive here; the meter starts at JPY 660-780 (*USD6.00 - USD7.10, Rp80,520-Rp95,160). Uber services would cost about the same, because it is based on the government regulation,” says Nuniek.

With Hyperdia app, you can do voice search in both English and Japanese to get train information, i.e. the shortest routes, tariff, commuter-line tariff, maps, as well as departure schedules. You can avoid all the hassle and time wasted to input a station’s name in Japanese characters due to the fact you are not familiar with the language.

Available on App Store dan Google Play.

6. Getting a Pocket Wi-Fi

“Unlike in Indonesia, it is difficult to find Wi-Fi access in public areas. That is why there are mobile phone and pocket Wi-Fi rentals here,” Icha explains. Using a pocket Wi-Fi device thorughout your stay in Japan would connect all your gadgets to the internet, without having to worry about duration and volume of use.

You can rent this wireless router at any telco outlets that are mostly found at airports. The good news is you can pay at a lower price when you make an advance booking. Simply fill in a registration form on the pocket Wi-Fi rental company sites, at least 2 days prior to your arrival date, then confirm your order through email and complete payment as instructed.

The premium Wi-Fi service is available for around JPY 6,450 (*USD58.73, Rp786,900) and it will be active for 5 days. The company will then deliver the device to your hotel a day before you arrive or to your designated airport, free of charge. What a lifesaver indeed!

Read more: 10 Outdoor Family Holidays in Cool Places Across Indonesia

*Rate per 2nd August 2017

*Rate JPY1 is Rp122

*Rate USD1 is Rp13,398 

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