Try These 4 Unique Eateries in Japan!

Try These 4 Unique Eateries in Japan!

We all love food, don’t we? I bet a lot of us are huge Japanese food lovers, as well! I assume we’re all also experts on the types of Japanese food out there, so that’s why this article isn’t about that at all. We’re actually here to look at the various types of Japanese eateries you should definitely give a try. Other than your standard ramen-ya (ラメン屋, ramen shop) and kaitenzushi (回転寿司, conveyor belt sushi), there are actually loads of other types of eateries. . 

In our Season 4 Episode 3 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we guided you through 4 unique types of Japanese eateries you can find in Japan. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this blog post as well. 

Take note, and keep in mind to pop by these places when you’re travelling to Japan! 

Izakaya, The Japanese-style Pub

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The first on our list is the izakaya (居酒屋). These are traditional Japanese-style pubs that are the best place to go to if you’re looking for cheap drinks and snacks. They are essentially Japanese taverns and you can find one just about anywhere. Even the neighbourhood districts have a handful of their own local izakaya.

The name literally translates to “stay alcohol shop”, so traditionally, this was a place where you could just sit around and drink. Unlike some other places where they try to “turn tables” by rushing customers out, in an izakaya, they won’t ever do that. It’s literally in their name and the basic Japanese etiquette. You’re allowed to just chill and have a couple of beers. 

The most common type of food that you usually get at an izakaya is yakitori (焼き鳥), which are meat skewers. And if I must say so myself, they go great with a beer or cocktail. But if you don’t fancy that, there are other side dishes like chips and a small portion of noodles.

Ryotei & Kappo

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This next type of Japanese eatery is a lot more traditional than the previous: the ryotei (料亭) and kappo (割烹). 

A ryotei (料亭) is typically a high-end restaurant where guests can savour washoku (和食, Japanese cuisine) in private tatami rooms. Some ryotei date back to the early 17th century! Every little detail in the room is taken into account, from architecture to the decoration. Back in the day, this type of restaurant was used for feudal lords to meet with trusted subordinates in private. Even now, businessmen and politicians would have banquets and hold meetings behind the ryotei’s closed doors.

Kappo (割烹) literally translates to “cutting and cooking”. At a kappo restaurant, you usually sit at a bar counter and can observe the chef’s preparation. You can make special requests for what dishes you want or go for the “omakase” (お任せ), which means you leave it up to the chef to decide.

There’s a level of exclusivity for some ryotei and kappo restaurants. Sometimes, you can’t walk in or make reservations. You have to be invited by someone who’s already an existing guest.

Cook-It-Yourself Eateries

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This next category is the cook-it-yourself type of restaurant. You can already guess what you do at this restaurant. Yup, you cook the food yourself. Some might not like the idea of it, because if they want to cook, they’ll do it at home. If they dine out, they want it served to them. But trust me on this when I say you would want to try this type of eatery when in Japan. Don’t you want to experience Japanese culture? 

There are a few ones you should try. The first one is a yakiniku (焼肉) restaurant. Yakiniku is translated to “grilled meat”. Originally, it referred to western barbecue food. Later on, it moved on to refer to Korean food. Today, yakiniku refers to a style of cooking bite-sized meat and vegetables on griddles over a flame of wood charcoal. It’s now known as Japanese barbecue.

Another restaurant in the cook-it-yourself category is nabe (鍋), which means hot pot. It’s a broad category that consists of all types of hot pot dishes. Usually, nabemono is served during the colder seasons, but there are some chain restaurants offering it all year round. People sit around a table with a pot usually filled with soup and throw in whatever they like. Most of the time it’s meat, veggies and noodles. When it’s cooked, they scoop it out into their bowl.

There are so many types of nabemono (鍋物), but my favourite is shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ). This is thinly sliced meat and vegetables are boiled in a pot of soup, and then afterwards dipped in a dipping sauce before eating. It’s a must-try when you travel to Japan!

Family Restaurants

Image Credit: WIkipedia Commons

Last but not least on our list, we have family restaurants. These are just casual dining restaurants which cater to people of all ages, but specifically families with children, hence the name. The big-name ones include Japan are Gusto, Johnathans and Denny’s.

Family restaurants are usually inexpensive — a meal can range from 500 yen (USD5) to 2,000 yen (USD20). I have never spent more than 2,000 yen at a family restaurant in my years of living in Japan.

One of the best things about this type of eatery is that they’re pretty convenient to dine in, especially for foreigners since everything on the menu has pictures to accompany it or an English menu. You have everything from the typical Japanese dishes like curry rice and donburi (丼物, rice bowls) to Western dishes like pasta and hamburgers.

My favourite part of a family restaurant is the drink bar. Unfortunately, it’s not an alcoholic drink bar. They’re all non-alcoholic beverages including soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea. There is a range of alcoholic drinks, though. Some outlets have happy hour deals where beers go as cheap as 200 yen!

Vocab Recap

Here’s a recap of the new vocabulary words we used in the podcast episode:

Yakitori (焼き鳥) — meat skewers 

Osusume (おすすめ) — recommendation 

Kanpai (乾杯) — Cheers!

Washoku (和食) — Japanese cuisine 

Omakase (お任せ) — I leave it up to the chef

Yakiniku (焼き肉) — grilled meat

Nabe or nabemono (鍋・鍋物) — hot pot dishes 

Shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) — a type of hotpot dish

Youshoku (養食) — Western cuisine 

dorinku bā (ドリンクバー) — drink bar

Eat Your Heart Away!

One of the best things about travelling is trying new things. Japanese culture has lots to offer, and eateries are part of them! I highly recommend trying them out when you find yourself in Japan soon! Check out the full episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast, as well as other similar topics, if you’re interested to know more about Japanese culture and language!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

As the world slowly opens up again, we’re hoping Japan is going to open up its borders, too. In fact, there are rumours that we might be able to travel for leisure to the Land of the Rising Sun as soon as the end of the year! 

So to get yourself prepared for your adventure to Japan, why not create a Japan travel bucket list? 

I’m sure you’ve read tons of articles online about this. There’s the standard “visit these specific places” and “eat local food”, and the list goes on to more than 50 things to do! Boy, we don’t all have the time in the world to read or do that! So that’s not what we’re going to do in this article.

Instead, our Japan travel basic bucket list has only 4 activities! It’s the most basic of lists, but a really good one, if I do say so myself. 

#1: Balance City & Nature  

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The first on your Japan bucket list is balancing city and nature. Most of us think of the bright lights and neon signs of Tokyo when thinking about travelling to Japan. But keep in mind that this island nation is huge! There’s literally so much more to Japan than the Shibuya Scramble and Asakusa’s Sensoji.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo is lovely and a city that will always have a place in my heart. But you should definitely spread out your time across the mainland rather than just one city. 

Venture out to the rural areas and you’ll discover a whole other side of the country. You don’t even have to go so far. Even just a quick one to two-hour drive out of Tokyo to Yamanashi. You’d be surprised at the world of difference these two areas have. 

If going from one end of the stick to another is too extreme for you, then pick the middle ground: a suburban area, like Kawasaki and Chiba. Alternatively, you could kill two birds with one stone and pop by the mountainous town of Hakone. This is just an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. You can not only venture out of the city zone but also experience local hot springs and the beautiful nature all year round.

2: Drown in Spirituality

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The next thing on the bucket list you need to do in Japan is drowning yourself in spirituality. Scattered around the country are shrines and temples. Even with a walk down the street your accommodation is at, you can come across a few local ones.

During your time here, never stop visiting these holy grounds. If you’re visiting various cities, visit a few of them in each one. There are some uphills, making you work for the view. There are others with hidden caves where you can pray for a deep desire. There was one shrine that I went to in Fukuoka called Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine. It had a small cave but I had to really find it, though. It’s believed that if you make a wish in that cave, it’ll definitely come true. A friend of a friend wished to be married and the year after she went there, she actually did!

If you’re not sure whether the holy grounds you’re at is a temple or a shrine, look out for torii. This is a traditional Japanese gate that’s usually red. It marks the transition of mundane to sacred ground. If you see one before entering the grounds, then it’s a shrine.

3: Immerse in Culture

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The third on our Japan travel bucket list is to immerse yourself in culture. Every city that you go to will be sure to have a museum. The Land of the Rising Sun has quite a story to tell, even about the times when it wasn’t known as Nippon. While you can read about them online, these museums have information that you can’t find anywhere else. There are also artefacts that you can see with your own very eyes. 

There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor museums for you to discover. Some even have cafes for a short break in between your learning journey. If you go to outdoor ones, they might even have a foot bath!

I understand that not everyone’s interested in walking around staring at figures. If you’re not such a huge fan of history, then go to an art gallery instead. Japan is rich in art, from paintings to fashion. Take your pick of permanent and temporary exhibitions, featuring legendary local and international artists and designers.

4: Drink Your Hearts Out!

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And last but definitely not least on our bucket list: drink your hearts out! While there are lots of local delicacies, not many talk about the drinking culture. Get your fill of all the alcoholic drinks this country has to offer. Different cities have local breweries as well, so you can go on a beer tasting trip around the nation!

If you’re short on time and can’t afford to hop from city to city, don’t worry, your local bar by the accommodation has you covered. There’s everything from the standard draft beer to cocktails. In fact, some places have nomihodai (飲み放題), an all-you-can-drink deal. This is where you can… drink all you want! For a certain amount of time, of course, and for a bargain price!

Vocab Recap

In our Season 4 Episode 1 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we have more fun facts and details of a Japan travel bucket list. In that episode, we introduced new vocabulary words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Toshi (都市) — city

Inaka (田舎) — countryside or rural

Kougai (郊外) — suburban

Shizen (自然) — nature

Jinja (神社) — shrine. Another way to call a shrine is jingu (神宮)

Otera (お寺) — temple

Taisha (退社) — grand shrine

Torii (鳥居) — the red gate

Omikuji (おみくじ) — fortune slip

Hakubutsukan (博物館) — museum

Bijutsukan (美術館) — art gallery

Sake (酒) — alcoholic drinks

Nihonshu (日本酒) — Japanese rice wine

Nama bēru (生ビール) — draft beer

Kokuteru (コクテール) — cocktail 

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Nomihōdai (飲み放祭) — all-you-can-drink

Create Your Japan Travel Bucket List Now!

What did I tell ya? Our bucket list might be basic, but it’s still extensive. It’s going to get you doing the things you can only do in Japan. What are you excited to do first? Let us know!

Also, tune in to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more content like this, as well as fun and quick Japanese grammar lessons.

Sanja Matsuri: What Is It and How to Celebrate?

Sanja Matsuri: What Is It and How to Celebrate?

Summer is one of the most anticipated seasons worldwide. In Japan, as well, many look forward to the warmer weather. Summer in Japan is one of the most exciting times of the year.

One festival that kicks off the start of the summer season in Japan is the Sanja Matsuri, taking place in May. This takes place at the capital city Tokyo over a three-day period. Both locals and tourists alike clear up their schedule to attend this big occasion. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what exactly Sanja Matsuri is, how it came about and how you can celebrate it like a local!

What is Sanja Matsuri?

One of the biggest festivals in all of Japan takes place in Tokyo at the start of May. This festival is called the Sanja Festival (三社祭, Sanja Matsuri). This annual festival can be found in the Asakusa district and almost two million visit the neighborhood over the three days this festival is held. 

The Sanja Matsuri is held to celebrate the three founders of Sensoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in the country. About a hundred portable shrines known as the mikoshi (神輿) are paraded around the 44 districts of the neighbourhood by participants that carry them on their shoulders. These shrines are believed to have Shinto deities placed in them and they’re brought around to spread luck and fortune to people and businesses. Out of the hundreds of shrines, there are three big ones, which belong to the Asakusa Shrine next to Sensoji. 

The paraded mikoshi will be bounced up and down and thrown side to side. This motion is known as tamafuri (球ふり) and has been done for centuries. If it’s done at a festival, the locals believe they will be blessed in terms of great harvests and improved health.

Other than the parade of shrines, food and drinks stalls as well as entertainment stalls are set up on the streets. Music of Japanese drums and flutes are also performed to accompany this parade of shrines.

What the participants of the event wear

One of the highlights of this festival is the cool things that the participants wear. There are a few different mikoshi teams, and each team wears a different hanten (反転) coat. This is a short traditional coat that is thicker than a normal one. That’s because the participants have to carry the shrine on their shoulders. 

Underneath the coat, they wear the fundoshi (褌). This is a traditional Japanese undergarment that adds support and comfort.

The outfit is topped off with a traditional tabi (たび). This is a special kind of boot. Put on a hachimaki (鉢巻) headband and they’re good to go. 

When is Sanja Matsuri? 

The Sanja Matsuri is usually held in the third weekend of the month for three days (Friday to Sunday).

In 2022, the Sanja Matsuri was held from May 21st to May 22nd. However, because of the pandemic, it was on a reduced scale with only the three mikoshi paraded around. Instead of three days, it was only two days this year.

History of Sanja Matsuri 

Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Sanja Matsuri is one of three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. Some believe the festival started taking place in 1649. This was when the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered the construction of Asakusa Shrine. Some others believe the celebration has been going on since 1312, but it was only every other year until 1649.

The shrine is dedicated to brothers Takenari and Hamanari Hinokuma, as well as their friend, Matsuchi Hajino. These three people, known as “Sanja-sama”, established the Sensoji Temple in 628. 

How to Celebrate Sanja Matsuri 

Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

It’s okay if you missed the Sanja Matsuri in 2022, since the borders have yet to open fully. Not to fret, it’s the best time to prepare for the festival in 2023. So let’s take a look at what exactly goes down in the three days so we can learn how to celebrate the festival like a local!

Friday – Day 1 

On Friday, the first day of the festival, the head priest of Asakusa Shrine performs a ritual to invite spirits of the Sanja-samba into the three big mikoshi. At 1PM, temple priests, city officials, geishas, musicians and dancers wear traditional costumes and walk through the streets of Asakusa.

Afterwards they head to the shrine for a brief Shinto ceremony. They pray and dancers perform the binzasaramai (びんざさらまい) dance that’s accompanied by traditional Japanese percussion instruments (びんざさら, binzasara).

Then, in the late afternoon, the giant mikoshi are paraded through the streets. This is the best time to get up close and personal with the mikoshi as the crowd won’t be as big on this day. 

Saturday – Day 2

The second day of the festival kicks off at noon with about a hundred small mikoshi carried throughout the neighbourhood. These are neighbourhood mikoshi. Each mikoshi has their own team of about 60 people carrying it and cheering in unison to each other. People shout “wasshoi! Wasshoi!” to encourage the crowd and each other.

These mikoshi include small ones for children. Kids of all ages and sizes can participate in this. Even toddlers can play with the taiko drums that are mounted on a cart! If you’re going to the festival with kids, this can be an enjoyable and interactive experience for your family.

At the end of this day, the teams gather at Asakusa Shrine and end their day with drinks.

Sunday – Day 3

The last day starts in the morning at 6AM. At the shrine, the teams from the previous day gather and some get to carry the big three mikoshi. It’s very competitive among the teams for who gets to carry the mikoshi. Because of that, visitors aren’t allowed to observe this.

By 8AM, they depart the shrine and travel around Asakusa in separate routes and return back to the shrine in the evening at 6 or 7PM. Sometimes the remaining small mikoshi of the teams from the previous day will parade around as well. 

Celebrate with food 

One of the main highlights of this festival for many people is the food. This is available at stalls on the streets of the neighbourhood. You get your typical yakisoba (焼きそば, fried noodles) and yakitori (焼き鳥, meat skewers). 

But you definitely can’t miss out on Asakusa-exclusive delicacies like kibi-dango Azuma (吉備団子あずま), known to date back over two centuries ago. This is made out of millet powder and sweet rice, then coated with soybean flour. 

Let’s celebrate this Shinto event!

Doesn’t this festival sound like so much fun? Why don’t you plan your Japan trip next year to include attending this event? 

If you like this kind of content, check out the Nihongo Master Podcast. We discuss fun and exciting facts about Japanese culture, as well as offer bite-sized grammar points! 

The 3 Parts of the Japanese Railway System

The 3 Parts of the Japanese Railway System

One of the most impressive things about Japan is its transport systems. If you see yourself coming to Japan pretty soon, whether it’s next month or next year (fingers crossed the borders are open by then), then be prepared to be on Japanese trains for more than half the time, especially if you’re planning to go to more than one city.

Transportation in Japan, particularly the train system, has been complimented time and time again to be one of the world’s most efficient. And regardless of whether or not you’ve been here, the whole thing can be quite confusing. In our Season 4 Episode 5 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we cleared things up right up while preparing you for your next visit, but here’s a recap of what we talked about (don’t worry, you will have plenty of information on this blog post too). 

Transporting in Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun is well connected with all the methods you can imagine — air, land and sea. Flights from one city to another are running even during the pandemic, and ferries and ships are abundant too, linking mainland to the smaller islands. But the most prominent means of transport is land, consisting of everything from buses to taxis, but today we’re looking particularly at railway transport.

And for this type of public transport, which makes up 72% of the country’s transport system, you’d need an IC card. What is it, you ask? It’s a type of rechargeable card used to pay fares on transport and not just that — you can use it to make payments at other places like vending machines, convenience stores, restaurants and other types of transport with just a touch of the card.

When it comes to IC cards, though, there’s more than one company that makes it. There are a total of 10 of Japan’s most popular IC cards, and since 2013, they’re all compatible with each other and able to be used in most of Japan’s large cities. 

Suica by JR East Company is the prepaid IC card that you can get in Greater Tokyo, Niigata and Sendai regions. Pasmo is the IC card initially for Tokyo’s railway and bus systems. Icoca by JR West Company is the one mostly used in the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto. 

So as you can see, commuting in Japan via train is a breeze — but the price does rack up quite a bit. That’s because there are various transport companies that make up the transport system in Japan. We’ll have a brief look at a few categories: JR System, shinkansen and private railway companies.

JR System

First and foremost, the JR System. Quite a vast majority of railway services in Japan are operated by JR. JR stands for Japan Railways, and the six regional companies are divided into the various areas of the country but they all run as one. There are other rail companies under JR that are smaller, existing in major cities, but in most parts of the country, you’ll just get JR.

With the Japanese railway, you’ll get a few types of trains. There’s the local train (futsuu, 普通)and it stops at every station. You also get the rapid train (kaisoku, 快速) — this type of train skips a few stations so it’s definitely faster than the local. Then you have the express train (kyuukou, 急行) and it skips a lot more stops so it’s naturally more expensive. And at the top of that list is the limited express (tokkyuu, 特急) and it’s faster than the express and therefore more expensive.

If you’re planning on travelling mostly by JR train lines, your best bet to saving a few bucks is by getting the Japan Rail Pass — at a flat rate, you’re allowed to travel on virtually all of the JR services for 7 consecutive days which includes buses, ferries and Shinkansen (which we’ll get into in a bit). If you’re only roaming around for a couple of days in just one city, I don’t recommend this one.

Shinkansen

The Shinkansen is something not a lot of people don’t know about. The Japanese bullet train is called that because of its design — it looks like a bullet with its smooth, rounded front and back ends. On this type of train, you barely feel the speed — it goes up to 320 kilometres per hour!

There are six main Shinkansen Iines that connect the south end of the island to the north end, and there are three types of trains: kodama which stops at all stops (kind of like the local train of Shinkansen trains), hikari which stops at major stations (so the equivalent of a rapid train) and nozomi which is the fastest service of them all and only available on one line. 

With nozomi trains, you’ll pay a hell lot more for the speed, so if you’re going one end to the other, you’ll cut down quite a bit of time.

After you’ve chosen your type of train, you have to choose your type of carriage. There’s the more expensive first-class ones known as the Green Car. Some believe that it’s named after the pale green line drawn on the outside of the car so it’s easily recognised.

After that, you now have to pick your seat — pick between reserved or non-reserved. There are sections for the seat types, and some train types don’t even offer non-reserved seating, so you are kind of forced to fork out the extra cash.

Private Railway

Our last category is the private railway companies. This is where your transport prices bump up even more — switching from JR to these private companies. While the JR System brings you to most parts of Japan, you might find yourself coming across private railways not owned by JR.

Larger cities have bigger private railway companies like some subway lines — so don’t think it’s only the smaller cities that have privately-owned railway systems. Kanto’s private lines connect Tokyo to major tourist cities like Nikko, Chiba and Gunma.

Some railway runs only in the city — take Hakone for example. This mountainous city has a private railway system that climbs up the mountainous terrain. So if you go there from Tokyo, you’ll be switching from JR to private, so you’d have to come out with a bit of extra cash on top of your JR Pass if you bought one.

But don’t worry, popular cities offer discount passes for a flat rate over a period of time — kind of like the JR Pass.

Vocab Recap

We used a lot of useful new words in the episode, so here’s a list of it:

Jihanki (自販機) — vending machine. You can also call it by its full name, jidouhanbaiki  (自動販売機)

Konbini (コンビニ) — convenience store

Inaka (田舎) — countryside

Toshi (都市) — city. A word to mean the opposite of the countryside is tokai (都会). 

Futsuu (普通) — local train. This is also the word for normal 

Kaisoku (快速) — rapid train

Kyuukou (急行) — express train

Tokkyuu (特急) — limited express train

Kodama (こだま) — local Shinkansen 

Hikari (ひかり) — a rapid Shinkansen 

Nozomi (のぞみ) — the fastest shinkansen

Guriin-sha (グリーン車) — green car

Shitei seki (指定席) — reserved seat

Jiyū seki (自由席) — non reserved seat. Seki means seat 

Katamichi (片道) — one-way

Oufuku (往復) — round trip

Chikatetsu (地下鉄) — subway 

Tetsudou (鉄道) — railway

ekiin (駅員) — station attendant 

The Reliable Japanese Railway System!

And within minutes, the complicated railway system of Japan has been broken down into three categories — with all the basic vocab words you need on your first few travel trips here. Head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for the full episode on this topic, and more!

Tips to Mastering Survival Japanese!

Tips to Mastering Survival Japanese!

Before I moved to Japan, I had already started learning Japanese for a few months. So when I got to Japan, I thought I would have enough Japanese language knowledge to have conversations and go through day-to-day interactions without any issue. Little did I know that theory wasn’t enough. I needed practice, but until then, I had to get around with what I call “survival Japanese”. 

As Japanese is the main language in Japan, most Japanese people are not fluent in speaking or understanding English. Whether you’re just traveling to Japan or moving there, you have to find your way around ordering food at restaurants where no waiter speaks English, or checking out an order at a supermarket with no English guidance.

In this article, I personally came up with 3 tips on how to master the “survival Japanese” so as to boost your Japanese language skills as well as have lesser interruptions to your travels.

1. The magical “sumimasen” 

The first one is the magical word “sumimasen” (すみません), which is one of the most useful Japanese phrases you ought to know. Sumimasen doesn’t really have a direct translation per se— it depends on how it’s used. Depending on the context, sumimasen can be anything from a sorry to a thank you, which is pretty bizarre — but the closest translation to help you understand its most common usages is “excuse me”.

One way to use it is to get someone’s attention — like passing through a crowd or calling the waiter over.

Another way of using it is when you want to apologise. You might think it’s gomennasai (ごめんなさい), which is correct, but some would say that sumimasen is the more formal version of gomennasai — others would disagree and say it’s the casual version.

Anyway, regardless of which usage, I think it’s crucial to know this word as it’ll definitely help you out during your Japan trip! If you want to know more about this phrase, check out our Nihongo Master Podcast, Season 1 Episode 1 where we elaborate more on this phrase and three other useful Japanese phrases.

2. Learn the basics

On top of that, if you haven’t already started learning, you might also want to consider learning the basics of Japanese. When going to any foreign country, it’s no guarantee that everyone can speak English. In Japan, the first language is Japanese. And while the people here learn English in school, not everyone can speak it. To make your trip go more smoothly and just for the sake of convenience, learn basic Japanese. Or what I would call, survival Japanese.

Pick up a cheap Japanese learning book and learn how to introduce yourself, how to order, how to ask questions, and how to ask for directions. It’s okay if you can’t put a sentence together quickly. Just the basics like migi (右) and hidari (左), to mean right and left, or de ii desu ka? Which is a question to ask if something is okay, can go a long way. Our Season 4 Episode 11 discusses how to ask questions, even simple ones, in Japanese. 

Or alternatively, you should subscribe to Nihongo Master right now. We have the best of the best materials to help you learn Japanese! Plus, we have a free one-week trial!

3. If using English, speak slow 

But hey, if you insist on using English, or you don’t have time to brush up on your basic Japanese, try your very best to speak slowly and use basic words. I recommend adding gestures while you speak. Visual cues and basic words are a good combination to get your message across when there’s a language barrier. 

Of course, it definitely helps if you know basic Japanese words as well. Like if you want to ask “is the toilet on the left?”, you can switch out some words to Japanese like “is the トイレ at 左??” Baby steps to mastering your Japanese, am I right?

Master Survival Japanese!

Learning a new language is tough, but what’s tougher is putting it into practice when you’re in the environment. Believe me, I personally went through that. And that’s okay. We’re all at our own pace, but in the meantime, while you’re getting there, you can use these three tips to get the ball rolling for you. Good luck! 

Essential Etiquette in Japan for Foreigners

Essential Etiquette in Japan for Foreigners

Japanese mannerisms are abundant, and some might say that there are a bit too many to remember in a short period of time for those travelling to the country for just a short trip.

In our Season 10 Episode 7 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, this special long mid-season episode is for those in a rush to get into the minimal Japanese manners mode for that week-long Japan trip we all hope to be on this year (like finally). 

Public Manners

The first category of mannerisms for travellers we’re going to touch on is public manners. How you act in public is a tad different from what you might be used to. The concept of “public” and “private” in Japan can be quite different from other cultures, so if you don’t exactly know if it’s a private or public space, just treat it as public just to be safe.

As unspoken rules are a big thing and everyone abides by them in Japanese culture, we loop you in on the 5 most important ones.

1. Keep volume down

The first one is to keep your volume down in public spaces. The Japanese people are really mindful of their space, especially when out in public. Speaking in a high volume is not encouraged in Japan, as you would affect others around you. This is seen as respecting the space that you share with other strangers.

When you’re with a group of people, try your very best to keep your volume down, especially on public transport. Even when you’re alone, you’re expected to not blast music too loud on your headphones, as this might disturb the person next to you. You’ll hear announcements to turn your phone to “mana mo-do” which is silent mode, when on trains. 

2. Queuing

The next unspoken rule in public spaces is the queuing system. The Japanese love their queues – they queue for the ramen shop, outside of a store before it opens, and even for the escalators and lifts! Evenon street pavements and public transport platforms, there are signs to indicate which side to stick to or where to queue so as to not cross paths and walk into each other. 

Follow the queue system for everything in Japan. Fall in line and you won’t have to dodge people’s shoulders like it’s a game of dodgeball.

3. Stop to eat and drink

The third rule of this category is to not eat and drink while walking on the streets. This is because when you do this, it’s considered as disrespecting others walking in the same area as you, so don’t drink or eat on the trains either.

Now this raises the question, what if you’re hungry or thirsty? Japan is scattered with convenience stores and vending machines, and the Japanese would eat or drink there and then. You’ll notice that they would be standing outside the store and finishing their food before walking. This is the same for cans from the vending machines. Finish up your food or drink before continuing walking. 

Indoor Manners

You might think you wouldn’t need this, because you think you wouldn’t be in someone’s house during your time in Japan, but trust me, this also applies to ryokan (旅館, traditional Japanese hotels) and events like tea ceremonies. 

1. Leave your shoes at the door

The first one is a crucial one to remember whenever entering any indoor space, and that is to leave your shoes at the door! Some of us come from cultures and countries where it’s normal to wear your outdoor shoes in your house, but in Japan, there’s a very clear distinction between outside and inside. If you don’t know if you need to take them off, ask a staff member. You could also observe the people around you to see if they’re taking off their shoes. 

Oftentimes, when entering an indoor space, you will find an entrance area. This bit is considered as ‘outside’, even though you’re indoors, and it’s where you remove or put back on your outdoor shoes. The indoor space is usually elevated and can be covered by a different type of flooring, so that’s your best way to differentiate the two. 

2. Wear socks if possible

Wear socks if possible, because they’ll be on display quite a bit. Some places don’t offer indoor slippers, and the Japanese believe that having socks on in the house is better than bare feet so as to not carry dust around. 

One time you should definitely consider wearing socks is when you’re visiting a traditional indoor space. Say, for example, you’re going to a traditional tea ceremony in Japan. Most of the time these events take place in a tatami mat room, and it’s better to walk on tatami with socks so as to not damage the flooring.

3. Bathroom slippers

The third rule for indoor spaces is to take note of bathroom slippers. Sometimes in bathrooms, there will be bathroom slippers offered. In this case, leave your house slippers (if you have them on) outside the bathroom and switch for the bathroom slippers when you enter. Don’t forget to switch back after you’re done.

Visiting Holy Grounds

Moving on to the third category of Japanese mannerisms for travellers, and that’s when you’re visiting holy grounds. There are a lot of temples and shrines in Japan — so many that you might even find yourself on holy ground without even realising! 

1. Don’t touch

The first rule of this category is don’t touch anything. I know, curiosity kills the cat, but refrain from mindlessly touching things you don’t know about on holy grounds. If there’s something on holy grounds that looks unique and intriguing, it’s because it’s meant to be there for a purpose, and that’s not for you to touch. You can admire something’s beauty without having your fingerprints all over them!

But of course, there are also things that you can touch, and oftentimes there are signs to signal that you can. 

2. Ask if you don’t know

The next thing to remember when visiting holy grounds is that it’s okay to ask if you don’t know something. In fact, I recommend asking. Say for example you want to know if something is okay to touch — we’re linking it to the first point here — go up to any official staff worker on premises and ask them. 

In smaller, more local temples and shrines, there aren’t that many signs that explain things, so I found myself always asking if I could enter a space, or if I should take off my shoes. Basically any question you have in your head, it’s so much better to get that clarified instead of wandering around and potentially misstepping. 

3. Behave respectfully

Now the last rule, the general rule, is to behave respectfully. The first two points actually fall under this one, because if you think about it, the reasoning behind those two rules is because you’re respecting the holy grounds.

If you’re entering a church or a mosque, you’re going to behave respectfully just naturally, right? Similarly, with shrines and temples, you should do the same. Things like keeping quiet, whispering instead of talking at a normal volume if you want to talk to your friend, observing what others are doing to give you a sense of what you can do.

Vocab Recap

We used quite a few new Japanese words in the episode, so here’s a list of them for you to refer back to: 

Koukyou no basho (公共の場所) — public space. Koukyou is public, and basho means place

Densha (電車) — train

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Narabu (並ぶ) — to queue

Konbini (コンビニ) — convenience store

Shinkansen (新幹線) — Japanese bullet trains 

Uchi (内) — inside

Soto (外) — outside

Ryokan (旅館) — traditional Japanese inn

Izakaya (居酒屋) — Japanese style pub

Genkan (玄関) — the entrance bit in homes and other types of establishments

Seiza (星座) — the proper way of seating in Japanese culture

Tera (寺) — temple

Jinja (神社) — shrine

Shitsumon (質問) — question

Sonkei (尊敬) — respect

Conclusion

Basically, as long as your actions are out of respect, you really don’t have to worry as much.

And these are the absolute minimal, essential Japanese etiquette that you should know when you travel to Japan. While these are general rules for travellers, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them if you plan on living in japan. In fact, you should know more than just these mannerisms! Tune in to Season 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast for more in-depth topics under the theme “Japanese Mannerisms”!

3 Things To Take Note of When Packing for Japan

3 Things To Take Note of When Packing for Japan

Who else is rusty when it comes to traveling, particularly packing for traveling? I have never been an expert at packing – even before the whole pandemic. Who’s with me? 

As we prepare for the world to open up again and book our flights to Japan, we also need to prepare ourselves for the tedious bits that come with travelling. One of them is packing. Packing for Japan can differ from packing for other countries as it does depend, to an extent, on the convenience of the country and the things you do when you’re there. There are other things to keep in mind such as packing the right clothes for the season. 

In this article, we shortlist 3 things you need to take note of when packing for your Japan trip! 

1. Travel Light

The first thing you need to take note of is to travel light. I don’t know about you but I have a tough time travelling light. I’m a big fashion gal, and if you’re planning to travel to Tokyo, one of the most fashionable cities, you want to fit in, right? Don’t be tempted and keep the number of clothings in your suitcase to a minimum. 

If you’re travelling to Japan in summer, it’s easier to cut down clothes because it does get really warm in Japan. You’re better off with dresses and cotton t-shirts your whole trip. 

When travelling to Japan in the colder months, I personally advise to travel as light as possible and leave the heavy sweaters and coats behind. Opt for lighter and thinner, yet still warm, fabrics like pashmina and cashmere. There are also jackets where they have 3-in-1 function – it can be a waterproof jacket as well as one that keeps you warmer with detachable fleece lining. Those kinds of designs are perfect for travelling!

This not only cuts down your baggage allowance but also gives you extra space for shopping! And trust me, you’ll shop quite a bit in Japan.

2. Travel Hands-Free

The next thing to note is that you’d want to travel hands-free as much as possible. This means you don’t want to be lugging around your suitcase when you arrive, and want to make the most of the time you have in the country. The first thing you can do is book a flight that lands at an appropriate time and allows you to check into your hotel directly. Alternatively, you can book a hotel that lets you check in early. 

However, if you do find yourself having a few hours to spare in between landing and checking in, don’t panic. You don’t have to go around with your luggage. 

You can arrange at the airport for your luggage to be sent directly to the hotel on the same day. The luggage forwarding service is called TA-Q-BIN by the locals. You can spot it by the red sign “Hand Free Travel”. It costs about ¥1,000 to ¥3,000 depending on the size and weight of your luggage.

Another thing you can do is store your luggage in coin lockers that are literally everywhere in the country. Major cities like Tokyo and Osaka have them at almost every train station. Depending on the size of the locker, it can cost ¥300 to ¥800 for a whole day to store your luggage.

There are also companies that store your luggage for you and can be as low as ¥500 a day. One of them is called the Voyagin Office, located in Shibuya.

And if you’re really tight on budget, just drop off your luggage at the hotel reception. Most of the time, they allow you to store it there until your check in time. If you’re staying at an Airbnb or someplace similar, then there’s a chance you’re not able to do that. 

3. Have A Travel Document Checklist

I believe the best thing to do for any trip is to have a travel checklist. This is basically what you need to prepare in advance before your trip.

A valid passport and visa: you can’t travel anywhere without a passport. To travel into Japan, your passport has to be valid for at least 6 months. Make sure there are a couple of blank pages in it as well. If your country requires a visa to get into Japan, and you are not eligible to get a visa at the time of landing, be sure to apply for that in advance. 

Travel insurance: I personally swear by travel insurance, and with this current pandemic, it’s even more crucial. Do research on the insurance companies, and look out for those offering COVID-19 coverage on top of the general coverage of lost baggage, injury, medical attention while travelling, cancellation and more. It might be a requirement to have COVID-19 coverage for travel.

Flight tickets: If you haven’t booked your flights before packing for the trip, I suggest booking them now! The earlier you purchase them, the better. Read carefully about the cancellation and amendments policy, in case you need to change your dates or cancel the trip. Have a copy of the confirmation on your phone for when you go to the airport.

Accommodation reservation: Do a bit of research as to where you’re going to stay in Japan. There are a few different types of accommodation offered, like hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast, and Airbnbs. Consider the location, price and accessibility when looking for an accommodation. If you have a lot of suitcases with you, check that the building has an elevator. Since buildings in Japan can be old, this might not be a common thing to have with accommodation types other than hotels.

Transport reservation: Have you looked into how you’re going to get to your accommodation from the airport? Research that so you don’t have any mishaps when you arrive. Public transport is very convenient in Japan, so you can definitely consider that. Buses directly to city centres are the most convenient in my opinion. 

However, airport to hotel transport is also something to look into. This service, as well as taxis, can get quite expensive.

Travel SIM or Portable WiFi: Sometimes we take our convenience of accessibility and forget about these things when travelling. While WiFi is widely available in major cities in Japan, it’s not as reliable and can often be slow. Rural Japan won’t have this same level of access to WiFi.

Think about whether you want to get a portable WiFi and share with your family and friends or to just get a travel SIM card. Either way, reserve or purchase them beforehand so you can get connected right away when you arrive in Japan. Buying them at the airport is costly as compared to buying in advance.

Downloading any appropriate apps: If you’re travelling to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, chances are you’re going to be fine without knowing any Japanese. If you’re planning to travel to other parts of the country, you might find yourself struggling a bit. I suggest downloading  all the necessary apps like Google Translate or dictionary apps like Imiwa. These apps are sure to ease your journey so much more. 

Other apps to download include taxi apps like JapanTaxi. Uber is not widely used in Japan so if you want to use this kind of service, you have to use apps like JapanTaxi.

Transport card: Do a bit of research as to how you are going to get around in Japan. The transport cards in Japan are IC Cards like Suica and Icoca. You can use them on trains and buses, as well as pay for stuff at convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants.

Alternatively, you can also purchase the JR Pass. Depending on how long you’re travelling in Japan and where you plan to go, you might want to get the JR Pass. This will cut you a lot of costs, especially if you’re travelling to more than one city.

International driver’s permit: Prepare your international driver’s permit if you think you want to rent a car or go go-karting in Japan. Be sure to apply in advance in your home country before flying so you have time to receive it before your trip.

Have Fun Packing!

If you have the bases covered with these three tips, you’re good to go packing for your Japan trip! Check out our other article on what to pack for your Japan trip if you’re stuck with it! 

Japanese Etiquette When Travelling!

Japanese Etiquette When Travelling!

As Japan slowly opens up the borders again, who else is looking up flight dates to Japan? Finally, we can visit our favourite country again! But when we do get there, let’s not forget that we have to be on our best behaviour, since Japanese customs and etiquette are very different from the rest of the world.

Japanese mannerisms are abundant, and some might say that there are a bit too many to remember in a short period of time for a short trip. So to get you prepared for your trip, we’ve done up this article for travellers in a rush to get into the minimal Japanese manners mode for that week-long Japan trip we all hope to be on this year (like finally).

There are three parts of this episode: public manners, indoor manners and holy grounds etiquette, indoor manners. This article is a snippet and recap of our Season 10 Episode 7 of the Nihongo Master Podcast! The whole season focuses on Japanese mannerisms, so tune in to that for your on-the-go learning of Japanese etiquette!

Japanese Public Manners

The first category of mannerisms for travellers we’re going to touch on is public manners. This is arguably the most important category in this collection of manners. In Japanese culture, unspoken rules are a big thing, and everyone abides by them. The concept of “public” and “private” in Japan can be quite different from other cultures, so if you don’t exactly know if it’s a private or public space, just treat it as public just to be safe.

There are tons of unspoken rules for how to act in public, but don’t worry, I’ll loop you in on the 5 most important ones.

1. Keep volume down

The Japanese people are really mindful of their space, especially when out in public. Speaking in a high volume is not encouraged in Japan, as you would affect others around you. This is seen as respecting the space that you share with other strangers.

When you’re with a group of people, try your very best to keep your volume down, especially so when on public transport. Even when you’re alone, you’re expected to not blast music too loud on your headphones, as this might disturb the person next to you. 

2. Queuing

The next unspoken rule in public spaces is the queuing system. The Japanese love their queues! They queue for the ramen shop, outside of a store before it opens, and even for the escalators and lifts! Even on street pavements and public transport platforms, there are signs to indicate which side to stick to or where to queue so as to not cross paths and walk into each other. 

With that in mind, follow the queue system for everything in Japan. I think this etiquette is extremely convenient during rush hours and crowded streets. Fall in line and you won’t have to dodge people’s shoulders like it’s a game of dodgeball.

3. Stop to eat and drink

Eating and drinking while walking on the streets are not taken positively. This is because when you do this, it’s considered as disrespecting others walking in the same area as you. That being said, don’t drink or eat on the trains either, for the exact same reason. Oh, this excludes long-distance train rides like the Shinkansen (新幹線), which are Japanese bullet trains. 

So what if you’re hungry or thirsty? Japan is scattered with convenience stores and vending machines, and the Japanese would eat or drink there and then. They would be standing outside the store and finishing their food before walking. This is the same for cans from the vending machines. Finish up your food or drink before continuing walking. 

Indoor Manners

Now we’re moving on to indoor manners. You might think you wouldn’t need this, because you think you wouldn’t be in someone’s house during your time in Japan, but trust me, this also applies to ryokan (which are traditional Japanese hotels) and events like tea ceremonies. 

4. Leave your shoes at the door

The first one is a crucial one to remember whenever entering any indoor space, and that is to leave your shoes at the door! Some of us come from cultures and countries where it’s normal to wear your outdoor shoes in your house, but in Japan, there’s a very clear distinction between soto (外, outside) and uchi (内, inside).

In fact, you might find yourself taking off your footwear quite often. Traditional places like shrines and temples, ryokan and izakaya, and even restaurants would require you to take off your shoes before entering. If you don’t know if you need to take them off, ask a staff member. You could also observe the people around you to see if they’re taking off their shoes. 

Oftentimes, when entering an indoor space, you will find a genkan, which is the entrance area. This bit is considered as soto, even though you’re indoors, and it’s where you remove or put back on your outdoor shoes. The indoor space is usually elevated and can be covered by a different type of flooring, so that’s your best way to differentiate the two. 

In some cases, you’ll be given indoor shoes, most likely slippers. I’ve picked up the habit of wearing indoor shoes in my home too.

5. Wear socks if possible

Now the next rule isn’t exactly a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s linked to the first one. Wear socks if possible, because they’ll be on display quite a bit. Some places don’t offer indoor slippers, and the Japanese believe that having socks on in the house is better than bare feet so as to not carry dust around.

One time you should definitely consider wearing socks is when you’re visiting a traditional indoor space. Say, for example, you’re going to a traditional tea ceremony in Japan. Most of the time these events take place in a tatami mat room, and it’s better to walk on tatami with socks so as to not damage the flooring.

6. Bathroom slippers

Now the third rule for indoor spaces is to take note of bathroom slippers. Sometimes in bathrooms, there will be bathroom slippers offered. In this case, leave your house slippers (if you have them on) outside the bathroom and switch for the bathroom slippers when you enter. Don’t forget to switch back after you’re done!

Visiting Holy Grounds

The third category of Japanese mannerisms for travellers is when visiting holy grounds. Temples and shrines are scattered all around the island — so many that you might even find yourself on holy ground without even realising! 

Now you might not find these pointers on any of the articles you Googled online, because these three tips are from my own personal experience and observation. 

7. Don’t touch

The first rule of this category is don’t touch anything. I know, curiosity kills the cat, but refrain from mindlessly touching things you don’t know about on holy ground, out of respect. If there’s something on holy grounds that looks unique and intriguing, it’s because it’s meant to be there for a purpose. You can admire something’s beauty without having your fingerprints all over them!

But of course, there are also things that you can touch, and oftentimes there are signs to signal that you can.

8. Ask if you don’t know

The next thing to remember when visiting holy grounds is that it’s okay to ask if you don’t know something. In fact, I recommend asking. Say for example you want to know if something is okay to touch, go up to any official staff worker on premises and ask them. In smaller, more local temples and shrines, there aren’t that many signs that explain things, so I found myself always asking if I could enter a space, or if I should take off my shoes. It’s so much better to get that clarified instead of wandering around and potentially misstepping. 

9. Behave respectfully

Now the last rule, the general rule, is to behave respectfully. The first two points actually fall under this one, because if you think about it, the reasoning behind those two rules is because you’re respecting the holy grounds.

If you’re entering a church or a mosque, you’re going to behave respectfully just naturally, right? Similarly, with shrines and temples, you should do the same. Keep these things in mind: keeping quiet, whispering instead of talking at a normal volume if you want to talk to your friend, observing what others are doing to give you a sense of what you can do.

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we used a lot of useful and related vocabulary words. Here we summarise them in a list for listeners to refer back to!

Koukyou no basho (公共の場所) — public space. Koukyou (公共) is public, and basho (場所) means place

Densha (電車) — train

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Narabu (並ぶ) — to queue

Konbini (コンビニ) — convenience store

Shinkansen (新幹線) — Japanese bullet trains 

Uchi (内) — inside

Soto (外) — outside

Ryokan (旅館) — traditional Japanese inn

Izakaya (居酒屋) — Japanese style pub

Genkan (玄関) — the entrance bit in homes and other types of establishments

Seiza (星座) — the proper way of seating in Japanese culture

Tera (寺) — temple

Jinja (神社) — shrine

Shitsumon (質問) — question

Sonkei (尊敬) — respect

Safe Travels to Japan!

These are the absolute minimal, essential Japanese etiquette that you should know when you travel to Japan. While these are general rules for travellers, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them if you plan on living in Japan. In fact, you should know more than just these mannerisms! So tune in to the other episodes of Season 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast for all you need to know about Japanese Mannerisms! 

What to Pack (and Not to Pack) for Your First Japan Trip!

What to Pack (and Not to Pack) for Your First Japan Trip!

A lot of us are hoping for travel to get back to normal again, especially travel to Japan! And with rumours that Japan is opening up their borders this year, it’s about time we start planning for that trip we have all been waiting for. 

Whether or not it’s your first time travelling to Japan, packing is always a headache. I know it is for me. But don’t worry, we have made a short but very useful guide on what to pack and what not to pack for your trip to Japan! Read our article so you can skip to the fun part of your Japan trip!

What To Pack 

What you should definitely pack are clothes, that’s for sure. But there are specific items to pack when travelling to Japan. Even the best of us miss out on stuff when packing. And when travelling to Japan, I think there are a few things to take into account. For example, the voltage in the power sockets isn’t the same as in some parts of the world, and the weather here can get unpredictable… These are 5 things to definitely pack in your suitcase.

1. Plug Adapter or Power Converter

As I said, the voltage in Japan is different. Here, it’s 100 volts. Most of your appliances will work if you’re coming from North America. But if you’re coming from Europe or other Asian countries, where the voltage is 230, you might find yourself into a bit of a problem. Because of that, you will need a power converter.

In addition to that, Japan’s sockets are different. It’s a 2-pinned polarised outlet where one slot is different from the other one. If your home country uses a different one, bring plug adapters with you.

Oh, and one more thing: Dyson appliances, specifically, cannot work in Japan.

2. Cash & Credit Card

You’ll shop quite a lot in Japan. There’s no doubt about that. All those tiny trinkets you purchase will add up, and soon you realise that your purchases stack up while the stack of bills in your wallet slim down.

I recommend converting some cash in your home country first. You can also bring your home currency and exchange them in Japan if you need more cash. Japan uses quite a bit of cash, but credit cards are also accepted in a lot of modern places too. 

3. Shopping Bag

Speaking of shopping, Japan has been charging for plastic bags since July 2020. I suggest bringing a foldable shopping bag that’s light and easy to carry around. If you don’t have one at hand, you can purchase them at Daiso or any other ¥100 store in Japan. Not only will you be helping out with limiting plastic use but it’s also very convenient for yourself. You won’t be carrying tons of small plastic and paper bags.

4. Comfy Footwear

You will be doing a lot of walking in Japan. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  While the train and bus systems in the big cities are convenient, they can’t get you everywhere. Regardless of where you are going to go to the country, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. 

So I highly suggest bringing some comfortable footwear, especially because Japan’s streets aren’t smooth either. There are bumps and humps, uphills and downhills, and you will be walking on literally by the sides of the roads. If you’re amazing with heels, sure, pack them in your suitcase. If not, give them a pass.

5. Medication

Even though there are drug stores almost everywhere in Japan, navigating in them takes up a lot of time. I personally would recommend packing your own medication that you would need. Just the essentials would do, like painkillers, flu, cough, headaches, stomachaches, diarrhoea and hay fever. Also, if you’re prone to jet lag, it’s good to have that prepared as well.

What Not To Pack

So now we know what to pack, what about what not to pack? Try to keep your suitcase light as you’ll be filling them up when you’re in Japan! So here are just a few things to take out of your suitcase for your Japan trip.

1. Toiletries

Skip the toiletries! I know you’re thinking I’m crazy, but hear me out. Pack the makeup, sanitary items and skincare stuff you need, but leave out the shampoo, conditioner and body wash. 

This is because almost all hotels and other accommodations in Japan provide them, and they’re pretty high quality too. Toothbrushes are also provided. And if they’re not, ¥100 shops like Daiso and Seria are your best friends! 

2. Revealing Clothing

Japanese culture is very big on modesty. You should not be visiting holy places like temples and shrines in a tank top. As much as you can, leave the mini skirts and spaghetti strap tops out of your luggage.

On the positive side, this has been changing. Especially in Tokyo and during the summer season, you see lots of people in sleeveless tops and shorts. While it’s not a strict no, we should still be respectful when it comes to visiting sacred grounds and more traditional places.

3. Umbrella

Even though I said that the weather can get unpredictable in Japan, don’t bring your umbrella. Leave it at home and just buy one here. Everyone just buys an umbrella instead of bringing one in Japan, anyway. 

Start Packing Now!

When packing for Japan, be mindful of the local etiquette, weather and luggage space! The last one you need for all the shopping you’re going to do. On the plus side, if you miss anything out, the ¥100 shops have almost everything, so you won’t be spending too much. Good luck and have a fun trip! 

Tour of Japan: 10 Kanto Regional Facts

Tour of Japan: 10 Kanto Regional Facts

A lot of people know the city of Tokyo, but what else about it do most people know? Do they know Kanto? Do they know that Tokyo is in Kanto? What is Kanto?

Japan is split into various regions. There are a total of 8 regions in Japan: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chuugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu. Out of all of them, Kanto is the most popular one of them all. Why? Because Tokyo’s in it, of course!

But that’s not all. The Kanto region is actually way more interesting than one thinks, and it’s a shame the region in its entirety is quite underrated. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This article highlights the top 10 regional facts of the Kanto region to get your basics covered. Keep on scrolling to read!

1. The capital city can be found in this region

Of course, we mentioned in our introduction that Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is in the Kanto region. Lying at the heart of this region is the sprawling Tokyo Metropolis. With a total of 23 prefectural city wards, the city spreads from Tokyo Bay to the mountains that surround it, which also kind of makes up the regional border. 

Tokyo makes the Kanto region a bustling one, if I do say so myself. Here, there are dozens of landmarks and traditional sights to the bustling city life of shopping district Shibuya and anime heaven Akihabara. But even in Tokyo, the abundance of nature is abundant – parks and gardens are everywhere! It’s the perfect blend of city and nature, old and new.

2. The region is part of the biggest island of Japan

If you don’t know, Japan is made up of hundreds of islands. That’s a basic cultural fact of Japan. This is why the country is called an island nation. But anyway, the biggest island in Japan is Honshu as it spreads from the centre of the mainland to the south of it.

And guests what? The Kanto region, a geographical area, takes up only a part of Honshu island!

3. It’s the most populated region in the country

The Kanto region includes a few of the most populated cities in the country. This includes the Greater Tokyo Area with a total of seven prefectures: Tokyo, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Santana, Chiba and Kanagawa. These are a few of the popular cities to live in in Japan. In a total area of 32,423.90 square kilometres, there are about 42 million people! 

However, even though the population of the region has continued to grow, the population growth rate has slowed down since the early 1990s.

4. There’s a good balance between city and nature

As mentioned before, in fact number 1, one of the cultural facts is that the Kanto region has both cities and nature. Because the region consists of more developed cities, city centres have been done up to include modern areas like office buildings and shopping streets. 

However, that doesn’t mean that all nature is gone. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A lot of the Kanto region is still mostly nature. The only difference is that most of these places are also being well preserved and maintained for tourists and locals alike. 

So when in Kanto, you can have the best of both worlds – hiking in the mountains by day and shopping in the city by night!

5. The Kanto Plain

Speaking of nature, this region of Japan has the Kanto Plain, which is the largest plain in all of Japan. Located in the center of Honshu Island, the plain takes up a total area of 17,000 square metres. That’s more than 45 percent of the whole area!

The Kanto Plain was a result of the Kanto basin-forming movement. This was when sedimentation happened at the center of the Kanto Plain back in the Neogene period. Due to that, surrounding mountains deposited sediment quite quickly and thus formed hills and plateaus. 

6. The name “Kanto” means “east of the border”

The word “Kanto” (関東) actually means “East of the Barrier” quite literally. Nowadays, though, this is more associated with being the east region, due to the associated kanji 東. This is also the opposite of “Kansai” (関西), which literally translates to “West of the Barrier”. 

7. The Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands are part of Kanto

Many know the southernmost part of Japan, Okinawa, as the summer heaven. Little did they know that there are island heavens in the Kanto region itself! This is one cultural regional fact that not many know about! The Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands are just south of Tokyo. In fact, they’re also considered to be in the Tokyo Metropolis too!

These tiny islands are pretty far from the mainland of Honshu. On top of that, the population of these islands aren’t that many, either. Some find them the perfect getaway from the bustling cities of the mainland – which doesn’t sound too bad at all.

8. The tallest Japanese mountain, Mt. Fuji, is in the Kanto Region

You can find the tallest mountain in all of Japan in this region! Mt. Fuji, also known as Fuji-san (富士山), stands at 3,776 metres. Not only is it the tallest mountain in Japan, it’s also the second-highest volcano in all of Asia and the seventh highest peak of an island in the world! 

Climbing Mt. Fuji is on a lot of people’s bucket lists when visiting Japan. If you do plan on it during your trip here, be sure to take notes of the climbing season. Out of the whole year, snow covers the cone for five months of the year. That also means that it’s unsuitable for climbing. The official climbing season for Mt. Fuji is from early July to early September. 

9. Kanto is one of the most accessible and well connected Japanese region

Japan has one of the best public transport systems in the world. I would say that the Kanto region, which has the major cities like Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba, are pretty accessible. It’s so easy to cross into another prefecture using local train lines at affordable prices. In fact, that’s why a lot of people who work in Tokyo live outside of Tokyo – because it’s so easy to commute into the capital city every day!

10. There are the most number of universities and cultural institutions in Kanto

The region of Kanto not only houses the seat of government of Japan, but it is also where the country’s largest group of university and cultural institutions are. Because of that, many from other parts of the country would come to this region for their education. This also adds onto the population of the region. It all comes in full circle!

What Kanto regional fact is the most surprising?

The Kanto region is one you have to visit when visiting Japan. It’s one of the most lively, culturally rich and breathtaking regions in the country. Which Kanto regional fact surprised you most? Let us know!