Japan for the First Time

ViaHero · May 10, 2018

Is it your first time in the land of the rising sun? Welcome to a place that is truly unlike any other! Your visit to Japan is sure to be a completely new experience.  However, being an outsider in this wonderful country may result in some confusion. Read on to learn everything you'll need to know in order to visit Japan for the first time. After, feel free to message us with any questions you still have.

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Before your trip, make sure to check out:

Top Tips For Your First Time in Japan

Places To Go:

There are so many unique destinations in Japan, but for your first time in the country, make sure to check out...  


You can't miss Tokyo for your first time in Japan.  Check out our must see Tokyo list!


Kyoto is famous for its beautiful gardens, architecture, and Geisha. This guide has good information on visiting Kyoto


Go to Osaka and EAT! This town is famous for its street food. This guide has a good itinerary for a few days in Osaka.



Learn important history in this bustling city in Japan. 


A stunning and tranquil island in the Hiroshima Bay. It is known for its forests and ancient temples - a must visit if you have the time. 


A Japanese island that is known for its impressive collection of modern art museums, architecture, and sculptures. 


See the famous wandering deer in Nara park. 

Activities To Do:

Visit Japanese bars - Japan is truly the country that never sleeps (but when it does, it is in odd places, like park benches and subway cars!)

Karaoke - Sing your heart out in the country that named Karaoke 

Drink rice wine

Ride a super fast bullet train

Visit a hot spring

Animal cafes - cat? hedgehog? owl? Japan's got a cafe for that. 

Things To Know:

Japanese toilet are kinda bizarre - expect a lot of buttons

Do not litter - litter is not tolerated in Japan

There are not a lot of trash cans - carry around a small bag and empty it out at your hotel

Never jaywalk

Earthquakes happen - and the buildings/locals are prepared... so you should be too!  

Collagen drinks exists - and you might as well try them 

Taxis are expensive - take local transit

Don't tip at all 

Use cash - ATMs and card readers are hard to find

Pay at the front of the restaurant - usually, no one comes by to collect your bill 

Vending machine can get you anything you need

Convenience stores (Konbinis) have you covered otherwise

Maps are in Japanese characters - ViaHero can provide and offline map with your destinations already saved

Not everyone speaks English

Wifi isn't great - consider getting a mobile dongle 

Japanese Etiquette:

On an escalator, stand on the left and let people pass on the right

Try to finish everything on your plate - every noodle and grain of rice

Bow when you meet someone, thank them, or say goodbye

Be "open" - don't cross your legs and arms, and remove hands from pockets

Do not speak on your phone, or play loud music, while on trains and bus

Feel free to slurp your noodles and soup - it shows that you are enjoying your meal


Don't be too loud

Don't blow your nose in public

Take your shoes off a building has a sunken-foyer entrance

Take your shoes off if you see someone else taking their shoes off 

Don’t receive anything (a gift or card) with just one hand

Don’t enter a hot spring/tub without washing your body first

Don’t wear shoes in any houses/temples/shrines

Don't eat while walking around 

Basic Japanese:  

Sumimasen “Excuse me/Sorry” - sue-me-mah-sen
Arigatou Informal way of saying “Thank you” (a-ri-ga-tō )
Konichiwa “Hello” (kohn — nee-chee-wah)
Oishi “Delicious” (oh-ee-shee)

Before You Arrive:

Organize your JR Pass - a discounted train pass for visitors that only can be purchased from out of the country 

Realize the high season is in early April - places will be (even more) crowded and expensive 

Pre-plan your trip - there is a lot to see, and you don't want to miss any of it because of lack of planning... let a local travel expert plan your trip to make sure you see it all 

Print out key words in English, Japanese Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana symbols (and pronunciations)

Check if you will need a visa to enter 


Have more questions about what to do in Japan? Here is a list of local Japan Travel Experts who can help you or you can message us any questions you have.  




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