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Japan for the First Time

October 21, 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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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 toilets are kinda bizarre —expect a lot of buttons
  • There are not a lot of trash cans, so carry around a small bag and empty it out at your hotel
  • Earthquakes happen—the buildings/locals are prepared, so you should be too!   
  • Taxis are expensive, so take local transit
  • 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 machines can get you anything you need and konbinis (convenience stores) have you covered otherwise
  • Maps are in Japanese characters - ViaHero can provide an offline map with your destinations already saved
  • Not everyone speaks English
  • Wifi isn't great - consider getting a mobile dongle
  • Try collagen drinks!

The Do's and Don'ts of Japanese Etiquette


  • Take your shoes off when a building has a sunken foyer entrance, or if you see someone else taking their shoes off.
  • Slurp your noodles and soup—it shows that you are enjoying your meal!
  • Bow when you meet someone, thank them, or say goodbye
  • Stand on the left and let people pass on the right on an elevator
  • Try to finish everything on your plate - every noodle and grain of rice
  • Remain "open"—don't cross your legs and arms, or keep your hands in your pockets


  • Speak on your phone, or play loud music, while on trains and bus
  • Be too loud
  • Blow your nose in public
  • Litter
  • Receive anything (a gift or card) with just one hand
  • Enter a hot spring/tub without washing your body first
  • Wear shoes in any houses/temples/shrines
  • Eat while walking around
  • Jaywalk
  • Tip

Basic Japanese:  

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

Before You Arrive:

  • Purchase a 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 phrases 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.  And before your trip, make sure to check out:




Still have questions about travel to Japan?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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