Japan FAQs

Traveling to the land of sushi, geishas and kabuki? You’re bound to have a few questions. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Do I need to get a visa before I go?

For most of you who are visitng , a visa isn’t required. 66 countries and regions are exempt for short-term stays. You can find a full list of those exemptions here.

2. Should I buy a JR Pass?

Plan on venturing outside Tokyo? Then yes, a JR Pass is the way to go. I used the pass for my trip to Kyoto as well as getting around downtown Tokyo. Passes can be purchased for 7, 14, and 21 days. Just remember, you cannot purchase a pass while in Japan; this is something that has to be done in advance. I used JRpass.com to purchase mine. Next day delivery to the U.S. costs only $9. Your package will contain an exchange order that you get validated and turn it in for an actual pass. Here are all the locations that you can submit your exchange order.

3. I’m staying in Tokyo, what’s the best way to get downtown from Narita Airport?

The Narita Express is the single best way to get downtown. If you plan on staying in Tokyo, it is worth getting a Suica & N’EX package. Round trip to and from the airport will cost you a cool 3,500 yen ($35), which includes a pre-loaded Suica card with 2,000 yen on it. The Suica card can be used on JR East trains, subways, and buses, which is helpful for getting around the city. The Suica & N’EX package can be purchased at the airport at the JR EAST Travel Service Centers located Terminal 1 and 2. Unlike the Japan Rail Pass, they are not available for purchase overseas.

4. Do you have to tip?

Tipping isn’t required or expected in Japan. All service employees are paid a living wage, so save your yen for sushi, sake and shopping.

5. What’s the bathroom situation?

Toilets run the gamut in Japan. One bathroom could have a toilet that greets your with a automatic lid, heated seat, and a built in bidet, while another could basically be a glorified hole in the groud. I always recommend that people, especially women, travel around with tissues and hand wipes just in case you find yourself staring at the latter. But, for the most part, you’ll have a nice shiny Toto looking you in the face, which puts most Western toilets to shame. There are some unsual instances such as urinals in women’s restrooms, but those kinds of oddities are usually few and far between.

6. Is there any unspoken dress code?

With any culture, there are some rules of the road as far as fashion goes, and Japan is no exception. You may not care what you look like leaving your hotel room, but if you step out in your sweatpants, leggings, or a low cut top, be prepared to elicit more than a few confused looks. For a detailed breakdown, check out my fashion tips: What to Wear: Japan.

Have a question that I didn’t answer? Ask below and I’ll be sure to add it.

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