I know, I know, the blog originally dedicated to travels and long time no travel-related posts. What is supposed to be that?! Well, taking it under consideration, I’ve made a serious resolution to bring here more life and to add a whole articles series regarding my favourite country – Japan! From today, every Sunday you will be able to find some information about Nippon/ Nihon ;). Of course, in the future, I am planning to share also more information about other places I have visited so far :).
But coming back to the essence – Let’s start knowing Japan better together!
Vending machines everywhere
Finally, the flight is over, you got your dreamed destination and have some time to look around. Probably, you will need a while to feel Japan, but once you got used to talking escalators (yes, escalators), unknown signs all around, the crowd everywhere, robotic-assistants… you might also notice there are also lots of vending machines! And some of them are same talkative as the escalators – trust me, they are real babblers ;). Anyway, for most of us, vending machines are nothing extraordinary, but their frequency and variety of goods you may buy there can be very surprising. It’s might be funny for a moment, but longer you are in Japan then more you will appreciate them. Especially when prices are the same as in local shops and in some of them you can pay using Suica card (a prepaid card that allows you to use most public transport and sometimes also a payment card ;)).
The most unusual stuff I saw there: wishes tablet in Haneda’s shrine and milk on a train station
The most unusual location: top of Mt. Inari and waiting queue for one of the rides in Japan Universal Studio
For me, they are kind of small cousins to the vending machines. The main difference is in stuff selling through them – while vending machines are more for food, gachapons focus on collectables… oh right, and in gachapons, you never know what you are going to get :D, so it is a little more like gambling, but the legal one… And many often you can meet them together with a different kind of games so I can say there are some differences, but still would keep them in the same category.
No rubbish bins
Walking by Japanese’s streets you will quickly notice that rarely you can see any rubbish bins. This might look strange for the first time, but thinking about it a little bit longer, it seems pretty reasonable. Most often you can find them next to vending machines (see – they are very useful :D), which makes sense, as you can buy food and beverage there so you may leave there package as well. Bins can be also found in convenience stores and the reason why is connected with my next point…
….Don’t eat while walking
In Japan walking and eating at the same time is considering as rude. Every place offering food (convenience stores as well :)) have a separate space where you can take a rest and eat, so also leave your trashes. This rule excludes ice creams and drinks, so with them, you can take walk without the stress that someone will be offended. Anyway, is better just to stay for a while in one place and finish your meal. It will also more comfortable for you!
Toilets – where to find them
Frivolous topic? Might be, but for those who spent some time travelling this is a quite serious matter. There are two main places where you will be always able to find them – combini (convenience stores) and train/ metro stations. Both options are for free, but to get access to the station area you will need to have a ticket or a pre-paid card allowing you to pay for the commuting (like Suica). And this point leads us to the next subject…
Public transport – how to use it
This will be the third time when I am mentioning it, but I swear – nobody is paying me for that (… although it’s a bit sad :P) – and what I was supposed to say (actually write, but it doesn’t matter) – Suica. The pre-paid card that allows us to buy tickets. It’s not the only option, as instead, you can use also Pasmo, but I will focus on the first one, as I was using it as well. So how? Your card should be charged for a specific amount of money. This always can be loaded using machines in a station. Anyway, entering the station’s area you will need to go through gates that will ask you for a ticket or the card. At this point, you can scan your card and get information about the current status. If you already know this will not enough, you can add additional value in mentioned earlier machines (they are everywhere as well). If you are not sure how much will cost you this trip, you will be able to check that at your targeted stop. There you will have also gates, but now scanning the card you will also pay for the travel. And again, if you value on your card is too small, you can recharge it in machines – easy :)!
Suica and Pasmo are for local transport (trains, metro, sometimes, but not always buses). If you are planning a longer trip like from Tokyo to Kyoto, you will need to buy a ticket for a long-distance train or in case, you have in plan more trips like that, you can always consider buying JR Pass (also not sponsored :D).
Just writing the above point, I found out it would be also good to mention about this option. Japan Rail Pass is dedicated mostly for foreign tourist, who will be visiting this country on their own. You need to order it being in your country, as you won’t be able to purchase it in Japan. Also, it can be ordered a maximum of three months before your planned departure from this country (so the last day of these three months’ period maximum can cover your last day here). The ticket is sent pretty quick (I got mine in two days), so you don’t need to be too hurry, two months prior to your trip will be just fine. Oh, I was too fast, saying ticket – in general, you will get a voucher, that needs to be exchanged for a ticket in one of the local points. Fortunately, you can find them even in airports so this would be your first stop during the trip. To exchange the voucher you will need to complete a quick questionnaire and show your passport assigned to the ticket (having same data you used when you were ordering JR Pass). This prompt procedure will provide you with the proper, paper ticket (it looks the same as mine on the first photo with the milk). Accessing the train station’s gate, you will need to show it together with your passport to a guard.
JR Pass is not very cheap, but comparing to Shinkansen’s (a bullet train) prices it might be worth to consider. To check it, you can use a ticket calculator located on JR Pass site, where you will be able to enter all planned travels and compare the total cost of travels to the ticket’s price.
Speaking about travelling across Japan, we should not skip this topic, I guess. You know already how to access the station and pay for the tickets – now how to access the train itself and behave inside. On many platforms, you will notice lines along to which travellers are creating queues – from this place people will be entering to specific cars. Sometimes, in case of busy lines, the queue ends at the same point what the painted line – that can mean there are enough people, and more want to access the specific car, so better find another line or you will need to wait for the next train (it’s usually just a couple of minutes, so don’t worry). In Shinkansen are cars dedicated to passengers with reserved seats and cars for the ones without a reservation. This information will be provided together with information about the ararrivingrain.
In the train, the first important rule – don’t be so loud and respect your co-passengers. Unfortunately, many tourists often forget that although they have holidays another people just casually live here and don’t share their excitement.
And the second – trains have seats reserved for special seats for seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities. They are marked by a different colour – make sure to respect this rule and leave them for people, who really need them.
That’s it for today! Japan’s rules can look difficult at the first time, but quickly you can notice that they are very logical and making everyone’s life easier :).