Video: Japan!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

We left for Japan exactly a year ago, and to celebrate, B wrapped up the video from our trip. He's been dealing with a terribly slow laptop when making these but just splurged on a new Macbook, so I've been told to expect these much quicker :)

Japan had been on my list for years and years (I had my heart set on moving to Osaka for a few years after graduating college and meeting Brian, and I haven't totally ruled it out), and it lived up to the hype in every way. I'm now obsessed with the Japanese reality show Terrace House, and I think we have to go back soon so I can explore with my newfound knowledge. If you’re at all considering it, book it and go! Given how different Japanese culture is I wanted to share a few things I learned that would be helpful for planning a trip of your own:

English is minimal: After successfully navigating the language barrier in European countries without any real troubles, I went into our Japan trip overconfident about how English-friendly things would be (I'd also read many articles about how Japanese students take several years of English in school). But, to our surprise, we hardly encountered anyone who spoke any English on our trip. The good news is that the Japanese are extremely polite and will do their best to communicate despite of the language barrier, but it was a bit tricky and we definitely got by with a lot of pointing followed by copious amounts of arigatou (thank you). Learn a few basic Japanese words and be prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone with the language barrier. For navigating via mass transit, most signs will have words in both Japanese characters and the Roman alphabet, and train announcements will often play in both Japanese and English, which was extremely helpful.

Breakfast isn’t a thing: I’m a breakfast person and rely on my morning meal and coffee to get me started for the day and learned the hard way on our first few mornings in Japan that breakfast options are pretty minimal as most places do not open until 10 or 11 AM. Unless you’d like to eat ramen or curry for breakfast, plan out breakfast locations in advance or grab snacks and coffee to have in your hotel room/apartment to avoid a hangry, desperate breakfast search in the morning.

BYOWC (bring your own washcloth): I noticed that many shops sold small washcloths (many in adorable colors and patterns) but it took me a bit to understand why until I started connecting the dots about why carrying around your own washcloth would be useful. First off, most public restrooms do not have paper towels or a hand dryer, and while I was stuck wiping my hands on my pants, the Japanese women would use their own washcloth to dry their hands off. The washcloths also came in handy on hot days to wipe away any signs of sweat (one serious perk of Tokyo was how clean and odorless it was — even when it was hot and the subway cars were packed no one smelled or even looked sweaty!).

7-Eleven, we love you: It was super interesting to see so many familiar brands in Japan, but the most surprising was 7-Eleven, which was seemingly everywhere. Instead of simply being a connivence store, it’s a one stop shop for everything, including great meals (there are lots of lists on the Internet about the best 7-Elevens in Tokyo, and many of them have long, long lines at lunchtime). Also, their ATMs will allow you to withdraw yen from your foreign credit cards, saving you the hassle of dealing with having currency exchanged.

Public transportation is your best friend: The Japanese mass transit system truly puts everywhere else to shame. We would not have been able to do and see as much as we did without Tokyo’s subway system — it is incredibly efficient and easy to navigate, trains are always on time and much faster than the trains we have in the States. We ordered a seven-day pass before we arrived in Japan and used it non-stop, including to go from Tokyo to Kyoto, which made the pass pay for itself.

So much love for you, Japan. Can't wait to go back someday soon <3

P.S. All of our Tokyo photos, Kyoto photos and our traveling tips!


  1. When I lived there, we had success communicating with locals by writing things down in English. Our experience was people were much more willing to communicate in English in writing than speaking. But that was 10 years ago. And second on Japanese public transportation. It made me fall in love with train travel, but since leaving, no where else really compares to Japanese commuter trains or the shin train.

    1. That's so interesting about written vs. spoken English -- but it makes sense, it's much easier to process something you can see, and I felt like the Japanese were just more self conscious than anything. This gives them more space, so that totally makes sense. And yes, the trains! Seriously put everywhere else to shame! You guys should do a little reunion trip with your little fam :)

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