When my family scheduled a trip to Japan, I was beyond excited. Not only were we going to spend 3 whole days in Tokyo—we were going during the peak of cherry blossom season!
I admit that my otaku days have faded considerably since several years back, but there was no denying how Japan had so much more to offer than anime culture. We were determined to milk our experience there as much as we could.
Food, sights, a bit of shopping, and a chance to practice my incredibly rusty Japanese were all things we indulged in during our short but eventful stay. Considering it was me and my family’s first time too, there were several helpful things we learned that helped us get around. I’d love to share them for anyone who’s planning a Japan trip to Tokyo for the first time too!
1. Pocket wifi is very, very important
Not (just) for surfing (though we did research on certain places on the spot and it was very useful) or even for posting on social media (which we also did—on the spot) but for the wondrous thing that is Google Maps.
While it can be argued that being lost is a great start of an adventure, we didn’t exactly have the time to wander around leisurely if we were aiming to make the most out of 3 days. Some of the places we wanted to get to weren’t easy to spot or even ask directions for, especially with the language barrier. That’s how Google Maps and its ultra helpful moving blue arrow saved us from doubling both our fatigue and searching time.
Number 1 catchphrase of the trip: “Is it moving?”
2. It helps to know basic Japanese
By basic, I don’t just mean ‘my name is’ or ‘how are you’, or even ‘thank you’ and ‘good morning’.
Most people we met knew enough English for us to get by. When we did encounter friendly locals who didn’t speak much English though, the phrases I found to be the most useful were those relating to both English and directions.
In particular, the words and phrases I used the most (apart from arigatou gozaimasu and gomen nasai, which I use very, very liberally) and found very helpful were:
Where is _____? = _____ wa doko desu ka?
Where is here? = Koko wa doko desu ka? (great for knowing where you are on your printed map!)
Left = Hidari
Right = Migi
Wakaranai = I don’t understand
It also pays to know hiragana and katakana. Try to download a pic of these two alphabets for emergencies–like if you were trying to locate Don Quixote in Shinjuku to find an elusive cat cafe.
3. Plan where you want to go
Okay, so this last one applies to any place you’re traveling to, but it’s a good reminder all the same. We got to visit great restaurants that we wouldn’t have been able to find from just roaming around Ginza (where we stayed), and that’s because we did our research about these places beforehand.
You wouldn’t want to get tired and waste time wandering around new places, would you? Unless that was your plan all along. If not, save your feet, and plan ahead!
Besides, there’re so many things to see in Japan–and 3 days was definitely not enough, even if we managed our time pretty well.
Want to know what to see and do in Japan?
Make sure you don’t miss out! Our friends at Japanloverme created handy dandy (and really kawaii) infographics to help you sightsee and experience Japan to the fullest.
Save them to your phone for your next trip!