Over the Christmas holidays, my family and I went to Japan. I was there for about 10 days, and I have here for you the things you need to make travelling in Japan easy peasy lemon squeezy.
A Good Internet Connection
To get around Japan, you’ll need the access for the internet. Not to mention, you also need it to keep your friends and loved ones back at home updated with you whereabouts, what you eat, and what you generally do on your social media platforms.
Since our phone charges is gonna cost a bomb when we travel overseas, I’d suggest you invest in a sim-card or a good portable wifi package that can be rented from the airport. When we were in Japan, it made much more financial sense to be sharing the portable wifi, that can be used for 5 devices at the same time, at the price of RM 12/day. We rented from a The roaming man, that you can make a booking before your flight, online. Then, before boarding, you should be able to pickup the device at the airport, and return them when you arrive back home. The portable device is small and easy to carry around with you. It can also be charged with your power banks just like you would charge your phone.
The main transport while you are in Japan, would definitely be the trains. They have a good network of the train, but it can get expensive really quickly if you don’t properly plan how much you spend on your transport. We made a plan to be in Osaka for 4 days, and we made our way to Tokyo for another 4 days, before we went back to Osaka for our flight back to KL.
After studying a whole lot on transport, we made the decision to buy the Osaka Amazing Pass, JR Pass and The ICOCA card. The Osaka Amazing Pass & JR Pass can be purchased online, or you can go to any JTB outlet in KL or Shah Alam, but the ICOCA cards need to be purchased at big stations in Japan itself. The JR pass, can be really expensive, and it will make you think twice. But, trust me, if you’re riding the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo and back to Osaka, it was really worth it. Besides, it will be the only pass you need while you are in Tokyo.
The ICOCA card, is just like our Touch & Go cards here that you need to reload for what you need. But, you will need to prepare an additional 500Yen as a deposit that you can get back upon refund of the card. To know how much you need for your travel, you can go into your google map app, and there it entails the estimated journey cost. If you have your itinerary all set up, you can more or less know how much you should reload. So, it all depends on where you plan to go. This card, is an additional card you need, since the Osaka Amazing Pass can only be used around Osaka for only 2 consecutive days maximum. So any additional days, or travelling to places like Kyoto, Nara, or Kobe, you will need this card. But, there is always other travelling passes that is available for purchase to suit your need.
If you can speak Japanese, then you are all set. However, if you are just like the rest of us, you will need a translator app. Even though the sign boards are multilingual, you will need this app to speak to the locals. Some locals can speak a little English, but most of them do not. Rather than ending up like a chicken speaking to the duck, the translator app is the best tool for you to bridge the language gap. Make sure, you download a translator app before you fly and try to test them out before hand. It’s really embarrassing to be making the chicken dance when you just wanted to ask where the eggs are at the grocery store. So it was a really life-saver for us, and to be able to have conversations with the locals is an experience we’ll never forget.
Food / Groceries
Halal food, is not easily accessible for us Muslims in Japan. There were some halal ramen or udon, and yakiniku available around Osaka & Tokyo. But being Malaysians, you just can’t live on ramen everyday now can you?
It was our top priority that when we chose an accommodation, it must have cooking facilities, so we can make some light cooking or let’s be honest, major cooking. We brought some food from Malaysia, but be sure to read the Japanese Border Security Website for information on what you can’t bring into Japan. Be extra careful on this because you don’t want to be held up at customs because you missed something and brought in something that is restricted. There were a lot of halal meat stores available around Osaka & Tokyo. But, being in Japan we thought, we ought to try their seafood, that can easily be purchased at any supermarket. It was so fresh and affordable. We bought their salmon and white fish, brought it home to cook, and it was undeniably one of the best meal we had in Japan.
I would also recommend you to surf the halal-navi website for you to search the halal restaurant recommendation. However, be cautious of the recommendations on the site as I also find that some of the restaurants can be misleading. Be sure to check the menu when you arrive at the restaurant, and properly assess the restaurant.
we also tried their sushi while we were there, but there wasn’t any sushi store that was exclusively halal that we found. So we just made sure that the restaurant wasn’t serving pork and they served only seafood for us to try their sushi. Their sushi is one of the best I’ve ever had as it was so fresh, that it melts in the mouth. I’m salivating right now just thinking about it.
Rail Map / Rail Map App
This came in handy when we wanted to choose the right network route. Some people are comfortable using the google map app / metro app, but some people prefer to use the hardcopy. And, you could also download the pdf copy of the metro route map from the japan rail website, if you don’t want to be carrying the hardcopy.
The metro app can advise you on the time, the route and also the platform that you should go to. And I notice that some of the rail network have also the multilingual announcement over their PA System. Even with the complicated rail network, with all those colour coded routes, we manage to find our way. With these apps, you could also plan your journey ahead, to save on the time searching for routes on the day itself. Since we traveled during winter time, where the daylight time is so short we couldn’t afford to waste too much time.
So there you have it folks. I hope that you will find my personal experience helpful for you if you are planning your next trip to Japan.