3 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

Over the past two months, I have been asked numerous times about my recommendations for Japan, my itinerary and if I had any tips to share. It turns out that a lot of my friends are planning to visit Japan this year! I thought it would be a great idea to share a couple of tips and advice based on my experience planning for the trip.

1. Get a JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) to travel around Japan.

My JR Pass

If you plan on visiting multiple cities in Japan, I highly recommend getting a JR Pass. You might be hesitant to get one because of how pricey it is, but it’s worth it. A 7 day JR Pass cost roughly the same as a round trip ticket from Tokyo to Osaka/or Kyoto. You pretty much break even and you get to use the pass on all JR lines (subway/rail) and the JR Narita Express (from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station). Since I was in Japan for 2 weeks, I opted for the 14 day JR Pass and used it visit Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. I definitely took full advantage of the pass and you should too if you’re planning to visiting other cities: https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/jr-pass (Note: if you’re planning to get it, make sure you order it before you get to Japan because they will mail you the documents you need to pick up the pass when you get to Japan.)

2. Rent Pocket Wifi and stay connected 24/7 so you can share your adventures on Instagram and Snapchat in real time (jk but not really). 

It was honestly one of the best investments for the trip. I was able to use Google maps, look up/research spots on the go and start this blog on my train ride to Osaka. It comes with a portable charger as well and it’ll only cost you ~$6/day, which is a bargain.

This was the pocket WiFi I rented from Japan-wireless.com. Picture above is from their site as well.

3. Save some room in your luggage for souvenirs if you’re staying in hotels.

If you’re staying in hotels, you will get get basic toiletries – toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotion, slippers and some places will even provide razors and body sponges (loofahs). I packed travel size toiletries that I didn’t even touch – aside from my contact lens solution.

Bonus tip: If you’re planning to visit the Ghibli Museum, make sure you buy tickets in advance (more than a month in advance). 

You can’t buy the tickets at the museum, you can only get them online or at a Lawson convenience store in Japan. The tickets only go on sale during a certain time each month and you learn more about it here: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/ticket-information/ I wish I knew about this when I was planning my trip – I wasn’t able to get tickets a month before my trip and when I was in Japan.

If you want to read and learn more about my adventure in Japan you can find all my blog posts here:

What tips or advice do you have for someone planning a trip to Japan? Feel free to share them in the comments! 


35 thoughts on “3 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

  1. Nice post! Totally agree that the JR pass is the way to go. I am so envious you got to see the Ghibli studio! (p.s. thanks for being a follower, I hope all my recent updates didn’t spam you)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kenneth.

    Very informative post. Thank you for hopping by on my blog. Would you mind if I were to use this post on my page? I will obviously linkback to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone who (over multiple trips) spent almost 6 months travelling in Japan … I actually DISAGREE about the JR pass.

    I admit that, in some situations, the JR pass is a good deal, but in many situations it is not.

    For example, Hokkaido is my favorite region of Japan, and holding a JR Pass in Hokkaido is a mistake. Why? Because the train system in Hokkaido sucks (whenever I hear someone claiming that trains in Japan are always on time, I have to roll my eyes – they clearly have not been on many trains in Hokkaido). I once almost got stranded in a small town in Hokkaido because the train system completely shut down (and that town had no bus service) though the local police were kind enough to arrange a ride for me to another town. Having a private means of transportation (car or bicycle) is ideal in Hokkaido, but even the bus network in Hokkaido is better than the train network. Every traveller I met in Hokkaido who had a JR pass regretted it because they ended up using the trains so infrequently that it would have been cheaper to buy single tickets than to buy the pass. (But dealing with the transportation problems of Hokkaido is totally worth it, because Hokkaido is awesome).

    And while I used Hokkaido as my example, there are other regions of Japan which a) are very worth visiting yet b) JR is a bad deal. Another obvious example is the Nansei Shoto, which has a lot to offer tourists, and JR does not exist there (at least JR Hokkaido exists, even though it is not worth buying a pass there).

    Another problem I have with the JR pass is that it tends to encourage people to plan their trips around getting the most use out of their pass, rather than an itinerary which would best serve their interests. I heard a lot of people say ‘I have to do X because of my JR pass’ even though it was not their first choice.

    Even for tourists who are going on the beaten path of Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Hiroshima, there is the alternative of … not making a round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto (and there are buses which are cheaper than JR). It is possible to skip Tokyo (I never went to Tokyo even though I’ve spent almost 6 months in Japan), and it is also possible to fly into Tokyo and fly out of Kansai Airport. One can get a heavy dose of Japan just in Kyoto-Osaka-Nara, and transportation between those cities is cheap (and the non-JR options are usually cheaper than JR).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post! I love Japanese culture (I’m currently studying Japanese) and would love to travel to Japan someday. In this post you cover absolutely useful tips to travel there, I’ll keep your recommendations in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My top tips: 1.Go in the blossom season or the Autumn season.
    2. Go to Fukuoka if you need a rest from full-on tourism.
    3. Fukuoka to Nagasaki is 2.5 hours on the bus. A great day trip not to be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have never been to Japan but it’s on the top of my bucket list and I really hope to cross it off soon, Kenneth. Your post is one of the most detailed and enlightening travel guides I have read for Japan. I am saving your post with the hope to reread it when planning my trip there!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great itinerary! Sigh. Unfortunately I’ve only been to Tokyo on business trips…Had I the leisure time, to do it, I’d saddle up for the trip again any day. Your planning reminds me of the Eurrail pass trips we used to take all over Europe in the summers while my Dad was stationed there!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the tips! We’ve always had Japan on the list of places to visit, one of these days we’ll make it a reality. Good to know about the Ghibli tickets, somehow that doesn’t surprise me. I’d love to check out Kyoto and make the trek over to Okinawa as well to drop in on a friend/coworker. So many beautiful places to see out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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