Read this in: German
Japan trip – This is a big dream since my childhood. At the age of 30, I want to finally fulfill this dream together with my husband – travel to Japan and write a book about it and publish it. Of course, over the years, I have read a lot, talked to other travelers and got plenty of tips and tricks. I want to share these with you today.
Do I need a visa?
Each of us knows this problem: you have a longing to seek and often it takes longer, because you just have to apply for a visa. This costs time and often nerves. Mostly it is only with group travel or specially organized travel quite simply over the stage. But for Japan you can breathe! As a normal tourist, you do not need a visa. Only with more than 90 days stay it is necessary. If you want to work in Japan or if you want to go there for an exchange semester, you need a visa of more than 180 days.
what do I need for entry?
Spoiled EU citizens like me hardly know this and I actually only had one in 2010, when Croatia was not yet in the EU, but you need a valid passport. Otherwise, you do not need any documents or the like.
Travel package or individually?
I think that’s always a question of the budget and expectations that you have on such a trip. Last summer, my husband and I met two friend friends at a summer party, both of whom work full time and never want to be self-sufficient on holiday, but enjoy all-inclusive and childcare. They are both traveling a lot anyway and do not want to go shopping on holiday and even cook and clean, but enjoy wellness and be pampered all around.
My husband and I, on the other hand, are absolutely self-sufficient and adventurous on vacation. We love to roam through cities, cook as cheaply and freshly as we can and just do something unexpected. Of course we also go out for dinner, but not necessarily. For example, Jonah drank bubble tea for the first time in his life in Paris.
So we want to travel individually, because package holidays just specify a fixed program. My ideas for a trip through Japan is just not compatible with a package holiday.
However, if you are not as scheming as I am, you do not have to worry – the package tours are clearly arranged in Germany, but with about 3500 Euro for 14 days per person including flight, accommodation and programs you will find a good setting to discover Japan without to make organizational stress.
Who wants to stay in hotels in Japan, will find cheap opportunities from about 40 € per night. Especially business hotels are unbeatably cheap. However, you should book early, because there are still smoking rooms. If you are not a non-smoker, you certainly do not want to stay in such a room and it should definitely be noted at the time of booking.
If you feel like living a bit more in Japan and live there like a Japanese, Airbnbs are the right choice for you. And Minshukus are definitely recommended for a tour of Japan. These are Japanese bed and breakfasts and generally cheaper than real ryokans.
Money and Wifi
Anyone traveling in Japan, as in many other countries of the world, does not pass the credit card. I know that with us in Germany it is more the other way around and you have more cash only stores, but in Japan for us nothing goes without a credit card. Payment by cash or just by card, which is totally different depending on the type of holiday – while you should have a little cash in a trip over the country, goes in the cities such as Tokyo today a lot by card. This does not apply to every ramen house, so some cash in your pocket would make sense.
If you want to stay in Japan for more than a few days, it’s probably worth buying a sim card – as a blogger, it’s a must to be online anytime, anywhere. However, without a Siamese card you are not completely cut off from the world – there are many Wifi hotspots in cities and in almost every major café.
Food and Shopping
Eating out in Japan can be a pretty expensive affair. Especially in the evening the prices in restaurants are quite expensive. Therefore, it is important for tourists to know the tricks and tricks of the wonderful food culture in Japan. My first tip for tourists is not to go out in the evening, but at noon – there you often get the same food at a significantly cheaper price, of 50% cheaper. If you do not feel like eating, you can also recommend street food. Japan is world-famous for street food and there are often delicacies on the streets such as Takoyaki or Okonomiyaki for just a few hundred yen. But most of all it makes a friend of mine, who often has to Tokyo on business and is very anxious to make do with little budget: His recommendation is to be in supermarkets or 24-hour stores, the convenience stores, with food for the Cover next day. There you get fresh Bentos and To Go food, that is from one hour before closing time or generally in the evening very cheap to buy. Usually there are only 15% to 20% discount at the beginning. But in the evening it is often 70% off food.
Anyone who still needs a toothbrush, sewing kit or other odds and ends, will find very cheap in Japan in 100 yen shops, which there are plenty.
On the way in Japan
Who wants to travel through Japan. There are a few ways to get there. Although none of them are particularly cheap, but what is already cheap in Japan? If you want to make a detour to the subtropical island Okinawa, you should fly the best. Fly from Tokyo are also quite affordable.
Another option is the Rail Pass to be mobile in Japan. So you can use the world-famous shikans trains that are more punctual than on time. The German railway should cut off a slice of it. 7 days: driving freely through Japan costs 29110 yen, currently about 227 euros. The longer you travel by train, the cheaper it gets. 14 days currently cost 46390 yen (about 361 euros) and three weeks 59350 yen (about 462 euros).
Alternatively, there are buses that are much cheaper than the trains, but also slower. The prices here are similarly expensive as busses in Germany or the US.
Also, when I spend a lot of money on Japan, there are some things that are great and that you can do for free. In Tokyo, this includes a visit to the Tsukiji fish market or Meja shrine. And you can admire the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for free and relax in the middle of the green island of the city.
Outside the capital, the bamboo forest and Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto are worth a visit. However, I should definitely here thoroughly nachrecherchierten when you want to pay a visit to Kyoto, as the city in recent years increasingly crowded with tourists. The Hiroshima Peace Park is also a tourist attraction that is totally free and worth the trip.
Finally, there is also the unfortunately little-known tip that there are free guided tours of so-called “Goodwill Guides”. Depending on the city, there are more times, sometimes once a week these tours.
If you book early and are lucky, you pay 500-600 Euro per flight from Germany. The later you book, the more expensive it gets. With a little luck, you can find an Airbnb from 20 euros per night, business hotels can be found from 40 euros per night including breakfast.
As far as the food is concerned, the cost depends on what you want. You should generally expect about 30 euros per person per day. Also, if you eat your food in the 24 hour shop and generally lunch, if most of the dishes cost only about 10 euros, there is a lot of costs together. If you also want to go out in the evening, you should add a few euros, because then the average prices for dishes are around 20 euros in a restaurant.
Also in the transport depends on whether you travel by train or bus or you want to leave it on a city break. Another option is for nature lovers to rent a caravan, as you can save on accommodation costs, because in Japan there are numerous parking lots with good sanitary facilities. If you do not want to sit down for hours and calculate everything, you will also find travel cost calculators on the internet. For example, we reckon with 3000 Euro per person after repeated calculations. Actually only 2400 Euro, but we would prefer to include a reserve.
What should I pack?
What you take to Japan, is definitely what you want to do there. Of course, a city trip needs different footwear than a walking holiday, as my husband and I plan it. In any case, one should first be well prepared for a long flight to Japan, so be sure to have enough work for a long flight. For that, I recommend some good in-ear headphones and a white noise app so you can really sleep in peace during the flight.
No matter how you travel, you should not carry heavy luggage with you. This has numerous reasons such as that the Shinkansen trains generally only have space for little luggage or hotel rooms are often rather scarce from the space dimensioned. Also many subway stations have no elevators and who wants to carry his luggage up and down again and again? So my recommendation is: test first if you can carry the luggage easily. You never know what to expect in your vacation. Even in Germany I already had situations that trains or buses failed, no taxi was nearby and I was also allowed to carry 30 minutes of luggage.
What you definitely do not have to pack, are often toiletries, because many hotels make everything to toothbrush and disposable razors. Also washing and drying is often not a problem and so it is sufficient for several weeks trip, take only a small amount of luggage and prefer to wash in between for small money or to pack a travel detergent. Therefore, it is enough to take clothes, socks and underwear for a maximum of one week. In addition, I also recommend – depending on the weather – a second pair of shoes, as some of them have already reported that during the rainy season, they literally had permanently wet feet and no spare pair of shoes. If it goes in the direction of hiking or camping, I would recommend in addition to hiking equipment and a small clothesline – you do not know when you need something like that. In the Harz we have been able to save such a broken tent thanks to a converted clothes line.
Instead of books or bulky gadgets, I would recommend Oldschool for writing pen and paper. In Japan you can safely get on the road in many places a second notebook, if the first is full. For reading, however, it almost hurts me to say that, but: books are rather impractical on this journey. I love books, the feeling of having a good book in my hand, the smell of fresh books, the strangers’ strangers when you buy a book at the antiquarian bookstore … but it takes away a lot of unnecessary space. Therefore, I recommend for Japan Ebooks on an ebook reader or smartphone, in addition to a charger then even a power bank. So the reading fun is nothing in the way. Thanks to Video on Demand platforms, you can also download offline films, documentaries and series for the flight and the journey. But last but not least, instead of having a good book or movie or bingo watching, you can put all that media consumption aside and concentrate on discovering Japan on your individual journey. If you still want to take photos, you should take an external hard drive with you to secure all this data, because you never know.