I've had more than a couple of people asking me tips for traveling to Japan over the years, so I decided to write them here.
Keep in mind that these are only based on my experience, which is very limited and biased. But hopefully you'll find it useful.
- Learn Katakana and Hiragana. It's not that hard, and it'll help you understand some things. You can learn it in 10 minutes a day in less than a month using some SRS apps like Anki.
- Learn some basic japanese expressions. The level of English (or any language other than Japanese) is not great in Japan.
- When I visited in 2016, I relied entirely on public wifi networks using the Japan Wi-Fi auto-connect app. However, in 2023, it seems like many combini (convenience stores) no longer had them. So I ended up buying pre-paid sim cards. You can usually get them on Bic Camera or DoCoMo.
- Many places in Japan don't accept card payments, so always carry some cash with you. Ideally, come with some japanese yens. You can probably request them in your bank, and money exchange offices in airports are not great.
- The best place I've found for cash withdrawals is ATMs in convenience stores. In particular, 7-Eleven.
- Japan Rail Pass (pretty much a must if you plan to leave Tokyo)
- I'm still using my Suica card from 2012, but apparently they won't be selling them anymore and you have to use an app :/.
- Public transport closes early in Japan (at least compared to Spain). Always check the last train/bus.
- Ramen (also check out Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum and Kitakata)
- Kaki no tane
- Shabu shabu
- Curry bread
- Torikizoku (affordable izakaya branch)
- If you're vegetarian or vegan, I think you'll have a hard time :(. I heard about Shojin Ryouri, but I didn't find it anywhere in my trips.
- Buildings in Japan have restaurants and shops in multiple floors, so don't ignore anything above street level! (pay attention to the signs in the walls).
- Always visit the basements of malls, they often have food stalls.
- Avoid pizza (sorry, Japan).
- Mandarakes (specially the ones in Shibuya and Nakano Broadway)
- Book offs (SUPER cheap second hand manga :D)
- Don Quijotes
- Sunshine City
- Nakano Broadway
- Jump Shops (I didn't buy anything, but it's cool to visit)
- Mugiwara Stores (I didn't buy anything, but it's cool to visit)
- Cat cafés (also Owl cafés, Hedgehog cafés, and pretty much any-animal-you-can-imagine cafés)
- Internet cafés (I haven't tried any yet, but multiple people have told me they are a good option for sleeping if you lose the last train. In particular, check out Kaikatsu Club.)
- Onsens (they are often nice after hiking, and there are usually some near popular hikes; you only need to bring a change of clothes and a towel)
- Kyoto Manga Museum
- Ghibli Museum (good luck getting tickets)
- Animal Islands (Okunoshima for rabbits, Tashirojima for cats, etc.)
And that's it!
Did I miss something? If there's something you think should be here, let me know. Maybe I forgot to add it, or maybe I don't know it and I'll use it in my next trip :D.