Holiday in Japan – travelling the easy way

Kyoto lanternsWe’re coming towards the end of our month in Japan and it’s fair to say that this will be remembered as one of our best trips. As with any good trip it has had its ups and downs (my next post will list the things in Japan that I won’t miss once I’m back in England), but the following factors about travelling in Japan make it a place I will happily return to if the opportunity arises.

Little apparent risk of theft – I’m sure crime does occur in Japan but pickpockets and muggers are very rare. It’s very refreshing to be able to let your guard down about carrying large sums of cash and not have to worry about meeting undesirables in the streets.

Good cheap food – Japan has long had a reputation as an expensive destination, yet we have not found this to be the case. I’ll list our financial outgoings for the trip in another post but our most expensive meal has come in at under £30 ($50) for two of us. More typically we have spent around half that amount. For that money we have tried a wide variety of Japanese dishes including local specialities as we’ve made our way around the country, although to be fair we have avoided the fancier restaurants.

Exceptional service  – wherever we have been the levels of service have been very high. Even with the language barrier people have gone out of their way to help us. As an example we asked a hotel manager to phone a boat company for us to check if a departure was sailing. When he learned that it wasn’t he then made a call the next morning on our behalf to see if the situation had changed even without our suggestion.

Staff and shops, restaurants and hotels have been unfailingly polite and competent. On the rail network the attention to detail and the courtesy of the staff is a refreshing change for most western visitors.

No tipping – maybe more of an issue for some than others but I have loved every moment of just paying the bill and leaving to bright and cheery thank yous all round. I firmly believe that service should always be fully included in the cost of any item – paying the wages of employees is the responsibility of employers, not customers. Tipping has not yet taken hold in Japan – long may that remain the case.

Cleanliness – I’ve written about the fancy toilets in my previous post but the attitude to cleanliness extends far beyond the hotel bathroom. Public loos are generally very well maintained, restaurants are clean and hand sanitiser gel is readily available in many places. I still find the sea of faces behind a mask a little odd but it is just another visible symbol of the importance of hygiene in Japan. I don’t want to tempt fate here, but to date I have eaten pretty much whatever I fancy and have never had to worry.

Free internet at most hotels – every Japanese town has a range of business hotels, usually concentrated near the station. Rooms are clean and affordable, if a bit bland and small. Very importantly for many folks, free LAN internet access comes as standard in all hotels. Even the Crowne Plaza we stayed in had to offer complimentary internet, proving that it can be done here even if they choose not to offer it elsewhere.

Lack of hassle – Japan is one of the world’s most developed nations and there is relatively little visible evidence of poverty (although it is there: look around the stations of Tokyo and you will see homeless people just as in Europe). As a foreigner you are not seen as a walking sack of dollars (or yen) and so attract little interest from vendors and hawkers. In fact I suspect that they consider the Japanese tourists to be a far more promising sales target as they are likely to have more cash to spend on presents and souvenirs.

Convenience stores – on every block in the cities and in even the smallest towns we stayed in, the convenience stores really are a tourist’s best friend. From a cheap lunch option (pre-packed sushi, fresh hot food, sandwiches with their crust cut off) to a fix for late night munchies,  you can be confident of a warm welcome and good service. Many of the staff are students and will have a decent knowledge of English which they will practice on you.

 

These are just a handful of the factors that for me make Japan a very easy and comfortable travel destination. And I haven’t even mentioned how fast and reliable the trains are (but then everyone knows that already). If I’ve missed anything out feel free to add in the comments below.

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6 Responses to “Holiday in Japan – travelling the easy way”

  1. Welcome back, Andy! Glad to hear your trip was such a success.

    Looking forward to hearing more about Japan! Sadly, I haven’t yet been myself and cannot complement your story in any way.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm
  2. I loved my time in Japan. Your article reminds me of the neat features of Japanese travel and makes me want to return – soon!

    September 24, 2011 at 3:19 am
  3. After reading through your posts it sounds like you had a great trip.I haven’t been to Japan in years but when I was there I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

    September 24, 2011 at 4:13 am
  4. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. I have traveled a lot in Europe and Asia, and Japan is certainly one of my favorite destinations.

    I have been there several times, including by myself, and have always found the willingness to help remarkable, whether from private citizens [for instance asking which train you are waiting for to make sure you are in the right spot] or from service people.

    I have also tried volunteer guides in various cities, and it has been a wonderful experience every time.

    September 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm
  5. Some great points which I totally agree with. Japan is a great country to visit and very easy to get around and travel comfortably. It can be a little expensive but can also be done on a budget.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:51 am
  6. japanese hotels are favorites of business travellers. Cool and clean.Crowne Plaza one of them.

    October 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm