Japan FAQ

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In today's blogpost, I will be covering all the questions that you might have when it comes to travelling to Japan! (PS: I'm a more frequent traveller to Tokyo so some of these might not apply to other parts of Japan as this FAQ is based on my personal experience.)

So first of all. FLIGHT and ACCOMMODATION is the most important factor when it comes to travelling:

Q1: Which airline do you recommend? And when should I book?
I know most people will actually recommend booking when there's a promotion going on. However, I realized that most of such promotions usually doesn't have very "good" flights; meaning these flights usually have a transit/weird timings/or simply have a period that you have to commit to and etc. So I would suggest booking early because that's when you can get the cheapest tickets with the best deal. Why would I say that? Here's what that happened to me: I went on 3 trips (All to Tokyo), 1 with SCOOT (budget) and 2 with ANA. For SCOOT, I booked about 3 months in advance while for ANA I book about 8 months in advance, both during Sakura Season.* (I don't care people call me kiasu or what I save money so shut your mouth LOL) So here's what I got:

Please note that I paid $650 for both the airline, but you can clearly see that booking early allows you to get a non budget airline with better benefits. I have flied with ANA before and I love everything from their food to their services. I know that I can't compare a non-budget airline with scoot but I strongly do not recommend a budget airline if you're flying more than 6h because it's going to super uncomfortable for you. AND ALSO WHY I LOVE ANA IS BECAUSE I HAVE A 46KG LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE ALL INCLUDED IN MY TICKET!!!! Great for shopaholic like me lol.

*Price fluctuates during different seasons, especially Sakura season. I checked that if you actually book 3 months in advance for ANA, it will be about $850. 

Q2: Hotel or Airbnb?
I have personally stayed with Airbnb throughout my Tokyo trip because it's a great cost saver. Hotel in Tokyo generally costs $150 and up, which can be quite hefty. Airbnb wise, the price can range from $60+ and up. You can just adjust the filter to whatever price that you're comfortable with. Also, YOU NEED TO BOOK EARLY because unlike hotels, the apartment you want only have 1 available. Once the date you want is being booked, you have to source for another one, which can be quite a hassle. So if you book early, it means that you have more choices to choose from with the filtered price you selected. 

From my personal experience, I suggest looking for a location that is near the prime areas such as (Harajuku, Shibuya etc) so you can also save on your transport fee. There was once we booked a place that was far out from the prime area and we spent a bomb on the transport back to our apartment every day. 

Staying with Airbnb also means that you have the choice to choose whether you would like to have the entire apartment to yourself OR a room with other travellers or hosts. I feel uncomfortable staying with the host or other people so I always book the entire apartment. There was once my friend insisted on renting a room and it was hell because there were other travellers and everyone was snatching the toilet to shower so we ended up having to wait every time. (This was even when the host assured us that we won't need to snatch toilets lol) 

One of the benefit of staying at Airbnb because it makes you feel like you are a resident in Japan. Some apartment comes with a kitchen, so you can head to the supermarket and whip up some good meals in the apartment if you don't feel like eating out! Which is why I highly suggest Airbnb instead of booking a hotel unless you're feeling rich.

This is a closed up photo of my bed in the apartment on my most recent trip and the bed was so comfy that I always feel like sleeping in!

Another option is to have a homestay. 
I have only had a homestay once when I was on a school trip to Nagoya and it was pretty exciting because you never know what's going to happen. Different hosts have different plans for their guests. Ours allow us to make okonomiyaki and karaage from scratch and even brought us out into the forest to do some deer viewing. (Although no deers appeared sadly :( ) So If you're someone that love surprises and love to interact with the locals, I will suggest you to go for a homestay instead. Price wise will still be slightly cheaper than hotels. 

**Some airbnb hosts love to interact with their guests as well, so if you're in luck the hosts might bring you around the neighbourhood!

If you have no idea on how to book on Airbnb/which rooms to select etc, I will cover it in another post so stay tune that. 

Q3: Which part of Japan should I visit?
It depends on what do you want to do on your trip. If you're going on a cute & shopping trip, I will suggest you to visit Tokyo because that's where Disneyland and Disneysea are! (Not forgetting Sanrio Puroland, Ghibli museum, Snoopy museum and etc) and Every single time when I go to Japan, I will choose to go to Tokyo because I'm more towards the shopping and playing instead of sightseeing. (I mean, not like Tokyo won't have Sakura right?!?!) And you can see mount fuji if you're on a high building from faraway. It's still nice view right? hehehe.

Pretty in pink

Usually, I won't visit other cities because the Shinkansen is really really expensive. Even if you buy the 7 days pass, it's gonna cost you $300+ SGD. That could easily fetch you an air ticket to Taiwan/Bkk!! Another reason is that it's gonna be time consuming if you're going to another city and back to Tokyo at night for your apartment. Of course, you can choose to stay at the other city but have you thought about your luggage? Do you really want to lug it around from cities to cities? 

So if I were to visit other cities, I would rather fly on a separate trip. 

Q4: Portable wifi egg or SIM card?

This is probably the most important thing because wifi is bae. I'm just kidding LOL. But really, wifi is a must for everyone especially when you're in a foreign country. It's not fun getting lost and especially when all the people around you don't speak the same language as you do. Some airbnb hosts do provide a portable wifi, and if you're lucky, you won't have any issues with it. However, I've come across people that have problems with the host's wifi where they couldn't upload any photos or even access whatsapp. So to be safe, I've always rented one extra in Singapore just in case I've any issues with the other. (I don't believe I will be so unlucky that both will break down together lmao) And also just in case one doesn't have any battery, I will have a spare one as back up. I rented mine from Changi Recommends at $5 a day and it was really good. Both connection and battery life was great. Also, it's very convenient as they are just located at Changi Airport itself, which makes collecting and returning a breeze. Regardless of where you go, I will strongly recommend you to rent a portable wifi egg just in case of any emergencies. (*NOT A SPONSORED POST)

I don't recommend SIM card because they usually provides you will very limited data and you cannot share with others unlike the portable wifi egg. And I don't see why you need to call someone with a line when there's whatsapp/LINE call available now... Unless the person you're calling to is someone that is not tech savvy, if not I don't think it's necessary. 

Q5: I don't speak Japanese, will I have trouble visiting Japan not knowing a single word?

This is the question that I got the most from people because Japanese don't speak much English. (But this doesn't apply to all of them - some of them speaks really good english!) So how do you express yourself when you need to ask/order something but can't speak in Japanese?! 

I will talk about ordering of food first: 
Firstly, ask whether the place provides an English menu. In order to attract foreigners, some stores will have a "English Menu available" sign outside of their store, so you can know what you're eating instead of getting a raw fish for that meal. Here's an example:

So after deciding what I want, what I usually do is to point to whatever I want on the menu and show them with my fingers that I want 1 set of that and they will get it. Usually they will ask you some follow up questions in Japanese and if you don't understand, just say "sorry?" and if that question is not important, they will usually just proceed on with whatever you ordered. If the question is important, like "what drinks do you want?", you can see that the staff usually will point out to you on the menu so that you can make your choice OR get someone that has a better command of English to figure out together what you're trying to convey. Eventually they will understand what you want although it might be a little time consuming, but YAY YOU GOT YOUR FOOD ORDERED!!!

It's very normal to see a vending machine that dispenses tickets outside of a restaurant in Japan. Sadly, most of the vending machine doesn't have English on them, so what you do is to choose the "best seller" or the most expensive food on the vending machine so you won't go wrong. Another thing that you can do is that most stores have a banner outside showing what food they have (pictures of the food) and they usually will have the names of the food on the banner as well. What you have to do is just to look for the same word on the vending machine and VOILA you have it! After you got the tickets, just go in and hand it to the staff. They will serve your food in a while. 

Let's move on to enquiring about certain things at a shop:

Let's say you're looking for something in a store and the shop is sooooo big and you don't wish to waste your time sourcing. Just show the photo of the item that you're looking for to the staff and if they have the item, they will bring you to it and if they don't have it, they will either shake their head or make a 'X' with their hands. Some will just tell you "no" so you know it's not available here. 

If you have other questions, I suggest you download google translate on your phone. Although the translation might not be accurate, it's able to bring across what you wanna say to them and they will be able to understand it even it's broken Japanese. 

I will come up with more guides to Japan - like places to go, food to eat and etc. Please stay tune! 

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