A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece that I thought might be informative to our agent community when booking Japan. However, as I started writing, I quickly realized there was no way I was going to cover all of the quirky things about Japan in one blog post; this topic was definitely a two-parter. So here we are, with the second part focusing on more quirky things about booking Japan. If you missed the first article of the series, I highly recommend you go back and read it.
Quirky Item 1: Money and Safety in Japan
In Part I, I spoke about pricing in general, but I didn’t touch on the fact that unlike in North America where wallets are glorified card holders and no one carries cash unless you are Pablo Escobar, in Japan, it’s quite common to walk the streets with wads of dough. Credit cards are widely accepted at fine-dining establishments, hotels, airports, and department stores, but walking the streets, grabbing a quick bite to eat, or even hailing a taxi could mean you need to pay in cold, hard yen. More and more taxis accept credit cards every day but note, if you leave the bigger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, be prepared to give your plastic a bit of a rest.
Most convenience stores have ATMs and are a good place to withdraw yen. On the plus side, crime is almost non-existent in Japan. While one can never say never, tales of being robbed at knifepoint or pickpocketed are about as common as witnessing a kaiju attack.
Quirky Item 2: Vending Machines
With over 5.52 million vending machines sprinkled across the country (an equivalent to approximately one machine per every 23rd person) buying food and other “need to have” items on the run couldn’t be more convenient. Whether it be coffee and candy (obviously) to umbrellas, French fries, soup, batteries, cigarettes, flowers, pantyhose, sushi, and beer (even though the minimum drinking age is 20), vending machines have you covered. I’ve also heard of buying a car out of a vending machine, so you’ll be surprised what you find (is a car a convenience item? I’m not sure about that….)
Insider tip: For clients who are trying to keep their overall expenditures down while travelling in Japan, we recommend they consider skipping the fancy expensive breakfasts that come with the hotels. Japan is the one location in Asia where it might make sense to go with room only. Some hotels charge up to 50 USD per person for a morning meal when an entire breakfast could be purchased out of the many vending machines as you pass through the hotel’s revolving doors.
Quirky Item 3: Families Travelling in Japan
Japan is a perfect destination for families, and I’ll probably devote an entire article on just this topic in the future. With Tokyo Disney, anime, ninja classes, and robot restaurants, there is a ton to do for families with children of all ages.
But the quirky thing to note is that not many hotels in Japan offer quad rooms. And the hotels that are family friendly are either in the upper price point of hotels or they sell out months in advance. Families travelling with children will most likely have to pony-up and splurge on two rooms.
And don’t forget, room sizes, in general, are typically small. Most hotels that are three or four-star will range between 23 to 35 square feet. There’s not a lot of room to add in an extra bed, which is probably the reason for the above rule.
Quirky Item 4: Tattoo-Wielding hooligans as Clients?
Just kidding, my husband has a giant tattoo on his arm too so I don’t judge. However, you should advise your clients with tattoos that if they plan on dipping their toes in the warm, relaxing waters of an onsen, they’d better be prepared to pay for a private experience. Tattoos are mostly forbidden in public pools in Japan. If the tattoo is small enough, they might be able to get away with covering it with a bandage, but otherwise, they might be out of luck. It’s best to check ahead.
Quirky Item 5: Staying Connected
Free Wi-Fi is not the norm in Japan. With hotels, it’s really hit or miss whether or not the connection will be free—and even rarer for ryokan stays. The reason being is that most cell phone plans in Japan come with unlimited data so there is really no need for businesses to offer this as a way to draw in customers.
Insider tip: clients should get a Wi-Fi hotspot. These can be arranged either prior to travel for delivery straight to the client’s starting point hotel or clients can pick them up at the airport upon arrival. There are a number of different companies who offer this service. The price is approximately around 9 or 10 USD per day for unlimited access and the whole family can connect to one hotspot. I can’t imagine travelling around the larger cities without it.
So there you have it. I’m sure I’m missing something. Japan is one of the quirkiest places on earth so a list of 10 quirky items is in no way exhaustive. But it’s also what makes a visit to Japan so memorable and probably one of the main reasons travellers keep coming back.
If you have a quirky insider tip about Japan to share, I’d love to hear it and post it on an upcoming article. In the meantime, visit Goway.com for a list of some of Goway’s most popular travel ideas to Japan.