Tips for Japan

We recently flew our first international trip after the pandemic with a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) and chose Japan as our destination! Since there is a lot of information out there about Japan already, I’ll be compiling a list of tips to help your personal planning hopefully be easier!

We chose Japan for a number of reasons:

1. Cheap direct flight (SJC to Tokyo via Zipair)

2. Japan is very clean and just lowered their covid requirements (when we went they just dropped their mask policy)

3. Easy to get around via public transportation

4. Strong US Dollar to Japan Yen

5. Family friendly (Very accommodating to kids)


Here are some tips for when planning your own trip:

1. Make sure to fill out and have screenshots/print outs of your arrival QR codes.

2. We joined this Facebook Group to ask/gather information

3. You can use this JRpass calculator to see if your trip is worth to buy the pass or pay separately (don’t forget to include the trip to and from Narita Airport if that’s where you’re arriving)

4. Make sure to download and use google maps and google translator while you’re there. Google maps is very accurate down to the train car number you should get on for fastest route. Google translator is great for translating menus and also communicating with non- English speakers

5. Choose between getting an esim or pocket wifi. Both have pros and cons and work better in different scenarios

Pro of esim is you don’t need to pickup/drop off, don’t need to remember to bring it and carry it around, don’t need to remember to charge it.

Pro of Pocket wifi is if you travel with multiple people who need wifi since everyone can share and it ends up being cheaper (than everyone getting an esim)

6. If you’re bringing younger kids, a stroller and/or a carrier is a must! Yes it is frustrating with the stroller on the subway stairs area so make sure the stroller is light weight so you can carry it up and down stairs

7. Bring cash! Many big stores and regular stores all accept card but many smaller food stalls, vendors, and restaurants are still cash only. *Bring a coin purse

8. Be prepared minimal public trash cans and no hand towels in the bathrooms

9. Bring an easy access purse/bag to keep your money, public transport passes, and your passport in (legally suppose to be on you at all times).

10. Wear good walking shoes. We walked so much while there. Sometimes walking was faster than taking public transport.


1. Book as early as you can for popular restaurants. Many book out months in advance. Be aware of when they open their booking calendar and jump on it!

2. The quick bites from convenient stores were actually pretty good and good bang for your buck. Great for on the go and to buy for breakfast if you’re having an early start the next day.

3. Many small restaurants and food stalls are cash only

4. Tipping is not necessary/accepted

5. Most places have kids dining sets for them to use or kids menu

6. Many noodle places are a quick eat and go. No socializing and taking up tables


1. Almost all accommodations have a great cancellation policy so if you see something you like book and cancel later. Some places get fully booked especially during busy times

2. If you are getting a JR pass, look for hotels near major JR lines/stations

3. Many hotels provide a breakfast option and it’s usually pretty good

4. Many hotels can help you forward your luggage to your next destination so you don’t have to carry it with you on the train. The front desk can help you fill out a form. Most luggages cost about $20 to ship.

5. Majority of hotels provide pajamas and all toiletries so don’t worry if you forget!


1. Japan has so many different type of activities to offer. Do your research of what you really want to see and do and don’t overdo it and spread yourself too thin.

2. Always factor in travel error time. Many signs and transport stations can be very confusing!

3. Many popular sites get super crowded by mid morning. Would suggest going to the popular places first thing in the morning or right before closing for less crowds.

4. One of the more unique things we enjoyed was renting kimonos and walking through the historical parts of Kyoto.

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