How To Prepare For Your Trip To Japan (First Time)

Planning your first trip to Japan? This guide provides an overview of how to prepare for your journey.

Plan Your Trip

When planning your trip to Japan, the first thing to do is determine what you want to see and do.

Create an itinerary

It will help you choose the best time of year to visit and also give you an idea of how much it will cost to get there.

Book tickets beforehand to experience some of the more popular Japanese attractions.

Some attractions, such as the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo or Sumo Wrestling, have limited admission slots and will be very busy.

Another popular attraction is the Studio Ghibli Museum, a must-see for any film fan.

Buying your ticket in advance will ensure you get all the benefits and allow you to avoid queues.

  • Make a list of per day of things to do
  • Use a map app to pin locations you want to visit
  • Read travel blogs to check insider recommendations
  • Pre-book activities to avoid queues and guarantee entry
  • Pre-book transport such as the Shinkansen

Get the required documents

You require both a passport and a visa to enter Japan. The Japanese government has created various Japanese visas for multiple reasons and durations.

Ensure your Japan Visa requirements before planning the whole itinerary.

  • Check entry requirements such as visa for your nationally
  • Bring any required documents for entry

Plan your arrival

Before your trip, plan your airport arrival by pre-booking airport transfers, luggage storage, or data sim packages.

Take note of your hotel address to show it to your taxi or airport transfer upon arrival.

Download any local applications you may need to make your trip easier before arriving at the airport to avoid any stress when you arrive, such as Google Maps and Google Translate (with Japanese language pre-downloaded).

  • Book an airport transfer or plan a taxi to your hotel
  • Buy a data SIM
  • Pre-book luggage storage
  • Note down your accommodation address
  • Download essential apps

Book Your Accommodations

Plan when picking accommodation to get good deals based on your budget.

When staying in hotels, you have a few options: luxury hotels with all the bells and whistles and boutique hotels that are generally more affordable.

Most major hotels will have reception staff who speak English, so you can easily order amenities or transport.

You can also book an apartment or homestay program, a great way to get a feel for the local culture, although you may have language barriers when communicating with locals.

Another popular choice is a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn offering a more intimate setting.

Standard rooms in Japan are smaller than in Western-style hotels, so always check the room size if you’re staying as a couple or family (because it can get cramped!)

  • Compare prices on multiple accommodation platforms to get the best rates
  • Stay close to transport hubs to get around the city easily

Packing

Here are some tips for packing for Japan.

Shoes: It’s essential to pack comfortable walking shoes in Japan as you’ll be walking a lot during your visit.

The country is very pedestrian-friendly, and people walk often, so be prepared for long walks from your hotel to local attractions.

Make sure you bring shoes that are easy to remove when you’re inside a ryokan or temple, as it’s common in these places to remove your footwear to enter. 

Whether hiking through the countryside or taking long Shinkansen journeys to your destination, you’ll need to be prepared for your feet to do a lot of walking in Japan.

In addition, many places in Japan – particularly temples, shrines, and restaurants – will require you to remove your shoes before entering, a practice called ‘genkan.’

Clothes: Pack according to the season you’re visiting Japan, and bring a jacket and warmer clothes, especially for the colder evenings.

Wallet or coin purse: Pack a small wallet to carry your train ticket and money. As Japan is a cash-based society, you’ll have a lot of change during your stay, and a coin purse will come in handy for storing your spare change.

Data Sim Card: If you plan on traveling a lot, getting a data SIM card before your trip is best. It will allow you to use your smartphone’s Google Maps and travel-related apps without a Wi-Fi connection. (Google Maps is a must when navigating Japan!)