6. Change Money Only At Discount Ticket Shops:
While post offices, banks, popular hotels and counters at major airports offer money changing facilities in Japan, the best exchange rates can be found at 'Discount Ticket Shops' that are usually located in rather inconspicuous corners of train stations. Locally known as 'Kakuyasu Kippu Uriba', these mostly sell train, concert and movie tickets along with store vouchers at massively discounted prices. However, travellers intending to exchange Euros and US Dollars to Yen can get fantastic deals in these shops; a lot better than what hotels and airports have to offer.
7. Do Not Tip Waiters. It Is Rude:
As outlandish as it might sound, a tip is equivalent to an insult in Japan. The Japanese believe in being efficient at what they do and do not see extra money as an incentive to make their services better, perhaps the reason why their hospitality is incomparable. Tips therefore will almost always be turned down by waiters and cab drivers. However, if you do intend to show gratitude to someone for their consistent service (a tour guide or an exceedingly caring housekeeping staff), a small gift of cash is appreciated. Make sure it is sealed inside an envelope and presented with both hands, a smile and a gentle bow.
8. Do Not Buy A SIM Card As A Wireless Hotspot Is All You Need:
Pre-paid SIM cards are not available in Japan and travellers are expected to rent phones instead and this can turn out to be quite expensive. You must also keep in mind that many older phones may not work in the country owing to the difference in technologies. Japan does not have a GSM network and therefore GSM-only phones will not work in the nation. In order to save yourself from trouble, renting a Pocket Wi-Fi (a portable Wi-Fi Router) is the best option and the plans offered are usually pretty affordable. You could use this hotspot to make WhatsApp/Viber/Skype calls in order to stay in touch with your folks and run navigation and translation apps to get around. Interestingly, most Airbnb rentals around Tokyo and Kyoto offer free Pocket WiFi to their guests and if in case you are staying in one of these apartments, you could save money on a wireless hotspot. Thank God for technology!
9. You Will Experience Earthquakes. Stay Calm:
It is a known fact that Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone destinations in the world. However, considering how the Japanese have adopted the phenomenon as a part of their life, you will, except in the most terrible of circumstances, be perfectly safe. Evacuation procedures and public warning systems are extremely reliable in the country and your hotel/apartment authorities will do everything they can to make sure you are fine. Minor earthquakes occur regularly and travellers are merely asked to keep calm and follow the safety instructions of their accommodation. On a personal note, I remember sitting at the breakfast table on a bright sunny morning, enjoying my bowl of cereal, when I suddenly felt tremors. While I began to panic for a bit, the locals around me ate and went about their business as if nothing had happened. That was when I learnt if the Japanese themselves don't show signs of apprehension, you will be okay.
10. Japan Has A Luggage Forwarding Facility. Use It:
Japan is the land of convenience and if you have a little too much baggage to carry around, you can send it forward to your next stop using luggage delivery services like 'Takkyubin'. The prices for the delivery (which is fast and efficient) are quite reasonable, varying from 1500 to 3000 Yen per piece. Several convenience stores around the country help travellers out with this service and all you have to do is carry your baggage to these shops and the attendants will guide you through the paperwork and pick-up process. Alternatively, you could book online, however, do make sure the full address and telephone number of your next stop is provided along with the specific date and time you want your belongings to be delivered. Service stations at airports, shopping malls and hotels also provide this luggage forwarding facility with the possibility of a same day delivery.
While Japan might seem a tad bit intimidating, it is easily one of the most immersive experiences a traveller can ever have and you therefore shouldn't miss it for the world. Itterasshai!