Update: Google Maps now allows you to download for offline use. Great idea in cities you know you might get lost.
With all the technology in the world, Japan still uses a lot of cash transactions. Have a back up bring cash, a traveler's cheque, or other options other than relying solely on debit/credit cards. My credit and debit cards worked fine at taking money out and buying thing. However my girlfriend had a problem withdrawing cash but the same card worked at hotels and a few places that accepted cards for purchases. Her card still had the international symbols on the back to show it could work but it never did. Just to be safe have a back up plan.
4. Pocket WiFi
This is going to be an item we never got but I wish we did. When you arrive in Japan your going to notice free WiFi is almost everywhere you go. However there seems to be a timer on them. The first week was easy to find WiFi but by the second week it stopped in most of the place we had been few days before. We had a situation we used the WiFi at a train stations one day then the next all of a sudden it stopped working for us and we had to pay for it.
5. Japan Rail Pass (Green)
Buying a Japan Rail Pass comes with researching to see if it’s worth it vs. buying single passes. If your traveling a few times it’s not worth it at all. But if your going to be traveling all over Japan it pays for itself. We ended up going with the 7 day green pass. The Green pass (First Class) was $100 more than the normal pass of $300 at the time. I believe the price has gone up to $331 now for the normal and $440 for the green for 7 days.
For the $100 more you get to ride in comfort. normal cars have 6 seats in a row and first class had 4 seats with twice as much leg space it seemed. I'm 6’7″ and I had my legs stretched out the entire time. The ordinary cars seating felt more like economy on a plane. In the end I highly recommend those traveling in Japan to spend a little bit and go Green.
6. Travel Pack
Buying a good luggage is important when coming to traveling theses days. For the past few years I have been traveling with a travel pack. I find it lot easier to get around plus gives me the freedom to use my hands. Japan is the best country where a travel pack is better than normal luggage. A lot of the train stations in Japan have very few escalators so dragging luggage up stairs can be annoying by itself.
I used a 95L pack on my trip including a day pack to carry my water, GoPro, and whatever I ended up buying. I'm planing to move down to a 75L from MEC to reduce weight and size. I would recommend packing as little as you can plus reducing weight to around 30lb or less. Its also a good idea to pack everything you think you need, then walk around the block for 20 minutes to see how it feels. If it feels to heavy I would look at taking things out.
If your walking down a Tokyo street or climbing Mt. Fuji bringing the most comfortable shoes with you will save your life in sore feet. Usually anytime I travel I tend to not follow this rule. I try hard to bring hiking shoes but I always end up bring sandals and basketball shoes. I usually regret this after a long day on my feet. This year I’m planning on bring only one pair of shoes with me and those will be hiking shoes…….. I hope.
You don’t need to learn the entire Japanese language to get by. However it helps if you remember these 5.
Thank you very much….. Doomo arigatoo gozaimasu.
Excuse me/Pardon me….. Sumimasen.
I don’t understand…… Wakarimasen
9. Rain Jacket
My girlfriend got a rain jacket from Costco but as soon as we got stuck in China during a Typhoon we found out its not as water tight as she thought. The rain Jacket I got from MEC was great water repellent plus it was really light and easy to pack. Super breathable with openings for under your arms for more air flow. It has a great hoodie that's easily tightened from the back. Just make sure you do your research, and read reviews on the product most importantly. I ended up going with a size a little bigger so I could wear a sweater underneath if needed.
10. Face cloth
The biggest problem I had with my trip to Japan happened to be dealing with the high humidity. Coming from a city in Canada with low Humidity to a high humid country I happened to sweat all the time. It was such a bad problem I was changing shirts two times a day. When walking around having a small face cloth during the summer season is highly recommended. I ended up finding a small Pokemon cloth that I carried with me at all times.
If you have any questions about Japan let me know and I will try to answer them.