Far too many travellers come all the way to Japan only to eat in McDonalds whilst they are here. In Japan far fewer people speak English than you might think and English menus etc. are not very common. Finding yourself both illiterate and unable to communicate can be disconcerting and can stop you getting the most out of your trip, but don't worry, with Komeyakata's Travel Tips you can travel with confidence.
1) Learn some Japanese!
A little bit of Japanese goes a long, long way, if you make the effort to speak a little Japanese, people will respond in kind. If you only ever tearn two words in Japanese remember these: "Domo" and "Yoroshiku".
'Domo' is a very versatile word that means 'hello' 'goodbye' 'thanks' 'your welcome' 'what's up?' and more! Say it as often as you can and it will help smooth things along during your stay in Japan.
'Yoroshiku' is more difficult to translate, it means something like- "I humbly appreciate your position and I hope that you also understand my position and that we can both work together to mutual benifit and satisfaction." Saying "Yoroshiku" makes you appear very humble, very polite and will make you friends! Say it when you meet someone or are introduced to someone for the first time, say it when you ask a favour of someone, say it when someone is doing something on your behalf like booking a ticket, or taking care of your bags.
"Domo" and "Yoroshiku" are like magic words and will make your stay in Japan that much easier and harmonious.
2) Learn some Kanji!
A few kanji also go a long way. Learn the kanji for men 男 and woman 女 to save embarresment!
3) Keep shoe discipline!
Shoes off indoors is the general rule, but in public buildings just watch what people do and look for tell tale shoe boxes in which to put your outdoor shoes. Some slip on shoes help a lot in Japan.
Shoe discipline can get quite complicated so remember some simple rules. Take your shoes off at the door and put slippers on. Take slippers slippers OFF on tatami mats and carpets (go barefoot).
In toilets take your regular slippers OFF and put special toilet slippers ON. At some point during your stay in Japan, you will find yourself walking through a restaurant with toilet slippers still on your feet, this is a rite of passage.
3) Don't forget to check out the Japan rail pass.
Its good value if you plan to travel around a lot.
4) Go local.
Nothing ruins a beautiful Zen garden more than a dozen American high school students playing at Ninjas, so get off the beaten track and find your own hidden corner of Japan. In many out of the way places, local people will be posatively grateful to see a tourist and you may well get VIP treatment.
5) Get up early. Japan is most beautiful in the early morning.
6) Say "Yes".
If the young people on the beach ask you to come and have a beer, or the family sitting next to you under the cherry blossom trees invites you to share their picnic, say "Yes". It could be the start of something beautiful.
7) Check out Komeyakata's 'How to...' guides.
Not sure how to take an onsen? Confused by shop staff? Baffled by the busses?
Fear not! Komeyakata can explain all!
If you have any questions about Japan, Japanese culture or Yamagata in particular we would be happy to offer help and advice.