Quick Tips - Travelling to Japan


The first time I travelled to Japan, I was fairly paranoid: feared that I might break their protocols or unknowingly violate their etiquette. Japanese are generally courteous, helpful, and embrace high tolerance for foreigners, but this is not an excuse for ill-behaved tourists.

Though my anxiety was unnecessary, which I was convinced after my 2 weeks trip, I am thankful research was done prior visiting Japan. Below is the list of pointers I presume will help first-timer travelling to Japan.

Japanese are English educated
Due to the differences in accent, it might be hard to converse well in English, therefore it will be a lot easier to reference available signage or brochure when trying to communicate. In fact, this tip is applicable to any countries where English is not their native language.

Essential Japanese Phrases
These were the phrases that I used frequently for my 2 weeks vacation in Japan. If you need a comprehensive list, you can refer here.

  • Excuse me, or Sorry(informal/causal) → Su-mi-ma-sen
    Say it when you need to get the attention of the staff or accidentally bump into someone.
  • Thank You → Ari-ga-tō-go-za-i-ma-shi-ta
    The informal/causal phrase will be Arigatō.
  • No Leeks → Negi Nashi
    Say if you loathe the green stuffs on top of your ramen, say this phrase.
  • Fruit-Flavoured Alcohol → Chu Hai
    Admitting, this is only essential if you have a soft spot for alcohol. Click here read more on the Chu Hai flavours
  • Recommendation → O-su-su-me
    This is not a phrase but a word. I normally mentioned it when I need recommendation on food menu, they will just point to the picture or item, and I will ordered it without knowing what I ordered.
  • I do not understand → Wa-ka-ra-nai
  • It is okay or I am okay → Dai-jou-bu

Rail Stations

English language is available on the ticketing machines, it is fairly straight-forward to purchase the tickets once the language is switched to English. At the platform, there will be colour codes and symbols around to guide you on the exact location to queue for your train. You can read here and here to find out more; otherwise, few experiments will equip you with enough knowledge to figure it out.


If you come across vending machines in the restaurants, purchase your food from the vending machine first, the food will be served after your purchase.

Some restaurants might have a waiting list at their reception area; if you spot a waiting list, go ahead and fill in your particulars. The particulars required will be like your name, number of person, smoking/non-smoking area.

In touristy area, an English menu is most likely available. If you’re presented with a Japanese menu, try asking for an English menu.

Budget foodies can purchase foods at discounted price from convenience stores or from mega-mall food hall (think Isetan, Takashimaya alike), if you purchase at late evening.

Money Matters

  • Tipping is not practice in Japan. If you must, ensure money is placed inside an envelope.
  • Consumption tax (similar to VAT, GST) is a flat 8% on all items. Remember to add ¥8 to ¥100 merchandise.
  • On price tags, you will often see 2 prices: an amount inclusive of tax, and another exclusive of tax.
  • For payment, always place your cash on the tray provided, your changes should be collected from the tray as well.
  • Receipts generally will provide a thorough breakdown of the charges, refer to photos above.
  • Bring your own grocery bag to save a few dollars and the environment.

Others and Miscellaneous

Lastly, if you hate surprises, you can read on this comprehensive article for first timer visitor to Japan.

  Photos on This Trip

Verdict & Information