Category: Japan

    Japan: all the tips you need to plan your trip

    No Comments

    apan: how to best organize your trip

    Japan. The goal of my dreams.

    I have dreamt of setting foot in the land of the Rising Sun for so long, and finally this year has been the Year. The one with a capital ‘A’, the one from Japan.

    I would like to describe to you everything I have seen and experienced, every single moment and every single thing, and I would like to tell you by wire and by sign all the emotions I have experienced, but it is impossible.

    Describing a sensation or an emotion is impossible. Describing in an article every little nuance of such a fascinating culture is impossible, but nevertheless I want to try to do it, as I tried to do it during the trip with my photos and my stories on instagram. And even if I know that I will not be able to tell you everything, I will try with a series of posts about this beautiful country.

    Given the many questions that have been asked to me through social networks during the trip on how to best organize the trip, I decided to start right here, collecting in this article all the useful tips needed to better prepare your visit to Japan.

    Japan: things to know before you leave

    Before leaving for the other side of the world, it’s a good idea to organize yourself in the best possible way, and I want to give you all the tips to do so, so as to help you make your experience perfect (or almost perfect) and low cost.

    Yes, low cost, you understand, because if there is a myth to be debunked, it’s just this: Japan is not so expensive, you just need to know how to organize!

    How and when to buy a flight? Where to sleep? How to move? And with the Internet, how do you do it? If I speak English, will they understand me?

    I know these are all the questions you are asking yourself if you are planning a trip to Japan, so here are all the answers.

    Japan: when to book your flight to save money

    Rule number one when buying your ticket: buy it as soon as possible. It may seem exaggerated to you, but I bought the ticket, starting in mid-July, at the beginning of February. And to tell you the truth, I started looking at the costs as early as January.

    As I wrote to you earlier, it will seem exaggerated, but if you want to buy a cheap ticket, moving in time is the best strategy. I managed to get it at EURÂ 550, but by April the figures had already risen considerably. If you are worried about booking well in advance, you can always take out an insurance policy that will reimburse you for your trip in the event of last-minute unforeseen circumstances. Trust me, the cost of the ticket with the insurance will certainly be lower than the cost of the ticket bought a month earlier.

    My advice is to choose a direct flight, I flew with Alitalia that has direct routes from both Rome and Milan. Upon arrival the jet leg will be heard, and even if twelve hours of flight seem to you many, in my opinion it is better to make a single ‘pull’, rather than stopover in other cities, in this way you will avoid arriving with the batteries totally discharged.

    How to get around Japan

    You can’t plan a tour of Japan without the Japan Rail Pass. 

    The JRP is a pass that allows tourists to travel throughout Japan using Japan Railways (JR) trains, including shinkansen, the fastest trains in the world (except for Nozomi and Mizuho).

    With the JRP you can use as many trains of the JR line as you want, every day at any time, paying a single fixed price that varies depending on the length of stay / use. You can buy it for 7/14/21 days at the following prices: 218€ for 7 days – 349€ for 14 days – 446€ for 21 days. Well, if you have in mind to move to different cities in Japan, the JRP is definitely convenient!

    Buy it. The JRP can be purchased from the comfort of your own home on this website. After completing the purchase process online you will receive a confirmation email and about 24 hours later, you will receive by mail, at the address given, the paper vouchers of the JRP.

    Use it. Bring your vouchers with you, and when you arrive in Japan, look for the JR office at the airport. There, you will indicate the start and end date of use of the JRP and they will convert the vouchers with the actual pass.

    To use the JRP you just need to show it to the staff at the entrance and exit turnstiles of the station without having to validate it.

    With the JRP you have access to all trains on the JR line without having to book a seat. If you want to be sure to have a seat assigned, avoiding the hypothesis of standing for the journey (we never happened in 15 days even though we have never booked seats), go to the counter of the JR, indicate the route you want to travel and you will be made the ticket, of course at no cost.

    You will also have access to the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, a raised metro that runs, in a circular way, throughout the center of Tokyo. It is very convenient to visit the city and will avoid you to buy metro tickets. We moved only with that to see the whole city, we took the other lines only two or three times and I must say that there is a good saving.

    Internet in Japan: surfing and calling on holiday

    An essential element for your trip to Japan is the internet connection, so you can not have a Pocket wifi, believe me it will be your salvation. To understand where you are, where you have to go, what means to take, or to call via Skype or WhatsApp, wifi will be essential. Having it is very simple and the cost is very small.

    Rent it. On the same site of purchase of the JRP you can also book the Pocket Wifi, which has a price of 42 € for 5 days. Together with the purchase of the Pass you can also book your wifi pocket, following the online procedure. Two days before departure you will receive an email in which you will be given all the information (office in charge and location of the same) for the collection, which you can make comfortably at the airport. At the time of collection you will also be given an envelope that you will need for the return before departure. Very simple! The efficiency of the Japanese is unique!

    I strongly recommend you to buy it, having the internet connection is essential to move around in a simple way and also to call saving a lot of money. And be assured that you will never have no signal absence, in 15 days we have never had any kind of problem, we have had the connection 24 hours a day

    Public transport: how to get around Japan

    I don’t need to tell you that Japanese public transport is super efficient: metro, bus and taxi are a dream, fast, punctual and super clean! Both the subway and the buses have one-way fares, so depending on the route you take you will pay one rather than another.

    Buses. On the buses you can comfortably make your ticket on board. Go up the central door and pick up a card with a number written on it, corresponding to the departure area. Once you have arrived at your destination, leave the front door and before you get off, hand over the card to the driver, who will tell you how much to pay. If you don’t have any coins with you, you will find a money exchange machine on board!

    Metro. If you have not purchased the JRP, you will have to make the ticket before passing the turnstiles, which will have, even in this case a variable rate, depending on the distance travelled.

    To use public transport, however, you can buy rechargeable card, on the same site of purchase of the JRP and Pocket Wifi. Here you can choose between Suica or Pasmo cards (valid both in Tokyo and in the other cities of Kansai), which are rechargeable cards that will allow you to access public transport without having to buy the ticket from time to time. At the end of its use, if there is a residual credit inside, it will be returned to you, along with the deposit.

    An advice, on public transport maximum rigor. You are not on the phone, you speak softly and you wait for the arrival of any vehicle in line, waiting patiently and without haste to get off or get on. I recommend, in Japan the queues are fundamental: if there is to wait you wait in line.

    What to bring

    What to pack?!

    I know that this is the question that everyone asks themselves and for this reason I want to give you some advice about it. First tip: don’t take the whole house with you, in Japan you’ll find everything and more, so don’t worry about being left without something. If you have to buy something urgent, in every corner you will find the ‘combini’, i.e. shops open 24 hours a day where you will find everything, from food to drinks, from clothing to battery chargers, cables of all kinds and much more, in short, they are a salvation!

    In my opinion, there are three fundamental things to have. An adapter (choose a universal one), because the sockets are different from ours; a power bank (even if you will find sockets everywhere) because you’ll be wild to take pictures consuming in a blink of an eye the battery of the phone; memory cards and spare batteries for cameras. For all the rest rest rest assured, everything you forget you’ll find there, indeed, if you want a piece of advice from the heart is better to start with as few things as possible, because you’ll go crazy to go shopping!

    Categories: Japan

    Brainstorming diary of a trip to Japan

    No Comments

    Cherry blossom is magic

    It’s magic.

    You can’t understand it without having lived it. You can imagine, but it’s different.

    I’ve seen pictures of the flowering for many years, I’ve always been open-mouthed, but always thousands of miles away from those new flowers. Always without really understanding when this magic was overwhelming and powerful.

    Then I went to see them bloom.

    I arrived in Japan at the end of March, when only a few flowers had timidly and prematurely appeared on the branches of Tokyo.

    Then, one day after the next, the magic happened.

    Just like in cartoons, when a spell and a patina of glitter are made, it starts from the fairy’s wand and spreads all over the world. Same. But with flowers. And for real.

    A blanket of pink flowers has spread over Japan until it explodes with color, energy, power, joy.

    The Japanese went crazy, celebrated hanami with picnics and parties under the trees, filled their mobile phones with photos of flowers and their social selfie with cherry trees in the background.

    The women wore their beautiful kimonos and made every glimpse magnificent with their colors, grace and elegance.

    These wonderful flowers swept Japan from day to day in a whirlwind of celebration and joy.

    One day after the next, we saw the flowers bloom and the cities take on colour.

    Each temple became pinker and brighter surrounded by thousands of flowers.

    Each park seemed to be festively decorated, each street became a watercolor.

    The last days in Japan have been a continuous “but what a wonder” with the nose upwards.

    It’s magic, really.

    It can’t be explained. I believe that Japan during the flowering of sakura is a special place, one of the most special that nature and man together can give.

    You don’t believe it.

    Go and see it with your own eyes.

    Not being able to understand and be understood

    This whole tongue thing has got me all upset.

    I’ve never travelled to a place where I really didn’t even vaguely understand the meaning of a speech or a sign.

    I speak English, French and Spanish. I’m good with German bases, I understand and make myself understood in Portuguese.

    In South America, North America, Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia I have never had a problem. I’ve always understood (sometimes more, sometimes less – even much less!) and I’ve always made myself understood.

    Not in Japan.

    In Japan, if a sign is in Japanese, you can’t even vaguely understand what that means.

    If the cashier of the 7Eleven asks you a question in Japanese, you’re going to be terrified by the disappointment you’re going to have to give her by telling her through gestures that you haven’t understood anything. You’re welcome. Total zero.

    Because in fact the worst part of not understanding anything is having to confess it to the very kind Japanese who is trying to help you. To break the heart.

    As soon as I arrived, I went to the ATM of the airport to pick up some yen and on the screen there was a big inscription in Japanese. And that’s it. Only a few keys, in Japanese, were illuminated.

    I tried to push a few buttons: nothing.

    Then the screen: nothing.

    I took two steps back in the hope that a wider view would give me the key to reading that incomprehensible contraption. Nothing.

    Just a red light on one side. Does that mean it’s out of order? Is that why it’s not working? Well.

    Anyway, no yen for me. I just looked around to see if I was the only one coming back to this strange bubble of misunderstanding.

    No. Confused faces, muffled movements. Everyone was a little lost. Not that it was a consolation, it was just strange. Different.

    I was told that in Japan they don’t speak English. And I thought, “yes, well, we’ll understand each other. Medium, let’s say. Understand each other in some way you understand each other, sooner or later.

    But I’ll just tell you that the receptionist of Nikko’s ryokan (a person who works in a tourist city, mainly with foreign tourists, in charge of their reception) spoke to Google Translate about his smartphone and then showed us the English translation to explain himself.

    Incredible scenes.

    And he was so tender and in trouble that we would all embrace him to reassure him, we would learn Japanese to get him out of the clutter.

    A Japan that are a thousand, but that in the end is only one

    After a few days in Japan you really wonder how many souls can live together in one country.

    There is Japan of temples, Zen, meditation, introspection.

    There’s Japan of manga, anime, action figures, maid cafes.

    There is the one of a thousand bright signs, of the intersection of Shibuya, of karaoke at the top of one’s lungs in tiny rooms soundproofed with phosphorescent drinks.

    There is that of tradition, of kimonos, of onsens, of elegant and composed gestures, of rituality.

    There is Japan of the subway squeezed at rush hour, of hordes of business men who flood the streets at 6 p.m. with their black suits all the same, which seems like an invasion of Smith Agents of Matrix.

    And in the end all these little pieces, looking beyond the surface, meet, mix, and create a single complicated Japan, multifaceted, intriguing and elusive.

    Because the business man after 6 p.m. goes to party under the cherry blossoms and finds himself at 2 a.m. in a karaoke with his colleagues. And in the room next door are the elegant girls dressed in the kimono. Even the 5-storey Akihabara manga shops have their own sacredness, like everything in Japan: from temples, to onsen, to sushi.

    It’s a mosaic that only makes sense with all its little pieces.

    The most absurd things in the world are all in Japan

    Clam soup in cans in the dispenser.

    Rice with chicken curry in the shape of a teddy bear.

    Strawberry ice cream in the shape of a rabbit.

    Coffee where you can caress cats (neko café).

    Coffee where you can caress owls.

    Frosted bananas covered with sugars.

    Bars full of people playing the same online game.

    Stores for cosplayers only (where they sell clothes to dress up as manga or anime characters).

    Sushi disguise.

    Toilet with more buttons than a spaceship.

    Finally, as I write this post I’m wearing my socks with the separate big toe I took in Japan. The ones you need to comfortably wear your flip-flops.

    I’m more uncomfortable than rare, I’m constantly rubbing my big toe with my finger next to it in the vain hope that what divides them (the evil sock) will be removed from the middle.

    I can only think of another sensation so annoying: do you have your panties in the middle of your ass?

    Categories: Japan