Japan Dos and Don'ts

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Travel Tips for Dos and Don’ts in Japan

Japan
First don't let the the 'foreigness' of Japan stop you from visiting.
Exhange money easily at any "ginko" or bank.
The best way to eat and or shop is to get away from the mainstream places and go down the alleys to little 'mom pop' resturants. Here you will get great food for a fraction of the price. All resturants have plastic versions of the menu, so all you have to do it point! Water is safe to drink. There are no real health risks to speak of.
Ask how to find the 'recycle' shops. Here is where you can find everything especially true antiques at bargain basement prices. Shrines sales are great too!
Local fish markets first thing in the morning are a great way to eat and shop at too.
Most toilets are not 'western' style, but squat style. Japanese believe this to be more sanitary. Bring toilet paper. Also be aware in at least one McDonalds I went to, the bathrooms were unisex.
Japan is very safe to travel in. A lot crime is commited either by drunks or foreigners. But be aware on the crowded commuter trains, women are frequently touched and grabbed by men. Stand your ground and let them know you won't tolerate it! Japanese women will find your small children and infants extremely fascinating. They may even just pick them up. But don't fear, they are just loving on them! The people tend to be very honest also. Once a gentlemen on my tour (I was a tour guide for our local area) left his wallet on a counter at a large department store. The clerk actually ran down the block to give it back to him intact.
Be patient and polite and you'll get the same in return! Grunting and pointing and charades (done politely of course!) work very well. If looking for someone who may speak english, look to college or high school age Japanese if possible. They are taught english in schools and remember is better. Just be aware it's not conversational english, so be patient. They love to practice their english when given the chance.
Traveling in Japan: In Tokyo, take the trains. Just try to avoid commute times! They are easy to navigate, cheap and the best way to get around the city. Taxis are expensive and scary! If going outside the big cities, you'll want to rent a car. Japan drives on the left so just remember to keep the steering wheel closest to the center of the road! Women: I traveled quite extensively alone and felt very safe at all times.
Staying in Japan, unless you have friends/relatives to stay with, is expensive. This will probably be your biggest expense. Ryokans (bed breakfast type places) are expensive, but a wonderful experience!
Japan is much more than crowded streets (actually it's not that bad even in Tokyo in most places) and temples. The politeness and eagerness of the Japanese people to help you and just enjoy your company is the best I've come across! Most of the country is like visiting a picture book from National Geographic. Especially in the northern prefectures were things are still done the same ways they've been done for hundreds of years. It's like stepping back in time! The entire country is gorgeous no matter the time of year. I've never been to a country more hospitable and interesting and beautiful. You don't need to speak/read Japanese to get around either. Just be adventurous and polite and you'll have an experience of a lifetime! There are too many things to see and do! Shrines and festivals are plenty. But each area has it's highlights. I know more about the Aomori prefecture area of northern Japan which I highly recommend if you want to see the 'real' Japan. I lived in Japan for 4 years in the Aomori prefecture. Was a local area tour guide and love to answer any questions you may have on visiting Japan. Happy Trails! Patty Barnes pbarnes@usa.com

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Narita, Kantō Region, Japan
Make sure you are on an airport train going to Narita Airport and not a local train going to the town/city of Narita. If this mistake is made you will have to wait for the next train on the platform and risk missing your flight home.
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Okinawa, Okinawa Region, Japan
Activities: Diving, all types of water sports Dangers: Habu snakes, they're extremely poisonous. Annoyances: The humidity, Monsoon season, and for some the typhoons. Health: The Local's are into health and exercise, ie eating mostly raw food, running outside at all hours of the night... Interacting with the Locals:  Be respectful, don't play loud music when you're driving, speak softly, dress modestly... the Japanese are respectful people if you respect them and their culture it means a whole lot. Also, try to learn the language that means so much to them. Transportation: The taxi's are always available, they do not accept credit cards here on island, mainland Japan taxi's do, but not here. If you are in the Marine Corps the Green line buses are available free of charge.
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Tokyo, Kantō Region, Japan
Tokyo is so mindblowing! The train system is amazing. It is fast, on time and fully utilised. You can even check the timetable from your mobile (and that was in 2001)! There are people everywhere wearing anything. The buildings are huge! There is a huge American influence with restaurants, clothing, etc. You can get anything you want. But don't stand still in the middle of the footpath or else you will be run over by hundreds of Japanese in a hurry. Ropongi (bad spelling) is an awesome party district. Had a great night out there (all night). Shinjuku is the business district, but it still has good shopping for electronics, cosmetics and clothing (if you are of teeny tiny proportions). The public toilets in the big department stores play classical music to you while you are doing your business even!
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Osaka, Chūbu Region, Japan
Impress the locals by uttering their greeting in natve dialect: Phonetically it is "Mow-ka-ti-ma-ka ?" The answer: "bochi-bochi de na." Osaka-ites tend to be more open than their northern counterparts in Tokyo - feel free to strike up a converstaion with anyone.
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