By Rachel Arandilla
TOKYO, Japan is one of the ultramodern international cities, carving a name in the worlds of fashion, business, technology and culture. There is just something so interesting about Tokyo, like a certain je ne sais quoi — maybe it is the juxtaposition of the ultramodern skyscrapers and traditional temples that just lures people in this modern city in the far east.
Tokyo has a population of almost 10 million and triple the number of annual visitors coming every year (last year, with 27 million visitors). This coming 2020, Tokyo is expected to draw in even more visitors for the Olympics 2020 event happening in the said city.
Good news to all: Cebu Pacific now flies Cebu to Tokyo daily! A quick four-hour direct flight will get you to this amazing and modern city of Tokyo. Take note that you will need a Japan visa to visit the country.
Here are the things you need to know before coming to Tokyo Japan for the first time. I will be writing more guides on Tokyo, Japan soon so you can check it out on my blog (postcardpretty.com) for more information!
1. English Please?
Japanese is the predominant language in Japan. Although English can be spoken and understood by people in the major cities of Japan, many Japanese are still not comfortable with English.
Thus it is vital for you take precautions when traveling. English is almost not spoken in smaller towns, so it is handy to have a translate app in your phone to communicate with them.
Always carry your hotel address and other information with Japanese translation so you can show it to the locals, cab drivers, etc. This tip will help a lot with language barrier!
2. Don’t Tip
No matter how perfect or amazing the service is, don’t tip! Good service isn’t just an added benefit in Japan, it’s a cultural requirement. They have a word for that Japanese superb service: the business of “omotenashi.” It’s about serving the guests and anticipating people’s needs in advance.
Be gracious and accept the hospitality. Don’t tip. If you left money in the table, you’ll run the risk of offending the waiter who will likely chase you down the street just to return your spare change.
3. Gift Culture
Even if they have a strong aversion against tips, they have an equally strong gift culture in Japan. The moment we arrived, our friends from Japan gave us so many gifts and we were in Tokyo for barely an hour. We got many gifts — scents, snacks and cute origami given by our Japanese friends and guides. I wish we brought gifts from the Philippines too — I felt kinda guilty not having prepared anything for them. Thank you, Nao and Marie for the gracious hospitality!
4. Modern Japanese toilet
Of course, one of favorite things about Japan is their toilet. The buttocks are so spoiled in the land of the rising sun. There are plenty of reasons to come back to Japan for, but this one is certainly high in my list.
I was a little confused on how the modern toilets and buttons work, but a few trials and errors should be enough to get you used to the modern way of doing a number two.
5. It’s hard to find public bins.
This is odd for me, as Japan is known to be a very clean and efficient country. So what’s the deal on the difficulty of finding a trash bin in public areas? I end up carrying my trash in my bag to my hotel because I couldn’t find a place to throw away my stuff.
I later found out that the reason for the very few public bins around Tokyo. In 1995, there was a terrorist attack using lethal sarin gas that injured more than 5,000 people.
Although the terror attack is the primary reason, there’s a few other reasons with the lack of public trash bins. Businesses in Japan have to pay for trash disposal (pay as you throw), so it is costly for them to give everyone public access to garbage. The Japanese believe that there is less trash with less garbage bins, and that may be the right mindset to adopt.
6. Public transport system is very efficient
Japan’s subway system is efficient and comprehensive, you can take the train to anywhere. One trip normally costs you around 200 Yen ($2 or P100). It is amazing how Google Maps can help us navigate our way to transport system in just a quick search on your phone! (Although my friend Chrystal still gets lost while using it!)
One tip: Avoid the subway during rush hour, people are packed like sardines during the crazy rush hour times.
Unfortunately the Tokyo train system is not 24 hours! The train station closes at 1 a.m. and you’ll need to catch the train or else you’ll have to take the taxi…
7. Taxi rides are expensive
First off: Japan has no Uber, Grab, Lyft or any car-sharing apps available. I heard the taxi union in the country is very strong. Hence, the only means you can go around after 1 a.m. is by foot or by cab. Taxi rides in Japan are expensive.
The same trip that would take you only 200 Yen ($2 or P100) would be 4,400 Yen ($40 or P2,200 of the same trip and distance. That’s a premium of more than 2,000 percent! True story.
8. Safest in the world
So when I missed my train, I had to walk two kilometers back to my hotel in Tamachi because I wanted to sober up and I also didn’t like the concept of a 2,000 percent premium. It was two in the morning and I walked back in pitch black darkness with no people around a 500 meter radius from me. If it wasn’t Japan, it would be a scary thriller movie. If it was Japan, it would be a scarier thriller movie (those Japanese filmmakers sure know how to make scary shit).
Oddly though, I felt completely safe and almost zen-like as I walked back. Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and you always felt safe walking around, even at night. Nothing like that time I was robbed of a box of Pizza while I was in Paris…
I will write more about our experiences in Japan in the coming weeks. In the meantime, a sincere and biggest thanks to JNTO — Japan National Tourism Organization and Cebu Pacific Air for organizing the fam tour for the Vis-Min bloggers!