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Japan Pre-Departure: Getting ready for your Japan travels

With your Japan trip fast approaching, here’s a few nuggets of essential information to help with your preparations ahead of departure.

Thanks to the country’s distinctive infrastructure, the way we organise travel in Japan is likely to be different from other trips you’ve taken, and certainly different to any other destinations you may have visited with Selective Asia - it’s part of what makes your upcoming travels so exciting. 

Japan is a unique country (we don't use that word lightly) and given the more independent, unguided focus of travel there, you might have a few questions, especially if it’s been a while since you made your booking. We’ve pre-empted our most frequently asked questions and areas of uncertainty below with information and tips from our specialists. 

We are, of course, always on hand to guide you through these and any other questions you may have.

Your Self-guide App explained 

Our Self-guide App is your digital information hub (Andrew goes as far as calling it the ‘mothership’!) for your travels in Japan. It contains the most up-to-date version of your itinerary (including all pre-booked trains and journey times), and is also home to all your essential activity details such as start times, meeting points and guide contact info. These aren’t in your pdf or printed travel pack - it’s all on the App.

Also included in the App are curated ideas and information on places of interest, restaurant suggestions and much more to enhance your independent touring. This isn’t just a random Google search, but our own personalised recommendations that provide a great platform for planning the details of your journey.

We provide access to the Self-guide App just a couple of weeks before you travel, so that all the features and information, such as train times, are as up to date as possible. Whilst we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the Self-guide App before you head off, keep in mind that it’s a GPS-responsive tool that really comes into its own once you’re on the ground in each location.

About your data pack

To use your Self-guide App, and to make use of other websites and Apps, you’ll need to stay connected, which is taken care of through the data pack we pre-arrange for you. It’s very easy to use - you just link your phone or other WiFi-enabled device to it as you would to any other WiFi network, and you can connect it to multiple devices. 

The data device will be waiting for you at your first hotel, along with clear instructions on how to use it. You’ll have plenty of data for your entire trip, although we do suggest saving the music and film downloads for when you are connected to hotel WiFi!

At the end of your trip, pop the data device into the pre-paid envelope and slip it into any post box in Japan. There are plenty of post boxes to choose from, and even some at the airport, but please be sure not to bring the device home with you as charges will apply.

Google Translate

Having mentioned ‘other Apps’, in our humble opinion Google Translate is definitely one to download. It’s a fantastic companion to any travels abroad, and even more so in Japan given the predominantly self-guided nature of our trips there. Although many train announcements, signs and even menus are in English, Google Translate can step in to help clarify meaning in a far greater range of situations. You can scan posters and menus and even hold ‘live conversations’ with people you meet. 

A note: Whilst all the tech wizardry will undoubtedly enhance your travels, make sure you don’t lean on it too much. Take every opportunity to look up, take it all in, and open the door to serendipity…

Your Meet & Greet / Important Travel Documentation

If you have a Meet & Greet service included upon arrival in Japan, it will be clearly indicated on Day 1 of your Japan itinerary. You’ll be met in the Arrivals Hall at the airport and accompanied to your hotel by an English speaking assistant. 

Along with being happy to answer any questions you may have, they will give you all the necessary documentation for your travels ahead. This includes your train tickets (clearly marked with any pre-booked information), IC prepaid card, any vouchers or passes, and all necessary miscellaneous documentation for your trip.

Train Station Transfers 

Many transfers to and from stations are unassisted, or marked as ‘make your own way’, and each station is carefully chosen due to its proximity to your hotel.  

Private transfers in Japan (in the very limited number of places that they’re possible to pre-arrange) are eye-wateringly expensive and we therefore only arrange them very rarely, if ever. There will be occasions when a metro or taxi journey from your station is required, however, and both are very straightforward and covered in detail here.  

Concerned about managing your luggage? Don’t worry, that’s all taken care of too - see the ‘Luggage forwarding’ section below.

Trains & IC Cards

Train journeys in Japan are every bit as efficient and enjoyable as you’ve heard and, at times, downright invigorating! Whilst riding Japan Rail is very straightforward, we’ve written a detailed article clearly explaining all the ins-and-outs and finer points of train travel in Japan, as well as information on prepaid IC cards and taxis. 

Luggage forwarding explained

Smooth luggage forwarding is one of Japan’s greatest travel gems, and a service that Japanese travellers cannot live without. The service is pretty much universally available, and there are very few locations around the country where you cannot arrange it. It's surprisingly reasonably priced and works unbelievably well.

Nine times out of 10 you’ll arrange the forwarding yourself at your hotel - just speak to the front desk and they’ll advise when you need to drop your bag off (usually the night before your journey) - but the service can be arranged in other locations too. We recommend always making arrangements at least 24 hours in advance, and your bags will be waiting for you at your next hotel, airport or chosen location. Simple. Would you trust it to work so smoothly at home?!

Luggage lockers

If your itinerary includes a ‘day stop’ (i.e. you’re en route from A to B, stopping for a few hours in C, and you’ve not forwarded your luggage) then you’ll be happy to learn that most major stations have short-term luggage storage facilities.

Onsen etiquette

Spending time in an onsen is a quintessential Japan experience, and one we’d highly recommend. Don’t be put off by the unfamiliarity of the experience - it’s much easier than you may think. Here are a few essential onsen tips and facts: 

 Have we missed anything? Let us know what’s on your mind and we’ll be happy to assist.