Japan seems to be on many travellers’ minds lately, and I now perceive the hype. Having come again from spending simply over two weeks there, I really feel like we solely skimmed the floor, and I’m questioning once we can return already.
Planning our journey to Japan was in all probability essentially the most tough journeys I’ve needed to plan. Apart from travelling with 5 different households, there have been a number of elements that performed into this.
There was a lot we wished to see and do however we needed to slim it right down to one thing life like. Lodging choices had been bountiful, however discovering one in a really perfect location that might accommodate our household of 5 took some researching. Lastly, transferring from one location to the subsequent most effectively took planning.
On this article, I’ll share some suggestions I feel will higher put together you and your loved ones for Japan.
Making ready for Your Arrival
There are a selection of things you’ll wish to take into account as you put together in your entry into Japan.
On the time of writing, Japan nonetheless has obligatory arrival varieties. Just lately, Japan introduced that they are going to be lifting all COVID-19 border measures on Could 8, 2023. For the freshest info and establishing an account to finish your arrival varieties, please see the Go to Japan web site.
If you’re travelling previous to Could 8, 2023, you’ll doubtless nonetheless want full these varieties, and it’s finest to do them previous to arrival. This may assist velocity up your processing via customs and immigration.
On the finish of finishing the varieties, you must have an Immigration QR Code, Customs Declaration QR code, and Pre-registration for Quarantine Procedures kind accomplished for every traveller. Simply in case you may’t entry wifi on arrival, make sure to screenshot all of your varieties.
There are lots of choices for accessing knowledge when in Japan. The best is to make use of an eSIM card.
It’s finest to load and activate your eSIM earlier than arrival. I had pals efficiently use Ubigi and Airalo with out many points on this journey. GoogleFi labored nice for me.
I like to verify my GoogleFi is on previous to my flight departing Canada, to verify I’ve connectivity on arrival.
In case you plan on getting a Japan Rail Cross, buy it earlier than your arrival in Japan, as it’s going to price extra having to it from the JR Cross workplace as soon as in Japan. Kids below age 6 are free, and people aged 6 via 11 obtain a 50% low cost.
Many international travellers going to Japan decide up a JR go, nevertheless it’s not meant for everybody. You’ll wish to rigorously analysis what the JR Cross covers, the method of getting one, and whether or not it’s worthwhile to make use of throughout your time in Japan.
The Suica Cross is a pay as you go, rechargeable good card, which can be utilized to faucet on and off prepare and subway strains, and deducts the fare with every faucet.
It’s handy to have because it permits you to trip most of Japan’s public transport system while not having to make a purchase order at a ticket merchandising machine with every trip.
Every traveller wants their very own card. Youngsters as much as the age of 6 on March 31 of every 12 months trip at no cost. Youngsters as much as the age of 12 on March 31 of every 12 months are charged a baby price on public transportation.
You possibly can acquire a digital model of the cardboard in your Apple Pockets previous to arrival and pre-load it, just by opening the Pockets app and trying to find “Suica”. Sadly, the cell model for Android customers solely works for many who bought their smartphone in Japan.
For teenagers below 12, you’ll nonetheless have to acquire a bodily card in-person from a JR ticket workplace.
Suica passes may also be used to pay for issues at a wide range of comfort shops and outlets throughout Japan. Loading your Suica with an HSBC World Elite Mastercard will code as journey, whereas with the Amex US Inexperienced Card it’s going to code as transit, which is nice for maximizing these multipliers.
Japan makes use of the identical two-pronged outlet sockets as Canada and the US, so that you doubtless is not going to want a plug adaptor except you’ve gotten a tool with a three-pronged plug.
The outlet voltage in Japan is 100V, whereas in Canada the voltage is 120V, so for sure units, you should still want a voltage converter and/or voltage adapter.
You’ll wish to obtain a number of apps earlier than your journey. Many individuals in Japan aren’t fluent in English and relying on the place you might be, many indicators and menus might solely be in Japanese.
translator app is really helpful. We used Google Translate, however some travellers have additionally really helpful DeepL.
Google Maps shall be your finest buddy with regards to transportation, however some travellers have additionally advocate JapanTravel.
Eating reservations could be finished through the app or web site Tabelog, however to be trustworthy, I discovered it best to simply ask our resort workers to make a name to safe eating reservations for us.
What to Do on Arrival
Upon touchdown in Japan and going via customs and immigration, there are some things you’ll wish to full as quickly as potential to set your self up for fulfillment.
Use a baggage supply service
In case you’d favor to not lug your baggage on the trains to your resort, take into account a baggage supply service.
For about $20 per baggage, this may increasingly make sense if you might want to catch a number of connecting trains to your vacation spot or in the event you don’t have a reserved seat on a prepare.
There are a number of counters on the airport arrivals terminal that supply this service. Head to the counter, full the paperwork and the corporate will deal with the remainder.
Remember that relying in your vacation spot and the time of bags drop-off, it might take a one or two days earlier than you obtain your baggage, so pack any necessities with you.
Not like some nations that readily settle for bank cards, Japan is one nation you’ll nonetheless want to hold some money. Some individuals prefer to trade cash earlier than leaving their nation.
I usually prefer to trade mine upon arrival utilizing my Wealthsimple Money Card. You possibly can acquire one via signing up for Wealthsimple first, then establishing a Money account. After that, you may request their Wealthsimple Mastercard, a pay as you go card that withdraws funds immediately out of your Money account.
What I like concerning the Wealthsimple Money Card essentially the most is that you should use the cardboard to withdraw funds from nearly any ATM worldwide, exchanged at nearly the spot price, which finally ends up cheaper than exchanging foreign money at a financial institution again at dwelling.
ATMs at 7-Elevens in Japan usually don’t cost any further charges so long as you choose to get charged within the native foreign money.
Sensible is one other nice platform to make use of, the place you may trade currencies throughout the app after which withdraw it from an ATM when you arrive at your vacation spot with its Sensible Card. The one disadvantage is that there’s month-to-month withdrawal restrict of $350 (CAD).
Choose up JR Passes and Suica Passes for the children
In case you bought a JR Cross and have to redeem the voucher for it, you may decide it up earlier than you allow the airport on the JR Journey Service Facilities on the main worldwide airports (Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda, and Osaka Kansai).
It’s also possible to decide up your go at main prepare stations like Tokyo Station, Kyoto Station, or Osaka Station, simply to call a number of.
Be warned that the queues could be lengthy on the Service Facilities. It’s finest to have one individual line up whereas the remainder go seize a chew.
When you’re choosing up your JR Passes, don’t neglect to choose up the Suica Passes for the children as nicely (and for adults in the event you aren’t capable of get the cell Suica).
Don’t neglect to go away the individual ready consistent with everybody’s passports, as they are going to want them for each kinds of passes.
Typically talking, more often than not, you’ll be utilizing Japan’s public transport system of trains and buses to get to most locations inside Japan.
At first look, it seems to be a bit chaotic, with all of the completely different prepare techniques and stations. After the primary few occasions getting on and off the trains, you’ll get the hold of it.
Do think about some additional time although when planning your routes as a scarcity of English in some busy stations might end in it taking you longer to search out your means, particularly with children in tow.
Google Maps was my finest buddy when it got here to navigating Japan. It gives you all of the completely different choices for getting out of your location to your vacation spot.
You possibly can search based mostly on the time of departure and likewise see what the choices are at a later time limit. It offers you info on how busy the prepare shall be, the station platform to go on, which prepare automotive to enter, and which exit to take when you get off the prepare.
Trains in Japan run very a lot on time, so in case you are working late, it’s higher to catch the subsequent one. Though most stations don’t require travelling up or down too many flights of stairs or escalators, solely the main stations have elevator entry.
Main stations could be very busy and crowded. In case you’re bringing a stroller, convey a compact journey one.
Getting round with Uber
Generally catching an Uber is extra handy to cut back journey time. We discovered charges to be very excessive in Tokyo and Osaka although, however fairly cheap inside Kyoto. With issues being fairly unfold out in Kyoto, we ended up utilizing Uber greater than public transit throughout our time there.
Regardless that the Uber app says a automobile can solely accommodate 4 passengers, in lots of circumstances, if MK Taxi is the Uber firm choosing you up in Kyoto, their autos can accommodate as much as six passengers. Examine the automobile sort as soon as your trip is confirmed.
In case you occur to get a automotive that may solely accommodate 4, which solely occurred a few times for us, simply cancel the automobile and order one other.
It’s additionally higher to name the taxi or Uber by yourself. When the resort referred to as one for us, an additional cost was added to our fare.
In case you plan on renting a automotive, bear in mind that an Worldwide Driving Allow is required to take action in Japan. This may be obtained from a CAA workplace however should be finished previous to your journey.
Shinkansen high-speed trains
The Shinkansen high-speed prepare system is likely one of the finest methods to journey between Japan’s main cities.
Reserve seats on the prepare when you may. I used to be instructed that seat reservations weren’t vital, however once we visited, the trains had been typically packed.
There are typically single center seats obtainable, however this doesn’t work nicely while you’re travelling with younger children who should be by your aspect or when the journey time shall be 2–3 hours.
Given how courteous Japanese individuals are, you’ll doubtless run into a neighborhood who will supply up their seat as a way to be seated along with your kids, however in fact this isn’t assured.
The JR Cross comes with free seat choice, which is a superb perk. Nonetheless, the disadvantage with the go is that you simply gained’t have the ability to trip the quickest Nozomi trains, which frequently shave 25–half-hour off a visit between Tokyo to Kyoto…
…and run much more regularly than the Hikari trains lined by the JR Cross.
In case you favor to trip the Nozomi prepare and are capable of plan your journey time not less than three days beforehand, take into account shopping for a Hayatoku-Household NOZOMI ticket, which supplies a little bit of a reduction and permits for seat reservations for these travelling as a celebration of two or extra.
There isn’t lots of house for extreme baggage on the Nozomi trains, however every seat gives sufficient leg room to put as much as a medium sized baggage in entrance of you.
There have been additionally baggage racks on the 2 sides of the prepare above the seats the place backpacks and carry-on luggages may match. To save lots of the trouble of transferring bigger baggage round, I as soon as once more advocate utilizing a baggage transport service.
Though it’s frowned upon to eat on common trains and subways, even for youths, it’s acceptable to take action on the Shinkansen. Every seat has a tray and cup holder, and there’s vendor trolley that comes by promoting snacks and drinks.
Even higher, convey your personal meals. Choose up some snacks or bento packing containers on the station earlier than boarding.
In case you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, select seats C or D within the Inexperienced automotive or seats D or E within the bizarre automobiles.
Automobile seats and carriers for kids
The usage of automotive seats is non-compulsory in taxis and never required on public transportation. For lengthy distance journeys, it might nonetheless be advisable to request one from a employed transport service.
If you’re travelling with a toddler, I’d advocate a provider along with a journey or compact stroller. Though most areas of Japan have properly paved walkways the place strollers can be utilized with none points, sure points of interest or temples, reminiscent of Arashiyama Monkey Park or Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, would require going up many stairs.
In these conditions, you could discover a child or toddler provider extra helpful.
The place to remain in Japan is a tough one to reply, because it’ll rely upon what you wish to see and do. Map out your itinerary and see the place it makes most sense to remain. To be trustworthy, you may’t actually go mistaken with any location, so long as there’s a prepare station close by.
Discovering lodging that may match a household of 4 or extra could be difficult, particularly in Asia. Fortunately, there’s a nice family-friendly condominium resort chain in Japan, Mimaru, which caters to household journey and might accommodate as much as 10 friends of their resort rooms and suites, relying on the property.
Mimaru has areas in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. We had a nice expertise on the Mimaru Tokyo Ginza East throughout our time in Tokyo.
For many who favor to stick with Marriott or maybe a Hilton or Hyatt to reap the benefits of elite advantages, not all hope is misplaced.
In case you do a search on every resort model’s web site, you’ll typically discover that trying to find two friends ends in a plethora of choices…
…however when you add two or extra children, the outcomes dwindle to a handful or much less, even when there are rooms with two double beds.
Marriott’s search engine specifically typically treats kids as adults, which means a seek for two adults and two kids turns into a seek for 4 friends.
Many motels in Japan can’t accommodate 4 adults in a room, however kids are sometimes an exception, relying on their age. Some properties take into account kids to be these aged 6 and below, whereas others as much as the age of 12. Past that, for many properties, minors are handled as adults.
There’s no means of figuring out except you attain out to the property immediately both by telephone or electronic mail. Previous to our journey, I made a number of of those inquiries and was pleasantly stunned with the responses I obtained.
Most properties will permit an extra 1–3 kids within the room, relying on the age of the kids and the room sort. Some properties will cost an additional individual price, which, for me, remains to be most well-liked over having to pay for an additional room. Others will cost for an additional rollaway mattress, however this can be non-compulsory.
In case your kids are too outdated to nonetheless be thought-about kids by Japan’s requirements, you should still wish to contact the resort immediately to search out out their choices for connecting rooms, as many motels I contacted did supply this selection as nicely.
Listed here are some examples from my very own searches:
- The Ritz Carlton Kyoto: As much as 2 adults and a pair of kids for no further charges in a Deluxe room or above class, many connecting room choices
- Resort The Mitsui Kyoto: As much as 2 adults and a pair of kids within the Deluxe room with 2 double beds, and as much as 3 kids in a Premier room with 2 double beds, or most greater room and suite classes; an additional mattress price is ¥15,180 together with tax and repair cost. We had been upgraded to their Nijo Suite throughout our go to, which was wonderful!
- The Chapter Kyoto: As much as 2 adults and a pair of kids in any room sort, however for 3 kids, which requires an additional mattress, it must be not less than a Superior Twin with bathe; connecting rooms can be found
- JW Marriott Nara: As much as 2 adults and a pair of kids in a Visitor Room, however for 3 kids there’s an additional mattress price of ¥12,320 together with tax and repair cost
- Hyatt Regency Osaka: As much as 2 adults and a pair of kids in any of their King or Twin mattress rooms, and as much as 3 kids of their suites with no additional mattress charges; connecting rooms can be found
If you’re transferring from one resort to a different, like we did, strongly think about using a baggage supply service.
If you’re not sure which to make use of, simply ask the resort for help. They typically have corporations that they work with already and can enable you full all of the varieties for them, which may be very useful, since they are usually in Japanese.
You’ll want to examine the baggage pick-up occasions, as you could have to pack up by a sure time to make sure your baggage is delivered on time to your subsequent vacation spot.
Amusement Parks & Sights
Amusement parks are highly regarded in Japan, so shopping for tickets beforehand is a a good suggestion, particularly in case you are going throughout excessive season. I’ll have a separate article on Tokyo DisneySea and Common Japan popping out quickly.
In style points of interest or excursions also needs to be booked early. Listed here are some actions we did that I’d advocate pre-booking:
- Kyoto Samurai Expertise, which takes place in an genuine samurai home
- Sumo Expertise, the place you may take pleasure in a meal whereas watching and taking part in sumo wrestling hosted by retired sumo wrestlers
There are lots of temples and castles in Japan. For all those we visited, we had no points shopping for tickets on arrival.
For fashionable temples and points of interest, just like the Fushimi Inari Shrine or Arashyama Bamboo Forest, I’d advocate visiting them as early as potential within the morning or close to sundown to keep away from the crowds.
Generally you simply can’t keep away from the crowds, like in Nishiki Market in Kyoto or Dotonbori in Osaka. Be sure you maintain on tight to little fingers and have a tracker in your child like an Apple Tag or Tile.
This was additionally one journey the place I didn’t need to pack a bunch of snacks on a regular basis. There are such a lot of locations to choose up snacks en route that worrying about hungry children wasn’t a problem. The youngsters had a enjoyable time making an attempt new meals too.
The one time I’d pack extra snacks is in the event you’re heading to the amusement parks, the place lineups to purchase meals could be fairly lengthy.
Japan is one vacation spot the place you may actually store until you drop. Usually, there’s an 8% gross sales tax added to all purchases. As a foreigner although, you might be eligible for a tax refund at licensed shops in the event you spend ¥5,000 on the retailer or mall on a single day.
You’ll want to convey a passport with you when purchasing, as a result of many shops or malls will course of the tax refund on the spot.
In case you don’t know the place to start out, some fashionable Japanese shops to go to embody MEGA Don Quijote, Loft, Muji, Daimaru, and Uniqlo. In Tokyo, there’s a Pokemon retailer which was hit for the children. For the women, Japanese branded cosmetics like SKII and Shiseido are cheaper to purchase in Japan, particularly on the airports.
Combine in a kid-friendly or enjoyable exercise with the purchasing to maintain issues entertaining for the children. There are additionally loads of 7-Elevens to pop in for some strawberry and whipped cream sandwiches, mochi ice cream, or different enjoyable snacks ought to the children want some encouragement (ahem, bribery). 😉
Japan is a really enjoyable, secure, and family-friendly vacation spot. Planning your first journey right here with children could be daunting, nevertheless it’ll be nicely price it. A little analysis and planning will go a good distance.
When on the lookout for an lodging, contact motels on to see if they’ll accommodate your loved ones. Earlier than you arrive, see if a prepare go is smart along with your journey plans. Pre-book fashionable points of interest. Familiarize your self with the arrival course of, obtain some apps, buy an eSim, and be prepared to make use of money.
Don’t be intimated by the transportation system, because it’s not as dangerous because it seems to be, and make use of bags transport companies to attenuate the stress of carrying your baggage from one vacation spot to the subsequent.
Lastly, though there’s lots to see and do, strive to not pack your days. Go away a while to soak up the tradition, the individuals, and benefit from the scrumptious meals.
In any case, in my opinion, and I’m positive many others would agree, Japan is arguably the place on earth the place you may at all times come again for a second, third, and fourth time, and at all times discover new issues to do.
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