I thought I’d take a break this week from relaying my travel tales to bring you some useful info for anyone planning a trip to Japan themselves. For me the planning part is as much a part of the holiday as the time spent travelling itself – there’s something innately enjoyable about working out where you want to go, how to navigate your way around and where to stay. I often find myself feeling like a child waiting for Christmas day while reading a guide-book or browsing a travel site online – you know something good is coming but you don’t know exactly what it will be like.
Coming from China I was surprised at just how easy it was to navigate my way around Japan despite the language barrier. Many signs have English or romanised translations and people are always happy to help if you need pointing in the right direction. Lots of restaurants have picture menus with many even having very realistic looking plastic recreations of each dish in the window!
While I’m not going to write a full guide for planning your trip (many others already have) below are some great resources you may find helpful:
- Top 10 tips for preparing a trip to Japan (Part 2) – comprehensive advice from a seasoned expat
- Hacking Japan on a budget (Part 2) – ways to save money while still maximizing your experience
- Wikitravel Japan / Tokyo / Kyoto / Osaka – an excellent source of info about what to see / do / see / eat / buy
- JR Pass (buy online) – allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail trains, buses and ferries for 1/2/3 weeks
- Hyperdia (alternative) – easily search train timetables (JR Pass holders should unselect Nozomi trains)
- Tokyo Transportation Guide (official site) – useful info about how to navigate Tokyo’s vast rail network
- Tokyo JR Map (overground) | Tokyo Metro Map (underground) – both look complex but are indispensable
- Kyoto Train / Subway Map | Kyoto Bus Navi Map – Kyoto subway is limited but the buses go everywhere
- Cheap Internet When Staying in Tokyo (more) – guides for finding free wifi and cheap(ish) data SIM cards
- Imiwa (free) | Midori (paid) – excellent two way English ↔ Japanese dictionary apps
- Evernote | Dropbox (both free) – if you have an iPhone or iPad these apps are great for storing everything
If you know of any other good links feel free to add them in the comments below.