Planning Your Trip to Japan: A To-Do List

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Being half Japanese allowed plenty of summers in Tokyo for me. However, I had never traveled around the country and I started to get that little feeling of jealousy mixed with paranoia of being left out. Yes, I was a victim of the FOMO.

I decided to go on a little tour and see places other than the usual Tokyo, and thought I’d share my little checklist for five things to do before you visit Japan.

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5. Get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)

This is by far the most important thing to do before you visit Japan! The Japan Rail Pass is a rail ticket exclusive to foreigners that allows you to ride shinkansens as many times as you want. All you do is show your ticket at the entrance. You don’t even have to reserve tickets!

Trust me, you WILL regret it if you don’t. Why? First of all, because you cannot buy it once you have entered Japan. And secondly…well, go take a look at the normal fares. I’ll be here waiting for my thank you card. 🙂

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4. Plan your route

Shinkanses are pretty cool, but you’re on holiday and no one wants to sit on a train for extra hours unless needed. So list the places you want to visit and make sure the route makes sense.

My route was: Tokyo – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Miyajima – Osaka – Nara – Tokyo.


Plan your trip to Japan: a to do list

Plan your trip to Japan: a to do list

3. Reserve a night at a ryokan

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns normally featuring tatami mats and onsens (hot spring baths). Be prepared as they are normally uber expensive, but completely worth it. What I did was I stayed in super budget hostels for a few nights so I didn’t feel guilty spending that amount for a ryokan. But the experience was amazing. Really the most Japanese thing you could do!

You need to reserve in advance because they do get booked up easily, especially the good ones. I stayed at the IWASO in Miyajima.

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2. Save a day for Disney Sea

Most of my friends religiously make fun of my excitement for amusement parks. But what can I do? It’s really not my fault if they’re so awesome! I say Disney Sea because it is unique in the world. But, between you and I, that’s just my adult excuse to embrace my inner child. Japan has some amazing amusement parks, so make sure you save at least a day for one of them.

Other recommendations:

  • Fuji-Q Highland
  • Universal Studios
  • Tokyo Disneyland
  • Tokyo DisneySea
  • Sanrio Puroland
  • Joypolis
  • Ghibli Museum (I know this is not an amusement park, but I’ve put it in the category anyway because it personally gives me the same excitement – in Japanese you would say “waku-waku”)

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1. Save up!

Well that’s a general rule isn’t it? Japan has its ways of putting you in front of some useless yet irresistibly adorable items, though, and still somehow give you enough reasons to desire them. And if that doesn’t work? Well I’m sure you’ll find something on your way back to Tokyo!

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