Zen temples, Tokyo Disneyland, Harajuku girls, Lolita fashion, Anime, and of course Hello Kitty this is what we know of the Land of the Rising Sun. But, there is more to it once you get there. Let this crash course guide you around and be in the know to what to include in your travel pack.
The Japanese language or Nihongo is pretty much revered in the whole country of Japan. There are even places where people only use Nihongo so communication is one big area of concern once you get there.
So if you are planning a trip to Japan, one good thing to include in your travel pack is a book on Basic Japanese conversation. It is always a good thing to appreciate the beautiful shrines or pay compliments to the chef for the delectable sushi though it is a plus for you to learn how to express how you feel.
Here are some useful Japanese words that you might use on a lot of occasions:
Ohayou gozaimasu (Good morning)
Konnichiwa (Hello/Good day)
Konbanwa (Good evening)
Before eating: Itadakimasu (Let’s eat)
After eating: Gochisosamadeshita (Thank you for the food)
Sumimasen (Excuse me/ I’m sorry)
Arigato gozaimasu (Thank you very much)
Onegaishimasu (Yes please —)
A few Nihongo words can go a long way. Though, you have to be aware of its prop er usage or pronunciation or else they might not understand you or misinterpret what you said.
Keep in mind these three simple things. First, words like gozaimasu, itadakimasu and onegaishimasu are pronounced with silent a “U” in the end. Second, the word gozaimasu is used to be polite much like we use “po” in the Philippines.
Finally, onegaishimasu is used when you are sort of saying “yes please do” or something like “can you please.” This can be helpful when a waiter offers to t ake your used plate, or when the cashier asks if you want an extra hashi or chopsticks with your cup noodles.
Getting to know the toilet
Getting to Know TOTO san, look at all those buttons
There are quite a lot of humorous stories about tourist bloopers with toilets in Japan. One extreme story was about a tourist who used the bathroom in a public building. After an hour of confusion on how to stop the bidet from squirting water everywhere, the tourist turned out accidentally pressing the alarm button. Minutes later, the whole fire fighting brigade of the community showed up thinking there was an emergency.
As we all know Japan is a technologically-savvy country and a lot of things get mechanized even the toilet. You might laugh about this, but seriously once you are there things can get pretty ugly.
Personifying this bathroom necessity, some people comically refer to it as TOTO san, based on the fact that TOTO products dominate the bathrooms in Japan. TOTO san can be a best friend to some or it could be complicated alien specie to others.
One thing for sure, TOTO san can be really stressful if you are unfamiliar with it. First of all there are a lot of buttons that can surely cause confusion and turn your minutes-long personal business into hours.
But do not stress over it because toilets usually have “Ego” or English translations. Some even have illustrations to help you out. As some say, if you are unsure in the end go for the [toilet style] you are familiar with.
Tokyo is always referred to as the place of action, with this city being the capital of Japan. Just don’t forget to take along in your travel pack a trusty camera because there are sure a lot of interesting sites around this city.
The famous Asahi Beer building, view from the Sumida river
If you want a tour around Tokyo, you can take a ferry ride around the Sumida River. This river tour will pass through the twelve known bridges in Tokyo and of course the famous Asahi Beer building.
To those thrift shoppers, the Hyakku yen shop (100 yen shop) is a haven. Imagine getting any item from make up to kitchen ware or those cute San Rio or Disney character merchandise for just a hundred yen.
For those who are willing to spend a little extra on unique finds, you can visit the Don Quixote duty free shop. Here you can buy stuff like surreally long fake eyelashes to psychedelic costumes.
Don Quixote shops and Hyakku yen stores can be found pretty much anywhere in Tokyo or the whole Japan even.
Surprise surprise, a couple having a traditional Japanese wedding
near the temple that we passed through.
It’s a good thing to have a handy dandy camera always ready.
Going around Japan is real easy with each city just a train station away. This country has a vast number of train lines that if you look at it in a map it’s like a long piece of yarn that got tangled up or the netted veins in our circulatory system.
To Yoyogi Park District Gate
However, traveling by train can be a little tricky. Their train or densha system is interconnected with each other that one wrong turn or stop can pretty much turn your travel into an ordeal.
Don’t fret though, because maps come free in the train station and you can pretty much retrace your steps for guidance and be a happy traveler once again. Or you can turn your ordeal into an adventure and go about the different stalls in the train station. You might even stumble upon some food stalls and get to taste the famous Takoyaki.
Just by riding the train you can go about the different prefectures of Japan. If you might happen to be interested in witnessing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony performed, you can go and visit the New Women’s Education Center (NWEC). It is just three-hours away by bus from Tokyo and you can reserve a room there with cheaper rates. Just be sure that you reserve in advance to ensure accommodation.
NWEC is around the Saitama area and within the compound is a house where women who perform traditional tea ceremony lives. Here, you can witness the art of the tea ceremony and if you request kindly (remember the useful greetings), you can even get to participate and taste the tea for free.
Also, around the Saitama area lays a delicious ramen shop which a lot of families around the area go to and eat. So, if you are a food lover make sure you go get a taste of their ramen.
Striking a pose after the tea ceremony experience
So there goes your basic crash course on Japan. Just don’t forget to enjoy and pack your travel bag with the essentials like a basic conversation guide book, a camera and one thing you must never forget… your passport.
Happy trip ang have fun in your adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun.