Do you feel restless in your normal routine and want to plan a trip somewhere, but don’t know where to go? This overview is designed to give you a quick summary of what to expect in a particular country so you can decide if it might be a fit for your trip! While this is by no means comprehensive, you can get a great idea of how country might match you. Check out this tag to find more about Japan! Go to this tag to find more “Everything You Need to Know” posts!
Each metric is given an overall score between 1 and 10, and the ratings are briefly explained.
Go here if you are looking for: An incredibly clean and modern experience. You could eat off the bottom of your shoe and time train departures to the second.
This explains the prevailing sort of experience you might have in this country.
Overall experience: 9.29/10 (!)
What your travel experience might revolve around.
Natural and landscape views: 8
- How beautiful and unique are the landscape and nature views?
- Japan is gorgeous. They have preserved their environment very well, so everything you see is somehow protected from industrialization and environmental harm. If you go during the famed cherry blossom season, you can see blankets of cherry blossom trees and flowers everywhere! This was the time that I went, and the pinks and whites everywhere were just beautiful. The season happens during late March and early April, but if you can’t make it, the snow-covered mountains of the winter or the colorful leaves of the fall are equally pretty.
Historical attractions: 10
- To what extent can you see physical evidence of the country’s culture?
- Japan is such a unique country in terms of history. Because they were the conquerors and not the conquered in modern times, they have been able to preserve much more of their physical history than surrounding East Asian countries. As a result, you get the distinct feeling that you are unmistakably in Japan every moment you’re in the country because of the architecture and attractions that remain.
City culture: 10
- How should you expect locals to react to you? How does it feel to be in the city?
- Japanese cities are incredibly serene. Outside of the bustle of Tokyo and rush hour, you see very few crowds and hear almost no loud noises. You won’t hear people speaking loudly (unless they’re tourists) and there’s a sort of majestic peace in the country. Locals are also incredibly nice; one lady saw that I was having trouble coming up with exact change on the bus, so she paid for me! Another saw that I had a giant backpack and was holding a brochure in English and offered to help me in English. Basically, they’re very willing to help.
- How unique is the local food and how available is food from home?
- I love Japanese noodles, but I am not a fan of fish. If you love these types of foods, you will have a blast in Japan. If you’re looking for Western foods, you can walk into a fast food restaurant or a little cafe, but you won’t find too many higher-end foreign restaurants.
- How much do souvenirs cost relative to everyday items and how representative are they of the local culture?
- As with everything else in Japan, the souvenirs you can get here are distinctly Japanese. They will be a little more expensive that you expect, but if you pick up a lucky charm at a temple or snacks at a little shop, you can be sure of its quality. You can also get pretty interesting (read: weird) things here, such as wasabi- or sake-flavored kit kat bars or chopsticks that look like colored pencils. Just know they won’t be cheap.
- How clean is everything, including trash along the streets, water, and food?
- You honestly won’t find another country that is cleaner.
Tourism services: 10
- Are there people who specifically serve tourists outside private hotels and accommodation?
- Japan does an amazing job with tourism services. The major train stations of every city have information “stores” – they take up a whole stall that in other countries would have been rented out to some private company. They are decked out in information in various languages, and the employees at these booths speak English enough to communicate with you.
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- Are you going to freeze or sweat to death?
- Even in April, when I went, it was COLD. Go any earlier in the year, or later than August, and you will be in for freezing weather.
- What currency is used? (Not a rated category)
Cost: 3 (higher rating means lower cost)
- Overall, is this country expensive or not?
- Definitely expensive. I could have enjoyed another country for at least twice for the same price, but Japan really makes its travelers feel welcome and give them a very different experience. It’s worth the trip!
Approximate time needed to visit the whole country: 1 month
- How much time do you need to devote here? (Not a rated category)
- Even though it’s a small country, there’s a lot to see. In part because they’ve preserved their natural environment as well as their historical landmarks, you could easily spend a month (and more!) just going around Japan.
Speed of Wi-Fi: 7
- How fast is the Wi-Fi?
- Relatively fast. In some hotels and hostels it will be bad, but if you can get the government/city-sponsored networks, they work well.
Accessibility of Wi-Fi: 9
- Can you connect to Wi-Fi when you need it?
- Wi-Fi is another reason that Japan is amazing – in many big cities, they offer free Wi-Fi in important tourist hubs, like the main train stations or big attractions. You can access the same network at some cafes and restaurants as well. The speed and reliability of the connection is also rather impressive. While there were some times that I could have benefitted from a local SIM card, I found that I did just fine without one.
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Culture and Immersion: 8/10
- What language do locals speak? (Not a rated category)
English level of the typical local: 3
- If you really needed help, how much could a typical local help?
- There is little reason for the typical Japanese person to learn English, so most don’t. Some will know very basic words, and taxi drivers will generally be able to communicate with you enough to get you where you want to go.
Approachability of locals if you can’t speak the language: 10
- If you can’t speak the local language, how willing are locals to patiently help you?
- Japanese people are happy to help you, even if they can’t speak Japanese. At one minor train station, I wanted to ask why the machine wasn’t giving me the option to buy a ticket, and the person manning the entrance to the station pulled out this awesome laminated guide in English about navigating the ticket machines. It was hilarious and tremendously helpful.
Signage for an English speaker: 10
- If you can’t read the local language, can you read the signs?
- Signs always have English.
- If you buy something (especially at street markets), how much do you need to haggle?
- You might bargain a little bit at small street stalls, but for the most part people are not trying to cheat tourists.
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Intercity buses, trains, and planes: 10
- How easy is it to get from one city to another? How understandable is the system?
- Super easy. The entire country is linked through a public train system. Some of the areas that have inadequate public trains are serviced by private trains or buses. There are some more undiscovered parts of the country in the south/southwest that have much sparser public transportation, but it’s unlikely that you would visit those areas unless you have already gone through the more popular parts of the country first.
Taxi reliability: 8
- How many taxis are there? Are they to cheat you? How friendly are the drivers to foreigners, especially if you don’t speak the local language?
- For the most part, you won’t need taxis because the combination of walking and public transportation is adequate. The taxis will be plentiful and won’t even think about cheating you, but if you don’t speak Japanese and don’t really know where you’re going, they may be a little impatient with you.
Intra-city transportation: 10
- How easy is it to get where you want to go within the city?
- See above about the train system. The only city that is a little less convenient is Kyoto, which is unfortunate because Kyoto has some of the most beautiful temples in the country. You can take the bus (takes a while but cheap) or rent a bike (preferable).
- If you want to get some exercise, how easy it is to walk from place to place?
- Surprisingly, Japan is not really designed for a lot of walking. You can walk a good amount if you prefer, but the transportation is a way better option.
All the ratings that I’ve given Japan have been really high, but the one thing that I didn’t like as much about Japan was how formal it felt. On the trains for example, it was almost always silent, even if it was crowded. In some cases, traveling by myself in Japan was eerie because of how orderly and quiet everything is.
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Did this help you plan your trip? What else do you want to know? Leave a comment below!