Japanese-Style Hotels (Ryokan)

Ryokan is a Japanese traditional style hotel. The accomodation is surved with Japanese traditional life style, culture, foods, and hospitality. You can also feel a Japanese spirituality by its unique atmosphere. There are approximately 55,000 ryokan in Japan (http://www.ryokan.or.jp/index_en.html). They offer a different system from the general hotels, and therefore, it's important for you to know it: Nakai-san (Name of room waitress); In general, you and your room are taken care of by one lady called "Nakai-san". She will have responsibility to provide you a wide range of service. You can ask where you should go, what you should eat, how you can enjoy your vaction in Ryokan. There are two main service that you need to know; bedding and meal. She will ask you about these two things during your stay. For bedding, Japanese traditional style bed is called "Futon" that is a kind of mattress on the "Tatami"(see another page) floor. Futon is required to set up before going bed, and clean up after waking up. You are asked by Nakai-san when is the best time for you to prepare and take off your bedding. Usualy, it's around 8 am in the morning, and 8 pm in the evening. For the meal, you can have your breakfast and dinner at your room. You can enjoy food with a personal enviroment. She may ask you what time she can bring your meals, which are usualy 8 am in the morning after the cleaning up the bedding and 6 pm in the evening. Some people pay tip to Nakai-san for the personal services. They offer personal services to you by remind your name. When you go out and come back, they come to you and say hello to you. You need to deposit your room key when you are out, and put your key back when you come back. Don't be surprised that your shoes are lost... they keep your shoes in a shoe box, and take them to you when you go outside! Enjoy the unique Japanese services!

Karaoke Box

Karaoke Box has been popular to not only young people but also seniors and kids. Usually it's cheaper during day time like 700yen for unlimited time. You will be sent to a small box like 6 square meters and there is Karaoke machine, TV screen, and mikes. You pick whatever you want to sing, and just sing! You could order foods if you want.

Rush Hour

The traffic jams and too many people getting on a train are major problems in a big city like Tokyo. They even hire some people pushing people into a train. Also, car navigation system has all the traffic information and it calcurate the best route to get to where you want to go fastest, using the traffic information.

Vending Machine

There are vending machines everywhere in Japan. You can buy not only cans of sodas, but also cigarettes, beers, sake, train tickets, telephone cards, toys, adult goods, etc.

How to visit a temple

Behave calmly and respectfully. Show your respect by making a short prayer in front of the sacred object. Do so by throwing a coin into the offering box, followed by a short prayer.

At some temples, visitors burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, put the incense into the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.

When entering temple buildings, you may be required to take off your shoes. Leave your shoes on the shelves at the entrance or take them with you in plastic bags provided at some temples. Wear nice socks.

Photography is usually permitted on the temple grounds. It is forbidden indoors at some temples. Watch for signs.

Banks in Japan

If you need to withdraw some money in Japan, the best way will be to go to Seven Eleven! They usually have Seven Bank ATM machine (http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/index2.html) and you can withdraw Japanese Yen using your credit card for just 210yen of handling fee. Seven Bank started this service in July 2007 and this will make your life much easier!.

Drinking Water

Drinking water from the tap is safe and is of a very good standard (as good if not better than in North America). All hotel rooms have kettles for those who wish to boil there water (either for extra precaution or for tea). Convenience stores also carry bottled water.

Capsule Hotels

There are so called capsule hotels in big cities. The guests sleep in a small box, whose size is about 1~2 sq-meter. There is no door to close the box for security reason, but just a curtain is used to secure your privacy. They have lockers to keep your lagguages outside of your sleeping box. The price varies by cities but it's usually 1500~3000yen per night. You may want to try it but I personally wouldn't recommend travellers staying there.

JR Railway Pass

If you travel by train a lot in Japan, you will save a lot by buying the JR Rail Pass. http://www.japanrailpass.net/

Japanese-Style Toilets

In Japan, there are two kinds of toilets; Japanese-style or western-style toilet. Have you ever seen Japanese-style toilet in your life? It has no toilet seat.

Hot Spring Spa (Onsen)

How to use Onsen right is not known well to foreign travellers. Here is the procedure.

1. If you are staying in Ryokan, change your cloths to Yukata in your room. Keep your inner shirt and pants inside of Yukata. Also, take the towels prepared for you to Onsen. It's good to ask front desk to keep your room key.
2. Walk to Onsen. Enter male or female onsen entrance. There is a changing room there first.
3. Take off your Yukata, shirts and pants and leave them in the locker room. Also, leave the larger towel there but take the smaller towel into the bath-tub room.
4. Once you enter the bath-tub room, take a shower to clean your body before you enter a bath-tub.
5. Enjoy the bath-tub.
6. Take a shower before you go out if you want. To get the real healthy effect by Onsen, it's better not to take a shower.
7. Dry your body with your smaller towel to some extent so that you can go out to the changing room.
8. Once you arrive at your locker, dry your body with the larger towel completely, then wear your cloths.
9. It's recommended to drink some water.

Ride a Taxi

Like taxi is more expensive than other transportation systems in North America, it is expensive in Japan too. The price varies depending on the area but the price in Tokyo area is 660yen for the first 2km, then additional 80yen per 274m. Also, they charge you additional if the taxi has to go slow, 80yen for 100 seconds when the car is going slower than 10km/h. The price is 30% higher at night between 11PM and 5AM.
The easiest way to catch taxi is to go on the line to get on taxi in a train station. Otherwise, you need to find an available taxi on street and hold your hand, or give them a call, in which case they charge you for (they come to pick you up.)

Noodle Shops in Train Station

You will see noodle shops on the platform of train stations. It looks difficult for foreign travellers to enter there but give it a try! You usually buy a ticket on the vending machine then just give the ticket to the cook. The price is between 150yen and 400yen, depending where and what you get. It's extremely cheap but the taste is actually pretty good. Another good thing is that they cook it within 3 minutes or so. They know that you are waiting for a train so they need to cook it fast. Where do you eat it? You just eat at a bar without sitting. Yes, you need to stand up eating it!

How to visit a shrine

Behave calmly and respectfully. Traditionally, you are not supposed to visit a shrine if you are sick, have an open wound or are mourning because these are considered causes of impurity.

At the purification fountain near the shrine's entrance, take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water. You will notice that quite a few visitors skip the mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual altogether.

At the offering hall, throw a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds. If there is some type of gong, use it before praying in order to get the kami's attention.

Photography is usually permitted at shrines. Watch for signs.

Café (Kissaten)

Japanese cafe-coffee is excellent! But it is also a little pricey, and not refillable. Also, you may be disappointed that a 250 yen coffee is only about the size of a tea cup. MacDonald's coffee is the same as in North America (good quality and refillable). Starbucks is also the same (maybe a little more expensive than in North America). In some cafe's, a take-out cup will not be filled...giving the impression that they are not giving you what you paid for, but this is not the case...it's just the style of serving in Japan. MacDonald's and Starbucks servings will be as you are accustomed to in North America.