Konnichiwa my dear readers!
I will be off to Japan very soon! Time for holidays~♪ I am very very excited this time because I have never ever been to Japan during spring time! I envy all of my friends who have already seen the Sakura (cherry blossom) flowers live in Japan. So I am going to stay in Japan from 21 March to 11 April and I hope to see lots of fully bloomed cherry blossoms!! My travel destinations for this year are Tokyo (shooooopping yay!), Tottori (visiting my relatives – missed them so much!) and Osaka (Hogwarts I am coming!!!). Only three days are left… time is running! There will be no activity on my blog during the next weeks, however, I keep you updated via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (*^^)v
I am currently preparing my stuff for Japan and I thought it might be interesting to let you guys know how I usually get ready for Japan ↓↓↓
- Portable Wireless Router
- Prepaid Data SIM
- Member Cards & Shopping
- Useful Apps
What would I do without my passport! Make sure to check the date of expiry of your passport before you leave your country. Your passport must be valid during your stay. A visa is usually not necessary for a short-term stay of less than 90 days with purpose of tourism and business. Enquire about the immigration conditions well before you travel because it may vary from country to country.
My passports ♡
My heart beats for both countries ^_^
You will get this sticker in your passport when you enter Japan:
Japan has the same plug as the USA (two non-polarized pins). The voltage in Japan is around 100 volts, which is much lower than in Europe (~220-240V). I never had problems using my electronic devices in Japan. However, be careful when you buy devices in Japan – they might not work (properly) in your country or it even get damaged. I always take an adapter where I can connect the Swiss power plug (hexagonal two pin plug) and an adapter with USB connection. You can buy them in an electrical shop in Japan. I am so glad that most of the cables have an USB connection nowadays. They made our life so much easier!
The currency of Japan is Yen (円). At the moment the exchange rate between US dollar or Swiss Francs is almost 1:1. You will get 100 Yen for 0.88 USD or Swiss Francs. The Japanese currency became much cheaper than some years ago. I remember that the exchange rate in 2010 was approximately 1.15 (for 100 yen).
There are four different bank notes in Japan: 1’000 Yen (blue), 2’000 Yen (kind of a turquoise), 5’000 Yen (purple) and 10’000 yen (brown). You can use the 10’000 bill without any concerns. By the way, the 2’000 Yen note is quite new to Japanese people and it is very rare in Japan. They came out in 2000 and I always get brand new bank notes when I change the money here in Switzerland. Many Japanese people are very surprised when I pay with 2’000 yen (￣ー￣)
The coins might look a bit confusing at the beginning, but it isn’t that difficult as it seems. The smallest and light coin, which is made of aluminum and has a young tree on the back, is 1 yen. The 5 yen coin is the yellow one with a hole in it. On the front you can see a rice plant and this coin is the only one which doesn’t have an Arabic numeral on the coin. You can see 五 on it, which stands for number 5 in Japanese. The 10 yen coin is made of cupper and has a Buddhist temple on the back. The silver-coloured coins have both a flower on the back. The one with the whole is 50 yen and the other one is 100 yen. The 500 yen coin (you can’t find it on my photo) is the biggest one with a paulownia plant on the back.
Beside cash, I always take at least one credit card with me. I use MasterCard and Visa and never had problems with those credit cards. In addition, I always have a (PostFinance) debit card in my wallet in case I need more cash. I prefer to withdraw money from a cash machine at the post office or at a Konbini (Convenience store such as Lawson, Seven Eleven, Family Mart…).
PORTABLE WIRELESS ROUTER
Sometimes I take a wireless travel router to Japan. If internet is only available via an Ethernet connection, the portable router will help you to create a Wi-Fi connection that you can share with all of your devices. Once you have installed the settings on your device, it can be very easily used anywhere and anytime. I often use it at my relatives house. However, you can simply survive in Japan without a portable router. Japan is very modern and increasingly covered with Wi-Fi spots, mainly in the big cities. Cafes, Konbini stores, restaurants, hotels, airports or even at some stations you can catch free Wi-Fi.
PREPAID DATA SIM
Searching for a Wi-Fi spot can be sometimes very tiring, am I right? In some cases it would be very nice to have internet access RIGHT NOW. Not long ago, you can buy prepaid data SIM cards in Japan. The data SIM (internet only) can be used in tablets or smartphones and once you activate it, you can use it within 30 days (well most of them). I do have a dual SIM smartphone, so I am still reachable on my Swiss phone number and I can use the internet at the same time. I am really glad to have a dual SIM phone, otherwise you need a tablet or a second phone as a hotspot in order to use message apps like LINE or Whatsapp, because they only work with a registered phone number.
During my Japan trip last year, I used the prepaid LTE SIM by So-net. This time, however, I got a prepaid data SIM by FREETEL. I recommend you to buy this one when you often use Facebook, KakaoTalk, Line or Whatsapp. The data used by these applications is free! I have relatives in Japan so I already bought the data SIM online in advance and ask them to send it to me. But don’t worry if you can’t find or order it online, the data SIM (by Freetel) can be bought in Japan at Yodobashi Camera (ヨドバシカメラ), Bic Camera (ビックカメラ) or Yamada Denki (ヤマダ電機). There are also lots of other electronic retailers in Japan, where you can find a data SIM for sure.
Price for a prepaid Data SIM by So-net:
- 1GB for 30 days: 3’000 Yen ~26 CHF/27 USD
- 2.2GB for 30 days: 4’000 Yen ~34 CHF/35 USD
- 3GB for 60 days: 5’000 Yen ~43 CHF/44 USD
Price for a prepaid Data SIM by FREETEL:
- 1GB for 7 days: 1’780 Yen ~15 CHF/16 USD
- 2GB for 30 days: 2’780 Yen ~24 CHF/25 USD
If you want to travel without a data SIM, check out the useful free wifi app at the end of this post.
If you are often in Japan and travel a lot by train or bus, I recommend you to buy a prepaid IC card. The IC cards are rechargeable cards and allows you to pass through the ticket barriers with just a tab. The card coasts 500 yen (deposit) and can be bought at a ticket machine at the train station. The design and name of the card can depend on the city, nevertheless you can use them everywhere. For example in Tokyo you will get a Suica. I have one from Kansai, the ICOCA. And during my stay in Fukuoka, my host mother lend me her Hayakaken card.
For those who want to travel long distances in Japan, it might be worth to buy a Japan Rail pass.
The JR pass must be purchased outside of Japan and has to be exchanged inside Japan to get the valid ticket, since you only get a voucher after purchasing the pass. If you live in Switzerland, you can for example buy the JR pass here: jr-pass.ch. I bought one three years ago, when I was in Japan with my friends. We travelled from Osaka to Tokyo and back with the Shinkansen superexpress train.
Be aware that the JR pass only works on JR lines! Also calculate the transport costs of your travel carefully – the JR pass can be pricy.
The ICOCA is from the Kansai areaI used the HAYAKAKEN in Fukuoka:
PS. Here is a short instruction of how to use a ticket machine in Japan:
1) First check the appropriate fare for your destination, you can normally find them on the map above the ticket machine.
2) Depending on the ticket machine, you might first have to put in the amount of the fee and then you can press the price on the screen (or vice versa).
3) Take your ticket and change. Now you can put the ticket in the ticket gate – don’t forget to take it back and keep it until your final destination! You need the ticket when you exit.
Nice to know: Don’t worry when you missed your stop, you don’t have to pay extra unless you don’t leave the station. Just hop on the next train back to the station that you have missed.
Nice to know 2: You accidentally didn’t pay the correct fee (respectively to little)? No worries! You can settle the remaining amount by using the fare adjustment machine near the exit gate.
MEMBER CARDS & SHOPPING
Since 2013 I have been regularly (once a year) to Japan and in the meanwhile I do own quite a lot of point, stamp and member cards. A lot of shops in Japan offer free cards, where you can get discount on your next purchase after you complete your card. Restaurants, cafes, clothes shops, hair salons, supermarkets… you can get one from almost every kind of store. I personally have a lot of cards from my favourite fashion stores and I got some from my hairdresser. Ah yes, and when I plan to go to Tokyo, I never leave Switzerland without my “licence of your majesty”-card because I need to visit my beloved maid cafe (@Home Cafe ＠ほぉ~むカフェ) in Akihabara~ thehehe ヾ(￣∇￣=ﾉ
If you are often in Japan, it might be worth getting a stamp card from your favourite store – just remember to take them with you before you are taking off for Japan.
PS. When you go shopping, check out for the tax free sign! You only need to ask for tax free at the cashier (sometimes they have separate counter) and show your passport. You will find more information on tax-freeshop.jnto.go.jp.
I like to surprise my friends in Japan with small souvenirs. Guess which typical Swiss souvenir I always have in my suitcase: of course chocolate! I love love love Swiss chocolate and it tastes to different from the one in Japan! I rarely buy Japanese chocolate – expect chocolate coated or filled snacks like Pocky or Toppo ^.^ – because I simply don’t like it so much. So if you live in Switzerland and like to bring some chocolate for your Japanese friends, I would suggest you NOT to buy the standard chocolate from Lindt (special editions are another story) even if it is the best chocolate, when you ask me! You can buy Lindt chocolate in Japan and I personally think that it isn’t that exciting to give something as a souvenir when you already can buy it in the country. Did you know, that there is a Lindt shop in Shibuya, Tokyo?? Since I know that, I changed to Cailler or Frey chocolate or even better: to special editions, which are ONLY available in a specific region of Switzerland. We do have one in Lucerne and it is one of my favourite chocolate beside Lindt.
Chocolate is not the only thing that you can find in my suitcase. I additionally buy gifts like cookies, gummy bears, spices (for my aunty) or wine (for my uncle) for example. I asked my cousins if they have a special request and they both wished something typical from Switzerland. The younger cousin wished a cow figurine made of wood from Trauffer (it is soooo cute, I actually would love to keep it for myself *lol*) and the older cousin asked for something made with lace. Luckily, I found everything at a tourist shop (where else, hehe xD) in Lucerne.
isn’t this cow cute ♡?
I recently bought me an Ipad mini 4 and I am super dooper happy with it! I am such in love with my new device and I really wonder why I didn’t get one earlier!!! Currently, I am using my Ipad especially when I commute to work. There are quite many useful apps that you can use offline. My departure will be very soon so I started to watch out for some entertaining apps and travel guides to keep me busy during my flight to Japan.
Here I am going to show you some (not all, otherwise it would be a never ending story xD) of my favourites applications on my Ipad – all of the following apps (expect one) can be used offline:
I am a big fan of the Triposo apps! It is a very useful travel guide with information about the city, sightseeing, restaurants, hotels, tours & activities, maps and more. They have apps for every country and the application can be used without internet.
The Good Luck Trip guidebook offers free magazines to download (primary about Tokyo, Kansai, Hokkaido, Chubu, Shikoku and Kyushu area). The magazines are filled with different regions of Japan, detailed maps, transportation and seasonal event information in English, Chinese and Korean. I already downloaded a lot of e-papers, so I can read them during my flight to Tokyo.
This app promises you to help you travel around like a local. You can find interesting articles about the currency, internet connection, transport, food etc.
A travel app where you can search for spots based on what you want to do. All about sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment. They also provide special coupons, which you can use in Japan. It is a great app with useful information, however, it does not work properly without internet connection.
This application delivers the top trending stories from all around the world. You can choose different channels with topics about sport, fashion, beauty, world news, travels, business etc. It is very simple to use. You just need to open the app and activate your internet so that the app can load the latest news. The update lasts only a few seconds. You can now read the articles anywhere and anytime without using the internet. I really love it! You can even link it with your Twitter account, so SmartNews will summarise the articles and links of the accounts you are following.
Beside Kindle, I also like to read mangas on my tablet. I often switch between Manga Searcher and Manga Rock because I sometimes can’t find the manga on just one application. I like Manga Searcher more than Manga Rock by the way! On Manga Searcher you can download as much mangas as you like. Manga Rock is good too, although the space of download is limited to one manga serie.
I am currently reading “Doubt” (a horror manga) on Manga Searcher and on the other app I started with a manga called “Say I love you” (shojo manga) ^_^
This app allows you to save/download videos from any internet site. All you have to do is to enter a site, where you can watch videos (for example Youtube), click on the video and download it (a separate window will automatically appear). You can save up to 15 videos, which can be watched offline.
PS. If you know other offline video apps, please let me know! I am still looking for some apps, where you can save movies from every site because some are only limited to Youtube…
I honestly have to say, that I did not used this app yet, since I had a data SIM. But my friend already tried it and she said it it a great app, if you are simply looking for free Wifi. It is easy to use!
That’s it for now! If you need more information about Japan on the internet, I recommend you to check out japan-guide.com. I also love to read the articles from rocketnews24 (category Japan) – they do have a lot of interesting news from Japan.