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Nervous first time traveller

I’m really nervous about my first trip to Japan, I will be doing a tour group from Tokyo to Osaka but I will have a full day in Tokyo by myself before the tour starts.

I have no idea what to expect from the minute I step off the plane at the Haneda airport. Clearing boarder security and customs, finding my way to my hotel in Ryogoku, checking in, buying train tickets etc. (JR 7 day pass is no use to me as I’m travelling with a group for 7 days and travel is included, really only have two days by myself at the beginning and the end of the trip)

My flight lands at 5.30am and I can’t check in till 3pm so I need to find somewhere to store my bags until check in and well find my hotel. I’ve posted on other forum websites and the response is always you will be fine, just take 3 different trains for over an hour to your hotel and ask if you can store your bags there. However I don’t speak or read a word of Japanese and the hotel I am staying at has a lot of online reviews saying the staff speak very little if any English. Then if I can drop my bags off early what to do? I thought about trying out one of the funky themed cafe’s but how do I explain to someone in Japanese that I am Lactose Intolerant and cant have dairy products, I could order something off a menu and not know it has dairy in it which could result in an unpleasant time.

I’m suddenly starting to think maybe picking a non English speaking country for a holiday wasn’t a smart decision.

Hi Jase27

Having internet would be a way to ease your potential nervousness. e.g. using a sim card or pocket wifi so that you can use google maps and google translate.
In the meantime here’s some poor Japanese phrases you could use to show the hotel staff and restaurants/cafes (based on my limited Japanese)

-I’m checking in at 3pm today, but can I store my bags here

-I’m lactose intolerant and can’t have dairy products, could you please tell me which items are ok?

please dont hesitate to ask any other questions
Japanese people are generally super friendly and will try their best to communicate when you ask for help


Hi Q,

Thank you so much for replying and I really appreciate the written Japanese phrases, I hope to get a travel sim card with data so I can use google translate.



Jase - don’t worry - Tokyo is really easy to get around, you just have to take your time and not feel rushed (it is quite busy).

  • For trains, get yourself a Suica/Pasmo (it literally does not matter which) at the airport, then you don’t have to worry about tickets etc on trains. Use hyperdia to plan your route - you can decide if you want to pay for the faster trains or not depending on budget.
  • The hotel will hold your bags, I’ve never heard of one that didn’t, and it’s a pretty simple exchange, they will be used to it and understand what you want. Even if for some bizarre reason they don’t there will be lockers at the station. There’s also the Ecbo App which shows your lots of reputable places that store luggage. Maybe download this in advance so you know a few options.
  • The area you’re in has a great Edo museum, but there are some nice areas nearby you could explore like Asakusa (one train change but close) or Akihabara (direct). Shinjuku is also direct, and Shibuya too. Yanaka is a bit further, but quieter and really nice to walk around.
  • Also, they are very good about respecting allergies in diets, so you can use the phrase above and they’ll respect it. Data is definitely the best thing - google maps and google translate are the holy grail of apps - pre-download Japanese on the translate app before you arrive.

Japan can seem daunting, but it’s a very ordered country, so just take your time and it will be fine. Like Q said, people are very helpful (omotenashi) with or without English, so people will do things like literally take you to your location if you’re lost - it’s very nice. Just don’t worry too much, as soon as you get here you’ll see it isn’t too difficult!

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Thanks Lily, I appreciate your reply to my post.

My uncle has given me a Suica card to use, not sure if there is any Yen on it or if it’s still valid as he got it about 18 months ago but hopefully it should be easy enough to add more money or I can purchase another when I get off the plane. Will check out Hyperdia.

I emailed the hotel and confirmed with them that they will hold my bags which they said they are happy to do which is one less worry for me.

I’m keen to check out Akihabara and Shinjuku as they seem close enough, I don’t want to travel to far on my own on the first day, once I am with my tour group I will be more comfortable exploring so we can get lost together.

I’m thankful for Q’s translation for me to show restaurant servers my dietary requirements, I have downloaded google maps and google translate and have I ordered a 5gb data sim card to use while traveling.

Have to admit my nerves are starting to ease a little after your response and as I get closer to departure I am actually really looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone.

One more quick question, I have read online that Japanese people don’t like people with beards as they think of them as dirty people, should I shave before I fly?

Hi Jase, no problem. The suica should be fine to use, they don’t expire (there’s a new one coming out that does, but yours will be a regular one). The nearest onsen will be Jakotsuyu I think, they have unusual black onsen water, but I heard it’s closing soon, so maybe check these instead. That sounds great about the hotel, apps and data - you should be all ready to go. The beards thing isn’t true anymore (if it ever was?) they’re unusual here but mainly because asian guys can’t grow them so much, that’s all. Looking well groomed is a good idea though - definitely never hurts to look smart!

Enjoy exploring!


Believe me when I say you have nothing to worry about. For context, I have lived in Tokyo for 26 years and I teach English, so I can tell you that all Japanese people can understand SOME English. LOL. :slight_smile:

Even if they are too shy to speak and look nervous when you approach them, they still will try their best to help, and will understand you if you speak very slowly and use easy words. For example, in a restaurant, you just have to say “no milk, no dairy…allergy” and they will understand.

My brother and sister in law visited and they speak no Japanese, but they did fine on their own for the couple of days I was too busy to go places with them. These days they have quite a few English-speaking staff at raliroad stations, and the police are learning English, too, so you can stop by a police box or ask a police officer on the street for directions or help.

I am continually surprised by the number of people who try to use English with me when I go to buy tickets or even go to the post office. You will be FINE. :slight_smile:

Also, when you get internet find the hyperdia website:

It will tell you everything you need to know about train routes, including prices and platforms.

Have fun!!

Thanks for the tips and advice, I have printed off some useful phrases, airport and hotel names using google translate and have laminated them to keep in my wallet in the event I lose my phone or run out of data. Confident I can survive 8 days in Japan if I can make it past customs!

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