Things I learnt in Japan


  1. Commercial airlines take the fun out of flying. Airports are often overcrowded and always have so much ‘dead-time’ waiting for check-in, security, boarding, take-off, baggage claim, customs…
  2. Heathrow is horrific and I’m glad Guernsey doesn’t fly there any more.
  3. When UK customs say one piece of hand-luggage per person they mean it. Handbag and laptops are a piece and taking liquid or gels is still a pain.
  4. It takes around 1h 20mins to transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick by coach.
  5. Seoul’s airport is impressive even under construction – shame about the one-hour delays on the runway.
  6. Korean Air’s fleet delivers interactive individual LCD screens with seat-to-seat gaming or ancient dodgy CRT projectors depending on the luck of the draw.


  1. The JR Rail Pass offers massive savings for those wishing to get around. As well as Shinkansen bullet-trains between major cities you can take slower trains between towns and JR lines inside cities.
  2. Show your JR Pass and ticket at gates instead of putting your ticket in the machine. Otherwise be prepared for a polite yet firm official to tap you on the shoulder.
  3. JR Pass doesn’t let you get on the Nozomi Shinkansen. The quickest you can ride is the Hikori which is the same speed but has more frequent stops often.


  1. Tokyo subway is quite easy to navigate despite the sheer size and number of people thanks to near-complete Romaji maps.
  2. Kyoto subway is a bit of a mess thanks to multiple operators and no unified map.
  3. Fukuoka’s subway is fast, clean and easy to navigate… it is also new.
  4. Buy a credit ticket that will be deducted per trip. It saves a whole lot of time messing around with machines and costs and lets you get on the last few trains when the ticket machines have closed.


  1. All Internet cafes should consist of cubicles you can sleep in with TV, workstation, bean-bag, unlimited soft drinks and a free comic library like Gera Gera.
  2. Mobile phones are everywhere with people texting and gaming in the street, on trains etc.
  3. Mobile phone system is UTMS/3G so a GSM-only phone won’t work. You’ll also need to make sure your operator has a roaming partner in Japan because you can’t buy pay-as-you-go SIM’s in Japan unless you’re a resident.


  1. Japanese people are incredibly polite and helpful whether it’s a stranger sharing her umbrella at a road junction, somebody helping you pick up the contents of your bag sprawled across the floor or somebody from a shop coming outside to help you get your map the right way up and point you in the right direction.
  2. Tiny Police stations (boxes) scatter Tokyo and are equipped with maps to help lost people – addresses are hard to find without one. Check the web-site for where you’re going and you’ll probably find a printable map.
  3. Emotion is all about the eyes and not the mouth in Japan. It’s not just anime but even emoticons are eyes-only. A sad mouthed-face here is tearful eyes!


  1. The street-tent Japanese eateries are a great place to meet people as locals of all ages and foreigners get chatting.
  2. Cheese, milk and chocolate are not common. Kit-Kat and Snickers are about the only recognizable brand chocolate bars.
  3. Eggs turn up in many many dishes. Boiled and dropped into soups, or cooked and laid upon practically anything or sometimes raw over rice dishes.
  4. Food is beautifully prepared, even supermarket sandwiches and lunch-boxes. Crusts are too ugly for their sandwiches.


2 responses

  1. Avatar for steve

    The main thing that's put me off going to Japan (apart from cost) is the food. I always insist on eating local food in local eating houses wherever I go, it's part of the whole experience, but try as I might I can't stand most Japanese food I've tried, even though I love other asian food (Chinese/Thai/Malaysian). Perhaps it's just what they serve in restaurants in other countries - I know when we went to China that the local places were quite a lot different.

    steve January 4, 2007
  2. Avatar for Damien Guard

    If you survived okay on real Chinese food I think you'd have no problem with real Japanese.

    Damien Guard January 8, 2007