Really practical, useful advice for first-time travelers to Japan

Japan is the kind of place that everyone should visit at least once. Even having lived in Japan for 5 years, I never got bored or tired of it. Just walking down the street, riding a train, or picking out something to eat is fascinating.

Traveling to Japan, though, can be tricky. I've put together some things to think about before you go:

  1. There's not a lot of WiFi in public places. That means- no maps on your phone. No translator apps. Nowhere to check the address of the museum you wanted to check out. Definitely get a WiFi router before you go.
  2. Three words: Japan. Rail. Pass. By far the cheapest way to travel around Japan. Pro tip: Get the Green class ticket. The Green cars are like first-class cars, and usually always less crowded, so it's great for groups that are traveling together and want to sit together. If you've got an itinerary planned out, when you activate your Japan Rail Pass, you can reserve seats for those days in advance for extra peace of mind.
  3. Get a translation app, and make sure you translate the words you need to know- do you have allergies? A condition you absolutely need to be known if something were to happen to you? Make sure you have a way to translate these kinds of things into Japanese.
  4.  Hyperdia. This app is an English train guide to all kinds of trains in Japan, including ones you can use with the JR Pass. 
  5. Buy a Suica, or Pasmo. They go by different names in different areas of the country, but they work everywhere. They're cards where you pre-load money and just tap at the gate to ride trains, no matter what line they are. It makes transferring trains (which you'll do a lot) painless. You can even buy things with them (at convenience stores, department stores, etc.), and pay for taxis with them, too.
  6. Carry cash! It's weird to think about, but it's a lot more convenient than credit cards. Everyone in Japan pays in cash. To get cash, use 7-Eleven ATMs or post office ATMs (found in most larger train stations, ATM corners, and of course, in post offices).