We absolutely LOVE Japan! It may or may not be our favorite country to visit. The culture, the food, the fashion, everything here is so amazing that after our first visit to Japan, we booked a flight months later and went back!
AIRBNB: each time we've visited Japan, we decided to get an AirBNB at each location. As we traveled with 4-5 people during each trip to Japan, we found that getting a house was the most ideal. Not only did we have our own space but we were all able to get ready together and hold each other accountable on waking up and leaving on time. Japan is such a clean country in general that the AirBNB houses that we stayed at were on point. Not to mention, each house did provide us with a pocket WIFI (which is a must)!
The only important thing (to us) when choosing our AirBNB, is location! It must be near a train station as that is our daily commute, and preferably in the midst of all the action/near our site seeing. Location, location, location!
Japanese Yen (JPY)
You are able to use your credit/debit card when shopping and in many places in Japan. However, make sure that you do have Yen with you not only for street food but also for the vending machines (you'll understand when you see them) as well as some restaurants where you order through a machine when you walk in.
Side note: When using your credit/debit card make sure that your bank does not charge you a foreign transaction fee!
We both use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card:
No foreign transaction fee
3x Travel points
Global Entry and TSA Pre-check credit
And SO much more!
Also, I found that carrying a coin purse was very useful, as much of the Yen are coins.
As far as the conversion goes, Japanese Yen to the US dollar is pretty simple to figure out as you can just move the decimal over two places.
700yen = $7.00usd
1,000yen = $10.00usd
20,000yen = $200.00usd etc, etc... you get the point.
What to eat:
Sushi (duh... but definitely order O-TORO as well as any other form of nigiri/sashimi)
Takoyaki (basically octopus fish balls)
Tempura (anything tempura'd, trust.)
Kobe Beef (especially if you go to Kobe, Japan... bc duh.)
PEPPER LUNCH! (Hands down our favorite "mainstream" restaurant in Japan!
Chicken Kaarage (specifically at 7-11, its amazing and you won't regret it)
Really try anything at 7-11. Food or dessert. 7-11 food does not disappoint!
As far as drinking, Suntory, Hibiki and of course Sake!
Do's and Don'ts:
BE RESPECTFUL: Japan is a very respectful and clean country (so don't be an asshole... really don't be an asshole - ever, but definitely don't be an asshole in Japan *cough* Logan Paul). Make sure if you have trash, to carry it with you until you see a trash can (which are few and far between).
SHOES OFF: I've never stayed in a hotel in Japan - so I can't say what that is like, BUT in an AirBNB or any house in general, take off your shoes at the front door. That is what the house slippers are for. This also applies at a few restaurants. If you don't like it, then leave and eat elsewhere - again, don't be an asshole.
ESCALATOR: On the escalator, stay in uniform with everyone else... if you are standing, stand on the LEFT. If you are walking, walk to the RIGHT. This is something that is so simple, but when you get back to your homeland, you'll wish this was a norm.
The best way to get around in Japan, is by TRAIN. We highly suggest checking the JR Rail Pass site, as you are able to map out your destinations before hand, and the site will also let you know if it is worth buying the JR Pass or not.
If you do decide on getting the JR Pass, make sure you plan accordingly and order it ahead of time, as it will be delivered to your home before your vacation.
JR Pass cannot be purchased in Japan.
Now if the JR pass in not ideal for you OR if you do not have enough time to wait for the delivery, when you get to the Japan airport, there are kiosks available where you can purchase the PASMO card - which is a prepaid rail pass, that also doubles as a credit card at many locations around Japan.
UBER: in our experience, do not take UBER. Its insanely expensive in comparison to taking the train. Not to mention, with the stop lights and traffic, it is slower as well.
Mobile Apps Used:
Apple Maps: (I know, I know... Ej didn't like that I used this either, but it really does work pretty well for me in each country I go to, so...)
Side note about Apple Maps: I generally like to put in the destination location, I click on directions and I DO NOT hit go. If you have some sort of sense of direction, I have found that it is easier to follow as it still gives you enough information to follow the map as well as the train station stops, toward your destination.
If you do not trust Apple maps, Google maps, you don't have enough data on your phone or you don't have WIFI... there are various apps that you can download such as, Japan Travel, where you type in your destination and not only find the location but it will tell you the train stations, as well as the stops and times of train departure (as does Apple/Google maps).
Try out a few that works best for you - keep in mind that there are apps out there where you can download the map of the city that way you do not have to rely on WIFI.
Get a pocket WIFI
Wear comfortable walking shoes
Have a coin purse
Bring an external battery
Bring your go pro/phone/camera (take lots of pics!!)
Basic Japanese Phrases:
Honestly, if you are in the more touristy areas, most people speak English, we didn't have any trouble communicating but here are a few basic words that may be helpful to know.
Restroom: Toire (toy-re)
Please: Onegaishimasu (oh-na-gai-she-mas)
Thank you: Arigato