Japan Travel Hints & Tips

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Japan Travel Hints & Tips

Japan Travel Tips

In addition to the travel trips for a Japan ski trip below, also see our pages on: The Japanese are an incredibly polite race, so it’s important to embrace this culture whilst skiing in Japan. Of course it’s rude to push into lift queues in any country (except Austria!), but the politeness needs to extend to appropriate behaviour in the streets, restaurants and bars. “Please” and “thank you” in Japanese are essentials words to learn before embarking on a Japan ski trip or snowboard expedition.

Security
In regards to security, there are negligible issues in Japan and it’s one of the safest countries to travel in. Theft or violent crime is very rare, as it’s the Japanese culture to obey the rules. Nevertheless, it always pays to be careful with your personal belongings, particularly in areas where there are lots of Westerners.

Banking Facilities & Money
Yen is the Japanese currency, and the cash form will get you a long way in Japan. For a country that is so developed is some ways, the contradiction in their reliance upon cash is quite surprising. Credit cards are not accepted for many things, yet access to cash is not always easy, so you’ll need to be careful with your budgetary planning. As examples, you’ll occasionally have to pay cash for lift tickets and pensions at small ski resorts, and budget restaurants rarely accept anything but cash (except in Niseko where credit card payment is more common). ATMs that accept international cards (Maestro/Cirrus) are sometimes hard to find, but thankfully these are slowly becoming more common because most 7-Eleven and Lawson stores now have international ATMs. Post offices are another common location for ATMs.

Tipping
You shouldn’t tip at a Japanese restaurant; it's considered taboo. Tipping elsewhere is also generally offensive. Unfortunately many North Americans visiting Japan are starting to spread their culture and some Japanese people are starting to find the extra yen appealing. We’d suggest that the only time you should tip in Japan is if you’re with a North American tour company and their pre-trip information has suggested that a tip is expected.

Drinking Water
All tap water in Japan is fine to drink.

2-Way Radios
Non-Japanese walkie-talkies are strictly prohibited by Japanese law because they have the potential to interfere with emergency communications and broadcasts.

Mobile Phones
It is possible to rent a phone or a SIM card for most standard phones at Narita Airport (Tokyo – terminals 1 and 2) and New Chitose Airport (Sapporo). There are a few different outlets with Softbank being one example. During peak periods (e.g. Xmas) it would be wise to pre-book a SIM card.

Electrical Plugs
The electrical plugs have two vertical pins, so a Japanese (or USA with only the two vertical holes) adaptor is required. If you’re from Australia, check how many pins your Australian appliance has, because for some strange reason, the Korjo Japan adapter has been made with only two pin holes on the front. If your appliance also has an earthing pin, you may need to purchase an USA adapter and break off the bottom pin.

Time Zone
The Japan time zone (Asia/Tokyo time zone) is UTC/GMT + 9 hours.

Accommodation
Accommodation at the Japanese ski resorts can differ significantly from western lodging that you may be used to. See the Japanese ski resort accommodation page for tips on Japanese rooms versus western rooms/beds and other things to expect. When staying in a hotel in one of the Japanese cities, be aware that the hotel room could be tiny (especially after you try to get your ski/snowboard gear into the room!!).

Shoes
You’ll need to take your shoes off before you enter many hotels and some businesses. If there’s a step up to a wooden platform that’s covered in shoes, chances are that you have to take your footwear off. Many places provide slippers that you should then wear, even if they don’t fit (so you may want to pack your own slippers)! When you go to the bathroom, swap these slippers for the toilet slippers.

Or if the hotel allows you to wear shoes in the lobby, if you are staying in a Japanese room with tatami flooring (washitsu), take your shoes off before stepping onto the tatami (the woven straw flooring).

In restaurants you need to take your shoes off if you’re sitting on the floor on the tatami. So pack lots of socks because no one is going to appreciate it if you wear stinky socks!

Recycling
Even though it’s a country that loves unnecessary plastic packaging, recycling is very important, so make the effort to find the right type of bin for your rubbish. Usually the lids off the PET bottles are disposed of separately.

Toilets
Playing with all the buttons on the toilets is a rite of passage when visiting on a Japan ski trip, so we won’t give you any specific tips here. Some toilets have English signs on them and others don’t, which is half the fun!

Taboo Activities
Here are just a few taboo activities but the list is endless.

Skiing or snowboarding on the road can be a tempting way to get to the slopes or back to your hotel, but the Japanese really really hate it.

Littering is taboo in any country (except India maybe), but litter in Japan and they might take your first born from you.

Don’t use your chopsticks that you’ve had in your mouth to then serve food off a share-plate – this is a pet hate! Would you use your fork to serve up food that others will also eat?! Use serving chopsticks, or worst-case scenario, use the non-eating end of your chopsticks.

Gear for a Japan Ski /Snowboard Trip

Skiing is Japan is not too dissimilar to many other parts of the northern hemisphere with regards to the temperature, although Hokkaido is bitterly cold at times. You’ll definitely need a neck warmer, but may also need a face protector, merino balaclava or a thin hood under your helmet which you’ll need if tree skiing. Glove liners are also very welcome on frigid days.

Shoes with good grip are highly recommended, as it is common for people to fall over on the slippery streets. It’s possible to purchase chains for your shoes which will improve the grip, but won’t pass the glamour test.

Goggles are essential as there’s not too much sunglass weather in Japan, particularly in resorts such as Niseko, Rusutsu and Hakkoda.

Powder Skis & Boards
If you plan to venture off the groomers you’ll need to consider the skis you’re on because the powder can be very deep in Japan. It is possible to ski on your slalom skis in shallow powder, but if you want to float in the powder, fat skis with a waist wider than 95-100mm are required. See our powder skis page for more information on the difference between standard and fat skis.

Don’t assume that all Japanese ski resorts will rent out fat skis, and if you don’t have your own ski boots, don’t assume that the rental shops will have boots for big feet!

Snowboarders will get away with a standard board in Japan, but real powder enthusiasts may consider a longer powder snowboard, or a short board that has width and taper instead of length to achieve flotation.

Other Essential Accessories
If skiing in powder deeper than your shins you may want to consider powder straps or ribbons to ensure you don’t lose your skis if they release during a fall. A powder ribbon is a long colourful ribbon attached to the ski or binding via a caribiner, which is stored up the gaiter or in the front of the boot. Powder straps attach the ski to the boot and can be purchased at large ski stores. Powder straps are not recommended for the backcountry, as in the event of an avalanche you don’t want your skis to stay attached to you. As an alternative, there are GPS devices you can fix to your skis to track them after they go for a solo dive in the powder.

Some Japanese ski resorts have electronic lift ticket systems where you put a small token in one of your pockets, but others have small cardboard tickets, so pack a lift ticket holder to go around the arm, or a wallet style holder attached to the hip if you don’t have one built into your jacket. If you don’t already have a lift ticket holder, there are plenty of opportunities to buy one in Japan.

We’d highly recommend a ski or board bag on wheels, particularly if you’re doing some train travel, and octopus straps to keep the bag in place. Octopus straps can also be useful when travelling in taxis.

Powder hound essentials also include avalanche safety equipment.

For tips on what to pack on an overseas ski holiday, have a look at the Powderhounds ski holiday packing checklist.

Language

Many websites about skiing in Japan cite that all Japanese people study English at school and therefore most Japanese people can understand basic English, but this is not the case. The degree of English spoken varies widely across the ski resorts of Japan. The highly Westernised Niseko is at one end of the spectrum where Japanese is barely spoken! At the other end of the continuum there are small off the beaten track ski resorts where not a word of English is spoken or understood. This scenario is somewhat more common in the remote areas of Aizu and Iwate.

Most large Japanese ski resorts have some restaurants that have English menus. Less “discovered” places may only have photos on the menu or food models, whilst the really interesting places only have a Japanese menu! If you don’t speak fluent Japanese it will be incredibly desirable to have google translate downloaded on your phone, even if only to ensure that you don’t order eel or horse sashimi for dinner!

Even if you can’t read Japanese kanji it’s easy to navigate your way around Japan. Road signs commonly use the Western alphabet or roads are numbered, and the major train stations have signs in English. Shop fronts also commonly display signs using the Western alphabet.

The Japanese love people who make an effort to communicate in their language and indulge in their culture. The following are some of our favourite phrases:

English

Japanese Phonetic Pronunciation

Comments

yes

hai

 

no

iie

 

thank you

arigato

THE most important word to learn

thank you very much

arigato gozaimas

The 2nd most important phrase to learn

you're welcome

doitashi mashitay

 

good morning

o hi yo gozaimas

Add the gozaimas to be extra polite

good afternoon (or "hello")

kon nee chee wa

 

good evening

kon ban wa

 

good-bye

sayonara

Tends to be for the final farewell

please

kudasai

 

please (as in "go ahead" or “after you”)

dozo

The towies will say this a lot to you

excuse me

 sumimasen

 

snow

yuki

 

I'm sorry

 Gomen nasai

 

Cheers!

Kanpai!

You might use this one a few times!

happy

gen ki

 

delicious

oy shee

 

great

segoi

 

fantastic

subararshi

 

wait a moment, please

chotto matte kudasai

 

where is the toilet?

toilet wa doca desu ka?

They’ll understand the Western word “toilet”

Let’s go!

ickie ma-shaw!

A favourite for skiing

Cold

samui

Plenty of opportunity to use this word

The numbers are different depending upon the context. The use of “ichiban” (number one) is different to when ordering one beer – “biero hitotsu”. Numbers 1-4 are probably the most important to learn, as it’s too difficult to carry more than 4 beers anyway!

Number in English

Japanese Phonetic Pronunciation

one

hitotsu

two

futatsu

three

mittsu

four

yotsu