Random Observations from a Estatic First Time Traveller to Japan in October 2013

1. Once you figure Japan out, you will marvel at how gloriously predictable this country is. You should feel no language barrier given the profusion of pictorial signs everywhere be it roads, airports, train stations, elevators, taxis, even restaurants where they have mock displays and photos for you to point. Toilets are everywhere (really). Yes, the English translation is patchy at times but you'll manage just fine. And the locals always want to help you.

2. Bring in money in multiple forms both plastic and paper. The ATM network is not uniform throughout and its only the currency notes which are valid everywhere. You can use cards for all big ticket expenses and exchange 50k at one go without feeling unsafe.  

3. Courtesy Hyperdia, you can more-or-less find out if the train passes are applicable for you or not. Not having one sets you free of the conditions applied on choice of trains but if you are doing a Kansai-Kanto or v/v return trip, they do end up saving you decent monies.

4. Do not fear the transport system. It's punctual, it's dense and the people are really polite. Prepaid swipe cards are a breeze but if want to use the ticket vending machines, remember, the coins go in first before you can start the process.

5. If you are not travelling in the busy seasons and can avoid rush hour, train seat reservation may not be required.

6. Just follow the signs and exit numbers at stations. Most have elevators and escalators in case you have heavy luggage. Also the layout of most transport platforms whether train, subway or bus is pretty uniform.

7. Absolutely insist on non-smoking floors (not just room) otherwise the smell prevades a bit strong all over.

8. They do not wear anything at all in the hot-spring onsens. And they are touchy about tattoos. And really really bathe bathe before and after dipping.

9. To save on time and money, use the ubiquitous vending machines and kiosks at the stations to grab sandwiches & bakery stuff. Very reasonable and very fresh. But not all trains are food-friendly.

Just make sure you do your homework well: read and plan ahead. This is not a country for the ill-informed. There is an astonishing amount of resources detailed by earlier travellers covering the bulk of this really beautiful country. Japan-guide dot com is an excellent starting point. And quite a lot here on TA.

Have the time of your life in beautiful japan.