vacation photographer in tokyo

More Lessons from Our Japan Trip

A lot of people were interested in our last post about what we learned from our Japan trip. We thought more about it and here are some more things we want to share with you!

Smoking Is Very Common

Our home city bans smoking inside all public buildings and you even have to be 5 feet away from the building when smoking outside. One thing that we always forget until we go back to Japan is how common smoking is. Only last year did they ban smoking inside public spaces like hospitals and schools but smaller restaurants and bars do not have to follow this. It’s common to go to a restaurant and be offered the smoking or non-smoking section.

You can make your own choice whether or not you want to dine there. We’ve found that even sitting in the non-smoking section doesn’t stop the smoke from wafting over to your seat. If you’re very sensitive to smoke, we recommend you dine at a different restaurant.

Odaiba Harbour on a rainy afternoon
Cashiers Saying “One Charge”

We looked this up but couldn’t find the answer to it until we asked a friend who lives in Tokyo. When paying a lot of times, we heard the cashier say, “One charge” or “One time.” This only happened when we paid with our credit cards. We didn’t know what this meant so we always just nodded and paid for our stuff. When we asked our friend, she explained that some stores allow payment in installations when paying with a credit card. This was the cashier telling us our full amount would be charged instantly.

Vending Machines in Shibuya
Just Buy Drinks From Vending Machines

We’re very budget conscious when we travel and one of the ways we try to save a few dollars was carrying our own refillable bottles filled with water. We bring them with us for the day so we don’t have to pay for any drinks which can be expensive. What we found was there’s not a lot of water fountains out and about in Japan. Even though we needed to refill our bottles halfway through the day, we couldn’t find a place to get water.

We also walked about 20,000 steps per day. At home we walk an average of 5 – 8,000 steps a day. We found that lugging around our water all day wasn’t worth it considering there are vending machines (with both hot or cold drinks!) on every street corner. The thrifty part of us balked at having to pay for drinks but in the end it was worth it to not have to carry water bottles all day.

A quick tip is that if you’re in very busy/touristy areas then the drinks will be about 30 – 50 yen more expensive. Not a big deal but if you absolutely insist on saving a bit more (like we did), turn into a side street and you can find 100 yen vending machines.

Avoid Morning Transit

This tip applies to Tokyo and other large cities in particular. When you take the transit in the morning, be aware that you’re sharing it with all the thousands of other locals who need to get to work. You will be packed on the train/bus tighter than a sardine in a can. We’re talking about bodies pressed up against you on all sides. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, avoid the rush hour which is about 8 – 9am and 5 – 7pm.

In case you can’t avoid travelling during those times, just know that it’s normal for people to push into you. Be ready to give up the concept of personal space!

The sakura Rilakkuma which we walked away from after 2000 yen…
UFO Catchers

This is a warning mostly for me. I know all of you will be able to take a pass on the bright, shiny arcades containing claw machines. The prize? The cutest plushie or an anime figure. But if you’re like me who can’t pass on the idea of winning a sakura Rilakkuma plushie or a sleeping Pikachu plushie then keep reading.

In my first ever trip to Japan, I won a giant Stitch plushie (from Lilo and Stitch) with just 100 yen on my first place. The claw grabbed a ribbon on the plushie and carried it into the prize slot. My friend saw me win and thought that she could replicate the magic. She spent over 4000 yen trying to win the same plushie until a kind arcade employee took pity on her and set the toy up so that it fell into the prize slot the next time she played.

The moral of my story is that, yes freak lucky chances do happen but the norm is you’re going to be spending a lot of money. You will spend a lot of money and might not even win a plushie unless an employee feels too bad for you and helps you out. So set your limit on how much you want to spend and stick to it. Although you’re not winning real money, this is still a form of gambling.

We know we made it sound like it’s pure chance and it’s not. There are some machines that are easier to win than others. You can watch Youtube videos to learn the tips and tricks to winning. Just remember that these arcades stay in business because players spend more money on the prizes than they’re worth. Our rule was if we tried it 3 times and the plushie didn’t move or make progress, then we would walk away. Have fun but don’t blow all your yen here.

Prizes that we did manage to win!

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