8 things you can’t find during your travel in Tokyo

Tokyo Travel Tips

8 things you can’t find during your travel in Tokyo

There are some things, you might get confused when you arrive Japan for the first time.

I don’t want to say you should know this, but it might make your trip easier if you know in advance.

Before this travel restriction, Japan was full of tourists from all over the world. But .. Japan is STILL not so known as a travel destination unlike other countries such as United States or France, Thailand… 

So in this channel I’m explaining about Tokyo and Japan, as just one of the local Japanese man’s perspective.

Today, I’d like to explain 8 things Japan actually doesn’t have even though you have in your county. 

No Uber

Probably this is the most confusing issue for travelers to Tokyo, Yes we don’t have Uber here.

I used Uber or Grab in Los Angles, Bangkok, Manila; it is very convenient and I wish we had it here.  But in Japan, it’s not allowed that anyone with car can start working as a driver for travelers.

To be precise we do have Uber App, and there are other taxi apps. But what you can do is just call a taxi and pay through the app. but you cannot get the benefit of knowing the price in advance which is the biggest reason to use Uber.

Then what you can do?

  •  Tokyo’s train network is extensive, so try to use train and it might help to make sure your hotel is not too far from stations. But if you are with someone who has difficulty to walk long, do not hesitate to take taxi.


Nobody speaks English

  (Lost in Translation) 

Even though many people are studying English, It’s hard to find someone who can speak English in Japan. 

It’s just bad combination with Japanese language with strong vowel sounds, and also Japanese people who is shy or trying to be perfect before speaking, which means they will never speak English. 

But there are lots of signs in English all over, so you probably don’t have a big problem even if you don’t speak Japanese. You can know some basic words.

Here is the 4 basic Japanese words. Konnichiwa (Hello), Sumimasen (Excuse me). onegaishimasu (Please) , arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you). Probably you can get around with these 4 words. Probably…

Then what you can do?

  • So you can probably use Google Translate, or just ask someone. Probably Japanese people really trying to escape or avoid eye contact, but it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. They are just afraid of being talked in English. As long as I know, everyone is more than willing to help you even in a big city like Tokyo, so don’t hesitate to ask.


NO Trash box on the street

There is no trash box on the street. You see trash box in Harajuku and Shibuya area recently, but it’s not what you see in other towns in Tokyo. So you need to bring your trash back to your hotel.

The most common problem is when you buy a coffee at convenience store. Drinks in the PET bottle is ok, you can just keep in your bag. but paper cup of coffee, I’m afraid of spilling and cannot even go in stores with cups in my hands. 

Then what you can do?

  • You will find trash box in the station inside the ticket gate, and sometimes in the park. What I recommend you to do, is to keep a small trash bags always. 


No Breakfast place

You might not see many breakfast place in Japan. You see some beef bowl shops such as Yoshinoya or Matsuya open, but you might not want Japanese food for breakfast.

Then what you can do?

  • If you are a person put importance on breakfast, you might want to make sure you get breakfast at the hotel. Even if you are staying at a small business hotel, always having a small buffet with coffee and bread helps.
  • If you are not a big breakfast person, you can get sandwich at convenience store and eat in the hotel or park.
  • You can also find family restaurants like Jonathan and Denny’s. Some other coffee shops such as Dotour or Veloce also offers light breakfast sandwich.


No Tattoo

You might have heard how strict Japan is for tattoos. It’s just because of Japanese culture and history, and nothing to attack someone with tattoo personally.

So do not worry even if you have tattoo. Of course, it’s not a problem to show your tattoos in public.

However, it might help to know that in some places, person with tattoo cannot go in. Most of the hot-springs and public bath, you cannot go. Pools and some gyms, you can go but you need to hide tattoos.

The reason is oriented to the social situation of Japan. Tattoo, in Japan called Irezumi, is a symbol of anti-society violence group, Yakuza. I’m not sure if that is a right explanation but in Japanese it’s written like that. It’s sort of mafia. And they usually have tattoo all over the back. And in the circumstance they take off clothing, it might scare or make people uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean they hurt you or cause trouble, but it’s just to keep the place peaceful.  I know your tattoo is not the same with theirs , but it’s just there is no way to distinguish the meaning of that tattoo. 

Then what you can do?

  • In case you have tattoo, you can put a big bandage, or wear a rash-guard in the pool.
  • Recently, Many hot-springs hotels started to have a private bath, or family bath.  So you can choose a hotel with private bath in case you wish to take a hot-springs. 


No free bags anymore.

Before Japanese border is closed in 2020, Japanese stores always gave you plenty of plastic bags everywhere, so probably that is Japan you know, if you have been here. But since July 2020, it cost 2 yen to 10 yen, which is less than 10 cents. And they don’t give you unless you ask for it.

Then what you can do?

  • You can carry a shopping bag, or just ask for plastic bags. We call the plastic bag  ”Regi Bukuro”. So you can say Regi Bukuro Onegaishimasu. Repeat after me. Regi bukuro Onegaishimasu.  Yes, Regi Bukuro Onegaishimasu. 



In Japan, there is no custom to give tips to the staff. It’s usually not accepted, so please keep in mind that the price shown is including everything. 

One store lady in Osaka told me that when one customer forget some changes accidentally, she couldn’t go home on time because she had to report to the store manager and write papers. I’m sure it’s a case for just a big stores, but the change you left with your kindness might cause a subtle trouble for the staff.

When it comes to the money, almost all stores accept credit cards and Suica that you can use for any train ride in Tokyo. But there are some stores accept only cash. So it might help you to carry some cash when you are in Japan. It’s also good when earthquake happens. When the big earthquake happened in Tokyo, the system of some ATMs and cashier broke, and I only could use cash.

Then what you can do?

  • No tips. So You don’t need tips for tips. 


NO US drugs. International brands.

Tylenol, Advil…

Some countries share international brands, and you see American or European brands anywhere in grocery stores or drug stores. But that doesn’t apply to Japan. Many goods and products are written only in Japanese, and most brands are original of Japan. Even if we do, dosage is different. So you might find it difficult to get what you want. 

Then what you can do?

  • If you have some medicine or skin cares you use daily or time to time, you might want to pack in your luggage.
  • Make sure you bring medicine or anything daily care you might need during your trip.
  • In case you need to get in Japan, there are plenty of drug store all over Tokyo. Major one is Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Papas, Sugi and Welsia. you can use Google’s translation system and either show to the store staff or check the package. 


Enjoy the difference in Japan

So that is something we don’t have in Japan, and you might get confused when you arrive Tokyo for the first time. I hope you are not overwhelmed. 

Travel is more fun when there is a difference from your country.  In that aspect, you might find JAPAN is different. Very different. 

Please let me know if you have been to Tokyo and have found something confusing.

For the detailed information about Tokyo, please check the article I wrote The Complete Tokyo Guide


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