Japan -- A travel guide for the common people.

I was in Japan for the first time ever over New Year. Now I don't speak Japanese. I've also heard stories about how expensive Japan is. So if you're in a similar situation here are somethings that might be useful to you.
  • The good news is that although people in Japan don't speak English they can read English fairly well. There was this one time we were in a restaurant and we wanted to order beef. I first tried drawing (with no luck), then writing the word 'beef' (with some success). They finally understand us when I wrote the word 'cow'. Unfortunately, after going through all that they told us that they don't serve beef... The lesson is that English words are okay, but no pictionary. (Note: You can also try writing in Chinese.)
  • A lot of restaurants have plastic food displays outside. Another strategy that I discovered is to take a picture before going inside, and then point at the dish on my camera's LCD screen when ordering food. Basically I can make my own picture menu.

  • Even if the above two strategies don't work, there's still one way. In Japan there's vending machine in almost every block of every street. You can find a lot of them in Tokyo, and also sometimes in the middle of nowhere. The vending machines sell everything. I saw vending machines that sell hot coffee, beer, cigarettes, and even ramen.

  • As for saving money, get a JR Pass. You get unlimited rides on the JR with this pass. I believe you can order one before you land in Japan.

  • The second good news is that Japan isn't that expensive anymore. Due to long period of deflation the prices in Japan has come down to within range of other major international cities. That is not to say that you can't spend a lot of money in Tokyo because you can still do that. (Click on the picture to find out how much this noodle costs me.)

Here are some things that you can do on a low budget,

My Japan Pictures:

Picture album from Linus (not only is he much better at taking pictures than me, he also speaks some Japanese and brought a phrase book with him, which saved us many times):

Tony Chang blogs about his Japan experience:
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