Recently After 6 years of putting it off I decided to travel to Japan as I noticed I was getting old, I made sure I understood the customs, and that I had every detail planned out so I could just have fun, I had never travelled on my own internationally, or even internationally with someone, so it was instead of a big step more of a giant leap of a cliff.
Let me first say I do not know much Japanese, I can't speak it I can't read it. So with that said my first tip is as such:
1 - Don't worry about the language, most Japanese people can speak a bit of English, the problem I have noticed and I have seen it on here too with you lot, is that you worry about not getting it perfect, it honestly doesn't matter as long as its understandable. I survived 9 days without much Japanese.
2 - The only Japanese I used on my first 9 day trip to Japan was: Sumimasen ( Sumi-Mah-sen ) which is excuse me, this was followed by where I was trying to go (like a hotel) then there's Itadakimasu ( ee-ta-daki-mas ) which is used before you eat something, its a polite way of saying thank you for the food, speaking of thank you remember to use Arigato gozaimasu ( Ari-gah-toh Go-z-eye-mas) which is a polite thank you, then after you have eaten, remember to say Oishi katta desu ( Oy-shi-cat-ta-des ) which is a polite way of saying it was delicious, then there was the hard sentence I learnt, Anatawa eigo o hanashimas ka ( Anata-wa-aa-go-o-han-ash-ee-mas-ka ) which is a polite way of saying Do you speak English ?
aa - as in bay, clay, may
ee - as in meet, greet, feet.
Your probably wondering why you have to say thank you for the food, why you need to say it was delicious and why there's a way of saying certain words ( polite and informal) this is because Japan prides its self on doing the best it can, my advice to see this in action is to go to a 100 yen shop, it blew my mind how good the quality was, my dogs chew teddy is still intact ^_^
3 - Its not really a tip but more of something to help you be less stressed. I picked up an IC card, what is an IC card? its a prepay card for JR lines, you top it up and then use it at the ticket gate. trust me, buying a ticket is a bit hard, you have to know where you are going, find it on the machine, pay, then put it into the gate barrier, and if you miss your stop you have to pay at the next station the extra which means finding another machine to pay the extra. sounds stressful right? Another point to get an IC card is it works all over Japan and depending where you buy it you can use it for other things, I bought Hokkaido's Kitaka card, this allows me to ride the JR trains, the local Sapporo subway and the local Sapporo street cars, imagine trying to buy tickets for them. It does cost 500 yen with a further 1000 yen, you can get this back at the end of your trip, or keep the card as a gift, remember if you come back, you can use it again.
4 - how did I survive? Easy every 2 minutes there's a drink vending machine, my goal was to try all the drinks (which I did lol) and for food there's convenience stores everywhere with everything you can imagine (I got earphones for the plane) including hot local food and free wi-fi. (which is great for free wi-fi calls)
but wait I don't speak Japanese, don't panic its a convenience store, there staff are teenagers, every teenager globally is the same, quite, doesn't want to talk just wants to do there job, put your cash on the tray provided and they will take it and put the change on it. (its rude to hand money to someone unless there okay with it)
5 - but I want to eat at a restaurant or cafe. Simple. This is what I did, every menu has an image of the food, or out side there's a display with plastic food representing it, I took a photo and showed them it. It worked and I had some delicious mind blowing food.
so there you have it 5 tips for beginners travelling or thinking of travelling to Japan. If you want to know more about my trip and enough people ask I will make a post about that.