The Bald Traveler

Helping Geeks in their Travel Endeavors

First Step in Japan Travel Planning

What to do first

Having the dream to travel to another country is the first step.  This article will give you the first steps in making that dream a reality.  We will cover the following topics in this article.

  • How long should I go for?
  • What should I see and do?
  • Will I need to speak Japanese?
  • How do I actually plan a trip like this?
  • What else should I know?
Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku

How long should I go for?

I would say this comes down to how long can you get away on a vacation and how many cities or prefectures you want to visit.  The minimum I recommend is a week, and the minimum per city or prefecture I recommend is three days to a week.  So if you want to see both Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto I would recommend planning on going for two weeks.  If you are trying to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom I would recommend going for three weeks as the date of full bloom in various cities changes every year but is usually within a week or two of the average date.  And if you are going to go on a tour through a vacation tour company then your vacation is dictated by how long the tour is, which is usually 7, 10 or 14 days.

What should I See and do?

While I cannot read you mind I imagine there is a reason you want to see Japan.  Is it to shop for electronics and video games? Maybe it is to see as many temples as you can?  Or possibly it’s to the real location of your favorite manga or anime?  Do you want to dress up in a Kimono or be a Geisha for the day?  When it comes to Japan the ideas are endless.  I suggest you start making a list of what you want to do, and then realize you won’t be able to do all of it, so prioritize what you want to do and then start researching the top 10 to 20 items on the list.  My list was over 400 items and we ended up doing less then 100 but I had my list so if we were looking for something to do I could consult it on the trip.  I started by making a list in Google Sheets so I could share it with the people I was traveling with and then I moved it to Trello.  I will make a video explaining how I found everything I added to the list over the years.  Start your list now and it will help motivate you to make your dream trip a reality.

You can be a Geisha for a few hours.

Where should I stay?

This is a sub item of what should I see…Where you can stay is endless and also should be added to your list as you make it.  Do you want to stay in a neighborhood with locals?  Well then add in some AirBnB’s.  Do you want to stay in a love hotel or Capsule hotel?  Add that to your list.  Do you want to stay at a traditional Ryoken Inn and visit an Onsen bath? Yep you guessed it add it to you list.  You can also stay at a traditional hotel, There are three main types of hotels in Japan, Family hotels (Where families go to stay), Business Hotels (Where Salraymen/Business People stay), and western chain hotels, think Marriotts and Hiltons.  Each of these has their own charm but unless you are traveling with a family stick to the Business Hotels and Western Hotel Chains.  Just a note most Business hotels do have smoking rooms so make sure you get a non smoking room if you don’t smoke.

Will I need to speak Japanese?

The short answer is no.  The longer answer is it’s good to know some key phrases in Japanese.  So check out my article on key Japanese phrases to know.  If you stick to the larger cities in Japan most of the locals will speak some english, and most signs also have english on them.  Public transportation also normally has English announcements after the Japanese ones.  If you travel into the remote country away from the city and major tourist attractions then you may end up somewhere that doesn’t normally use English and everything is Japanese.  In our trip we didn’t need Japanese at all really but we used it whenever we could so as to not sound like a stereotypical tourist.  I do recommend downloading and using a translator app while in Japan.  Check out my article on my experiences using various translator apps in Japan.

How do I actually plan a trip like this?

This is the easiest or hardest section of this article.  If you don’t want to deal with making a plan and don’t have a friend going with you who likes to do this then your best bet is to do a tour.  If you want someone to do the planning and be a tour guide just shoot me an email and if you pay for my trip I’ll do it for you 😁.  The next solution if you don’t want to be tied down to the rigidity of a tour is to hire a company to plan an itinerary for you, basically you tell them how long you are going for, what your budget is, and what you want to see and they do the work of figuring out how to make it happen.  For an extra fee they will also book all your accommodations and buy all your tickets for you.  If either of these work for you then you are done.  Pay your money sit back and wait then hop on a plane.  If you want more control then you will plan your trip yourself.  This can be very detailed with each day planned out or a more easy going trip where you plan out some must see’s like a concert or meeting friends in a certain city on a certain day.  This gives you the freedom to change your plans and stay longer somewhere interesting or leave early from somewhere that is boring for you.  But can be more stressful as you have to do all the work.

What else should I know?

This is going to be short.  There is to much to know so make sure to read all my articles in the travel planning section and if you have questions send me a comment and I will reply.

Bonus Section

Pick a Splurge

When you are planning or searching for a trip, have a splurge item in mind.  What is a splurge item?  It is something you don’t normally do…It could be staying in a really nice Hotel or Ryoken, Eating A5 Wagyu Beef in Kyoto or Osaka, Going to a Robot Restaurant show.   At its core it is one thing that will help make the vacation.  It is the one thing where you think back on the trip and it’s what you remember.  Every trip I take I always try to include a splurge, swimming with the dolphins, eating good ramen, going up in a tall building to see the entire city.  It can be anything, it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to be something you haven’t done before or don’t do regularly.  Whatever it is add it to your list and make it a top 10 item so you actually do it.  In these articles I will list some splurges that we did as we had more then one as each of us had different ideas of what we wanted to splurge on.


The Bald Traveler…

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