Japan Wrap Up

I’ve been spending the last two weeks talking about our Japan trip and I’ve been loving writing these posts! It’s been such a nice way of reliving our recent trip. To end all of this, I wanted to share some food photos we took and just share some general thoughts.

food 01
Noodles and tempura – our first lunch in Tokyo

Arriving late afternoon at Narita airport in Tokyo was pretty overwhelming. We had just finished a 10 hour flight so we were already feeling weird, and now we were miles away from home in a different culture where everyone spoke a different language. I’m really glad that my friend Chris met us at the airport. She got us onto the subway and to our hotel that first night. If she wasn’t there, Rory and I both agree that we weren’t really sure how we would have gotten to our hotel at all.

food 02
Milk pudding from 7/11, I loved it so much!

Something that I still can’t get over is the sheer amount of people around when we were just wandering around, especially in Tokyo. 13 million people in that one city. In Wellington, we only have around 200,000 people. In New Zealand, all together it’s 5 million, we’re pretty small. So being surrounded by so many people was overwhelming.

food 03
Sea Urchin (did not taste good) and Salmon Eggs Sushi (fishy but good!)

It never felt crazy though. Everything is pretty structured and ordered. At the stations, there is marks on the ground to tell you where to stand as you wait to get on the train, as well as markings for people getting off the train. Everyone waits for everyone to get off, before getting on. The only time it felt a bit much was when we travelled in rush hour. People would pack themselves into trains as tight as possible. We got smooshed in once and didn’t really care for it. So after that, we decided to just wait for the next train. Which came in 2 minutes and was much emptier. I do love their public transportation system, it’s so organized and so many trains come every few minutes!

food 04
Typical Fast Food – rice with chicken, green onions and egg – so good!

Another thing that I get asked about is the language barrier. Rory and I don’t speak Japanese. We did learn a little before we went, but once you’re over there, you realize that you know nothing. The thing that worked in our favour is that Japan is quite tourist friendly for English visitors. In all the major cities, like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka (which we visited), the signs will have both Japanese and English on them. On the trains, the automated voice would say something in Japanese, and then in English. Also, just the amount of signs in general was so helpful. Sometimes we would have to change trains, and that meant leaving the station and going to another one. This was made fairly easy by the sheer amount of signs pointing us in the right direction!

food 05
Ice cream from a vending machine

In the hotels, workers typically could speak in both English and Japanese. Some people we spoke to on the street or in shops could also speak a decent bit of English. I’ve since learnt that they learn English in grade and high school. So the base knowledge of the language is pretty well known. This came in handy when we wanted to ask for help. There was a few occasions though (like in a cafe) where no one could understand each other but we got by just using gestures. So all in all, the language barrier didn’t really stop us from much.

food 06
So much food for our lunch on the Mt Fuji and Hakone Tour

We did use some Japanese though, as we wanted to make an effort. Here are some of the phrases that came in handy. “Ohaio” (which means good morning), “Konichiwa” (hello), “Arigato” (thank you), “Arigato gozaimas” (Thank you very much), “Sumimasen” (Sorry/Excuse me), “Wakarimasen” (I don’t understand), “Hai” (yes), “Ie” (no). Finally when you wanted to turn a word into a question, you would add “Des ka” to the end. So if we were wanting to make sure that the train went to Shibuya, we’d ask someone “Sumimasen. Shibuya des ka?” while pointing to the train. The person would normally say yes or no, and that helped a lot.

food 07
Banana, caramel, and vanilla ice cream in a crepe

Another interesting thing about our time in Japan is that everyone uses cash. No one really used cards except for the hotels we stayed at. It’s expected that you have bills and coins on you. Chris told us about that and I’m glad she did, because she was right. From shops, to food, everyone just dealt with cash. The money itself was confusing for us. There’s so many coins! The smallest bill is 1000, and that’s easy enough since the number is on it. The coins break down in to 500 yen (silver coin with 500 on it), 100 yen (silver coin with 100 on it), 50 yen (bronze coin with a hole in the middle with 50 on it), 10 yen (silver coin with 10 on it), 5 yen (bronze coin with a hole in the middle), and 1 yen (silver coin with 1 on it). The 1 yen coins tend to build up over a while, same with 5 and 10, so I kept trying to get rid of them but then they’d come back. We were also quite slow at differentiating the coins from each other, that sometimes I just gave a handful to the person and they were way faster at pulling out the correct amount.


food 08
One of the limited edition coke bottles in Tokyo

So yeah, it wasn’t really that much of a culture shock or anything in Japan. We were definitely a bit lost the first 48 hours there, but we were lucky to have a friend there who eased us into it. By the time we were left on our own for the final week of our trip, we managed really well. Again though, Tokyo is very friendly to tourists. If you’re holding off on visiting Japan because of the language barrier, don’t. You’ll be fine. Do make a little effort to learn some of those key Japanese phrases though, it makes things a bit easier. Plus, they did seem to appreciate our attempts at Japanese. Although our accents were so bad, most people would smile and respond to us in English cause we’re obviously tourists!

We only saw a tiny bit of Japan and if I’m being honest, I’m dying to go back and see some more of it! It’s definitely a bucket-list worthy place to visit!



36 thoughts on “Japan Wrap Up

  1. wow sounds like you had an amazing time in Japan, the food looks amazing except the sea urchin!!!! don’t blame you but at least you tried it, love sushi, and the ice cream in a crepe fab idea, did you bring the coke bottle home with you? as it was limited edition, the rice with chicken and egg looks yummy too. It’s great to be able to visit different countries.


  2. It’s interesting to hear most people use cash and coins. I’d say NZ uses cards more than cash but some people still like to carry cash around. It’s nice the signs are in Japanese and English. Have you been to any other countries that don’t have English as a first language that do that? The Coca Cola bottle is neat and that icecream looks delicious! 🙂


    1. It was quite interesting to have to carry around cash all the time. At home, I never have cash on me haha! It’s definitely helpful that the signs are in both Japanese and English! When I travelled to Peru, that definitely wasn’t the case, and we got lost quite often lol.


  3. This is a great post!! Love it 😀 Just a question, is Japan expensive ? Like this food you posted looks expensive, but is it really ?


    1. Thanks! The food in Japan was quite cheap actually. Each meal we had out was around 500 yen. Most of our costs for the trip came from accommodation as we wanted to stay in hotels 🙂


    1. We really did! We wanted to try as much as we could while on holiday!
      I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying the posts too! I’ve loved sharing them with you all 😀


  4. I am SO hungry now! The food looks SO yummy! Also the way you described their transportation alone makes me want to visit! :p I admit, until recently Japan was low on my bucket list (the flights are crazy long), but I know a lot of people who have gone in the last year and the pictures and descriptions are making me want to book my flight now! Thanks for sharing beauty! I am so glad you had such a fun time! ❤


    1. Their public transportation is one of the best things about Japan! I don’t think much people drive, most just rely on trains cause they’re so convenient! I definitely recommend visiting Japan if you get the chance! It is a long flight out, but visiting the country is so worth It!!


  5. Interesting thoughts and observations, Angela. For instance, I would not have known about their extensive use of cash. Odd in a world that is veering towards cashless. I am terrible at counting coins in new countries. I am positive that my brain works extraa slow. The food looks scrumptious btw especially the bowl with the chicken, green onions and eggs. Is your mind still roaming around the streets of Japan? xx


    1. Thanks! I had no idea about it as well until my friend told me. I’m glad she did as otherwise I wouldn’t have been carrying any cash with me! Most places do offer card services but I never saw anyone using it! Everyone just handled cash. Trying to figure out all the coins was always so hard for us 😂
      In my mind, I’m still in Japan. It’s hard to try get fully back in reality so I’m trying my best to delay it 🤗


      1. Well have fun reminiscing with Rory, for it is a wonderful feeling to discuss it all at ease. Bittersweet but you can always look forward to planning for the next trip. xx


  6. I just read through all your other Japan posts and all looks so interesting and beautiful. I would love to go once, even if it’s just for the food to be honest, which must be amazing. I really like reading your wrap up, it gave me a good overall impression of how your travels went. I’m glad to hear you had such a great trip!
    love, elena



  7. Glad you had fun and were still able to find your way through the areas you wanted to get to. Good to know that some major cities have English signs 😃


    1. Thanks Rossy! It is definitely helpful that they have lots of English to help us get around as we explored. I’m really happy that we got to do everything we wanted to over there 😀


  8. Your post made me so hungry, haha. It all looks so good.

    I have always wanted to go myself, but always thought I would prefer a friend who lives there too, to help out a bit. You are very fortunate.


    1. Haha, all the food was so good!
      Japan is definitely an amazing place to visit, and we were very lucky that we had a friend to help us when we first arrived, as I think we would have gotten really stressed!
      That being said, we got quite confident in working our way around on our own as the trip went on. Japan has lots of sim options, so you can still use Google maps to guide your way around. Tokyo especially is really tourist friendly, lots of english signs, and especially the workers are always so lovely and do their best to help you out.
      I hope you do get to visit one day 😀


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