Tips for first time visitors to Japan.
- Bring your own tray back to the tray collection point after you are done eating at fast food joints, cafes, and food courts. When in doubt as to whether you should bring the tray to collection point or not, just look around and follow what the others are doing.
- It is actually not common to find public trash bins around on the streets, so I usually carry a small plastic bag in my bag to keep the trash I may have during the day when I couldn't find any trash bins, and then I throw them away when I finally see a trash bin (usually outside convenience stores).
- Keep to 1 side of the escalators. Often, people only had minutes to spare when catching their train transfers at train stations, so you will see people rushing up the free side of the escalators so that they can rush to catch their train transfers.
- It is common to find coin lockers at train stations and departmental stores. They usually cost between 300yen to 600yen (depending on locker size). For larger train stations (Eg. Kyoto station, Tokyo Station, Shinjuku station...), there is usually more than 1 area with coin lockers within the same station. You just need to walk around and you'd probably find more lockers.
- You can request for free local maps (they often have English versions, and sometimes Chinese or Korean or even French versions) from Tourist Information offices in Japan. Therefore, it is not imperative that you go and buy your own map to bring to Japan when you can get decent maps for free. See list of Tourist Information offices: here.
- Put your mobile phone on silent mode whenever you take a train, and refrain from talking on the phone when you are on a train as it is considered rude. If you REALLY have to make a phone call during long train rides (eg. onboard Shinkansen or Ltd Exp trains), then you exit the carriage and go to the common area between carriages (usually where the toilets or vending machines onboard the trains are located at) to make your call instead of chatting on the phone while at your seat.
- Trains in Japan are EXTREMELY punctual. Eg, if it states on the train ticket that the train timing is 0710hr, it would almost definitely mean that the train will depart that station at exactly 0710hr. Unless there are any unforseen circumstances (eg. typhoon, earthquake, heavy snowfall, or the occasional suicide cases on the tracks) which would cause delays or train suspension.
- Many Japanese restaurants have plastic food displays outside their restaurants, so if you don't speak Japanese and if they don't have English menu, what I did on my first couple of Japan trips was to use my mobile phone to take a photo of the food item which I want from the plastic food display, and then show the waitress the photo which I took upon ordering.
- Do keep a lookout for the manhole covers with pretty and interesting designs. Every town have a different design. :)
- Food Halls (usually located at the basements) at Departmental stores would often have discounts on their food items about half an hour before their closing time. Usually 20% to sometimes even 50%.
- Not all attractions/theme parks open every day. (well, except for Disneyland, Disneysea and Universal Studios Japan, since I do believe they operate daily but with slightly different operating hours from day to day). Shrines, Temples, museums, themed attractions (eg, Sanrio Puroland, Edo Wonderland...etc) do have days when they are closed. Therefore, it is better to check their operation schedule when you are planning for your trip so as to avoid disappointment on your visit.
Will probably add more when I think of new tips along the way. :)