Reflections on Japan

I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.

Is this not the same as booking for a holiday?!

💰 It is currently fantastic value for money

The Yen's current weakness makes your money go much further than you would expect. Eating out is at a cost which I never thought would be possible with Japan, with a simple lunch time bento box costing as little as 200 Yen (£1). If there was ever a time to go, you may not get a better opportunity than the present. Even if the exchange rate swings unfavourably, it's still possible to do an extended trip without the costs being too much of a burden.

💼 A WeWork Pass is well worth getting

With offices in 7 cities across the country, having a WeWork All Access membership makes working across the country an effortless breeze. You can make a great itinerary out of just the cities in which they operate, and within a city like Tokyo, it gives you a great reason to explore the city and work from a new place each day.

I found all of the sites to be particularly well-maintained with more of a professional working environment than you may find in some European sites. There is generally at least one site in each city with extended opening hours until 8 PM. The quality and selection of beers at each site is exceptional, and the coffee was generally better than average.

If you are moving around a lot during your stay, your time and energy are much better spent in a million other ways than trying to figure out where to work from, making getting a pass an absolute no-brainer.

Working from the country in shared office spaces gives you a unique glimpse into some of the business etiquette that you may otherwise be immune to as a tourist. The formalities of prolonged bowing between meeting participants and British levels of thirst for beer in the evenings were all interesting insights to observe each day.

🌆 Consider an itinerary building up to Tokyo

The route O took before flying down to Okinawa from Tokyo.

On reflection, I was really happy with my route, which placed Tokyo as the fourth city I visited. Most cities will struggle to compete with the buzz, ambience, and excitement it generates, and if that is the sort of environment you enjoy working in, you may feel a little underwhelmed heading to other cities after.

🚝 The bullet train is great - but it's not your only option

If you are feeling confident, the Shinkansen self service ticket machines in the stations are relatively easy to operate and allow you to purchase tickets in advance or on the day.
A Nozomi Super Express train to Tokyo calling at Osaka

The Shinkansen (Bullet train) is a wonderful piece of civil engineering that the British public could only dream of witnessing in our own country. It's incredibly well-run and efficient - but it is by no means cheap. I got it from Fukuoka -> Hiroshima -> Osaka -> Tokyo and each was a great experience, but if you are not in an enormous rush, you may want to explore slower regional trains or buses which are significantly cheaper.

Flying on certain routes may also be efficient. Unless you are traveling during a particularly busy national holiday, you'll almost certainly be able to get a seat reservation turning up 30 minutes before any departure.

It's hard to see how the JR Pass is a sound financial investment unless your itinerary is packed full of substantially daily train trips.

📱Get an E-Sim from MobiMatter

30GB came in at $29.99 making it a much better value option than the Airalo equivalent.

📱 Download the Suica wallet

No matter where you are in Japan, you will no doubt make use of the public transport system at some point. Integrating the Suica Wallet with Apple Pay allows you to touch in and out of most (not all) public transport systems without having to purchase a physical ticket each time. A huge time-saver.

💳 Always carry a physical debit card and cash

For a country often perceived as being on the cutting edge of technology, card payments everywhere are by no means guaranteed. Apple Pay is even more frequently rarer, so I'd suggest carrying around both at all times. I used the 7/11 ATMs which were free and reliable.

🗣️ Ensure you have downloaded a translation app

Whilst basic English is spoken widely in hotels and in offices, you are bound to encounter situations where a translation app will come in handy. I had a particularly entertaining  conversation with an elderly barber on the nuances of an upcoming haircut.

☂️ The wet season is no fun

When I return for a subsequent visit, I'll be sure to avoid the wet season. Especially if you are only a week long visit, your ideal Japanese experience probably doesn't include time for dwelling under an umbrella for long periods. The rains can be intense, frequent and prolonged.

🛏️ Look for hotels, not Airbnbs

With the exception of the week I spent in Naha, I spent the whole time in Japan staying in hotels. Airbnb feels like it has scarce supply in the big cities, and throughout the country, there's a bordering oversupply of business hotels. I would suggest downloading the Agoda and apps and compare prices across both. With such an abundance of supply of hotels, with a bit of booking in advance, you're likely to get a decent quality room at a very reasonable price in most major cities outside of the capital.

Tokyo is a bit of an exception where I would expect to pay 50% more than you would in other cities if you want to be close to the core areas. Most hotels feature some form of working area for businessmen in the downstairs lobby which can make for a useful coworking space late in the evenings.

🍻 Binge drinking is on a par with the UK

I was astounded to witness so many people completely intoxicated to the point of being unable to move. Scenes that would not look out of place at 1 AM over the weekend were visible by 8 PM as salarymen struggled to control excessive after-work drinks. After much scientific research I concluded on the Suntory Premium Malts as the superior Japanese lager.

🍜 There's so much more to the food than Sushi

A typical Izakaya restaurant. This was one of my favourite dining experiences in the whole trip '与那原居酒屋 まる匠' in Okinawa.

Sushi has been a food item thats never really excited me and prior to visiting I assumed it would dominate most menus. In reality, I ate it twice over the course of the entire period I was in the country and I didn't even feel that I saw too many outlets. I loved the selection of food across the country and the various styles of restaurants you can experience. My faovurite were the counter top Ikizaya restrauaunts like in the photo above which act as a hybrid between a bar and restauraunt, serving small dishes and a variety of alcoholic drinks.

⏰ It's a late starting country

Assuming that you are working into the night and subsequently waking up later than your normally would, this shouldn't concern you but it's not uncommon for coffee shops and retail stores to open well after 10:30. Your chances of getting a quality single origin coffee around 8AM felt slim to non existent.

🔓 It was inspiring to witness such a respectful & high-trust society

Having lived in London for 8 years where you can guarantee that any unlocked bike will be promptly rehoused within 5 minutes of being unattended, it was amazing to witness such a dramatic contrast in the levels of societal trust. Whilst they may have their own set of societal issues, it was encouraging to see such a positive alternative to the situation we find ourselves in.