International travel is an opportunity for exceptional adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences — but so much can be missed by lack of preparation. While the romantic notion of simply grabbing a bag and heading to the airport draws us in, a little preparation goes a long way. Follow these top tips to prepare for your trip to Japan.

Practice your Japanese

It should come as no surprise that traveling to another country will mean experiencing another language. While it’s probably not realistic to reach fluency prior to vacation, learning a few basics will go a long way. Ahead of touchdown, take time to practice basic questions and common responses in Japanese. Being able to get simple directions or ask where things like a restroom or ticket booth are located will be helpful. There are numerous online and app-based learning tools that can aid in this endeavor.  Even tools like Google Translate help in a pinch.

Prepare for Cultural Differences

What’s acceptable or appropriate isn’t always the same across cultures. Be a considerate tourist by seeking to understand Japanese etiquette. Not only will this express respect and appreciation to those around you, but you’ll experience a more immersive, authentic side of Japan.

Dining is one of the key areas where etiquette will differ. For example, when eating small bowls of food in Japan, it is appropriate to lift the bowl close to your mouth — but never a larger dish. If dining family-style or from other shared dishes, it is customary to use a separate pair of chopsticks for serving. 

A few other things to consider: while spoons should be used for rice dishes with sauce such as curry and fried rice, miso soup should be sipped. The solid foods call for chopsticks, and slurping noodles signals that the food is good. 

Consider packing things that are culturally appropriate as well, like a pair of house slippers. While many hotels offer them, having a pair of your own may come in handy. Anyone with tattoos should pack bandages, as most traditional onsens ask that they be covered.

Pack with Care

Hiking through lush forests, walking tours of ancient streets, a relaxing day on the beach — Japan’s dynamic landscape offers nearly endless activity options; so long as you’re prepared. Don’t miss out on part of your dream vacation because of a hastily packed bag.  

Luggage itself is just as important as what gets packed inside. An overstuffed rolling bag could be cumbersome if travelling by public transportation or moving from one hotel to another during your travels. ANA understands that the art of packing well is both complex and unique to every passenger and vacation — so ANA passengers can fly with one carry on and a personal item, as well as checked baggage. Make sure to read through ANA’s baggage rules before heading to the airport. Most importantly, leave room for souvenirs. 

Plan Your Ideal Schedule 

Early bird or night owl, start your dream trip to Japan off right by planning a schedule that suits your lifestyle. For those that want to arrive with breakfast and hit the ground running, an evening flight that allows you to snooze over the Pacific may be best. If sleeping the flight away isn’t your style or if you’d rather arrive in time to check into a hotel and experience Japan at night, look for morning departures. Either way, the best laid plans can be ruined by jet lag and adjusting to time differences. Be sure to plan down time into your first few days, and consider how your first morning in Japan may help set the tone for your trip.

Now, let’s start packing.

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