I went travelling last year and was lucky enough to spend a week in Japan. I loved it so much that I went back a couple of months later! Here’s why I think Japan is a must visit for your student travels in 2015.
#1: An eclectic mix of old and new
Japan is really good at allowing both old and new to coexist. You can be walking down a futuristic boulevard of skyscrapers then turn down a side road and be transported 50 years back in time.
#2: Everything has a cheery jingle
Cash machines, train stations, even the noise you get when you cross the road is cool. Everything is super “kawaii” (translation: cute) and I love it.
An Izakaya is a drinking establishment that sits somewhere between a bar and a pub. It’s a great place to kick off your evening with all-you-can-drink deals (usually around £10 for 2 hours) plus a selection of tasty Japanese dishes.
You order food and drinks throughout the evening whenever you fancy – often using the table’s built in computer screen – and the food is delivered directly to your table – so cool!
#4: Public toilets are EVERYWHERE
…and they’re SO CLEAN – England take note. Also most hotels and restaurants have crazy fancy toilets like this thing which has about one million functions in addition to flushing.
#5: Super-attentive staff and no tipping!
Shop assistants and waiting staff are super friendly even if they don’t speak any English. And unlike other countries, they’re not working for a tip (as these are rarely left in Japan) people are just sincerely friendly!
#6: Public transport is pretty much perfect
The trains are clean and punctual and you can pay with the Japanese version of an Oyster card (“PASMO”) across the whole country. What’s more, their Shinkansen bullet trains are incredibly fast (if not a little overpriced – seriously, compare flight prices too!)
The only thing think lacking is an affordable way to get home at night in Tokyo as night transportation don’t really exist and taxis are pricey. In fact, they’re so pricey that most people who miss their last train either wait it out for the first train in the morning or end up on a Japanese TV show where they film partygoers who missed their last train and offer to pay their taxi in return for a tour of their house.
#7: Awesome food
The food alone is an awesome reason to visit Japan. Sushi is the obvious choice but there are tonnes of other dishes – Okonomiyaki (a delicious fried chunk of meat and vegetables, slathered with mayo) and Tempura (an awesome range of battered seafood and vegetables) to name just two. And it’s pretty cheap if you know where to look (top tip: Yoshinoya is a chain of quick and tasty restaurants which you have to visit at least once!)
#8: Late night Ramen
Okay, I know I already mentioned food but this one deserves its own section. Ramen is a popular soupy noodle dish and is the perfect thing to settle your stomach after an evening of drinking. I’m seriously going to miss this in England – a 3am McChicken Sandwich is just not going to cut it anymore.
#9: Everyone is so friendly!
Looking lost on my way to meet a friend at Tokyo Disneyland (which is awesome by the way), a school kid came up to me and asked if I needed any help or directions. In the end he took the train with me all the way to the park just to make sure I arrived in the right place! Something tells me that wouldn’t happen in London…
#10: YOU CAN DO IT!
Surviving in Tokyo isn’t as daunting as you might think – even though english speakers are few and far between a lot of signs are written in both Japanese and English. Top tip – get a local SIM card and use Google Maps, lifesaver!
Summary (+ extra tips!)
Japan is easily one of my favourite destinations and I always recommend for any students backpacking around Asia. Thinking about visiting and want some more student travel tips for Tokyo and beyond? Don’t forget to check out Ciara’s awesome article on How To Do Japan On A Budget and use our preferred partners when you book your trip to Japan!