DESTINATIONS

Planning your first trip to Japan: what you need to know

Your first trip to Japan: things you need to know | PACK THE SUITCASES

Planning your first trip to Japan involves lots of practical things like booking accommodation, sorting an itinerary and organising transport. But there are also lots of useful things about stuff like toilets, nudity and hairdryers that you need to know before you go too.

Just being in Japan is so, so different to anywhere else so it’s worth putting the time in with your planning to get the most of of your trip. Japan is a brilliant country that’s hard to do justice to. Bonkers, but brilliant. I’m willing to bore people with how much I love Japan at any opportunity (soz about that).

So here’s a huge brain dump of everything we tell people when they ask us about planning their first trip to Japan…

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DESTINATIONS

Five train-themed things to do in Japan for railfans and train geeks

Five things to do in Japan for railfans | PACK THE SUITCASES

Japan’s trains are a cut above anywhere else in the world. No one in Japan has ever been reduced to tears by the words ‘rail replacement bus service.’ Because of this, they’ve become quite a cult thing to obsess over and Japan is an absolute goldmine of brilliant and hilarious train-based stuff. We knew we’d have to write up our top five things to do in Japan for railfans, and we’ve not even scratched the surface yet.

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DESTINATIONS

How to watch sumo in Tokyo, Japan

Watching sumo in Tokyo, Japan | PACK THE SUITCASES

Watching sumo in Tokyo was not on our ‘must-do’ list of things for our first trip to Japan back in 2015. We didn’t really know anything about it and it seemed a bit weird and didn’t interest us. But we did it anyway and LOVED it. For our second trip, in January this year, we knew we wanted to go again. And after that, we seem to have become actual sumo fans. Who’d have thought it?

So we thought we’d share what it’s like going to watch it for the day and some useful things you need to know before you go.

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DESTINATIONS

Tokyo off the beaten track: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji

Tokyo off the beaten track: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji | PACK THE SUITCASES

We’re lucky enough to have friends in Tokyo, so we try to stay near where they live in Ogikubo. This gives us a unique insight into local life there every time we visit. Here’s a brief summary of things we love about Tokyo off the beaten track. It covers: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji. This area is basically a western section of the Chūō-Sōbu line: one of the most crowded commuter train lines in Japan (which is really saying something).

If you want to visit somewhere in Tokyo without the tourists, where normal people live, and where the huge 20-storey buildings give way to low-rise winding streets, this area is perfect.

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DESTINATIONS

Noodles and gardens in Takamatsu, Japan

Noodles and gardens in Takamatsu, Japan | PACK THE SUITCASES

We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk round the gardens in Takamatsu, Japan. This is obviously an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of. We’ve actually never heard of anyone going there. But it was on our way back from an incredible long weekend on the art island of Naoshima and our friend Tom was in charge of our lives and knew we would like it so off we went.

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