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Video thumbnail
Crumpled boarding pass
Snuggly travel pillow
Oh, yes.
(his voice, from elsewhere:) Knowledge.
Cultural knowledge.
Well, I've watched the Last Samurai haven't I?
This guidebook-
Japan travel book
Oh, you mean the Travel Guide you'll never read?
How dare you?
I'm gonna read it... (thinks)
On the plane.
Absolute lies. Save yourself the hassle guys.
In this video I sat down with my good friend Pete, a British radio DJ
who visits Japan once or twice a year.
We discussed 12 things we wish we'd known before coming to Japan.
Hopefully at least one or two of those points will save you from some potential embarrassment or save you some time.
So let's jump in.
(Oh wow he's actually reading)
Bloody hell-
Pete: How are you, you alright?
Chris: Well, it's not been a good morning.
I'll read out a comment I recieved
from "quib" one hour ago.
Says: "Is it me or did Chris become fat again?"
Wait, guys, it says is it me or did Chris BECAME fat again?
Pete: So he can't even write it properly?
Chris: Not only is it an insult but it's grammatically incorrect
It's the worst kind of insult there is!
Anyway today we've come before ye, ladies & gentlemen
to talk about 12 things
we wish we knew about Japan before going.
I'd like to think we've kind of ordered these in almost chronological order of your trip,
if you're going to Japan. The first one, my first one-
I've got six, Pete's got six
My first one is:
Try and avoid flying into Narita Airport.
There's two airports (that) service Tokyo:
Tokyo, Haneda and Tokyo Narita.
Actually Haneda is really close and that's the one I recommend.
It's a brilliant airport. Pete: 20-minute taxi ride into town.
Chris: A monorail, well, goes straight there into Tokyo.
20 mins. Beautiful.
Love it.
And then there's the Narita, which takes about
a three days trek to get to and from-
I hate it.
Pete: It's an hour and a quarter from Shinjuku, I wanna say.
Chris: The main reason I don't like Narita is just the distance, you know.
Especially if you're flying into Japan, odds are you're gonna be tired and jet-lagged pretty grumpy.
I- Like, you know, I can't stand it. (Pete giggling)
I remember just arriving- just-
I want to sleep somewhere. I want to die...
But no, but you've got two hours fumbling through Tokyo.
Pete: But you can't rely on the trains in Japan. So there's that.
It's not like the Heathrow Express or the Gatwick Express or the Luton shuttle-
Chris: How dare you speak ill of the Heathrow Express?
So what's your first thing?
Pete: The toilets guys, toilets!
First things first:
I was gonna chime in with the airport thing.
Kokunai is quite a good word to use
Chris: You do know the most random vocabulary...
Pete: Yeah because you learn-
Chris: Sugeru. These are words really don't need to use.
Pete: Yeah, I know but it's useful (Chris: kogurai) if you're trying to find the domestic terminal at an airport.
Sometimes you can't find the domestic terminal sign.
So you sort of ask:
Where's the kokunai ta-minaru? So this time rounds-
Toire is a really good word to know, even though you said people don't use the word toilet
I want people to-
Chris: Oh no, they do-
I like to be more elegant, I use otearai.
Pete: What they write. And is O the honorific?
(linguistic mumbling)
Pete: Otearai! Chris: Toire! Pete: Now! (panicked)
Chris: In English: "Where's your toilet?" (rough)
Yeah, "Where's the bathroom?" "Where's the restroom?" (softly, politely)
Pete: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
They're good ways to learn but also - the kanji on the doors.
Chris: Those are the two kanji characters you need to know
because if you go into a toilet in a restaurant or bar,
often, they are just in Japanese characters.
If you don't know the character for male and female you're fucked.
I've (at least) walked in the female toilets by accident... thrice. In seven years.
Pete: Oh, I did that-
I did that in a pub about three months ago
and woman came in, I was like: "Oh...
Chigaimasu..." (mistake).
Chris: Oh! Chigaimasu! (upset japanese)
Pete: Henai~ (means pervert)
Chris: Yeah, learn those characters and things won't go wrong.
Pete: You, I've got a present! But I've gone in the wrong toilet...
Chris: The third point...
What you'll find is most Japanese people do actually know English words.
Pete: Yes.
Chris: The bit where Japanese people go wrong is grammar.
Pete: Yeah, and that's what they get stressed out about, innit?
Chris: They get stressed about grammar and panic. You'll find if you could just say an individual word,
you'll be fine.
So you didn't need to know the word kogunai means domestic, right?
If you say "domestic" then yeah, yeah no problem.
If you "got the domestic flight" they're like Whatohmnygod
Just say individual words.
Pete: Don't be afraid to put a really heavy Japanese accent on us.
While it may seem a little racist
And it may seem a little like an Englishman abroad going:
"Dos cervezas por favore" (in really bad Spanish)
Chris: I'd love to make that into a video
just you walking around Japan trying to sound Japanese
by setting an accident on.
Pete: Shigoto wa, radio no DJ. (very Japanese)
Chris: Close. No- (says radio differently)
Pete: I said radio (that way) didn't I?
Chris: No you said radio. (the other way)
Pete: I said radio. Radio no DJ.
Chris: Because Japanese students learn thousands of words, thousands of vocabulary,
They're pretty good at memorizing vocabulary.
When I used to work as a teacher
you would find they would nail memorization, tests for vocabulary.
Yeah, the bit where it all went to shit was grammar,
And, so if you are in a sticky situation and the language barriers is in the way,
just try and say the individual word. - Pete: Yeah.
Yeah try and say-
same with taxis, you know, if you get a taxi: "Shinjuku"
Don't go: "Hi there I wanna go to Shinjuku" (super fast)
Yeah, they're not gonna understand what you're saying.
If you just go "Shinjuku? Please?" Fine.
Pete: Yeah, and (for) most taxis I just pick a tube station close to it
And just say: "Shibuya eki. Onegaishimasu" (Shibuya station, please)
Chris: Absolutely. But if you don't get a taxi there is an alternative -
and I believe that's your next point, Pete.
Pete: In Tokyo and Osaka and the big cities,
The public transport is second to none and it's very easy to use.
Just remember that some of the train carriages,
some of the metro carriages are women only.
I wish I'd known this because I (more than once) I've gotten on a carriage ,
and its been a woman only carriage.
I didn't see that, I didn't read.
I'm not very good at looking around at my surroundings, I just do things.
Pete: Mmm. - Chris: We've got on the Train and
Everyone was looking at me,
which is fairly- actually happens quite in Japan if you're a foreigner,
but everyone was looking at me especially angry.
And I realized everyone that was looking at me was a woman.
And basically I'd gotten on the women-only carriage.
So just me with like, a rucksack,
surrounded by 40 women.
Before you get on a train look at the ground, that kind of tells you,
'Cause "Woman-only carriage" are all on the side of the train.
And that will save you looking like a sleazy foreigner.
Pete: Yeah, fundamentally a sad indictment of Japanese men-
Chris: Well, I mean the reason it happened is because there's a lot of a lot of sexual harassment that goes on
Pete: Chikan, chikan! (pervert)
Chris: You can see how it happens. If you go on a train in Tokyo in rush hour, it's horrific.
There's certain times a day (when) they have to force people on with a stick 'cause the train carriages are so rammed full of people.
Pete: I mean you can see why it happens, as in, you can see why people think they can get away with it.
Chris: Oh yeah, you're like that and your arms like that or that. You can't move- - Pete: And you can't scare-
Chris: Someone with a sneaky hand can just come up, touch you from the other side of the carriage
and you won't know where their arm's coming from - who did it.
Because you're surrounded by about 50 people.
Pete: Mr. Tickle. (horrified music) -Mr. Tickle.
In 2019 it's his little kick, his little hustle.
Takes on a little bit of a dark edge, I would say.
Chris: Defamation against Mr. Tickle.
Pete: He's got long arms for a reason, I'm not having it.
But to pay for your train ticket, what do you need, Chris?
Chris: Lots of money - cash! (Pete: Dirty cash.)
Japan is a cash-based society.
Do bring lots of cash,
most people in Japan do carry about 500 dollars worth of cash on them.
Pete: If I go like this, can you make money rain down on my camera? (pshoo sound fx)
Chris: When it comes to editing this video I'll decide whether or not that sequence warranties
an overlay of cash raining down upon you.
Pete: Ah! I'm covered in yen. (Chris couldn't even bother making it into yen bills smh)
Chris: Many of the times I've arrived somewhere, tried to pay with the card and
not been able to.
You should always have at least two hundred dollars on you anytime.
If you run out of cash,
Go to a convenience store. Don't go to a bank. Don't go looking for banks. Lots of banks in Japan
don't take MasterCard or Visa. Just go to a 7-Eleven. Yeah, and those ATMs always do work. No biggie.
There was a problem when the tsunami hit - a lot of cash got swept away with the houses, right.
Because entire houses, entire towns
got washed away by the tsunami.
And a lot of went with it as well.
People keep their cash in the house under their bed
And it kind of shows you the vulnerability of having cash, to some extent.
But yeah I just can't believe people carry $500 around with them.
A pickpocket's dream.
But luckily Japan doesn't really have any pickpockets, I very rarely hear about it.
Pete: Not really, no.
Chris: You can be safe.
The first day in Japan, ever, I had ramen with my friends - Dan, he showed me around. (loud slurping)
And yeah, everyone was slurping noodles.
Pete: Just a big ol' slurp. It works, it cools down noodles.
Chris: Yeah you gotta go (slurp) like that-
But, that's what it's like if you go to a ramen shop anywhere.
It's okay to slurp. If you don't slurp, you'll find it's actually a little bit tricky to eat ramen noodles.
Pete: Usually you find yourself kind of just, kind of, scooping them in (and I'm terrible with chopsticks),
Just getting them, (full mouth of noodles) into my mouth.
It's worse if anything.
And let's not forget that once you finish your noodles,
Tipping. - Chris: Tipping in Japan tipping hasn't been invented. It's brilliant.
It means you can actually go out for a reasonably priced meal.
If you do do it,
it's just a little bit awkward and people will be like "Why you tipping me?", "What's going on?"
It just kinda makes them feel uncomfortable because it feels like you're judging their service quality.
In Japan, people have to give 110 percent every day at work about what they're doing
Maybe they're a train driver, maybe they work at a restaurant, maybe they're flying a plane,
and I don't know why those are the three professions that came to mind.
People give it their all every day. And so they don't need to feel like they're being judged by having a tip.
Yeah, I think that's 'cause Japan's service quality is good because people are less human, more like robots.
Pete: I thought that was gonna be ultimately very complimentary, but it didn't turn out
that way in the slightest.
Chris: People give a consistently great service quality. Probably have small talk very often. (?)
Small talk, it just doesn't happen that much.
People just deliver good service quality and then they go on with it and it's quite robotic.
But it's efficient. And yes, there's no need to tip.
Save your pennies, spend this on something else.
Like footwear, which is our next point.
Pete: Yeah, obviously when you go for a bit of food,
occasionally a lil' drinky drink, you do frequently find yourself in a situation where have to take your shoes off
So if you've got those weird strappy bois, big booties,
that go up to your knee, you're gonna have trouble getting them off quite frankly.
Yeah, I mean, this is another thing I wish I'd known before going Japan because I had some nice Timberland boots, right?
To try to impress people, so I splashed big, you know about £60.
Pete: Wow. (impressed)
Chris: Big money on some lovely boots,
and then every time I went out for a meal
or went into a public office,
or did anything, I had to take my boots off.
It took about 45 minutes to do that...
Whilst everyone's going and having fun.
I'm still there by the doorway getting my f***ing boots off.
So don't wear big silly boots, just have some nice trainers,
use velcro.
Pete: Really? (not amused)
Both: Nah, don't use velcro.
Pete: Just paint the shoes on.
Chris: I remember the days when I was seven and velcro was good.
The only time I used velcro recently is doing a blood pressure test.
Pete: Yes! (laughing) How's your blood pressure?
Chris: High blood pressure! Cause I'm fat aren't I! I'm fat faced, I got high blood pressure!
Anyway, if you wear boots in Japan you'll have to take them off every day four or five times
you'll have high blood pressure too.
Easy-to-slip-on trainers.
Yeah, next thing though:
Uber isn't a thing.
Lots of people talk to me about going into Japan, going to Tokyo and using Uber.
Uber hasn't really been invented in Japan yet.
Pete: It's there, but it's only for really expensive limos.
Chris: Uber black service, right?
But there are a lot more taxes in Japan than any other place I've ever been in the world.
If you go to any station,
You know, Sendai station has at least a hundred taxis out the front of it any time of day.
(mumbling about the word hugely)
Don't go to Japan expecting to have Uber.
Go to Japan expecting to spend lots and lots of money on taxis.
Taxis with great service and they wear gloves.
Pete: They wear gloves, you've got doilies, the doors open themselves.
Chris: Make sure you remember that because that can cause all sorts of problems.
I don't know why that is, I think it's because you don't have to touch the door of the taxi -
which is inherently dirty.
He's driving around town all day.
Pete: Yeah, I mean we talk about Uber not be a thing - actually, finding a way
of actually accessing the Uber app is actually sometimes quite difficult.
Public Wi-Fi is just not a thing.
Chris: And this is point number 10:
Public Wi-Fi is rare.
Japan does have very good high-speed internet. But, going around town, it's just not there.
It really is quite annoying if you need the Wi-Fi quickly. Yeah, just go to Starbucks.
Pete: Just stand outside.
And leech off it.
Chris: Stealing public Wi-Fi. Don't do that ladies and gentlemen.
Pete: These big corporations don't pay any tax so I'm going to steal their Wi-Fi quite frankly.
Chris: Fair point.
A lot of people like Pete do grab a Wi-Fi dongle.
Pete: Getting a dongle will increase your power- I'm just making sure I've got an unlocked phone. 'Cos it's easier.
Chris: Or a map of Starbucks, perhaps?
Ways to stand out in front of and steal public Wi-Fi.
Smoking indoors.
If you don't like smoking then you're in for a nasty shock
because most places do allow smoking indoors, still.
I'm talking bars and restaurants.
Yeah, they are trying to phase it out,
especially before the Olympics.
Most places do have segregation (smoking, non-smoking)
Actually, the first thing you'll be asked when you go in is: "Do you want smoking or non-smoking?"
"Kinen". It's quite difficult to say. (spells it out) "Abstaining from smoking."
No smoking.
"Kitsuen". It's smoking. Kinen - no smoking.
How you gonna remember that? What (something), what meme are you gonna use?
Both: Kenan & Kel.
Chris: Kenan & Kel. Kenan doesn't like smoking.
And they will say "kinen or kitsuen" when you walk in.
You just gotta say "Oh, kinen". (Pete: Ahh)
Unless you like smoking. Kitsuen it is.
Pete: Get involved!
Chris: And the last point, this is completely random,
You can buy almost anything at a ¥100 store.
Pete: Find a ¥100 store!
Chris: You could buy nearly everything we've mentioned on this list in this video
Pete: Oh, massively!
Chris: Yeah, ¥100 stores
(which equates to about a dollar, I believe)
the best one is Daiso.
It's the best known one.
Lawson's 100 is another one.
Pete: Oh, they've got their own (mumbled)
Chris: But, literally anything you want - ¥100 store.
Could be a notebook, could be a sense of self-worth...
You could buy it there at a reasonable price,
a hundred yen. Amazing.
I used to go into Daiso, the ¥100 store, just for finding weird English.
'Cause they have notebooks covered in weird English-Japanese
Pete: And they don't necessarily need to bother with marketing-
Chris: No, they don't bother having it proof-read.
That costs money. Why bother?
It gives their brand a sense of esteem by putting English on it.
And then people like me come along and exploit it for videos and laughter.
Pete: Yep. "It's the circle of life" as the Lion King once said. Circle of life.
Chris: But yeah, do go in.
And those are our things, those are our 12 things we wish we'd known before coming to Japan.
Hopefully at least one of them will save you an awkward situation or lead to some fun excitement.
Especially the ¥100 store.
Pete: Can I get some more money raining down on me?
Chris: Yeah, there you go. There we go. (lmao)
Well, technically it'd be coins because we don't have hundred yen (notes).
Pete: Help! (screams in pain)
Chris: So there you have it, guys.
I hope you find this video useful.
Pete and I do this every single week on the abroad in Japan podcast,
a weekly show with a hundred thousand listeners.
The biggest podcast about Japan, available on: Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts,
literally everything else.
We are here to help you get the most out of your trip.
We cover everything from travel advice, tips on living and working in Japan,
contemporary news topics like bears and Kim Kardashian.
Unfortunately, not together. (Yet.)
You can find the links below, or just by searching abroad in Japan on your favorite podcast app.
No matter where you might be out there in the big wide world, thanks for watching.
I'll see you next time.
I'm off to Daiso to buy things with amusing English that I don't really need.
That's what Daiso is for, isn't it?