7 Bad Things that will Definitely Happen on your Japan Trip

March 13, 2018

I hate to disappoint you or make you aware of certain crap aspects of travel, but bad things do happen to good travelers, even well prepared ones. Sometimes scammers win, and people get bribed. Sometimes fit people get a stomach bug and make the toilet their best friend.

Fortunately, you can rule out a lot of those problems you might face in a developing country when you’re traveling through Japan. However, there are still going to be setbacks and days when you just want pizza and Netflix to escape the madness

1. You will get lost

Even if you have data on your phone and Google Maps at the ready, you’re going to get lost in Japan. Whether it’s finding the right exit at Shinjuku Station, transferring to the subway line going the right direction, or looking up an obscure address, it’s going to happen.

Bench of The Subway Station / 駅のベンチ

2. You will blow your budget

I once ended up in Beppu in the middle of the night after taking a late ferry from Matsuyama. Wanting a pufferfish (fugu) experience while I was on the coast, I went into an izakaya and order fried fish, pufferfish sake, and steamed fish. Total price tag? 7000 yen (~$65), for a meal I wasn’t able to finish.

Mostly, this was stupidity on my part, but when you make a mistake in Japan, the financial consequences add up quickly. If you can’t find a hostel or capsule hotel in a certain area, you might have to spend over 100 USD on a room… even in the countryside. If you have a Japan Rail Pass but accidentally get on the wrong shinkansen, the ticket attendant will probably let you go with a warning… but he might charge you the full fare, totaling hundreds of dollars.

3. You’re going to get stares and inappropriate behavior

This doesn’t happen quite so much in Tokyo or major cities anymore, but every so often… As a country that’s over 98% Japanese by ethnicity, people of European and African descent stand out quite a bit, to the point where you might just be a curiosity at best, or something to be feared or gawked at worst; foreign women have reported cases of stalking and assault; African Americans and Africans have had people outright turn and walk away when they approach, or had their hair touched without asking. It’s going to get annoying, and unless you leave the country, it will not stop.

4. You will get annoyed in shops

You might wish for sweet death after hearing a supermarket’s signature song playing over and over again, but what some tourists find difficult to accept in Japan is the customer service. Namely, it’s too attentive; shopkeepers will yell “WELCOME!” in unison the moment you enter, and many will hover rather than just letting you shop in peace.

5. You will have to carry your trash

When Trump visited Tokyo a few months ago, the Metropolitan Police announced that trash bins in public areas like train stations would not be available for several days due to security concerns. This meant that it was likely everyone in Tokyo was hauling more rubbish than usual; even at the best of times, it’s not always easy to find a trash or recycling bin in subway stations, and you’ll be carrying that paper cup from Starbucks until you get back to your hotel.

6. You will repeatedly hit your head

Granted, this only applies to men and women who are over 175 cm or so, but you might get lucky if you’re a shorty. Most modern Japanese buildings are designed for those of all shapes and sizes, but if you’re a tourist going through historical sites, you’re going to encounter low support beams in old buildings and plenty of opportunities to smack yourself on the forehead.

7. You will witness animal cruelty

Say what you want about Koreans’ treatments of dogs for illegal restaurants, but there’s plenty of subtle cruelty in Japan. Unless you go out looking for it, you’re probably not going to see illegal whaling practices or the slaughter of dolphins during your stay. Though many tourists may not be turned off from food like ikizukuri or the dancing squid, they are often blinded to the treatment of animals who look pampered and cute. Namely, owls in cafes tied to posts and kept in tiny rooms, and a bar in Tokyo that actually has live penguins.

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