Planning for a family trip overseas can be daunting, so why not reduce stress levels by travelling to Japan? This famously safe country is known for its efficient transportation system, well-developed infrastructure and amazing hospitality.
Not to mention, it has a wide variety of food and attractions to keep everyone in the family satisfied and happy, so do yourself a favour and jet off to Japan!
With the number of recorded crimes hitting a record low in 2017, there is no denying how safe Japan is. Aside from a strong focus on crime prevention, firearms are also not readily available to the public.
And as tourists carrying around more cash, there isn’t much worry about being mugged.
In fact, the Metropolitan Police Department reported that a record ¥3.67 billion lost cash had been returned in Tokyo alone. So, if you lose something, it might find its way back to you!
Nothing can touch Japan’s konbini (コンビニ) when it comes to 24-hour availability and accessibility.
There are approximately 50,000 convenience stores located nationwide, with a high percentage of them operating through the night. Their well-stocked shelves include items like hot snacks, drinks and even groceries.
You can also find toiletries, cosmetics, and other daily essentials here too. Some have ATMs and even shipping services to send heavy boxes of souvenirs home if you run out of luggage space.
“Made in Japan” products, even machine-made or mass-produced, embody the craftworkers’ ethic of monozukuri (ものづくり, a commitment by the designer and manufacturer to do their best possible work through repeated refining).
4. PUNCTUAL & EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION
In a time-conscious society such as Japan’s, being punctual is a big thing. The country’s extremely reliable and prompt public transportation system means it’s a lot easier for travellers to plan their schedules.
Aside from that, trains and buses operate at high frequencies and have large capacities. Some even have space set aside for large baggage. Renowned for its cleanliness throughout the country, you can be sure that even public transportation and stations are kept spotless for all riders.
5. WIDE RANGE OF ATTRACTIONS
For parents of young children and teenagers, you will know that boredom is their true nemesis. In Japan, that is never on the agenda.
There is a long list of places to take your kids and young adults — from the evergreen Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea, Fukuoka’s Umi no Nakamichi seaside park, to aquariums, themed cafes, interactive museums and eye-opening factory tours.
You can also take part in a range of hands-on workshops such as soba-making or traditional handicrafts. And who can forget outdoor activities such as skiing, go-carting, hiking and fruit-picking experiences?
Stretch every dollar with air passes that offer standard, low fares to any domestic destination, buy train/bus passes for unlimited rides, and don’t forget to find out if there are child/senior discounts at attractions!
Look out for coupon books that entitle you to special ticket prices or small complimentary gifts. Like Singapore, most supermarkets slash prices of meat, seafood and cooked food items near to closing time so you can save a small fortune purchasing at the end of the day instead.
Do also keep an eye out for Japanese words like セール(sale), 半額 (half-price), 値下げ (price cut) and 割引 (discount) when shopping!
7. TAX REFUNDS
Since October 2014, tourists are exempt from paying tax on items including food, cosmetics and appliances. Depending on the store, you will either pay 8 percent less at the cashier or get a tax refund at a special counter.
With a huge array of food varieties to choose from, including halal and vegan options, you can keep every family member well-fed. Top picks for kid-friendly restaurants include Gusto, Genki Sushi and Royal Host.
9. ELDERLY FRIENDLY
One of the fastest greying societies in the world, Japan has been adapting to the needs of senior citizens. Thanks to a major lift installation programme that started in 2008, lifts are more commonly found on overhead bridges and subway train platforms now.
Department stores too, have added more seats on every floor so that elderly shoppers can rest when they are tired, and handrails can be found at restaurants and public restrooms. As of 2017, the infrastructure ministry in Japan has plans to promote the development of barrier-free environments. This move will ensure the creation of facilities and areas easily accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities.
No matter where you go, you will no doubt experience the deep-rooted culture of omotenashi, especially if you stay at minshuku (民宿, family-operated bed and breakfasts) or ryokan (旅館, traditional Japanese inn).
*All illustrations are from www.irasutoya.com*
(This feature first appeared on WAttention Singapore magazine, May/Jun 2018 Vol. 44)