Help Sonic tour in Japan (tips)

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by karlafalves, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. I get the impression Sonic is more equivalent to Chuck E. Cheese than he is to Mario in his home country.
     
  2. karlafalves

    karlafalves

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    I really appreciate the help you all gave to me so far. I think I'll be satisfied with the places you've already mentioned during my Sonic tour :D I may visit Nintendo Park, hoping that God forgive me this sin XD

    Well, since I noticed that there are here both foreigners who went to Japan and Japanese fans as well, may I ask you further advices, now regarding Japan itself? My main concerns, by now, are regarding the language and accomodation. From what I've read googling and heard from my friends who went there, English is not (well) spoken in the country as I thought it was. Any advices you can give me to not run into (language) traps? This is my first travel to a country where Portuguese/English/Spanish are not the main languages, so I'm a little bit afraid (but what life would be without some adventures?). And when it comes to accomodation, I always book rooms in Airbnb everywhere I go, but I read it's not the best option in Japan, since it doesn't seem to be legallized there (forgive me if I'm wrong) and the hosts usually do not speak English, what would make the communication fault.
     
  3. RyogaMasaki

    RyogaMasaki

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    The deal with AirBNB legality was finally worked out. It made things more complicated for the owners, and a lot of lodging options disappeared, but the ones that are around now are fine. It's true the hosts probably won't speak english, but you'll probably not see your hosts anyway. At least, I've never stayed at an AirBNB where I meet the people themselves. However, there should be plenty of documentation in (amusingly broken) English in the room itself, especially if the entry on the website was English to begin with. Keep in mind your accommodations may have a shared bathroom and bath. Some people don't like that. If you want a private one, you'll be paying more.

    Regarding lodging in general, things seem a lot closer on Maps than they feel on foot. (And unless you have $$$ to blow on taxis everywhere, you're going to be walking a lot.) A "ten minute walk to the station" doesn't sound like much on paper, but if you're the kind of person who has a packed itinerary, it's going to get tiresome.

    I have an old Japan travel guide I wrote a couple years back. It has a document with some general notes and some maps of interesting places. Probably needs an update at this point now that I've lived here for a while, but it has some good beginner info:
    https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B32juTJJZ7Edd0dhYk5RVlQ4dEE

    Feel free to message me here or on twitter @suddendesu if you have any particular questions.
     
  4. karlafalves

    karlafalves

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    Oh, I really appreciate the help! I don't mind walking, since I think it's a really good way to get to know the city you are, but I presume the biggest cities in Japan have a really good public transportation.

    Ah, and I noticed you're from Kobe. Kobe was the city where my great-grandfather was born, so you can imagine how much I'm really looking forward to visit your city \o/
     
  5. RyogaMasaki

    RyogaMasaki

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    They do, though they don't always line up with where you may want to go with a tourist. For example, you're almost certainly going to have to use a city bus at least once in Kyoto instead of relying on the train/subway.

    Kobe is great, lots of really interesting history here. If you're coming to this area and are interested in onsen, I highly recommend Arima Onsen, about a 20 minute highway bus or subway ride from Kobe!
     
  6. Gryson

    Gryson

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    To add to all that's been said, a few comments on eating at restaurants, which is likely where you'll have to navigate language issues the most:

    Most chain restaurants will have English menus, almost always with pictures, so ordering is incredibly easy. All you have to do is point at the picture. I think pretty much every restaurant in Kyoto will have an English menu.

    If you go to more local, traditional mom and pop-type restaurants, you might encounter language problems since the menu is sometimes just written on a chalkboard or posted on the wall in hand-written Japanese. Some fancier course-based restaurants will also only have written menus without pictures. Don't let this turn you off, since these can often be the best places to eat, but be prepared with some simple Japanese or Google translate or something.

    Food is one of the most important things in Japan, so you can have many awesome experiences trying new and often very high quality food.

    The most popular website in Japan for finding restaurants is Tabelog, and I just learned they have an English site: https://tabelog.com/en/

    I think the English version is just machine translated, so some parts might be weird, but it's the best resource for finding good restaurants. That often won't be necessary, though. There are restaurants everywhere and almost always something to suit your mood.
     
  7. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Vaguely related, as I'm thinking about visiting Japan in the near future: what's the tipping policy in restaurants? Is it like the USA where it's obligatory, like the UK where you almost always don't, or something else?
     
  8. Master Emerald

    Master Emerald

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    They will be deeply embarresed if you offer a tip. Just don't tip and you'll be fine.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  9. Gryson

    Gryson

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    LOL I don't know about deeply embarrassed, but they probably won't take your tip if you try to give it to them directly. If you just leave it on the table they might think you forgot your change.

    About the only tipping that you can get away with is when you tell a taxi driver to keep the change, which they will.
     
  10. RyogaMasaki

    RyogaMasaki

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    The whole thing about Japanese getting embarrassed over tips is largely a myth. It probably stems from foreigners insisting they take a tip, and thereby causing a scene which is embarrassing. On that note to any visitors: people like to maintain (at least a facade of) peaceful cohabitation and social interaction. You don't want to stand out, and this especially includes making a scene in public which draws attention to you. This is part of the reason you may be refused service at a very local, no-English-available-anywhere restaurant: not because they dislike you as a foreigner, but because they can't speak your language and culture and you can't speak theirs, and trying to communicate would be troublesome for both them and you. They'd rather just avoid all that because it's embarrassing for all involved.

    Anyway back to tips: you do NOT tip here. Even taxi drivers. (Gryson's example was probably the taxi driver just taking the money because their aware of that aspect of Western social culture and, as above, just took it to make things easier for everyone involved.) No matter how nice you think the service is, do not tip. And do not leave money on the table either: there's a good chance they'll come running out the door after you, thinking you forgot it, and then you've made a scene for yourself and the poor server who chased you down. I've seen this happen before with people who really did forget their change, even just 100 yen. Do not do it.

    The ONLY exception here is if you stay at a nice ryokan, you'll want to leave some nicely wrapped (i.e. in a proper Japanese envelope) money for your nakai-san. But you probably shouldn't be staying at that level of accommodation on your first trip.

    TL;DR - DO NOT TIP. NEVER. NOT EVEN TRYING TO BE SNEAKY ABOUT IT. NO BAD STOP.

    edit: since we're talking about foreigners giving away money:
    1. Do not give money to homeless people. There are pretty decent social services here. They're taking advantage of you as a foreigner and your Western ideals of charity.
    2. Do give money to buskers. People performing on the street is pretty common. Feel free to dump some change in their box/guitar case/whatever.
    3. Do not give money to people approaching you asking money for charity, especially if they're speaking English and not Japanese. It's not a charity. They are likely foreigners (Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese) who live here who are, again, taking advantage of your good nature.
    3a. As a side note, there are plenty of legitimate charities that may be set up on the street, but they're likely not going to approach, and will certainly feel more legitimate. UNESCO often has stands set up, or you may see a group of schoolkids passionately calling out what their club does. There are also Buddhist monks which will stand holding a bowl for alms and quietly chanting to a sutra themselves. All of these are fine if you feel like you want to get rid of some coins.

    Edit 2: Let's talk about night life. There are lots of really great bars in the cities and hashigozake (bar hopping) is a lot of fun. That said, in Tokyo in particular, it's easy to get in over your head in the wrong neighborhood and wake up the next day with thousands of dollars charged to your card. General rules: In Tokyo, stay out of Kabuki-cho and be very wary in Roppongi and Golden-gai. You may find a big African man walk up to you quickly on the street, grab your hand for a handshake and try to pull you into a club or bar rather forcefully, probably with promises of great deals on drinks and beautiful girls. Don't do it. Let go of him, don't let him pull you, and keep walking. The places that hire touts like these are not respectable, and there have been more than a few stories of foreigners getting mildly drugged in their drinks and having all their money taken as payment.

    If you do go out for nightlife, bring only cash and just the amount you want to spend that night. Japan is a very safe country, but humans are humans all over the world, and you should always limit your risk.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  11. Gryson

    Gryson

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    I agree with what you're saying and don't want to send the wrong message to people. However, I see Japanese people not take the change from taxi drivers all the time. Typically when it's less than 100 yen of change (like a charge of 920 yen and you give them a 1000 yen bill). This might be a tip or it might just be people not wanting the small change (probably depends on the person).

    You can read responses here (in Japanese) to the question of "Do you accept taxi change?" https://oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/8117505.html

    It's definitely mixed.

    And opinions of taxi drivers about passengers who don't accept change: https://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/14211520/

    They don't seem bothered by it.

    But it would certainly be weird to pass them additional money as a tip, and I doubt the driver would accept it.

    And it's definitely not expected that you refuse the change.
     
  12. RyogaMasaki

    RyogaMasaki

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    Ah okay, interesting. I have pretty limited experience with taxis, and when I do take them I invariably pay with my IC card. So... I learned something new!