I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part Two

Japan is full of delightful quirks and eccentricities. With an upcoming trip on the horizon, I thought I would add a few more random, hard-won tips!

11. Learn Some Language. No matter where I go in the world, learning some useful, polite phrases seem to unlock doors. Just having a try at saying “please” and “thank you” can make the difference between a great table with a view at a restaurant and the one at the toilet entrance. I had a mate coach me prior to the last trip (Thanks Matt! – check out his photography blog here) on the basics.

lonely-planet-japanese-phrasebookThis time, I have gone full Nihongo and completed six weeks at the CAE of Japanese Travel Language. The course is perfect – just enough to show appreciation and politeness to the locals, something that is very important in Japan. The teacher, Maya Fujioka, is a very engaging tutor. She knows her audience… I learned how to order a beer as part of week one’s lesson. You can find out more about the course here.

The most important step in learning Japanese is actually quite simple – learn to pronounce vowels and consonants. From there, you can pretty much use a phrasebook to help you communicate anything! Easily the best phrasebook on the market comes from Lonely Planet – you can buy it here.

12. Don’t Catch Cabs in Tokyo. Tokyo is a massive sprawling mess. There is no sense or reason that I can discern from the layout. Most guidebooks advise avoiding them due to the gridlock and, more importantly, most cabbies get lost! The one time we used a cab to get from Shinjuku back to Shimbashi, the driver got lost quite a few times. We ended up getting out at a landmark we knew near the hotel and walked the last kilometre or so. If you must catch a cab, make sure you have your destination written down by a local (we got the concierge to write it up) and show the driver. Otherwise, catch the train!

13. If You Do Get Lost, Open A Map. Yeah, Duh MSP… Actually, there is an ulterior motive at play here. Every time we opened up a paper map on the street, a knight in shining armour would appear within seconds to ask if we needed help! I kid you not, open up a map in a busy place, and someone will come over and ask if you need directions in English. The nicest people in the world…

14. Don’t Sweat It. As a tourist, providing you are polite, you will be forgiven your sins. After getting off the train from Narita airport at Tokyo station, I couldn’t work out where to get a Suica card in the station. I could only see the machines outside the ticketing gates. I only had a ticket for the NEX train, not the local JR line. Eventually, I gave up and just assumed I would get some kind of fine by walking through the barriers. I went up to the guy at the ticket gate and he just waved me through. No ticket. I went over and bought my suica card, no problem. Be polite – the locals understand it can all get a bit confusing at times!

15. Plan Your Trip on Planapple. You can find Planapple online here. It is 100% free and cool as. You simply “pin” stuff you want to do whilst on the internet using their Chrome plugin, and then start scheduling stuff. Just have a look!

16. Don’t Bother With Tax Free. There is always a temptation to try and save a few bucks by going for duty free prices whilst shopping. Unless you are going to save a substantial amount, it just feels like a massive hassle for very little return. Mrs MSP bought something duty free, and it just proved to be a stressor for the rest of the trip. Were we following the rules, carrying the bloody shopping with you through customs, etc. More hassle than savings…

17. Family Mart. Japan’s convenience stores are ridiculously good. If you are on a budget, you could virtually get breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a great price at a Family Mart. Oh, and you can also buy a couple of relaxing beers to wash your meal down with… The food is fresh, great quality, cheap, and plentiful. Forget any preconceptions you might have from Aussie stores. I have a reputation for being a bit lazy at times – I am an expert at in-room dining – but in Japan, I would pick up a couple of beers each night from the Family Mart in the basement of our Hotel rather than pay mini-bar prices.

18. Maid Photographs. Maid Cafes are all the rage in Japan, particularly in areas like Akihabara. The giggling girls asking you to come into the cafe are very friendly, until you pull out a camera. It is unlikely you will get the shot you want. Just sayin’…

19. Cash is King. For a country that prides itself on technology, cash is still the preferred way of paying for things at a lot of places. Make sure you have plenty on you. Aussie ATM cards don’t work at a lot of locations. Seven-Eleven and Post Office ATMs are the definite winners here – they should work without any hassle at all. Keep an eye out for them as your cash starts to run a bit thin…

Part One is Here

Part Three is Here





  1. I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part One | Inconspicuosity - October 16, 2016

    […] Part Two is Here! […]


  2. I’m Big in Japan – The MSP Guide to Street Photography in Tokyo Part Three | Inconspicuosity - October 23, 2016

    […] Part Two of Japan Tips is Here […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: