Once you get to Japan you may want to travel around. And we definitely think you should! But far be it for me to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do on this one of a kind experience. However Japan is quite possibly as different from Western culture as it can get.  It offers some of the most unique sights, tastes, sounds, and fun a person could hope to enjoy. So travelling is encouraged.

It could be that planning your Japanese tattoo sessions are foremost on your mind. But the experiences and adventures surrounding those moments will be pretty strong factors in determining the kind of memories you’ll take home with you.

A young girl stands in front of a circular gate woven from grass or reeds inside a shinto shrine. Beyond the shrine grounds is an urban landscape. Unique to travel in Japan

A young girl stands in front of a circular gate woven from grass or reeds inside a shinto shrine. This gate is called a chinowa. Beyond the shrine grounds is an urban landscape that stands in stark juxtaposition. This is the kind of cultural contrast you’ll only see in Japan. Photo titled Through the Looking Glass, courtesy of Katia Trudeau.

Where to Travel and What to Do

Get Some Culture

For some of us travel might mean seeing as much of the entire country as is possible in the amount of time given and for others may want to restrict travel to those areas that hold specific personal points of interest. You might be into cultural destinations like temples, shrines, gardens, museums, UNESCO heritage sites, or other associated spots.  If that’s the case make sure to start your days early to beat the crowds.  And get a train rail pass to see as many of the stand out sites across the country during your stay.  Many of these locations aren’t located in Tokyo.

Foodies

Maybe food is your thing! Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world and the rest of the country offers incredible culinary delights both traditional, modern, and regional.  For foodies its best to make reservations well in advance for fancier upscale locations.  But be prepared to wait in long lines for anywhere even moderately popular that does not take advance bookings.  Another little piece of advice would be carrying cash because many, if not most, independent restaurants will not take credit cards.

Nature Awaits

What about some of the most mind-blowing urban landscapes you could possibly imagine? Tokyo is the largest city in the entire world, the equivalent of a small county in an urban setting.  Will you visit the breathtaking beauty of the countryside?  The juxtaposition between urban and rural is surreal.  Maybe getting into nature is your thing. The beach and some surfing? The mountains and some hiking? Why not both?

Or maybe you just want to confine your travels to the Japanese convenience store (‘conbini’), the grocery store, and the restaurants and watering holes within your immediate area. That’s alright too.

More than alright.

There’s something kind of beautiful about traveling halfway around the world to just… live somewhere different for a while.

The sun is setting on water immersed rice field. Mount Iwate is in the background. A landscape only found during travel in Japan.

The sun is setting on water immersed rice field. Mount Iwate is in the background. Moments like these are hard to capture during travel.

How You’ll Get Around

Even if you plan on staying within one city you’re going to have to get around and if that city is Tokyo… Well it’s the largest city in the world for a reason. The concept of a city that stretches that far outwards and upwards had never even been entertained as possible by my brain until I was 45 floors up in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building looking out into an unbroken urban landscape that stretched into the horizon. Even heading straight north to the Tohoku region on the shinkansen (high speed train) the city didn’t seem to stop for ages.

What I’m saying is this isn’t a walking trip.

Fortunately there are multiple modes of transportation available for any and all trips you may or may not have planned:
bus
train
rental car
taxi
bicycle
car rental
domestic airline

Purchase IC cards at most stations across Japan and get easy access to much of the bus and train transit systems in Japan. They’re worth purchasing for pure convenience and efficiency.

Tattoo Stigma on Public Transit

Since you may be planning to experience traditional Japanese tattooing you could be concerned about traveling and visible tattoos… But it`s not an issue. You will get some looks but odds are you would likely get those anyway. And most of all, a smile works wonders.

Tattoo stigma in Japan is an oft reported topic online and in media, often times rightly so, but it’s certainly not as much of an issue for foreigners as it is for native Japanese. Furthermore I’ve never heard of anyone, living or dead, Japanese or otherwise, being barred access to any form of transportation.  It definitely won’t affect your tattoo experience.