At the beginning of each year, I join thousands of others in making lists of intentions or goals that I want to take with me into the next 365 days. In the past, I would scoff at the concept of New Year’s resolutions as being a colossal waste of time. “Why not try to improve throughout the year? Why preload January with hopes and dreams that you’ll likely be unable to keep?” But then something changed. Perhaps with age, I became slightly less cynical. While I do think people should continuously try to improve and set goals, but I now like the idea of taking some time once a year to reflect, reassess things, and to set goals.
Some people like to go on vacation and disconnect. That is fine for some vacations, but without connection in Japan, it’s quite impossible to navigate the transit systems. Surprisingly, free wifi is spotty in Japan, although it seems to be getting a bit better in Tokyo. Also, I like to post photos and check in to stops on Foursquare while I’m in Japan. I also need to communicate with my Japanese friends via LINE. As a result, I rely on pocket wifi to stay connected in Japan.
Pocket wifi allows you to disable your mobile devices’ data plans and connect to a small wifi device that you carry with you. They’re quite inexpensive in Japan, but wifi speeds vary. Most Japanese Airbnb’s have pocket wifi that you can use while you’re renting the unit, but I now always get one at the start of my trip that we can take from city to city with us. I recommend Sakura Mobile because they have amazing customer service (no, this is not a sponsored post! I just really love these guys). Alternatively, you can rent a sim card in Japan for Android or iPhone, but I have never bothered with that because with a mobile wifi, you can share it if you're travelling with others. If you do use a pocket wifi, make sure it’s password protected! One of the Airbnb wifi’s was unlocked, and I remember noticing on a train ride that 15-20 people had connected to it, which severely slowed it down.
Japan has one of the best transit systems in the world. If you have lived in a city with a decent public transportation system, you’ll do just fine with catching trains. But even if you haven't, don't worry! The trains typically run really frequently, are rarely late, and are easy to figure out after a few rides.
Major Japanese train stations (or eki in Japanese) are not like the American stations I have been to. Major Japanese train stations, like Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, Osaka's Namba Station, Kyoto’s Kyoto Station, or Shinjuku Station) are like giant shopping malls with a train station inside of them. There’s tons of shopping and food inside of and adjacent to the major train stations. They're really quite massive and you can easily get lost in the them. So just make sure you have allocated enough time to find what you’re looking for and try not to get too frustrated. Smaller stations are much simpler and typically only have a few stands or stalls, so they're very easy to navigate in comparison.