The Biggest Myths About Travel to Japan

by Alexandra

If you’ve never traveled to Japan, you can certainly be forgiven for not knowing what to expect – and probably having some misconceptions about what Japan is really like!

Most visitors to Japan are surprised to find out that these common myths are either grossly exaggerated, or simply not true.

So while it’s not possible to fully prepare you for the surprises (and culture shock) you’ll likely experience during your trip, we hope this helps you move on from worrying about the prices and etiquette. To more exciting topics such as where to visit and what to do!

  1. Japan is insanely expensive

By far one of the most common and pervasive myths about Japan is that it’s prohibitively expensive.

The truth is that, even when the Japanese Yen is fairly strong, Japan is simply no longer one of the world’s most expensive destinations.

Japan is not cheap, and compared to some of the countries nearby, such as Thailand and Vietnam, it is relatively expensive.

Particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, Japan was in fact extremely expensive. Even though that time has passed, its reputation has stuck. Countries like England, Switzerland, Australia, Singapore, Norway are far more expensive for travelers.

Of course, Japan can be expensive depending on your tastes and spending habits.

2. It’s difficult to get around if you don’t speak Japanese

The Japanese language can seem pretty intimidating.

It’s widely considered one of the world’s most challenging languages to learn and doesn’t appear to come naturally to most English speakers.

This concern also stems in part from a common misperception that Japanese people don’t speak English.

Also, the truth is that even if you don’t speak a lick of Japanese, getting around Japan is surprisingly easy, and almost definitely less challenging than you might expect.

Japan is surprisingly easy to navigate, thanks to the combination of:

  • Remarkably high levels of safety
  • Genuinely kind and helpful locals
  • Extraordinarily efficient and reliable transport systems
  • Relatively widespread (and steadily-increasing) English-language signage

Of course, the ability to speak Japanese does open additional doors. It gives you access to a greater number of local spots. For example, izakayas with no English menus – so there is certainly benefit in having private (or even small-group) guides and experiences for additional immersion.

However, it’s not absolutely necessary for a rich and full Japanese experience.

3. You will offend everyone if you don’t learn Japanese etiquette

Japanese etiquette is so complex and has so many layers, that even Japanese people often commit inadvertent faux pas.


Fortunately, unless you are a business traveler (if you are, please accept our sincere apologies, but the below doesn’t fully apply to you), you can keep it simple and learn just one overarching rule:

Observe, listen, be polite, and apologize.

The truth is that Japanese people don’t necessarily expect foreign visitors to have mastered all the intricacies of Japanese etiquette. As long as you keep this one rule in mind, chances are you will do great.

4. Japanese people eat sushi all the time

Apart from being one of the world’s most perfect food, sushi is without a doubt, the most prevalent Japanese food consumed outside of Japan. But the truth is that sushi is far from an everyday food in Japan. Surprisingly, most Japanese people don’t eat sushi very often. And there is a very practical explanation. Japanese cuisine is astoundingly varied, and with so many wonderful foods to eat, why would you eat the same one over and over? In fact, you might be surprised to learn that fried food has recently become extremely popular in Japan. The country that recently overtook France as the country home to the most Michelin-star restaurants.


But, of course, it’s the best to see all for yourself! 🙂

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