Thanks for all the great birthday wishes on the baby…
Japan is awesome! There is no street crime, everything is super organized, people seem so relaxed. Almost every sign is in Japanese and English. Most restaurants have one person who speaks English or will be happy to help you figure it out with some pointing and smiling.
The trains are wild. I would say more “thorough” than “easy.” But the larger stations will have a helpful uniformed guide who speaks English if you’re confused. When in doubt, just keep staring at the map until it starts to make sense. I was the fastest ticket-slinger in the East by the time we left.
Cash is still king in Japan, so don’t plan on using your credit cards in most places outside of large shopping malls and hotels. And when you need an ATM, don’t panic when they don’t work. You just need to go to any post office to get cash from their machines.
It’s amazingly kid-friend, too. Many public restrooms have baby seats built in to the stalls, the buses have stroller straps and children as young as six happily take the train by themselves in adorable uniforms with bright hats.
There are some downsides, of course. It’s expensive and most of the fun things (eating, shopping, visiting temples) have a $10 minimum price tag per person. It adds up if you want busy days with lots of sights. A shorter trip was definitely the right match for us. And, they smoke – at lot! – and inside restaurants, which surprised me.
So, if you’re thinking of going: Go! You’ll have an amazing time.