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Tourists may not warm to Japan’s welcome


Special To The Japan Times

A former colleague of mine always made it a point to tell people coming to Japan for a visit to bring lots of handkerchiefs because the public restrooms didn’t have towel dispensers. I always took a more positive view and emphasized that public restrooms in Japan were everywhere and open to everyone, something I think would be more important to more people, considering how difficult it can be to find one when you need a restroom in other countries.

Nobody who travels with any sort of frequency expects the same things that they have at home. It’s the main reason people go abroad. Nevertheless, countries that want to attract visitors do what they can to make the sojourn smooth. Travelers with open minds will accept the lack of familiar comforts as the price they pay for new experiences, but then maybe most people don’t have open minds.

Ever since Tokyo was awarded the role of hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, the media has been filled with stories about what the city — and, for that matter, the country — needs to do in order to make all the anticipated foreign tourists welcome. The biggest buzzword to emerge from the bid campaign was omotenashi, a word usually translated as “hospitality,” but which Japanese people tend to think has a special meaning that is difficult to translate. On a recent group discussion about the subject on NHK, the general explanation came down to “kindness” and “consideration,” but as one hotelier pointed out with a certain measure of condescension, the word comes from the tea ceremony and refers to a “spirit of service” that is unspoken but nonetheless “felt” by the guest. Naturally, this concept is “unique to Japan.”

Whatever you want to call it, hospitality Japanese-style is noted by everyone who comes here as indeed being special and appreciated, but there are also inconveniences inherent in this hospitality. Ryokan (Japanese inns) provide immersive experiences. You eat when your hosts tell you to eat and there is no choice with regard to the menu or volume of the meal. Before you go to bed an employee comes to your room and sets out your futon and bed linen. The idea of omotenashi here is that the guest does not have to ask for service and thus doesn’t feel as if he or she is imposing on anyone, but many people prefer to set their own eating and sleeping itineraries when they travel. Staying in a ryokan can be a rich and, yes, unique experience, but for most foreign travelers — as well as quite a few Japanese I know — once is enough.

The point is, many travelers want to be able to sample the attractions of a destination at their leisure, which is why so much attention has been paid to wireless broadband service. When NHK’s cameras went out to solicit comments from foreign tourists in Tokyo, almost all had mobile devices that they used to get information necessary for their travels. What made the technology invaluable was that it allowed them to forego extensive planning beforehand. A report last week on TBS morning information show, “Asachan,” showed visitors in Kyoto happily displaying souvenirs they had bought at ¥100 shops and other boutiques. Most had found them on their own, through blogs and travel sites on their iPads and such. When the Japan Tourism Agency surveyed foreign visitors in 2011 to find out what their biggest “issue” was, it was lack of free Wi-Fi.

The problem with the “solutions” so far is that they yield to commercial prerogatives, which is that Wi-Fi should only be free to people who have paid for it, so what you get is a grudging sort of compromise. Major media have lately celebrated the city of Kyoto and Shizuoka Prefecture for plans to provide free Wi-Fi to foreign travelers, but on a selective basis, meaning that the travelers have to somehow register or otherwise go out of their way to gain access to these services, and that defeats the purpose, which is to have it at your fingertips. Tokyo’s Sumida Ward took the idea to its furthest dead-end by offering free portable routers to foreign visitors, mainly in the vicinity of Tokyo Skytree, on the condition that they upload photos and comments about the area to blogs and social media networks. Other conditions that will likely make the plan less than a hit: a ¥5,000 security deposit and a completed form indicating the URLs where the photos and information can be found.

Because these ideas are treated as being in some way connected to omotenashi, the media doesn’t question their feasibility. A recent article in the Asahi Shimbun about a new hotel at Haneda Airport catering exclusively to transit passengers breathlessly mentioned that the hotel “even accepts foreign credit cards,” which should be a given for any hotel that expects to cater to people from other countries. Maybe the Asahi reporter was thinking of Japanese bank ATMs, some of which still do not accept foreign credit or debit cards, which is probably more of a wanderlust buzzkill than lack of free Wi-Fi.

The Japanese and non-Japanese participants in the NHK forum offered some useful advice, recommending that in addition to the hallowed tourist traps visitors take in some of Japan’s “subcultures.” NHK’s own suggestions ranged from the admirable — more halal food for Muslim visitors — to the pointless. Though it would be nice if all service and retail employees in Tokyo became suddenly fluent in English, it’s not going to happen, and no visitor with any measure of common sense should expect it. Struggling with language is an inescapable part of international roaming.

But as with the public-toilet situation, the little things that make Tokyo special to outsiders mostly go unmentioned in the coverage of omotenashi, maybe because the hosts take them for granted. Fast, reliable, clean public transportation? That’s something the Japanese will point to with pride. Being able to drink alcohol on the streets? Not as much, though half the foreigners I know think it’s the greatest custom in the world.

  • Earl Kinmonth

    In as much as visitors to Japan come overwhelmingly from China, Taiwan, and Korea, signs, menus, etc. in Chinese and Korean and clerks who can at least muddle through in one of these languages are vastly more important than English equivalents. At least some Japanese companies recognize that even if Mr. Basor does not. For example, the Keikyu Railroad that serves Haneda has all of its important signage in Korean and Chinese.

    • Jamie Bakeridge

      Stop it!! We all know Koreans and Chinese don’t count. Foreigners should be tall and blond with big noses and unable to use chopsticks.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    The ATM situation is an absolute joke. So is the lack of acceptance of credit cards. Most rural hotels have no wifi free or not. Japan is still living in the 1970s.

    • Steve Novosel

      Oh come on, Jamie. Tourists can use ATM cards at any post office or 7-11, and those are literally everywhere. And in 2014 you can use credit cards almost everywhere except for small family owned shops and restaurants. Any decent sized retailer or tourist attraction or hotel accepts them. You know this.

      • Jamie Bakeridge

        Many post offices outside Tokyo close their machines at 7pm. And 7-11 now rejects many foreign bank cards including HSBC. Outside Tokyo the overwhelming majority of ryokans do not accept cards. The article is also right about the “omotenashi” extended by ryokans – however, we should not buy into the line that fixed meals times and menus is to avoid the customer having to ask. This is nonsense – it is purely for the convenience of the hotel staff and is the very opposite of omotenashi whatever mystical meaning is ascribed to it by apologists for the hospitality industry in Japan.

      • Steve Novosel

        OK, so go to the ATM before 7pm, then. Plan ahead. It’s not difficult to do.

        Ryokans may not accept credit cards (though every one I have ever stayed in has – can even pre-pay when booking online if you choose with Rakuten Travel – available in English I might add), but basically everywhere else does.

        “apologists for the hospitality industry in Japan”

        What a strange use of the word apologist. Are you angry about hotels in Japan or something? I’ve had very few sub-par experiences in Japanese hotels and I’ve stayed in a lot of them, in a lot of different prefectures.

        “we should not buy into the line that fixed meals times and menus is to avoid the customer having to ask”

        I don’t think that is the actual reason. A ryokan is trying to provide a certain level of service and a managed experience. It’s best for them to provide that expected level of service if they control things like menus and meal times. It may not be what you like, but it is what people pay for – a set experience.

      • Hanten

        My sister came to Japan this year and last year to visit and travel with me. The ATMs not taking her card was a huge hassle and required a lot of work to get around. Tourists don’t want to withdraw more cash than they need for a day or two because they will lose out on the exchange rates if there’s any left over at the end of their trip.

      • Steve Novosel

        At the very least every post office takes foreign cards, and those are everywhere. You don’t have to plan way ahead, you just need to find a post office or postal ATM, information that is easy to find. Most foreign ATM cards work in 7-11 machines.

        Or just get out more cash. You can use cards almost everywhere for most decent purchases, so you only need cash for smaller purchases.

      • Hanten

        7Bank and Post Office ATMs may seem like they’re everywhere if you live here and are familiar with the lay of the land. Now imagine trying to find one as a newly arrived tourist without a smart phone and not being able to speak Japanese. Most tourists don’t want to use their foreign credit cards here because of the extra fees that are slapped on and poor exchange rates.
        Of course, these problems can be worked around but what a few of us are saying that it is a huge hassle. I’ve spent more than an hour getting cash in Tokyo and I live here. With my smartphone.

      • Steve Novosel

        It’s no bigger hassle than travelling anywhere else. Do your research before you travel, figure out how banking works in that country, be prepared. It’s probably not like home, so learn a bit before you go.

        I really don’t know what you are trying to say here. Of course if you show up completely unprepared – anywhere – you’re going to have a tough go of it. Same in Brazil, South Africa, China, Russia, you name it. The credit card exchange rate issue is also the same anywhere – part of the cost of travel.

        And no offense, but if you live here and it’s taken an hour to get cash in Tokyo, you should probably study how things work in your country of residence a bit more. It’s really quite simple.

      • Hanten

        The article we’re commenting on was on how tourists might find traveling in Japan difficult and what can be done to make it easier. What I am saying, along with a few other people, is that making it easier for foreigners to access their money while they’re here would be very helpful for both the travellers and the retail and hospitality industries. The more cash tourists can get and the easier they can get it means they’ll spend more.
        If it takes a five minute google map search to find the closest 7Eleven or post office, then a 30 minute walk there and 30 back, then it’s actually slightly more than an hour to get cash. If you use public transport or drive it’s costing you money to get your money. In many parts of Japan 7Elevens and post offices are few and far between. Post offices ATMs aren’t available 24 hours day, either. So after hours the gap between cash points is even further.
        Many foreign residents of Japan tell similar stories and all the guidebooks tell travellers to stock up on two to three days worth of cash because of the difficulty. Bully for you that you’ve worked it all out. Other than “do your research”, which most tourists and I have done, you have nothing helpful to add.
        I think it’s up to Japanese banks to make foreign cards acceptable in their ATMs and if the hospitality and retail industries here want more of the tourist dollar, they need to apply pressure to the banks to get it.

      • Steve Novosel

        People spend less money now than they otherwise would? I highly, highly doubt it. Maybe they use credit cards more, carry more cash than they might back home, but that’s about it. Everyone carries more cash in Japan than just about any other country.

        I still don’t know what you’re saying here. 7-11s are probably the most common ATM you’ll find, and most others don’t have English/Korean/Chinese options so are useless for foreign visitors. Or do you expect the ATMs to not only support foreign cards but be fully bi-tri-quadrilingal? And who is going to provide support for those foreign tourists if they have a problem with their card in the ATM? Are all these ATMs supposed to provide support in all these languages as well? Remember most ATMs aren’t 24 hours in Japan (except for conbinis, and even those have hours that cards are not accepted) – this is because its a legal requirement that ATMs must be supported by an actual human when they are in use.

        You want the entire ATM system in Japan to change just because it’s currently somewhat inconvenient for some foreign visitors who can’t plan ahead? And you say I have “nothing helpful to add”!

        “Many foreign residents of Japan tell similar stories and all the
        guidebooks tell travellers to stock up on two to three days worth of
        cash because of the difficulty.”

        Only 2-3 days worth? Who goes to the ATM that often? You were complaining earlier that people don’t want to use credit cards because of fees and exchange rates but they want to use ATMs so frequently instead? That would be worse! What a strange comment.

        “If it takes a five minute google map search to find the closest 7Eleven
        or post office, then a 30 minute walk there and 30 back, then it’s
        actually slightly more than an hour to get cash. If you use public
        transport or drive it’s costing you money to get your money.”

        If you are a foreign resident of Japan and you live 30m from your nearest ATM you need to move out of the sticks. I’ve got like 20 within a 10 minute walk of my apartment and I live in the burbs. Surely you aren’t reliant on a 7&i ATM only as a foreign resident, are you?

      • Hanten

        While I was unaware of the legal requirements for ATMs’ and their human help, I’ve got enough knowledge of tourists’ behavior to feel confident in my assessment of the situation. I’ll make you deal : I’ll move out of the very nice sticks I live when you get out more.

      • Steve Novosel

        I’ve been here for a long time and visited here many times before then. I get out plenty, know lots of people who have come here as visitors including friends and family. The typical conversation regarding money is:

        Visitor: “Hey, how can I get money?”
        Me: “Go to the post office ATM, 7-11, or Citibank.”
        Visitor: “Oh, where are those?”
        Me: “There, there and there. Post office is best but they aren’t open 24/7”
        Visitor: “Oh OK. I’ll go during the day tomorrow.”

        No wringing of hands, no grand complaints about “Japan won’t let me spend my moneyyyy!”

      • Hanten

        May I recommend that you go back to the original article? It’s about tourists’ difficulties in Japan. As the majority of them aren’t lucky enough to receive the benefit of your acquaintance, can you perhaps suggest another solution? Every other traveler in Japan complains about this very problem. Usually its the first thing they volunteer to say. As I’m a solution-oriented being, it’s often me they come to and it’s me doing what you do for your visiting friends. The difference appears to be, I’m also assisting complete strangers on the street and I’ve looked at the big picture. So, let’s re-focus to have a look at that.

        As for the suggestion that Japanese banks globalize in order to better serve their customers and clients, I noticed that apart from pouring scorn – which amused me a little, you also have had nothing useful to add. Most businesses these days are making their services available to more and more customers in order to increase their profits. Expensive business consultants are brought in from overseas to facilitate Japanese companies’ globalization efforts. Here I am giving the advice away for free. Banks earn money every time a customer uses their ATM but Japan’s population is shrinking so the banks’ customer base is shrinking. If they want to “grow their business” to borrow some biz speak, they’re going to have to expand their customer base … by globalizing.

      • Steve Novosel

        I made a suggestion a long, long time ago in these comments, and it’s the same suggestion I made in the previous comment. Do your research.

        What do you get when you do your reasearch? Let’s see – google “japan atm finder”, you get the visa atm locator, information from several sources about using atm cards in Japan, etc. Takes about 10 seconds to do, a few minutes to parse the links and get all the information you need.

        What else do you need? Seriously, what else do you possibly need?

        Your suggestion for “globalizing” banks – I don’t get this at all. You’re saying that banks should spend a lot of capital to make their ATMs support at least 4 langugaes (because Korean and Chinese will definitely be a higher priority than English), provide support for customers in all those languages, plus revamp their banking systems – all of this at what is surely a rather large cost – just to get the custom of a few foreign tourists at the ATMs? Banks make their money off deposits, not generally ATM fees, which is just a drop in the revenue bucket. That’s not “globalizing”, it’s a waste of resources and effort for little return.

        That would be a ton of capital expended for very little gain.

        A better solution would be for tourists to prepare for the country they are visiting. I like that you are so in touch with the ‘tourist on the street’ that you know that all these tourists – again, the vast majority are Korean and Chinese speakers – have these big problems with getting money from ATMs. And you say my comments have little to add?

    • Nishi Hundan

      Jesus T**** F****** Christ, you are the type of whiny complaining baby tourist that no country wants.

  • Guest

    Korean and Chinese

  • Sam Gilman

    Welcome to the Japan Times and its comments section.

    I have friends visit and they’re typically bowled over by the hospitality, and clearly as I’ve chosen to settle here, I rather like it here too. Of course, not everything’s perfect, and it’s always important to look to change things for the better.

    Unfortunately, as everywhere, there is a subculture of resident expats convinced they’re living in the worst place in the world, and, in a bizarre way, they need it to stay that way, thank you.

  • blondein_tokyo

    I’ve traveled to many countries, and I have to say that Japan really is one of the easiest to travel in. Even my mother, who had never been outside of her small Midwestern hometown before she visited me here, found Tokyo easy to navigate. On her first day here she got up before me and had managed to find a supermarket and buy milk, even though she didn’t understand the money and had to ask “milk?” to make sure that is what she had. She was very impressed at how kind and helpful everyone was. You definitely have give people here due credit for service and hospitality.

  • Steve Novosel

    I visited Japan the first time when it actually was difficult to use credit cards, pretty difficult to find an ATM that accepted a foreign card. And you know what? It just wasn’t much of a hardship at all. It just required planning. Everything else about the travel was so, so easy.

    Nowadays it’s even easier to travel here, one of the easiest places to get around as a foreigner for sure.

    Some just like to complain all day about Japan as they are frustrated with their lives here and want to inflict that on others.

    • True about the planning part. I’ve visited Japan 2 more times since 2011 with trips lasting 21 days each and I didn’t have any problems with not having enough cash. Knowing that I might have troubles in finding ATMs that would accept my card, I just brought enough dollars to last me through the trip; exchanging them at either the airport or post office and only used my credit card when purchasing big items or for emergency. It also helped that I prepaid all my hotel expenses beforehand. Any leftover Yen I have left is either spent at the airport or used as an excuse to come back to Japan. There are more frustrating places to visit than Japan and I don’t find not having access to ATM 24/7 such a hardship.

  • Sam Gilman

    Brasor’s assessment of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) is quite weird for someone who is supposed to be an acculturated individual. Sure, some Japanese probably don’t go for them, but an awful lot do and relish them. They certainly can be a little outside the comfort zone of über-westernised international travellers brainwashed to believe that absolute, atomised customer freedom of choice is the only way to authentic happiness (my God! They have a set menu every night! Don’t they know Murrica won the Cold War?). For other travellers, it’s a strikingly different cultural experience, much as onsen visits with their shared nudity are: a bit disconcerting at first, but you get past that, and in the process open your mind to why it’s there and why it’s still patronised by millions of Japanese. Things like these are more of a travel experience than seeing a few temples in Kyoto. Demanding global homogeneity in tourism defeats the point of travel.

    • FunkyB

      When choosing a ryokan, the food is one of the main points — you choose the menu when you choose your plan. When I go to a ryokan or onsen I go to simply relax, so I like not having to think about anything, including choosing food or messing with bedding. Most places have room service and some have cafes or ramen if you’re hungry late at night.

      Wi-fi is behind the times, and a bit of a joke. However 3G/LTE coverage is so good that it isn’t really a problem. Now that SIM card rental is taking off, there are more options than before if you don’t have a smartphone or pocket router from a Japanese carrier. I bet that will be the preferred solution for Olympic visitors unless something radically changes.

  • Timoty Sullivan

    i like to visit Japan, becouse you don’t need a credit card. you can walk alone, with cash. It’s not america or europe. in Japan the people don’t walk with gun. The Japanese people don’t use to drink on the train or on the road. It’ not america or europe. Thank you John from Melbourn. Please keep Japan free from ” foreign ” barbarians

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      “…Japanese people don’t use to drink on the train…” I think you need to spend a bit more time here Timoty, guys are drinking on my train from the first one in the morning to the last one at night. Oh, and yes, Japan doesn’t need any “foreign” (sic) barbarians, it has enough homegrown ones.

  • GBR48

    The omotenashi takes a little getting used to. First time in Japan, jetlagged, shy and a little nervous, wondering whether it really would be like the YouTube videos and Jdramas, I was expecting the traditional ‘irashaimase’ the first time I set foot inside a shop. But it wasn’t a konbini, it was a supermarket, and it probably hadn’t actually opened for business. The door was unlocked (in the UK that means ‘open’) so in I went, seeking cereal and soya milk for breakfast. Hey, a supermarket is a supermarket, isn’t it?

    When I’d got my bearings I found myself to be the only customer amidst a dozen immaculately turned-out members of staff, each strategically positioned at different points in the store, standing perfectly still. Whenever I walked down an aisle looking for something that might be soya milk and got within a specific distance of a staff member, she would welcome me with honest vigour. The low shelving in Japanese supermarkets ensured that I was on the radar of every member of staff in the store. I’m really quite shy and found myself trying to negotiate a path of least welcomes between myself and the smiling face of Tony the Tiger. In hindsight, the staff were all really sweet, lovely people, and one addressed me in perfect English-I still regret not properly acknowledging that, but ‘first contact’ is never easy. Later visits were less eventful: everyone soon acclimatises.

    Dear Japan: don’t worry. Everyone will cope in 2020. Nobody expects to travel abroad and find everything like it is at home.

    For the short duration of the Olympics, instead of attempting to teach the population to speak English, the government might just print some little cards with useful phrases on them: the Japanese on one side, multilingual equivalents on the other, and disseminate them to those who need them, so that they could just show them to visitors. A set for shop staff, another for rail staff etc. It’s a low tech approach but low tech is sometimes best tech.

    Having six different languages on every sign may lead to a visual overload. English is a useful default as it remains a global second language, but multilingual support can be offered very easily using interactive apps. These may become almost universal and very geo-specific in the next couple of years, to the point where you can stand almost anywhere and obtain the advice you need in your native language using near field communications and local sensors.

    Most visitors to Japan are aware of the ‘cash economy’, and load up with Yen in advance. Most tourist areas seem to accept Western cards quite happily, but if money movement is an issue, Japanese retailers might skip a couple of decades of banking deregulation and accept payments by PayPal app. Many foreign visitors have a PayPal account and a tablet.

    As Halal has been mentioned, the government might usefully explain to everyone exactly what ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ mean, and maybe roll out some standard labelling.

    If by ‘Rest Room’ you mean a public toilet, they are typically safer and cleaner than Western ones, and some have so much on-board tech that they are a tourist attraction in themselves. The best I found was in the mall at the base of the SkyTree. I was so impressed, I photographed it. Public toilet flushes could be standardised though. I’m not sure I ever found two alike. Buttons, levers, pulleys. It can be a process of elimination. I think I pressed the emergency button in one by mistake, hoping it was the flush. Apologies for that.

    Maybe I’m just weird, but I use my technology to help me plan trips rather than to avoid planning them. A few notes and a map as an aide memoire scribbled on a bit of paper then allows me to take in the scenery as I mooch about. I did see a couple of tourists navigating the metro by staring fixedly at their iPad screens, ignoring the huge number of multilingual signs around them. Gaijin: crazy people.

    Tablets also offer a good deal of emotional security: ‘I Have StreetView Therefore I Cannot Get Lost’ is psychologically important for nervous Tokyo virgins, when in fact you are rarely more than a few minutes away from a station pretty much anywhere in central Tokyo and may find it impossible to get lost for more than about ten minutes.

    The tablets also help allay quake fears. When everything wobbles a bit, you can check things out on the Government website, scroll down to the ‘no tsunami’ bit and go back to sleep. A fair bit of tourist accommodation comes without a TV, and despite being one of the technological wonders of the world, 1Seg is not liberally endowed with English subtitles, so there is a fear that in an emergency, it might be difficult to find out what to do. I’m guessing the emergency PA network (and in an emergency, TV stations) broadcast advice in more than one language.

    On holiday, the internet becomes an umbilical cord, security blanket, personal translator, timetable, map and guide. Give your guests a pocket WiFi unit for the duration of their stay and they will be happy bunnies, able to update their Facebook entries at will.

    The PAYG SIM restrictions are a mild annoyance but e-mail and messaging can replace most phone calls. Anyone who feels more comfortable self-catering, can do so easily in Japan. Despite the consumption tax increases, food is cheaper than in many Western countries and you are never far from a well-stocked konbini.

    The emergency services already have foreign language support, the rail network is easy to understand and use, especially with a Suica card, everyone is polite, lots of places are ‘non-smoking’ (a fear for many Westerners used to the cinematic stereotypes), the water is safe to drink and Japan remains the safest tourist destination in the world to visit.

    If provincial areas wish to improve their tourist-compatibility they can always emulate the services offered in the capital, but for Tokyo in 2020, Japan doesn’t really need to worry. It will all be fine. Very, very crowded on the trains near the Olympic stadium, but fine.

    One thing I would urge. Retail staff in the shops and konbinis and rail staff are the folk who will be at the front line in dealing with hordes of visitors in 2020. They are amongst Japan’s most hard-working, polite and welcoming of citizens. Whilst everyone else is at work in their offices, they will be knee deep in barbarians from across the seas. Surely they all deserve a really good bonus as Japan’s ambassadors of first contact during the Games.

  • Danny Simion

    Wow, no free wi-fi services or credit card machines?! Oh no – what will we do! Its the end of the world. So carry cash and go to a cafe for the internet. Personally – leave things the way it’ll be.

  • Mansoor

    My first ever International Trip was Japan ( though I live in Dubai ). I had my best 14 days ever, I had no difficulty on VISA , never used ATM as we took cash, roaming was so easy, I had a unlimited Data plan, train passes.. it was amazing.. whoever did not like Japan probably didn’t plan well.

    People are amazing, helpful, country is clean and what amazing weather!!!

    I can’t think of going anywhere else for now

  • tiger

    I wish all Japanese people are like 福原爱 XP

  • I’m in New York City. The only free wifi is provided by some businesses (like coffee shops) here. Can you let me know some other cities in the world that offer free WiFi?

    Also, there is an ATM in every post office in Japan that accepts foreign credit cards. It’s a great system.

    • Nishi Hundan

      Exactly, where the hell in America can you get free Internet in a hotel? They all charge for it. At least in Japan you get free wired internet in the rooms.

    • JC

      Danang and Hoi An, Vietnam. Free wifi is ubiquitous in Vietnam.

      • That’s great. One day NYC will join the 21st Century!

    • Hanten

      Taiwan has free wifi on the trains and stations. So does Tokyo’s Yamanote line, too, now, though registering can take time.

  • Nishi Hundan

    Japan has great public toilets! They’re clean and they have toilet paper and they’re not vandalized. Believe me, try and find a public toilet like that in America!

  • jpr_2000

    Japan is a fairly convenient and welcoming place to visit for anyone that has traveled elsewhere. However, one thing is the lack of an international focus. It is the only place in the developed world where the major museums do not describe the pieces on exhibit in English (and several other languages). In NY, I’m used to being able to access information in several languages as a matter of course, in Japan, its practically non-existent. This is indicative of the attitude of disregard for tourists of China, Korea, and other nations that are very likely to visit the museums. I find it difficult to believe that not making an effort to provide greater access to others is done out of ignorance alone, at this stage in globalization, it seems willful.

  • cheeth

    One thing I learnt today is that Japan doesn’t have a place where tourist to make official complaints, I have suffered as tourist very dearly because of this, the Japan Airlines and treat their customers with no respect, Europe airlines are regulated but Japan airlines can pretty much get away with anything, when you try to make a complaint to an official body in Japan once they find out your a tourist they don’t have time for you, just a your feedback is very useful to us and we will add it to our database.

    • Try this address:
      Peach Aviation
      Kansai International Airport Kensetsu-to, 1 Senshukuko-kita
      Izumisano-shi Osaka Japan 549-0001

      The office is on the 5F unless they moved.

      • cheeth

        Thank you, I’ve all but given on this

  • Bradley Temperley

    I have had staff in electronic stores print out product data in English and then attempt to read the printout to me, saving me the effort of reading for myself. Of course I bought the camera from his store! When a salesperson might have 6 months of training before they greet their first customer, it shows.
    Wi-Fi is generally freely available in hotels but you generally must pre-register for Wi-Fi in Combini, Starbucks, etc. That usually involves receiving an email confirmation before you can connect, which means connecting somewhere else so that you can connect.
    The other thing about public toilets is the ease of access, without doors and complex passageways to get in or out. In fact, the male toilets to the East of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto do away with three of the walls as well; privacy provided by a well-place hedge next to a taxi rank. And the cleaners aren’t shy about cleaning. Several times I’ve been standing at a urinal while a cleaning lady cleans the urinals either side of me. I was even at one in Aoyama when a cute waitress from the fancy cafe next door walked straight in to go to a storeroom. She stopped in her tracks, but by that stage it didn’t phase me.

  • Tomoko Endo

    In Japan, electric hand dryers are equipted,not papers.

  • Tomoko Endo

    In Japan, electric hand dryers are equipted,not papers.