1.Not getting a JR Pass. If you're going to be traveling to different cities, a JR Pass saves you a ton of money on transportation and makes things so much easier. You don't have to worry about buying extra tickets, either.
2.Not getting pocket Wi-Fi. It's a great investment and will come in handy so much. Public Wi-Fi is difficult to find in even the biggest cities, as most Japanese people simply use their data plans. A pocket Wi-Fi eliminates the need for that — you'll have Wi-Fi wherever you go.
3.Expecting that there will be garbage cans on every corner. There aren't. You will not find one for miles and miles. Streets in Japan are so absolutely and almost ridiculously pristine that you'll just marvel. Prepare to carry your trash with you! And DON'T litter.
4.Expecting that everyone will speak English and be able to understand you. Yes, there will be plenty of signs in English. But that's mostly for the benefit of visitors, and *spoken* English is not widespread. You are in THEIR country. Be respectful.
5.Not looking up public transportation details. Trains in Japan stop running at midnight. So if you're landing past that or staying out on the town till 3 a.m., plan accordingly or you risk being stranded or having to take a taxi. And take note of transportation routes to all the places you want to visit.
6.Talking loudly on the train to others or on the phone, or blowing your nose in public. Tourists make this mistake most of all. It's just not done. The Japanese are well-mannered and try not to bother anyone with loud talking, music, or games on their phones. If you have to talk, use your inside voice.
8.Not being open-minded about Japan's differences from the West.
9.Saying, "Let's just take the next train, it'll be less crowded." HAHAHAHAHA. ROOKIE MISTAKE. If this train is crowded, the next train won't even have space for your toenail. Have fun waiting on the platform for a century! When the train comes and you notice any smidge of space, you push and cram and elbow your way in there.
10.Only staying in Tokyo. Um, you guys? Japan is huge and the cities are all so beautiful in their own way. If you're not visiting the beauty that is Kyoto and Osaka, smaller cities like Himeji and Kamakura, the gorgeous countryside in Gifu, or the mountains of Nikko and Hakone, well, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
11.Not working out timing. You already know about trains stopping at midnight, but in many major cities and rural areas, things you'd expect to stay open late close early (I'm talking like 7 p.m. early) and open late the next morning. Like, I'm pretty sure we were the last visitors at this owl café that evening, judging from this owl's disgruntled expression.
12.Rushing. Stop! Rushing! You're in a beautiful country. Japan is so big that you have to accept you WON'T see everything. You'll only get tired and frustrated. Slow down and take it in.
13.Not mingling with locals, or hesitating to approach them because of the language or culture barrier. Don't be afraid! Japanese people are the sweetest and a majority of them are always willing to go out of their way to help you.
14.Paying your bill at the table and waiting for the server to come pick it up, like in the US. They won't — you'll be sitting there forever. This is something you won't know 'til you go, so here I am, telling you! In most restaurants, the server will place your check on the table, but you have to go up and pay at the counter. That's where the server will be waiting for you!
15.Wearing shoes that take forever to put on and take off. You will be taking your shoes off maybe 3–5 times per day depending on where you go. It is considered highly disrespectful and unclean if you don't. And no heels unless you want to kill your feet. Most of Japan's cities are walking cities and most sights are reached only by walking. Whether you walk from the train, the bus, wherever — you WILL be walking!
16.Eating, drinking, or smoking while walking in public. You'll be hard-pressed to find any Japanese person doing this. It's highly discouraged and smoking in public is even illegal in certain areas.
17.Only relying on credit and debit cards. Cash is a must in Japan! Many places still take cash only — this is true *especially* outside of Tokyo. Even in Tokyo, there are countless local shops, markets, restaurants, and attractions you'll walk into only to find that they don't take card. Having cash on hand will make life much easier for everyone.
18.Taking photos in temples, shrines, and museums when they're not allowed. Always read the signs first or ask!
20.Not being aware of the stigma around tattoos in Japan. Because yes, there is a stigma, even now. Tattoos are associated with the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, who are identified by heavily tattooed skin that they openly display. So if you have a tattoo, consider keeping it hidden or putting a sticker over it. At the very least, don't flaunt it all around, especially in places like temples and onsens (hot spring baths).
21.Giving and receiving things with one hand. Again, this is about respect — you'll notice the Japanese people using both hands to give and take things, even small items like money and cards. And when paying at a shop or restaurant, most of the time there is a small tray next to the cash register where you put the money, instead of giving it directly to the cashier.
22.Entering the onsen without showering first. Don't! That's dirty!
Overall, visiting Japan is an incredible and unforgettable experience. We had the time of our lives and so will you! Even if you forget some of these tips, as long as you're respectful and genuine, you can't go wrong. So book that ticket and happy traveling!