Vanlife 🚌

Below list of topics I’m populating with related blog posts over time. Stay tuned. 😊

A

Attention – 注意

Earthquakes, Volcanos, Tsunamis, Typhoons, Landslides – Japan is rich in natural desasters. Although being well prepared as a country, it’s also important for you to be prepared as an individual.

In case of emergency an emergency SMS is sent to all mobile phones in the area with further in formation on the emergency and how to proceed/evacuate. Your phone will ring with an unfamilar sound, (I had the pleasure twice during a Typhoon) and the message will display on your screen. Funny thing: it’s usually all Japanese. In case you have internet connection: Simply make a a screenshot, and load the picture into google translate – mark the text in google translate and voila – the gist of the text should be understandable.

Tsunami Warning Signs mention the height above sea level and the expected heigth of the tsunami at its location, as well as the direction of the nearest evacuation building or safe zone.

Apps

There are tons of helpfull apps on several topics to make live and exploration in Japan easy.

#translation

I use google translate for my immediate needs. Whereever there is internet, this is the easiest way to go. For offline use, don’t forget to download Japanese and the language you wish to translate to to your device.

#onsenfinder

Unfortunately there is no english onsen finder app yet. If you are able to read Japanese, these apps might come in handy:

#navigation

Again, google is the best way to proceed as a foreigner in Japan. Be careful though, experience has shown that google sometimes takes dangerous shortcuts through sidestreets that are really narrow in Japan. No place you want to get stuck with a van. Enlarge the map and make your own decisions to continue to the next main road where applicable.

#michinoeki – 道の駅

Michi no Ekis can also be found via google maps. Find the nearest Michi no Eki with these apps:

Michi no eki Finder for Android devices

B

Breakfast

Where and what 😍

At almost every Michi no Eki there is a Udon restaurant. If you slept there, they usually open at 9 am.

C

Convenience Store (Conbini)

Family Mart, Lawson, 7eleven… The go to place for everything! 24/7 There is always one nearby. You usually can find: Hot and cold drinks and food (fruit, bakery, sushi, soups, water alcohol and non-alcohol beverages, self service-coffee machines), drugstore merchandise, manga, clothing (underwear and shirts), ATM (some might not take foreign credit cards), copying machine, free restroom facilities, trashcans (usually the only place while travelling Japan to get rid of your SORTED trash).

#conbini #food #facilities #ATM #tras

Coffee コ-ヒ-

Life’s elexir 😍 get it at the next conbini or out of the vending mashines.

Car Wash

In case you need to clean your van, google self-service car wash. Normally they pop up around large cities and are fed with 100 to 500 yen coins.

Camper

My van rental of choice in Japan. Andre and crew are a relyable, experienced ressource. Happy to have met them and gladly recommending them as the english speaking van rental company in Japan. They are based close to the airport in Narita-shi Check out their website: Japancampers

#japancampers

Clothing 服

In Kyoto thers is a lot of agencies that rent out historical Japanes clothing to tourists. You can walk the streets as geisha or samurai. It normally costs around 3000,- yen (30 EUR) a day.

Most Onsen provide you with a yukata, the traditional Kimono, men and women wear in the hot springs. You are allowed to wear those on the street too in Osen towns to walk from one Onsen to the next.

#yukata #kimono #rental clothing

D

Driving 運転する

Japan is a very mountainous country that easily strains the breaks of your car. If you want to drive safely and be able to rely on your breaks when it counts, get used to transmission breaking: switch to a lower gear and let the transmission/engine slow down the car, before or while you are using the brakes. This way the brakes are not overused and or don’t get to hot on the bottom of a long decline, when there is suddenly a reason to stop.

#transmissionbreaking #drivingjapan

Traffic

If you have driven in any major city in the US or EU you have nothing to worry about. Japanese traffic is usually as the culture of the people driving, relaxed and polite. Fit in with the same mindset, and you will have a very pleasant experience, even driving Tokyo.

Japan drives on the left side of the road like the UK or Australia.

Donate

Donate for this website?

click here for more information

#charity #websitefunding

Drivers License

Paperwork needed to be allowed to drive in Japan.

Europeans have to aquire a translated copy of their drivers licence for Japan. This can only be done in Japan. Contact your car rental company for assistance. It costs about 75 EUR and takes usually up to 5 days to get the licence translated.

E

Emergencies

In case of emergency an emergency SMS is sent to all mobile Phones in the area with further in formation on the emergency and how to proceed/evacuate. Your phone will ring with an unfamilar sound, (I had the pleasure twice during a Typhoon) and the message will display on your screen. Funny thing: it’s usually all Japanese. In case you have internet connection: Simply make a a screenshot, and load the picture into google translate – mark the text in google translate and voila – the gist of the text should be understandable.

It’s advisable to always have a small emergency backpack available. Also keep in mind that a set of hiking shoes comes in quite handy when navigating a earthquake struck city full of glass shards on the streets.

Close to the coast there is signs on almost every streetlight post on how high the area is, how high a tsunami would be in this area and where the next evacuation building or area is.

Call 110 for police.

Call 118 for coast guard.

Call 119 for ambulance or fire emergency.

#preparation #Earthquake #Typhoon #Emergencies #Volcanoes #Tsunamis #evacuationnotes #police #doctor #hiking #swimming #emergencies

F

Food

Sushi

Fukushima

They finally put signs in english up to prevent the curious tourist from getting out of the car in the no stopping zones. 🙄 Don’t be stupid. Don’t go there even if its said to be safe. Unless you want to glow in the dark or wake up with cancer.

#radiation #nogozone

G

Gas (stations)

During work hours Japanese gas stations are quite easy to navigate. There is usually personal servicing motorists. You don’t have to get out of your car.

You should know what kind of fuel you need.

“Regura” = lead free 98 Oct fuel

“Mantan o shitte onegai shimasu” = “Full tank please

At night it get’s fun. If the fuel station is not serviced there are 24h vending machines. The ones I encountered had Japanese only user interfaces. Google translate is not always a good help here as it tends not to be able to read colourful buttons. So if you don’t know your basic Japanese, better fill up during the day or on serviced stations.

H

Hotels

Mostly very expensive, that’s one of the reasons why we travel by van. Besides Onsen, love hotels are a cheap way to enjoy a bathroom and a shower.

Heat

Expect Summer to be hot .Very hot…and HUMID.😓 I’m not joking. Japan’s summer is famous for it. Once you leave the aircon you will be sweating, a lot.

A good thing is that aircons in Japan are set to reasonable temperatures. So don’t expect antarctica like in the US, when you enter an airconditioned building in Japan.

#summer #aircon

Hospitals

Call 119 for an ambulance

I

Instagram

I use instagram and googlemaps as perfect combination to plan trips to interesting sights in Japan. Save your personal map in your google account and you will always have the places you want to visit nearby at hand.

#planning

J

Japanese

Even if you don’t speak the language, foreigners get along quite well.

A few helpfull phrases:

Thank you. – Arigatou gosaimasu.

Full Tank please. – Mantan o shitte onegai shimasu.

Where is the toilet. – Toire wa doko desu ka.

The bill please. – okanjō onegai shimasu.

Japancampers

My van rental of choice in Japan. Andre and crew are a relyable, experienced ressource. Happy to have met them and gladly recommending them as the english speaking van rental company in Japan. They are based close to the airport in Narita-shi. For more information on van rental in Japan check out their website: Japancampers

K

L

Laundry

Laundrettes and other places to clean up can be found via google maps. Most of them need yen coins but have exchange facilities onsite. There is no need to buy detergent. The ones I used so far all have the detergent included in the washing program of the machine. Detergent otherwise can be bought at any conbini.

Love Hotels

The concept might seem strange to foreigners, but the hotels are everything else than shady. Besides being the retreat for couples from the tight constraints of Japanese society, it’s also a cheap opportunity for the traveler to have a shower and nap in a real bed.

M

Michi no Eki – 道の駅

The “road stations” are the most important resource for the vanlifer in Japan. There are more than 1400 located all over the country, offering 24h facilities, free overnight parking, resstaurants and local produce shopping.

Some of them are located at beautiful locations in the mountains or directly at the beach, often they also feature an Onsen, public footbath, or other niceties.

Michi no Ekis can be found via google maps. Otherwise find the nearest Michi no Eki with these apps:

Michi no eki Finder for Android devices

#overnight #sleeping #camping #app

N

O

Onsen

There are endless variations of the volcanic hot spring fed bath houses. Once you have been to one, especially during the cold months, I promise you this will be the part most missed when you leave Japan.

P

Police 交番

So called Police Boxes are found in the countryside and are the local offices of police.

Japan is one of the lowest crime countries in the world. People literaly leave their cars unlocked and running while going in a store.

Call 110 in case of an police emergency.

Parking

Parking in the big cities. If there is a device to drive on: There is usally a ramp on each parking spot the raises once you parked the car. At the parking entrance you pick the number of the parking spot your car is standing on at the vending machine. Once payed the ramp below your car is lowered for you to leave.

Parking prices are displayed at every parking lot. They can range from 5 EUR a day to 30 EUR an hour (in Tokyo)

When parking in fenced areas, make sure you know the opening times of the parking lot. Not all parking lots are open 24/7.

Payments

Credit Card – before coming to Japan, make sure your credit cards are cleared to be used in Japan by your bank. Contact your bank for details.

Cash exchange – exchange cash in Japan – the rate is normally better there.

Public Transport

In and around big cities it’s easy to get around with public transport. Best way is to purchase a chargeable card for multiple use.

In the countryside, taking the bus is a nice way to get back to the car when hiking. You pay while leaving the bus.

Pasmo Card. / Tokio Trains

Paper

There is several spots in Japan that practice the ancient art of Japanese Paper making.

#paper #origami #washi

Q

Questions

Have some? Glad to help: drop me a line happyplacepassion@outlook.com

R

Ramen

Ramen restaurants can be found all over Japan, there are even some that feature a Michelin star.

#noodles #ramen

Ryokan

Nothing catches Japans atmosphere better as one of the historical inns called Ryokan, that feature an Onsen hot spring. You haven’t really been to Japan if you haven’t stayed in one.

#ryokan #hotel

Routing

Don’t rely on routing alone. #itsatrap 😅 Google tends to take unreasonable shortcuts.

#navigation

Rivers

Public Bathing & Swimming

#swimming #bathing #fishin

Red Stamp Book – 御朱印帳 – Goshuinchou

A diary style book that can be purchased at every Temple. Monks will then place a red stamp and a beautiful calligraphy message in it for a small fee at each temple you visit. The best souvenir from Japan.

S

Shinto

Shrines and Kami

Souvenirs

Things that make amazing souvenirs:

御朱印帳 – Goshuinchou

Sushi

There is no better place for this than Japan. For smaller sushi bars, be prepared that there is no english or other language than Japanese spoken.

#sushi #restaurants

T

Trash

Japan often seams spotless. One thing I like about this country. It’s rooted in the culture. There are no public trashcans! You take your trash home in Japan. If you want to get rid of trash during travels, go to the next conbini. They have trashcans at the entrance. Make sure to sort your trash .

Translation

Hacking the language barrier:

Toll roads

Highways are toll roads in Japan. Expect them to be very expensive. Even for European standarts. 100 km can easily equal the price you pay for a full tank of gasoline. I only recommend to use them when it’s really worth the while to shortcut to a new area you want to visit. Highways feature toll booths at entrances and exits. They are marked as manned or credit card. Cost depend on vehicle size and distance travelled.

#tunnels #bridge

U

Udon

Another yummy part of Japanese quisine 😍

#restaurants #food #noodles

V

W

Washi Paper

#washivillage #doityourself

Whale Watching

Wanikani

My favorite Kanji Trainer if you plan to seriously learn Japanese.

#language #kanji #learning

X

Y

Yen

Exchanging cash in Japan normally provides the better exchange rate.

#currency #money

Z

Zen

There are several locations where you can meditate with the monks for free.

#Zen #meditation #temple

**





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