Freelance designer Kaitlyn Hatch shares essential tips she picked up from a trip around the country that is probably the most foreign to Westerners:
When I embarked on 15 days travelling in Japan I didn’t just see it as a holiday. I saw it as a geography, art and design, history and culinary lesson rolled into one.
I won’t say it was a ‘working’ holiday, but it was key to my business as a freelance designer because it opened up new ideas and threads of inspiration while also testing my organisational skills when abroad and living out of a rucksack.
Judy asked me to put together a ‘tip-sheet’ for the home worker who likes to do their work while travelling.
Here are my need-to-know things for travelling in Japan:
Getting online. Most hotels will have free wifi or wired internet available but if you’re travelling a lot you will find that much of Japan is a black hole for connectivity. But do not fret!
1. Starbucks – you’ll need to get an initial connection somewhere else so you can go online and create an account. Once you’ve done this, however, logging in will be easy and in most major cities throughout Japan, Starbucks is as abundant as anywhere else on the planet.
2. 7-11 – the log in process for 7-11 is a bit more complicated but again, once it’s set up you don’t have to go through it again. The connections are also strong enough that adjacent cafes and hotels can usually pick it up.
3.On the train and in major hubs like stations – something called ‘Softbank’ will pop up on your wifi with a little window asking if you want to connect, but there won’t be a button to press.
This is because Softbank is an internal provider that uses a dongle to connect to the internet. As a visitor you can rent one of these from any Softbank store. Not sure how much they cost as I managed to go without, but this would be really handy if you’ll be on the train a lot and if you want a reliable, constant way to get online.
4. McDonalds – I met a fellow traveller who let me know that there’s a McDonalds next to an Ibis Hotel in Tokyo where he set up shop a few times. The Ibis has free wifi and the McDonalds has good, cheap coffee.
The joy of 7-11. In Japan 7-11 is not just the corner store familiar to me as a North American. It’s also a bank – which is very important to know if you run short on yen whilst traveling. It’s the only place you can find an international ATM that will allow you to withdraw more than 10,000 yen at a time. Useful if you want to avoid lots of fees on your card or if your bank only allows one withdrawal every 24 hours.
Learning Japanese. Before travelling in Japan I was told that most people knew English and if they didn’t they would find someone who did. This is only half true.
Yes, people were very helpful and would go out of their way to do whatever they could for you. But most people didn’t know more than a dozen words of English which, when paired with my dozen or so words in Japanese, didn’t improve communication very much.
I downloaded the Google Translate app and a phrase book app. Google Translate requires an internet connection but the phrase book simply had common phrases that helped with everything from picking items on a menu to figuring out which train we needed to catch.
My experience of travelling in Japan was amazing. It’s a fantastic country and I recommend visiting if you ever get the chance, be it for business or pleasure. I’ll definitely be going back at some point and when I do I feel confident that I’ll be able to do my work easily – from blogging to design.
Do you have any tips for travelling on business in the UK or abroad? What discoveries have you made en route that have made your life much easier?
If you would like to contribute a guest post to the blog on any aspect of home and flexible working, do get in touch – readers find your experience very helpful