Two quick questions on travel in Japan.
1) When entering a home in Japan it is customary to remove your shoes. Are bare feet acceptable or should we have sockets or slippers to put on?
2) Is it cheaper to convert dollars to Yen in North America or wait until we get to Japan? Is there a lot of places to exchange currency?
Some credit cards do not charge a conversion fee, so see about getting one of those. I dont know about now, but 10 years ago you needed to go to certain banks to buy yen. If you are going with Doug, ask his advice as i am sure it has come up before.
Wear socks (without holes!). I bought a pair of slip-on dress shoes to ease the process. The Japanese are very quick taking off and putting on their shoes and i felt like a hold-up. What was really embarassing was how long it took me to hook the traditional tabi work shoes (toed shoes) after going inside!!!
Mastercard was accepted in more places than Visa... and withdrawal ATM's are around, though not prolific, need to ask where.
and AMA offers free exchange: ask for some smaller bills for immediate use (in drink machines, vitamin drinks when you first arrive to get over jet-lag etc),
How much? enough for everything enroute that can not go on the MasterCard. Mostly for 3 or more meals a day.
having ended up barefoot to a few unexpected dinners, I recommend taking the smallest briefest socks that will fit rolled in your pocket: below ankle sport socks (MEC) of solid colour that you could put on in times of social discomfort as often I found it too wet too hot to bother with socks avoiding blisters from waterlogged soles. For comment on them go with a pattern, innovation always seems to be appreciated.
Timberland has some soft aerated shoes with linings for hiking that the backs flip down on to become slip-ons.
And like small socks, take a small fitting yet larger than small rectangle, cotton or linen facecloth that acts as a multi-tool from hand/face-towel to wrapped around your head, dry or moist. Inadvertently mine would always end up drying out by hanging through my belt loop. edzard
good point from Edzard - public/restaurant toilets often don't have towels/hand driers, and a CLEAN hanky is v useful. Japanese don't blow their noses in hankies, they dry their hands on them!
I haven't lived in Japan for any extended length of time. But when I was married, my wife Toshi made me take off my shoes the house. Barefoot around the house wasn't a problem, as long as my feet were clean.
In a restaurant or in a stranger's home, you might find a different situation.
That brings up another good pratice! Carry one of the little packs of tissues in your pocket when you go out. Sometimes restrooms do not have toilet paper, or have vending machines to buy you own. I dont suppose i have to go into further detail... :o
Thanks everyone, Annie had read about the hand towel/tissue issue in washrooms and I thought maybe it was maybe overstated in the review she read. Now, after your comments I think we will take some. Thanks again! Any and all advise is appreciated. I don't want to offend any of our hosts that is for sure.