Showing your family around Japan is always going to be exciting. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The absence of creature comforts at home which your family takes for granted, such as being able to travel by car anywhere, can cause tension. No one wants their holiday to be ruined by grumpiness and misunderstandings, so here are my 10 tips for a smooth trip with ‘The Fam’!

  1. Let your peeps know what they’re in for. If you forewarn you family, they are less likely to get culture shock. It’ll make the whole trip smoother.
  2. Let them know this is your home; You may be surprised that you get offended by small comments that are made that may feel insulting to your current home and way of life. Try and take things with a pinch of salt and remember how Japan was for you when you first arrived; your family will most likely be experiencing similar feelings.
  3. Oh my god…. SHOES! Shoes are a crucial element of any Japan trip. Make sure your family brings shoes that are appropriate for your plans (not brand new! Oh no, blisters!)
  4. Lead by example. Things like lining up for the train correctly and how to eat with chopsticks won’t be second nature for them.
  5. Give yourself a breather. I’m always tempted to cram my schedule stupid with all kinds of cultural and crazy fun. Don’t forget, travelling is tiring, and being tired makes people grumpy. Make sure you schedule a sleep-in or two!
  6. Space. If you have visitors for a long period you may want to consider sending them off for a short interlude (eg. Ryokan in Kyoto, day trip to Kobe). Giving yourselves some space will help you both recoup and refresh, ready for the next lot of adventures together!
  7. Try and visit somewhere new. It’s always nice to go somewhere new with those you love, so you can share the experience and excitement; too many ‘been there’s and ‘done that’s may leave you feeling like an underpaid tour guide. 
  8. Don’t leave out your town! Bright lights of Tokyo, shrines and Maiko of Kyoto, and the beaches are all very beautiful and exciting, but most families want to see what you are doing and where you live also. For those of us longer staying JETs, it helps our families understand just why we are still here…
  9. Check-in online and take an early train to the airport. My sister may have found herself in some trouble if she had not. The recent typhoon delayed trains by an hour, and traffic created further delays; it could have been an interesting end to her trip!
  10. Don’t get drunk with the Yakuza. Enough said.