I walked an average of 7 hours a day during my 30 day trip. If I could walk to a place or landmark, I’d take that over taking the metro. I’d have saved a lot more time and energy taking the subway, but then I would be missing out on observing the finer details of Japan that aren’t displayed in the areas designed for tourists.
During my walks, I’d wander into shops and cafes that looked intriguing and some of the best experiences I had were from those walks. I didn’t have routes planned either…Big street or side street, it didn’t matter. I walked in the general direction of my target location, but was happy to do some circling and get lost in interesting streets and shops. That is the luxury that comes with a long, 30 day trip.
Japan is a great country to walk in, because the drivers obey road signals. Crossing the road isn’t like a death match of Frogger. The roads are also very, very clean, because people don’t litter. Not to mention, it is generally super safe. I was a lone female traveler and would sometimes stroll around at 11pm or 4am. I felt a bit intimidated by the dark and silence, but nothing ever happened to me.
How did I navigate? Google Maps was my best friend.
A very important thing is to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Do not walk while staring for directions on your phone or writing out a message to your loved one. Save that for when you’re sitting down or standing still at a non-busy side of the path. You can miss important signage, bump into other people, or not notice an oncoming car or bicycle.
I remember being surprised at the different “rules” of walking in these three cities. More specifically, which side of the path should I walk on?
Stick to the left. The Japanese drive on the left side of the road, so they also walk on the left side of the road. When on the escalator, stick to the left as well.
However, watch out for signs in the metro walkways, where they will tell you to “Stay to the Right”, to avoid bumping into people that are coming down the staircases. Oftentimes, you will find an arrow on the floor of metro stairs, dictating which side of the stairs you should be walking on if you’re ascending or descending.
I will never forget the polite female voice that I heard on the PA system while I was walking the Ebisubashi shopping route in Nanba. In 4 different languages, she will tell you to walk on the left side of the road, please do not congregate in large groups in the middle of the path, etc. It felt a little military, but necessary due to the large number of Asian tourists in Nanba.
Stick to the right! When I first arrived in Kyoto, I was like a fish swimming opposite to the current. I had been so used to walking on the left side in Tokyo and Osaka, but I soon realized I was the only one doing so. Also stick to the right side of the escalator if you’re not in a hurry.