Phone: 808-922-2211
HIS Hawaii Japan Tips News Package Tour 06/30/2024

Frequently Asked Questions about Japan

Have a question? You’re not alone! Check out these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for quick answers to common questions.

General Info FAQ

Where are you located?

We are located in Ala Moana Shopping Center on the ground level near the main stage, in between See’s Candies and Cookie Corner.

How should I contact you?

The best way is via email or coming by our Ala Moana store.
Our email address is
You can also call us at 808-922-2211 or submit an inquiry through our website.

What does HIS stand for?

The legal name of our company is now technically just H.I.S., but originally it stood for Hide International Service. The company was founded by Hideo Sawada, hence the abbreviation.

HIS Group Escorted Tours FAQ

When do you release escorted tours?

We usually release tours about eight months prior to the departure date. Sign up for our newsletter to be among the first to find out about our incredible tours and packages!

What’s the minimum and maximum number of participants?

We guarantee departure at around 15 participants. We cap tours at 30 people.

What sets your tours apart from other companies?

At HIS Hawaii, we strive to make unique tours off the beaten path. That means that newbies and well-traveled travelers alike can rest easy knowing they’ll have a unique experience!

In addition, we offer free Pocket WiFi devices to keep you connected on the go. Plus, we offer more provided meals on average than any other company! That means you don’t have to worry about finding a restaurant in a new place all on your own!

Finally, we want to make sure that each of our guests is well taken care of. That’s why we only send escorts who work for HIS, ensuring that they have a vested interest in the quality and success of the tour.

I really want to join a tour, but it’s sold out! What do I do?

We have waitlists for all of our tours.
If you’d like to join the waitlist, send your name, phone number, and email to

Private Packages FAQ

How do I start the process of making a private package with HIS?

To get started, just send us an email or inquiry form with all the relevant information we’ll need.

Some items to consider:

  • Dates of Travel
  • Number of Adults/Children
  • Preferred Areas (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc.)
  • Hotel Budget (3 stars, 4 stars, etc.)
  • Flight Preferences
  • Activities of Interest (e.g. day tour of Kyoto, cooking classes, etc.)

Once we’ve recieved this basic information, we can move forward with building you a package to get a starting quote and itinerary. From there, we can work closely together to edit and refine the package so that it perfectly suits your needs!

What airlines do you use?

We work with all major airlines that operate flights to Japan, including Hawaiian, ANA, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines. If you have a preference between these, you can choose which airline you’d like to use. Otherwise, we will use the most economical option.

Large Group Bookings FAQ

What is considered a group booking?

A group of 10 people or more is considered a group booking.

Why are the group prices higher than individual prices?

When booking a group for a flight or hotel, the airline or hotel company is taking a risk by blocking off accommodations or seats prior to taking payment. As a deterrent for these risks, groups are charged at higher rates.

What is the benefit to doing a group booking over individual bookings?

Group bookings are beneficial because they ensure that your party will be put together in the same block. That means that you can all sit near each other on the plane, and your rooms at hotels will all be next to each other. This can ensure smoother travel for your group when moving around.

You are also allowed to hold group bookings for much longer than ordinary individual reservations using just a deposit, as opposed to needing to purchase everything immediately. This is helpful if you don’t know exactly how many people will join your group, or if you don’t yet have all of the names for your group.

When making individual bookings, the benefit is that it does tend to be cheaper. However, there are a few risks that come with this.

First, it is likely that pricing will vary between group members depending on when they make their booking, creating an imbalance which can be frustrating for individuals. Additionally, your group will likely be spread apart, which can make it difficult when disembarking a plane or meeting at your hotel. Finally, the very worst possibility is that availability can decrease, meaning group members may have to take different flights or stay at separate accommodations.

Transportation in Japan FAQ

How do you recommend getting around in Japan?

Short Answer: Google Maps or similar + Trains + JR Pass or IC Card (if you can get one)

Long Answer: Whenever you need to get around in Japan, more than likely you’ll be taking a train. Although the train system may seem complicated for first timers, these routes are quick, frequent, and affordable. That means that, even if you miss your train, there will likely be another one in just a few minutes (especially in Tokyo, where certain lines depart every three minutes or so!). 

If you’re not sure which trains (or buses) to catch, Google Maps and similar applications are your best friend! Not only will they tell you how you can get to where you’re going, it also knows the fare prices, so you don’t have to bother with those complicated line maps above the ticketing kiosks. 

You may have also heard about the Suica Card (also known as the Pasmo or Icoca Card, depending on the area). These are reloadable tap-on tap-off cards that simplify the process of getting on the train. Instead of needing to go to the ticket machines every time you travel, you can just tap your charged card when you get on and once more when you get off. Using it is similar to the Holo Card here in Hawaii, and while it doesn’t save you money, it is very convenient.

Do they have Uber in Japan?

You can use Uber in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but, as far as rideshare apps in Japan go, you’d be better off downloading apps such as Go or DiDi, which are much more commonly used.

Otherwise, taxis are waiting outside of pretty much every train station, so just head to the nearest station if you really need to find a cab!

How do I use the bus system in Japan?

Short Answer: Be prepared!

Long Answer:
Buses in Japan run a little differently than those in the States. In many places in the US, you pay for a period of use when you board the bus. For example, $2 to anywhere plus a transfer. However, in Japan, it’s actually a ticket system and you get charged by the distance. 

When you get on the bus (the back, not the front!), you’ll take a numbered ticket. As you ride, you’ll notice that a screen on the front of the bus has numbers corresponding to people’s tickets with increasing yen amounts right below. This is the amount that you will pay when you get off the bus. You must exit at the front ad drop your numbered ticket into the box. Then drop the corresponding amount in cash. That means you must make sure to have cash (in small denominations) before you get on the bus.

For an easier ride, you can also use IC cards just like you do on trains. Simply tap on and tap off, and the amount will be subtracted from your charge card.

Where can I buy an IC/Suica Card?

Short Answer: Haneda Airport, Outside of Tokyo, or the Suica App.

Long Answer: Unfortunately, Tokyo has been experiencing a microchip shortage for some time now, and this has severely affected visitors’ ability to get the Suica Card. Now, tourists’ best bet for getting an IC card in Tokyo is basically only at Haneda Airport’s international terminal. Here, you can find kiosks selling what is called the “Welcome Suica”. This is a similar, IC card meant for tourists that expires after 28 days. 

If you can’t make it to Haneda Airport, you can also try downloading the Suica App. The problem with this is that certain foreign credit cards are blocked, and there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to which cards are accepted and which are not. Our recommendation is to try to download the app and upload a bit of money before you depart for Japan. If you can, you’re all good to go! If not, you should consider other options.

Fortunately for those exploring anywhere outside of Tokyo, you should still be able to find IC Cards at kiosks in major train stations.

Should I make reservations for the bullet train ahead of time?

Short Answer: Not really, unless you need a specific train during the busy season.

Long Answer: Bullet trains in big cities depart about every 20-30 minutes, and they are on time 99% of the time. So, buying a ticket for the bullet train ahead of time is kind of like buying a ticket for the bus ahead of time – it’s not usually necessary.

However, there are a couple exceptions to this rule. First, if you are traveling during a busy season (long weekends, Golden Week, cherry blossom season, etc.), you can expect the trains to be quite crowded. That means that seats during this period can be difficult to get. Therefore, we recommend booking these trains ahead of time, particularly if you want a reserved seat.

The other exception would be if you need to be somewhere at a very specific time, particularly if it’s during rush hour. While seats on your train may not be sold out, it’s always best to prepare ahead of time. If you have somewhere to be, the last thing you want is to be stuck because you didn’t catch the train you needed.

Japan Rail (JR) Passes FAQ

Should I get a Japan Rail (JR) Pass?

Short Answer: It depends!

Long Answer: In October 2023, Japan Rail raised the price of the JR Pass, nearly doubling the original cost. While it used to be that making only one or two trips would make the JR Pass worth it, now you have to travel the equivalent of three to four one-way trips between Tokyo and Osaka.

Depending on your itinerary, you might be better off with an area pass in lieu of the full country pass. Although the yen rate as of today is quite favorable for those of us traveling from the States, for many these area passes are likely going to be the best bang for your buck.

Japan Rail has lots of different passes for different regions all over the country. Some popular examples include the All Kyushu Rail Pass, the Sanyo-Sanin Area Pass, the Kansai Area Pass, and the Hokkaido Area Pass. For more information, check out the JR website here.

If you’d like to find out which pass works best for you, plug the larger legs of your travel plans (e.g. Tokyo to Osaka, Osaka to Hiroshima, etc.) into Google Maps. It will tell you the cost of each trip, which you can then add up to see what option works best for you. If any of this is confusing, fear not! You can always feel free to ask an HIS employee to help you out!

What do I need in order to buy a JR Pass from HIS?

If you are a U.S. citizen, all you need is a passport or photo of your passport! We’ll give you the application to fill out on-site. Japanese Nationals must also show a Green Card or Zairyuutodoke (在留届) proving that they’ve been living outside of Japan for more than 10 years.

Does everyone need to be present to buy the JR Pass?

All applicants do not need to be present. A representative can just bring the passports or a photo/copy of the passports of all passengers.

How long is the process of buying a JR Pass?

The process takes about 10-15 minutes.

Timing Your Trip to Japan FAQ

When is the best season to go to Japan?

Short Answer: Spring and Autumn, but it depends on the area!
Long Answer: The most popular times to travel to Japan tend to be when visitors can see natural phenomena local to the country, such as the beautiful cherry blossoms or spectacular fall leaves – namely spring and autumn. 
However, due to Japan’s longitudinal orientation (meaning it spans a great distance north to south), you can enjoy it during any season! Traveling in the winter? Hit the slopes in Nagano or check out the Snow Festival in Sapporo! Snow not your thing? Visit Okinawa for a beach vacation instead! Traveling in the summer? Places like Tokyo and Osaka can be quite hot and humid, so if that’s not for you, consider mountainous or more northern regions, such as Hokkaido. In Japan, you always have options – just plan ahead!

When is the cheapest time to fly to Japan?

Short Answer: Late April and early May (after Spring Break, but before Golden Week), September, and November
Long Answer: Japan is a country that prides itself in the beauty of every season, so finding cheap flights can be a bit tricky. Your best bet is to avoid breaks and consecutive holidays in both Japan and the place you’re flying from. 
In particular, you should avoid traveling during Japan’s Golden Week at all costs. This is a string of consecutive holidays in Japan in which the whole country has off for the entire week. Pretty much everyone is traveling domestically at this time, which means that not only will flights be expensive, but also hotels and transportation will be crowded at best and completely booked out at worst. 

Preparation for a Trip to Japan FAQ

Do I need a converter for my electronics?

Short Answer: Most likely, no!
Long Answer: Japan uses two-prong outlets. In the past, a lot of the plugs we used in the States were three-prong, but, today, if you take a look at your phone charger, chances are it’s two-prong. However, some older model laptops, hair dryers, and other electronics might still use the three prongs. 
So, before you leave for Japan, take a look at the chargers for your electronics to confirm. If any of them use a three-prong plug, look into getting a converter. If not, you’re good to go!

How do I stay connected to the internet in Japan?

Short Answer: Rent a Pocket WiFi from HIS Hawaii!
Long Answer: HIS Hawaii rents portable WiFi devices that work all over Japan! This option is generally much cheaper than international phone plans, as multiple devices can share one portable WiFi device as long as they’re within range. That means that instead of paying $10/person for each of their plans, you can pay about $5/day for everyone sharing one Pocket WiFi device!
These devices are very popular, and we do tend to sell out, especially in the busy season. So, we highly recommend making your rental reservation as soon as you know your travel dates. 
Click here to make a reservation or for more information.

Where should I exchange my money before I leave? What about when I’m in Japan?

Short Answer: Your Bank, Pacific Money Exchange (Oahu) and 7-11 (Japan)
Long Answer: You can try comparing several banks to find the best rates. However, it is likely that they do not have yen on hand, so make sure to plan this well in advance.

If you don’t have as much time, one currency exchange that often has good rates on Oahu is Pacific Money Exchange in Waikiki. However, they do not always have yen on hand, so call ahead of time to make sure. And don’t forget to make an appointment so you can get discounted appointment-only rates!

Once you arrive in Japan, a great place to take out money is at 7-11 convenience store. Every 7-11 ATM handles international transactions, so you can rest assured knowing that you will always have access to your accounts with your current debit card. Just make sure to know your PIN number!

Japanese Culture FAQ

I don’t speak Japanese. Should I be worried?

Short Answer: Not really!
Long Answer: It can certainly be intimidating going to a new country that speaks a language different from your own, but don’t worry! Japan has millions of overseas visitors every month. That means there are a lot of accommodations made for tourists, and this is especially true for English speakers. 
If you are in larger, tourist driven cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto (and many, many others) most of the signage available is written in both Japanese and English. You will be totally fine getting around in places like the airport or train stations, or even trying to find a bathroom. Many restaurants in these areas even have full menus in English!
You can certainly get by without any Japanese language knowledge in the big cities. However, if you have the time, it may be helpful to look into some quick travel phrases for things such as ordering food, asking for the check, or asking for directions. Showing locals that you took some time to try to learn their language will always be met with gratitude!
And remember: When in doubt, gestures can get you very far, and a smile is universal! 

Can I wear a swimsuit in the onsen?

Nope! Onsen are pretty much exclusively all nude. Don’t worry – they’re divided by gender. If you’re shy, try looking for a place that has “family baths”. These are basically private baths that you can rent for yourself or with your friends or family.

If I have tattoos, am I forbidden from entering the onsen?

Unfortunately, tattoos in onsen are still widely frowned upon in Japan. With that being said, tattoo friendly onsen do exist. If the onsen you’re going to isn’t tattoo friendly, check to see if they have private rentable baths or “family baths”. Here, you can enjoy the onsen with your tattoos in comfort and privacy.