As with all traveling, exploring by foot is the best way to experience the true aspect of a foreign country. Japan is no exception to this. However, it’s important that you choose the right footwear when it comes to traversing the Special Wards of Tokyo, the Shrines and Temples of Kyoto, or any prefecture of Japan. With the exception of public transportation, a majority of your miles (or kilometers) will be done by foot. If you’re from a metropolitan city, you may be used to this, and you’ve got the advantage! But for those who get around their city by car (like I have to) walking long distances day in and day out is not common for us.
I’m an active person, who loves to camp, hike, play sports, etc., and my hometown is well known for being everything outdoorsy. Cardio was not my issue in Japan, but my feet took a lot of strain from the constant walking that I had done during my 2-week trip. I knew it was common sense to pack running shoes and not sneakers or flip-flops as my primary shoe, but the mistake was that my insoles were pretty worn down, and had no foot support anymore.
It was okay for me walking the first few days in Tokyo, but once I went to Kyoto, that was where I really began to strain my foot. According to my health app on my phone, my 3 days in Kyoto alone I averaged 14.38 miles (23.14 kilometers), a lot of walking! Granted this may not be extremely accurate, but it provides a good basis of what to expect. My mind kept saying “keep exploring!” but my feet said “let’s rest up!” I ended up buying a new pair of insoles, which significantly improved my comfort walking long distances. I should also note I was carrying a backpack that weighted about 7 pounds (3.1 kg).
So a quick advice is to bring the right shoes if you’re planning to explore like I did. I would recommend any kind of walking or running shoe, as long as it’s broken in and not brand new. If you have worn shoes like I did, a good pair on insoles would be the way to go. Surprisingly I couldn’t find insoles in many of the convenience and clothing stores in Japan, but there are sporting goods stores that sell insoles, so that’s where I’d start.
“When it rains, it pours” and Japan is famous for that. I'd also suggest bringing an extra pair of socks with you when you’re traveling around Japan. My day in Tsukiji market had an unexpected downpour which I was kind of prepared for. My top half was fine from the rain, but my feet were sometimes submerged in water walking on sidewalks. Keep your feet dry with that extra pair of socks!