Japan is a country with a wonderful mix of eccentric chaos and tranquil bliss. Here is our Japan travel guide to know everything about this enchanting place.
Japan, where you can have some of the best times.
Best Time To Visit Japan
The enchanting sight of Mt. Fuji will leave you speechless.
One of the most common questions which hit us while planning our Japan trip is, ‘when is the best time to visit Japan’. Well, Japan is a beautiful country and each of Japan’s seasons has its own charm. Although Japan may not appear very large, but it is surprisingly vast and the weather patterns and temperatures differ considerably across the country. That being said, let’s have a close look at the different seasons of Japan.
Witness the Shibazakura Festival with the field of pink moss of Sakura or cherry blossom.
Spring in Japan starts in mid-March and extends till May. This is the best time to visit Japan as this is the season of the celebrated Japanese Cherry Blossom which is at full bloom at this time. The spring temperature in Japan varies to a great extent and the weather is very unpredictable. The first half of the season may be extremely cold while the second half may have clearer skies with sunny days. Apart from the unmatched Japanese Cherry Blossom, this is also the time when the Omizutori spring festival is celebrated. This two week-long festival is rejoiced to welcome the arrival of the spring season. If you are planning to visit Japan during this time, be sure to visit the Hokyoji Temple or the Temple of Dolls in Fukui.
Japan Travel Guide Tip: Since it is a peak season in Japan, make sure you book your accommodations and flight tickets in advance.
The country celebrates as the cherry blossoms burst into life.
Summers hit the country in June and last till September. The summer season is quite hot and humid, but the atmosphere is pretty bright and colourful as the country hosts a number of summer festivals. You can enjoy festivals like Awa Odori festival held in Tokushima, Gion Matsuri festival held in Kyoto, Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri festival and Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri festival. In addition to these festivals, it is a golden opportunity to witness the brilliant fireworks displayed in different parts of Japan. The most extravagant firework display is held at Sumida River in Tokyo. But, if you want to escape the heat, you can travel to the Japanese Alps in northern Japan and Hokaiddo for much milder temperatures.
Japan Travel Guide Tip: Make sure you carry your sunglasses, hats and lots of sunscreen.
The rainy season coincides with the summer season in Japan starting from mid-June until mid-July. Typhoons may also occur between May and October and it may concern your travel plans as all air traffic is halted during such times. Although it does not rain every day, rainfall can be persistent but it will surely not lead to floods and confine your movement.
Japan Travel Guide Tip: Since it is the typhoon season, be sure to check for any sort of typhoon warning before planning your Japan tours and do carry umbrellas and raincoats.
See the yellow ginkgo tree in Autumn park in Tokyo.
Autumn season in Japan starts in mid-September and lasts till early December. Autumn is considered to be the most pleasant time to visit Japan with fresh foliage of maple trees everywhere. While the first half of the season is quite warm, but with the arrival of October there is a visible change in the weather. Unlike the Cherry Blossom which attracts huge crowds, this season is less busy offering scenic views and cheaper accommodations, thus making it a very popular time to visit Japan.
Japan Travel Guide Tip: If you are visiting Japan during this time, make sure you carry sunscreens and hats. If you are visiting the country in October, do carry light jackets as temperatures drop during night time.
Get smitten by the gorgeous winter landscape of Japan.
Winters start in the month of December and lasts till mid-March. The winter season is extremely cold in Japan with harsh temperatures in northern regions around the Japanese Alps. This is a low season in Japan as the only tourist attraction around this time is skiing and most tourists prefer the Swiss Alps over the Japanese Alps. However, one of the best parts of visiting Japan during winters is the chance to enjoy the Japanese hot springs amidst crisp white snow.
Japan Travel Guide Tip: Make sure you carry plenty of woollen clothes and if you are a die-hard skiing fan, do not forget to carry your snow boots.
Japan is gorgeous at any time of the year; all you need to do is just start planning your Japan trip as soon as possible.
Travel Documents For Japan
Appreciate the beautiful blend of traditional values and modern architecture of Japan.
Travellers need the following documents for their Japan holidays:
- Passport: You must have a passport that is valid for the entire time of your stay in Japan.
- Visa: Generally, a valid visa is required to enter Japan. People of some countries do not need a visa if their period of stay in Japan is less than 90 days and they are not going to be engaged in any income-earning activities.
- Return ticket: Tourists must have a return ticket.
- Travel Insurance: Do carry travel insurance for a safe and secure travel.
Where To Stay In Japan
Japan is truly timeless, where the past meets the future.
Japan offers a huge variety of accommodation options that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. It isn’t cheap but the country is such a pleasing place to travel that it is well worth the expense.
- If you want to experience the traditional Japanese culture, do stay in a ryokan, a conventional Japanese inn, at least once. Sleeping on a futon in a tatami mat room is a classic Japanese experience and you should simply not miss it at any cost. Posh ryokans often come with onsen (hot springs). In fact, Hoshinoya Tokyo is the best place to stay in Tokyo.
- For a unique Japanese feel, you can also stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple. The room style is very similar to a ryokan, the only difference being that you are served vegan meals with some early morning chanting and meditation with the monks.
- If you are on a budget trip and are looking for cheaper accommodations then staying at a hostel is a good idea. Most of the hostels have facilities like kitchen, WiFi, computers, laundry and a common area to relax. Moreover hostels are a great place to meet other travellers.
A traditional room in Japan.
- Business hotels are also a nice budget option for a few nights. Most of these hotels don’t have a charm or character, but they are clean and have free WiFi, breakfast and laundry facilities.
- Apartments are also a very nice option for families and big groups as they are spacious and very well equipped.
- Couples looking for some privacy can stay at Love Hotels. Most of these hotels have a loud decor and give rooms for Rest (few hours) and Stay (overnight).
- If ultimate luxury is what you are looking for then big international chain hotels will blow your mind with their extraordinary services.
Travelling Within Japan
One of the most expensive parts about Japan holidays is the transportation.
Japanese girls dressed in kimonos in Japan.
Air services in Japan are wide-ranging, consistent and trustworthy. Flights are a great option for people who are time bound. Moreover flying is often cheaper and faster than Shinkansen (bullet trains) and good for covering long distances. Almost all local carriers have websites in English on which you may check prices and book tickets. The country has two main domestic carriers- Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airlines(ANA) which cover all the major routes. You may also check with JAL and ANA for discounted deals on domestic flights if you purchase a return flight ticket to Japan from them. Japan also has a number of low-cost carriers such as Jerstar, Air Do, Vanilla Air and Skymark Airlines which make flying much affordable.
Shinkansen – The Bullet Train, is a very cost effective means of travel in Japan.
Japanese rail services are among the finest in the world as they are quick, punctual, clean and comfortable. Trains are one of the most popular and efficient forms of transportation in Japan- whether it is the renowned high-speed Shinkansen bullet train which run at a maximum speed of 320km/h or a local regular commuter guzzling its way through mountains and villages. Most long distance trains offer lunch boxes filled with famous delicacies of the very region you are travelling through. The chief operator is Japan Railways (JR) which is a number of diverse rail systems providing one linked service throughout the country. In addition to JR, there is a vast network of private operators.
The Shinkansen high-speed trains are the fastest way to discover all of Japan.
The Japan Rail Pass is a must for everyone visiting Japan. It is absolutely ideal for those who want to zip around to see the highlights. It allows travel on all JR trains and buses excluding certain Shinkansen trains. The pass includes free seat reservations and discounts on more than 50 hotels that belong to the JR Hotel Group. These passes are available for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days and must be purchased before arriving in Japan. Apart from these there are regional JR passes available for areas like Hikkaido or Kyushu that can be purchased in Japan by showing your passports.
Few places in the world are as alluring as Japan.
Japan has a wide bus network reaching far-flung places that are not served by rail. Apart from the local buses and long distance buses that travel between chief cities, there are dedicated sightseeing buses to enjoy Japan’s stunning scenery. On most local buses, you should enter from the back door, pick up the numbered ticket from a small machine by the door and keep your eye on the screen above the driver. This screen matches your ticket number with the fare you need to pay. When you get off, pay at the front of the bus. Cities in which buses are the main mode of transport, generally offer one-day pass for buses.
One of the most interesting ways to travel around this island nation is by a ferry. Long-distance ferries are relaxing and cheaper substitute to planes. Overnight journeys connecting Honshu and Hokkaido in the north and Kyushu and Shikoku in the south are completely worthwhile.
Take a ride in the ferry to discover Japan.
Driving is often one of the best ways to travel the country’s less populated and off-beat areas. The Japanese roads maintain high standards but most visitors don’t rent cars due to costly highway tolls, inadequate English sign boards and left hand side driving. There are car rental counters at all major airports and train stations. Mazda-Rent-a-car, Nippon-Rent-a- car, Aviz and Hertz are a few car rental companies. You will need an international driver’s license and a good bilingual map.
Taxis are ever-present in Japan and are an expensive alternative to otherwise cheap and efficient public transportation. However, taxis are often the only way to get around once trains and buses stop operating around midnight. To hail a taxi, either go to a taxi stand or simply flag one down to a place where it is safe for it to stop. Almost all taxis are metered and a red light means the taxi is free and the green light means that it is occupied. The drivers rarely speak English, so it is a good idea to have your destination written in Japanese.
Things To Do In Japan
There will not be a single dull moment which will make you think what to do in Japan. There is a collection of bucket list things to do in Japan that will make you say wow! Here are a few best.
Discover Mount Fuji
Japanese Fuji-san, also spelled Fujisan, is the highest mountain in Japan.
Mount Fuji, a very well known symbol of Japan is also a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. Japan’s largest active volcano attracts challengers from across the globe to climb on it. Mt. Fuji’s climbing season begins in July and runs through mid-September. During this short span, there is little snowfall on the mountain which makes the weather mild and pleasant.
Shop At Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market - a haven for sushi lovers.
Wondering what to do in Tokyo? Well, check out Tsujiki, the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world. It has more than 400 different varieties of seafood. Tuna auction is the most attention-grabbing part which limits up to 120 visitors per day. Viewing tickets are issued on first come first serve basis beginning early in the morning at 4:30AM at the market’s Fish Information Centre. Sushi lovers should definitely try the sushi rolls here. Although the market closes down before noon, there are ample shops serving fresh sushi rolls throughout the lunch hour.
Discover The Kinkakuji Temple
Its simplicity will cleanse your mind and soul.
This renowned golden temple is one of the most impressive things to do in Japan. You will be absolutely mesmerised by its grandeur and the shimmering pavilion that is reflected in a pond dotted with lush green trees. It features three distinctive styles of architecture where the first floor is palace style, the second floor depicts the style of a samurai house and the third is of Zen temple style. The temple’s tranquillity and simplicity will cleanse your mind and soul making it one of the best Japan activities.
Places To Visit In Japan
While planning your Japan trip, one of the most challenging tasks is to decide on the places to visit in Japan. With so many astounding destinations to choose from, narrowing down to your ideal destination can be quite nerve-racking. So, here we are with our list of a few incredible places to see in Japan.
Visit the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to unwind.
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan is a fast paced, futuristic city with a fascinating mix of skyscrapers, noisy arcades, wild youth fashions, crazy karaoke bars, vigorous pedestrian crossings and many exceptionally delicious restaurants. The Meiji Shrine is one of the most loved Tokyo tourist attractions. Visit to admire the magnificent Meiji Shrine, discover the incredible works in the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and visit the Treasure Museum. Explore Tokyo sightseeing with the glorious Tokyo Tower to get a spectacular view of the city. If you are a tech-savvy, do visit Akihabara, a major shopping and electronics hub and get a chance to witness the newest technology.
The wonderful architecture of Japan will definitely steal your heart.
Fashion freaks should not miss gazing at the bizarre fashions of Takeshita Street in Harajuku. Do visit the brilliant DisneySea, one of the best Tokyo attractions for some extra fun. Foodies should definitely visit Tsukiji Market, the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. And when Tokyo’s pace gets too hectic, do visit the very beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to unwind. Trust us when we say that there is factually nothing you won’t be able to find in Tokyo.
Kyoto is the perfect place to explore the old traditions of Japan.
If there is one place in Japan, you can’t skip, it has to be Kyoto. Nestled on central Honshu Island, this traditional Japanese city is full of brightly coloured kimonos budding from wooden teahouses, forests of bamboo, temples, gardens, elegant tea ceremonies and shrines in gold, silver and scarlet. If you wish to throw yourself into the rich Japanese culture, Kyoto is the perfect place. Indulge in Zen meditation classes, learn Japanese calligraphy and origami or merely learn how to wear a kimono. You can also visit museums, attend the theatre or take pleasure in fine dining. Kyoto is unquestionably one of the best cities in Japan.
Nara Park is a must visit.
Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital city is full of historic treasures including many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is one of the best Japan tourist spots and makes a gratifying day trip from Kyoto to visit the temples and Nara Park. The Daibutsu-Den at Todaiji is a key attraction as it is the largest wooden building in the world with a 15 metre tall gold and bronze statue of Buddha. Nature lovers can also take a walk and follow the footsteps of ancient spiritual pilgrims as they hike along the Komano Kodo Kohechi Pilgrimage Route or enjoy the simplicity of nature at Mount Tamaki.
What To Eat In Japan
Sample the Japanese green tea which is refreshing and soothing.
You can visit Japan for its history, its way of life, its super friendly people, its hyper-active cities or its nature. But your visit to Japan is incomplete and worthless if you don’t dig into the sumptuous Japanese cuisine. The Japanese culinary scene is one of the most vibrant in the world and the Japanese people are known to use top quality ingredients.
- Do try the simple and very satisfying sushi, a dish combining vinegar rice and seafood. Nigirizushi and temakizushi are the most common types of sushi. Ginza in Tokyo and fish ports around the country are known to serve the best sushi. Tempura, a delicacy in which seafood and fresh vegetables are dipped in a flour and egg batter and deep fried is also worth trying. Sukiyaki, a dish in which meat and vegetables are stewed in an iron pot is a must have for all beef lovers.
- You cannot leave Japan without tasting ramen, a noodle soup in combination with pork, beef and seafood along with miso flavours. Also try soba or the buckwheat spaghetti like noodles topped with egg or tempura and served with hot or cold broth.
- Other must try dishes include tokayaki, udon, karaage, yakitori, sashimi, gyutanyaki, matcha and Okonomiyaki
Apart from these there are a lot of bizarre and stylish restaurants serving almost all cuisines of the world. Not only this, there are also a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Just make sure that you have a happy heart and an empty stomach. And if you have these two, you are sorted; nobody on earth can stop you from having a gala time.
Communication And Connectivity In Japan
How do you stay connected with your family and friends while holidaying in Japan? Well, if you are planning to get your own mobile phone, contact your mobile phone service provider before leaving your home country to find out whether your phone is going to work in Japan or not. If your phone is not compatible with Japan’s transmission technology, the solution is to rent a Japan compatible mobile phone. Alternatively, you can also buy a pre-paid calling card that is easily available in convenience stores. Just make sure that you have an unlocked phone. Companies that offer international phone calls in Japan are Softbank Telecom, KDDI and Cable and Wireless IDC.
Money In Japan
Marvel at the Miyajima Island, Japan
The official currency of Japan is Yen. Coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen denominations. Notes come in the denominations of 1000 yen, 2000 yen, 5000 yen and 10000 yen. Although all major credit cards and debit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted at big hotel chains, restaurants and shops but, there are many places where credit cards are not accepted. So, it is advisable not to rely totally on plastic money. ATMs are widespread. But it is better to withdraw cash at the ATMs located inside post offices and 7/11 stores as other ATMs may not accept your card. You can exchange currency at banks, post offices, large hotels and money exchangers.
Japan Travel Guide – Useful Tips
Japan boasts natural wonders that you must not miss when visiting the country.
Our Japan travel guide is packed with all the insider tips and information that you need to know before planning your excursion:
- Make sure you carry a suitable ID with you at all times.
- The standard voltage in Japan is 100V and the power sockets are type A and B.
- If you are carrying medicines, make sure you carry prescriptions too.
- Tap water is safe to drink throughout Japan.
- Smoking is banned in all public transports and in most public buildings shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and cinemas.
- Amounts equivalent to Yen 1,000,000 or above must be declared.
- In case of an emergency, dial 119 (Ambulance) or 110 (Police).
Japan is truly Japan! No other country in the world is as dynamic and self-motivated as Japan itself. So, stop thinking and start planning your holiday to Japan as soon as possible and do keep our Japan travel guide handy.