Japan vacation guide: all you need to understand

Neon lights and karaoke that is all-night. Tranquil temples and geisha that is bowing. Steaming hot springs and Mount that is soaring Fuji. Japan is brimming with evocative moments, and contrasts that are delicious. Where else are you able to spend shopping in a skyscraper and the afternoon chilling in the forest with snow monkeys?

The question, for most visitors, isn’t why go – but how to put it all together morning. The good news is than you may think that it’s easier. From exemplary transportation backlinks (the round train is world-famous) to dining that is cheap plenty of English-language signage, Japan is very user friendly. It’s clean, safe and suitable for everyone from solo travellers to families that are young. And, despite a reputation that is pricey it’s doable on a budget.

Travel restrictions and entry requirements

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japan has been slow to open its borders. While tourists may now enter the country, changes to entry requirements are still ongoing depending on your reason for visiting, vaccination status and travel history that is recent. Before reserving a visit check gov.uk when it comes to newest details.

While many Covid-related constraints have already been alleviated within Japan, in training distancing that is social mask-wearing is still commonplace. Visitors should take their steer from locals. Whether it’s a cold or hay fever – it is considered polite to mask up.

Best time to go

Japan is a proper all-seasons destination if you have even the slightest sniffle. Traversing 25 quantities of latitude – from northerly Hokkaido to subtropical Okinawa you plan to do.

Generally speaking, summers are warm and humid (with typhoons in August and September), and winters mild– it has diverse climates and landscapes, so the best time to visit depends on what. Some areas, including the Alps, see substantial amounts of winter snow. Spring is famous for its explosion that is country-wide of bloom, but costs are large and bloom times adjustable. And November’s autumn leaf colour is equally dazzling, longer and a bit quieter october. If you’re strapped for cash, the time that is cheapest to check out a lot of the nation is mid-January to very early March.

Top areas and metropolitan areas

Most visits start in Japan’s money town, Tokyo, and they also should – this neon-drenched, swallow-you-whole metropolis includes all of the energy that is frenetic expecting from urban Japan. Hop from 24/7 karaoke bars in Shinjuku to shopping that is epic Shibuya or Ginza, and quirky video gaming arcades in Akihabara. Feast on £5 ramen from a small stop eatery, or £300-a-head omakase (chef’s option) sushi in a tranquil restaurant that is tatami-mat-lined. Getting overwhelmed? Easy day trips to seaside Kamakura, mountainous Nikko or nearby Hakone, famous for its onsen (hot springs), can break the city intensity up. Mount Fuji, Japan’s peak that is iconic is only a speedy train ride away too.


Kyoto, a three-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo, is the country’s other essential must-see city, and it couldn’t be more different. Ancient temples and shrines, cobbled streets stuffed with atmospheric tearooms and darting geishas – it’s a proper throwback that is historical. Instead of just tick from the headliner that is busy like Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji and Fushimi Inari, try to strike out to some of the quieter, lesser-known temples and shrines. There are around 2,000 within the city, and the smallest, sleepiest ones often feel the most magical.


Hiroshima is synonymous with the devastating 1945 bomb that is nuclear, but these days this low-key social city has actually plenty for site visitors. Both the figure that is haunting of Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Museum are essential – if difficult – stops. Most travellers also come here to see one of Japan’s most shrines that are iconic Unesco-listed Miyajima. Its ‘floating’ red torii gate has actually graced numerous a postcard. Energetic kinds additionally take pleasure in the nearby Shimanami that is 70km-long Kaido trail, which sews up six islands in the Seto Inland Sea, ending in lush temple-studded Shikoku.

Beyond this classic trio of stops, where you should head in Japan depends on your individual interests and time scale.

Osaka, less than 30 minutes from Kyoto, is another city that is major a thrumming restaurant scene and a lot of galleries. On the other hand, nearby capital that is ancient is like a mini Kyoto with oodles of old-world charm and historic temples – plus a cheeky population of free-roaming deer.


Art lovers often head to rural Naoshima, one of the Seto islands, for its internationally acclaimed contemporary galleries, sculpture by Yayoi Kusama and architecture that is boundary-pushing Tadao Ando.


Nature fans can’t fail with Shikoku, where remote temples, line bridges and waterfalls tend to be cloaked in heavy greenery.

Japanese Alps

If seeing in cold weather, don’t miss out the Japanese Alps. Wood villages in Gifu look that is prefecture straight out of Switzerland; Tayakama’s quaint old town is filled with the aroma of brewing sake. There are steaming onsens set in view of white-capped peaks and snow that is frolicking. Skiing bunnies, meanwhile, possess Olympic slopes of Nagano, blanketed in trustworthy dust, maintain all of them hectic.

Best under-the-radar locations


Few first-time site visitors ensure it is towards the island that is southern of. Fewer still visit its remote Kunisaki that is north-eastern Peninsula definately not the (elsewhere extensive) train community. But they’re really missing out. This peninsula that is hilly volcanic an ancient religious centre, stuffed with timewarp temples and large-scale Buddhist carvings, and cloaked in bamboo groves and forest. To experience it need that is properly you’ll be comfortable self-driving, or go to with an operator such as Walk Japan (walkjapan.com), which could organize transportation.

Okinawan countries

In Japan’s far-southern achieves – closer to Taiwan than Tokyo – the okinawan that is subtropical have a culture, food scene and landscape all their own. The isles that are main largely host to holiday hotels, however the Yaeyama sequence continues to be fairly austere and unblemished. Mangrove-covered Iriomote Island, recently called a Unesco World history website, is a tropical backwoods of peaks and waterfalls, and house to a petite wildcat that is endangered. Taketomi Island, in contrast, is villagey and beachy, with water buffalo and weaving centres turning out lovely handmade crafts.


Tohoku, the northern section of Japan’s main Honshu island, fell somewhat off the tourist circuit following tsunami that is 2011’s. However it features whatever you could wish in a break that is japanese atmospheric old towns, epic scenery, great food and buzzing matsuri (festivals). In Yamagata, Ginzan Onsen is the picture of a romantic hot springs town, with cosy historic inns and a waterfall that is 22m-high. Miyagi’s Genbikei Gorge, meanwhile, is a destination that is brilliant hikers. In winter, you can visit ski resorts Appi Kogen and Zao, and in spring, stroll under rows of weeping trees that are cherry samurai town Kakunodate. All minus the traveler crowds of people of Tokyo or Kyoto.

Best activities to do

Karaoke in Tokyo

Karaoke in Tokyo is iconic for reasons. It’s plentiful, low priced and discreet – with personal stands, in place of onlooking crowds of people. Just what pay that is you’ll vary depending on the location, karaoke chain, time of day and number in your party. Daytime midweek prices can sometimes be as low as £1-2 per 30 minutes.

Stay in a ryokan

You haven’t really experienced old-world Japan until you’ve stayed in a ryokan, a inn that is traditional. You’ll sleep on a roll-out futon mattress in a room that is tatami-mat-lined lounge about in comfy yukata robes and sample traditional multi-course meals (sometimes served inside your room). Many ryokans also come with onsen, japanese springs that are hot another must-try. Do note: washing is purely into the buff, sexes tend to be divided and, more often than not, tattoos tend to be banded.

Eat from a kaiten

Japan features one of several wealthiest, many food that is diverse in the world. But it’s visiting a kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi bar if you have one culinary ‘must. Inexpensive quality that is yet good it’s a self-serve experience, with each plate clearly colour-coded according to its price. At the cheapest outposts in Tokyo, you can have a feast for £10-15 a relative head.

Getting The high-speed rail network is just too good around

Unless you’re going to sub-tropical Okinawa, internal flights don’t make much sense in Japan. Unless you’re sticking to Tokyo, buy a Japan Rail Pass (japanrailpass.net), which allows travel that is unlimited most top outlines through the entire nation. A pass that is seven-day about £186 and must be purchased before you travel to Japan.

For those rare parts of the country not covered by rail, there are usually good, regular coach services. Or you can hire a car; roads are well-maintained and driving is, like the UK, on the side that is left of roadway.

How to obtain truth be told there

Direct routes land into certainly one of Tokyo’s two airports, Haneda and Narita. The previous is slightly nearer to the city that is main you’ll want to explore, including Shinjuku and Shibuya. Before the pandemic it was also possible to fly direct to Osaka; time shall determine if this course is revived. Take to British Airways, Japan Airlines (JAL) and ANA for nonstop routes.

If you don’t mind a stopover, you’ll usually economize by traveling through the loves of Dubai (with Emirates) or Finland (with Finnair).

Money-saving tip

Depachika, the food that is underground typically found under major department stores, are a wonderland for cut-price eats. You can get gourmet sushi, onigiri (rice balls), yakitori (skewers) and more for a bargain. Conbini (convenience stores) such as Family Mart, 7-Eleven and Lawson have great (if slightly less premium) options too.


What’s the weather like?

Tokyo weather ranges from mild winters to hot summers. Alpine regions get lots of snow in winter, whereas the southern Okinawa islands are subtropical. Pack according to your itinerary.

What time zone is it in?

GMT+9 hours. Japan does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

What currency do I need?

Japanese yen. Cash is still widely used. Convenience store ATMs usually accept foreign cards.(*)What language is spoken?(*)Japanese. In cities and other visitor that is major, English is extensively talked.(*)Are there any taboos that is cultural(*)Japan has a complex culture and visitors often worry about accidentally offending. In truth, you’re not expected to know the ins-and-outs, so try not to panic. But a points that are few note: don’t talk on the phone on trains and buses. Don’t consume or smoke cigarettes while walking. Rather than pass meals between sets of chopsticks or keep your chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice; both mimic standard japanese customs that are funerary(*)

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