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japan street at night

Travel to Japan: Land of rising sun – 6 point super explainer

Traveling to Japan is an exciting and rewarding adventure, filled with a unique blend of traditional culture, modern marvels, stunning natural landscapes, and warm hospitality. Here are some tips and recommendations for making the most of your trip to the nation:

a. Tips and tricks

person holding brush drawing kanji script

1. Entry Requirements: Check the visa requirements for your nationality before traveling to the country. Citizens of many countries are eligible for visa-free entry or visa on arrival for short stays.

2. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover unexpected events such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost luggage during your visit to the country.

3. Currency: The currency in the nation is the Japanese Yen (JPY). It is recommended to carry some cash as many small businesses, restaurants, and transportation options may not accept credit cards.

4. Language: While English is spoken in tourist areas and major cities, it is helpful to learn some basic Japanese phrases or carry a translation app to facilitate communication with locals.

5. Transportation: It has an efficient and extensive public transportation system, including Shinkansen (bullet trains), subways, buses, and ferries, making it easy to travel between cities and regions.

photo of houses

6. Accommodation: Choose from a variety of accommodation options in the nation, ranging from traditional ryokans (inns) and minshuku (guesthouses) to modern hotels, hostels, and Airbnb rentals.

7. Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to sample authentic Japanese cuisine, including sushi, ramen, tempura, wagyu beef, and traditional sweets like mochi and matcha tea.

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8. Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with Japanese customs and etiquette, such as bowing, removing shoes before entering homes or certain establishments, and respecting personal space.

9. Cultural Experiences: Immerse yourself in Japanese culture by participating in activities like tea ceremonies, calligraphy classes, kimono rentals, and traditional arts and crafts workshops.

10. Temples and Shrines: Visit iconic temples and shrines throughout the nation, such as Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Tokyo’s Senso-ji, and Nara’s Todai-ji, to explore spiritual traditions and historical landmarks.

pagoda temple near lake under cloudy sky

11. Gardens and Parks: Enjoy the beauty of Japanese gardens, such as the Rikugi-en in Tokyo, Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, and Saiho-ji (Moss Temple) in Kyoto, which offer tranquil settings for relaxation and contemplation.

12. Cherry Blossom Season: Plan your visit during cherry blossom season (sakura), typically from late March to early April, to witness the breathtaking beauty of pink petals blooming across the country.

13. Mount Fuji: Take a day trip to Mount Fuji, the iconic volcano, for hiking, sightseeing, and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from viewpoints like the Chureito Pagoda.

red and gray pagoda temple

14. Onsen (Hot Springs): Relax in traditional hot springs (onsen) in destinations like Hakone, Beppu, and Kusatsu, known for their therapeutic properties and serene settings.

15. Souvenirs: Pick up unique souvenirs and gifts to commemorate your trip, such as Japanese ceramics, textiles, traditional crafts, stationery, snacks, and regional specialties.

With its mix of ancient traditions, modern innovations, natural beauty, and cultural experiences, the nation offers travelers a memorable and enriching journey that will leave a lasting impression. Enjoy your travels in the Land of the Rising Sun!

b. Reasons to visit

people walking on street near buildings

1. Rich Culture: It is known for its rich cultural heritage, including traditional arts such as tea ceremonies, flower arranging, kabuki theater, and sumo wrestling.

2. Cuisine: Japanese cuisine is renowned worldwide for its fresh and healthy ingredients, delicious flavors, and artistic presentation. Savor sushi, ramen, tempura, and other culinary delights.

3. Cherry Blossoms: Witness the iconic cherry blossoms in full bloom during springtime, a stunning natural spectacle that attracts visitors from around the globe.

4. Technology: It is a leader in technology and innovation, with futuristic cities like Tokyo showcasing cutting-edge advancements in robotics, electronics, and transportation.

mt fuji japan

5. Mount Fuji: Visit the majestic Mount Fuji, the nation’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering breathtaking views and opportunities for hiking and photography.

6. Onsen (Hot Springs): Relax and rejuvenate in traditional hot springs, known as onsen, scattered throughout the country, providing therapeutic benefits and a tranquil retreat.

7. Temples and Shrines: Explore ancient temples and shrines, such as Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha and Nara’s Todai-ji, which offer spiritual insights, architectural beauty, and cultural significance.

8. Anime and Manga: Discover the nation’s vibrant pop culture scene with anime, manga, and cosplay events, showcasing colorful characters, merchandise, and fan communities.

people walking on bride in forest

9. Zen Gardens: Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Zen gardens, such as Kyoto’s Ryoan-ji and Tokyo’s Rikugi-en, designed to inspire meditation, contemplation, and serenity.

10. Bullet Trains: Experience the world-renowned Shinkansen bullet trains, known for their speed, efficiency, and comfort, offering a convenient way to travel between cities.

11. Wildlife: Encounter unique wildlife in Japan, such as snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park, deer in Nara Park, and cherry blossom-loving cormorants in Okayama.

12. Traditional Festivals: Attend vibrant festivals like the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, and the Sapporo Snow Festival, showcasing traditional performances, displays, and cuisine.

buildings

13. Samurai History: Learn about the warrior class with visits to historic sites like Himeji Castle, where samurai culture, weaponry, and traditions are preserved.

14. World-Class Shopping: Shop for fashion, electronics, anime merchandise, and traditional crafts in Japan’s bustling shopping districts, department stores, and specialty markets.

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15. Hospitality: Experience omotenashi, the Japanese concept of exceptional hospitality, through friendly service, attention to detail, and a warm welcome that makes visitors feel valued and respected.

These are just a few of the many reasons to visit the country, a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of tradition, modernity, natural beauty, and cultural experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

c. How to reach Japan

photograph of a japan airlines airplane

There are several ways to reach the nation, depending on your location and budget. Here are some common methods of transportation to get to the country:

1. By Air: The most common way to reach the nation from international destinations is by air. Japan has multiple major airports, including Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT), Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND), and Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka. These airports serve as major hubs for international flights, connecting the country to destinations around the world.

2. Airlines: Several major airlines operate flights to Japan from various countries, including Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, among others. Consider comparing flight options, schedules, and prices to find the best airline for your journey.

people walking in tunnel at airport

3. Direct and Connecting Flights: Depending on your departure location, you may have the option of booking a direct flight to Japan or a connecting flight with a layover in another city. Direct flights are typically faster and more convenient, while connecting flights may offer more affordable pricing or additional routing options.

4. Flight Duration: The duration of a flight to Japan varies depending on the departure city and airline. From major cities like New York, London, Los Angeles, or Sydney, a direct flight to Tokyo or Osaka can range from 10 to 15 hours, while connecting flights may have longer travel times.

5. Booking Flights: To book flights to Japan, you can use online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Kayak, Skyscanner, or directly visit airline websites for the most up-to-date information on flight schedules, availability, and prices. Consider booking your tickets in advance to secure the best deals and preferred seating options.

ticket gate in front of nara station japan

6. Arrival in Japan: Upon arrival in Japan, you will go through immigration and customs procedures at the airport. Make sure to have your passport, visa (if required), arrival card, and any necessary travel documents ready for inspection. After clearing customs, you can proceed to the baggage claim area to collect your luggage and exit the airport to begin your Japanese adventure.

7. Ground Transportation: From the airport, you can take various modes of transportation to reach your final destination in Japan, such as airport limousine buses, express trains (e.g., Narita Express, Keisei Skyliner), taxis, or rental cars. Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass for unlimited travel on JR trains, including Shinkansen (bullet trains), to explore different regions of Japan.

Whether you choose to fly directly to Japan or opt for a connecting flight, traveling by air is the most popular and convenient way to reach this captivating destination. Start planning your journey to Japan and prepare for an unforgettable travel experience in the Land of the Rising Sun.

d. Accommodation options

single beds inside a hotel room

Japan offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for traditional Japanese hospitality, modern luxury, or budget-friendly stays, here are some popular types of accommodation in Japan:

1. Hotels: Japan has a plethora of hotels ranging from international chains to boutique and luxury properties. Major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima offer a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Some popular hotel chains in Japan include Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton.

2. Ryokan: Experience traditional Japanese hospitality by staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Ryokans usually feature tatami mat rooms, futon bedding, communal hot spring baths (onsen), and multicourse kaiseki meals. Popular ryokan destinations include Hakone, Kyoto, and Takayama.

bathroom of a hotel room

3. Minshuku: Similar to ryokans, minshukus are family-run guesthouses that offer a more intimate and homely atmosphere. Minshukus often provide home-cooked meals, cozy accommodations, and a chance to interact with local hosts. They are a great option for budget-conscious travelers seeking an authentic Japanese experience.

4. Capsule Hotels: For a unique and affordable accommodation experience, consider staying at a capsule hotel. These pod-like sleeping quarters, equipped with basic amenities like a bed, TV, and storage space, are a popular choice for solo travelers or those looking for a convenient overnight stay in urban areas.

5. Machiya and Airbnb: Stay in a machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse, for a glimpse into Japan’s historical architecture and design. Alternatively, book a private apartment or room through Airbnb for a more personalized and local stay experience in residential neighborhoods across Japan.

tourist standing in front of reception desk
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

6. Hostels: Backpackers and budget travelers can opt to stay at hostels, which offer shared dormitory or private rooms at affordable rates. Hostels are a great way to meet fellow travelers, socialize, and save on accommodation costs while exploring Japan’s top tourist destinations.

7. Business Hotels: Business hotels cater to business travelers and offer convenient amenities such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and workspaces. These no-frills accommodations are a good option for travelers on a tight budget or looking for a comfortable stay in city centers.

8. Temple Lodging (Shukubo): Experience a stay at a Buddhist temple lodging, known as shukubo, for a spiritual retreat and cultural immersion. Temples like Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture offer guests a unique opportunity to participate in morning prayers, meditation sessions, and vegetarian meals.

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facade of the matsuya asakusa hotel in tokyo japan

9. Love Hotels: Couples looking for a fun and quirky accommodation experience can consider staying at a love hotel. These themed hotels offer themed rooms, romantic amenities, and privacy for travelers seeking a unique staycation or romantic getaway.

Whether you’re seeking traditional charm, modern comforts, or budget-friendly options, Japan’s diverse range of accommodations caters to every traveler’s needs. Plan your stay in Japan and choose the accommodation type that best suits your travel style and preferences for an unforgettable journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.

e. Best time to visit

person walking between the river and trees

The best time to visit Japan depends on your preferences, interests, and the activities you plan to enjoy during your trip. Japan experiences a diverse climate with four distinct seasons, each offering unique experiences and attractions. Here is a breakdown of the best times to visit Japan based on the seasons:

1. Spring (March to May):
– Cherry Blossom Season (Sakura): Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Japan, especially during the cherry blossom season when the iconic pink flowers bloom across the country. The peak cherry blossom viewing period varies from late March to early April, depending on the region.
– Mild Weather: Spring offers comfortable temperatures, making it ideal for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and enjoying hanami (flower viewing) picnics.
– Popular Destinations: Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, and Hiroshima are popular destinations during the cherry blossom season.

people walking on bride in forest

2. Summer (June to August):
– Hot and Humid: Summer in Japan can be hot and humid, especially in July and August. Be prepared for high temperatures and occasional showers during the rainy season (tsuyu).
– Summer Festivals: Experience vibrant summer festivals like Tanabata, Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, and Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori. Fireworks displays, traditional performances, and street food stalls are common during summer events.
– Beach Resorts: Visit coastal destinations like Okinawa, Yakushima, or beaches along the Izu Peninsula for water sports, snorkeling, and relaxation.

3. Autumn (September to November):
– Fall Foliage (Koyo): Autumn is another popular time to visit Japan when the country’s foliage transforms into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Peak fall foliage season typically occurs in October and November.
– Mild Weather: Enjoy cooler temperatures and clear skies during autumn, perfect for hiking, outdoor activities, and visiting temples and shrines.
– Koyo Spots: Visit iconic koyo spots like Nikko, Hakone, Mount Fuji, Kyoto’s Arashiyama, and Takayama for breathtaking autumn scenery.

white a and brown house covered with snow

4. Winter (December to February):
– Snowy Regions: Experience winter wonderlands and snow activities in regions like Hokkaido, Nagano (Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park), and the Japanese Alps.
– Onsen (Hot Springs): Stay at traditional ryokans or onsen resorts to soak in natural hot spring baths and relax during the colder months.
– Skiing and Snowboarding: Hit the slopes at popular ski resorts like Niseko, Hakuba, and Nozawa Onsen for winter sports, snowboarding, and apres-ski activities.

Consider your travel preferences, seasonal attractions, and weather conditions when planning your visit to Japan. Whether you choose to see cherry blossoms in spring, enjoy summer festivals, admire fall foliage, or embrace winter activities, Japan offers a unique travel experience year-round. Be sure to check local events, festivals, and peak seasons for your desired destinations to make the most of your trip to Japan.

f. Ideal number of days

white sedan during nighttime

The ideal number of days to spend in Japan can vary depending on your travel preferences, interests, and the destinations you wish to visit. Japan is a diverse country with a rich culture, history, and a wide range of attractions, so the duration of your trip will ultimately depend on the experiences you want to have. Here are some general guidelines to help you decide how many days to spend in Japan:

1. City Highlights (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka):
– If you’re interested in visiting major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, a minimum of 7 to 10 days is recommended. This will allow you to explore key attractions, historic sites, modern landmarks, and experience the unique culture of each city.

2. Regional Exploration:
– If you want to explore multiple regions of Japan, consider spending 2 to 3 weeks or more. This will give you enough time to visit popular destinations such as Hokkaido, Okinawa, Hiroshima, Nara, and the Japanese Alps, as well as experience different landscapes, culinary traditions, and local customs.

arched bridge over calm lake in japanese park

3. Cultural Immersion:
– For travelers interested in immersing themselves in traditional Japanese culture, visiting temples, participating in tea ceremonies, staying at ryokans, and attending cultural events, a longer stay of 2 to 3 weeks or more is recommended.

4. Seasonal Activities:
– Depending on the season you plan to visit, allocate enough time to enjoy seasonal activities such as cherry blossom viewing in spring, hiking in fall foliage season, skiing in winter, or summer festivals and beach activities in the warmer months.

woman under umbrella walking through the street

5. Multi-Destination Itineraries:
– If you’re planning a multi-city itinerary that includes both urban centers and rural areas, allocate at least 10 to 14 days to explore different facets of Japan and have a well-rounded travel experience.

6. Travel Constraints:
– Consider factors such as travel time, jet lag, transportation within Japan, and the pace of your trip when determining the duration of your stay. Longer stays allow for a more leisurely exploration, while shorter trips require efficient planning to maximize your time.

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Ultimately, the best duration for your trip to Japan will depend on your specific interests, budget, and availability. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Japan offers a wealth of experiences and attractions that can be tailored to suit your preferences. Plan your itinerary accordingly, considering the places you want to visit, activities you want to enjoy, and the overall travel experience you seek to have in Japan.

g. Offseason details

The offseason in Japan typically refers to periods when there are fewer tourists, lower hotel prices, and less crowded attractions. The offseason can be a great time to visit Japan if you prefer quieter travel experiences, mild weather, and more budget-friendly options. Here are some considerations for visiting Japan during the offseason:

trees covered with snow
  1. Winter (December to February):
  • The winter offseason in Japan is from December to February, excluding the holiday season around Christmas and New Year’s. This period offers fewer crowds, especially in popular tourist destinations.
  • Winter activities: Enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding in regions like Hokkaido, Nagano, and the Japanese Alps. Visit onsen (hot springs) resorts for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
  • Snow festivals: Attend winter festivals like the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in Hokkaido, featuring stunning ice sculptures and illuminations.

2. Late Spring (May):

back view of a woman sitting on a bench
  • Late spring, after the cherry blossom season, is considered the offseason in Japan. This period offers pleasant weather, fewer crowds, and discounted accommodations.
  • Mild temperatures: Experience mild weather and blooming flowers in May, making it a great time for outdoor activities, hiking, and strolling through parks and gardens.
  • Festivals: Attend traditional festivals and events such as the Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo, Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo, and Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto.

3. Early Autumn (September to October):

  • Early autumn, before the peak fall foliage season, is another offseason period in Japan. This time offers comfortable temperatures, fewer tourists, and lower prices on accommodations.
  • Cultural experiences: Explore temples, shrines, and historical sites without the crowds, and participate in traditional cultural activities such as tea ceremonies, kimono dressing, and calligraphy classes.
  • Food festivals: Attend food festivals and taste seasonal delicacies like chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and autumn-themed sweets.

4. Weekdays and Shoulder Seasons:

  • Consider visiting Japan during weekdays or the shoulder seasons (April, early June, late September to early November) to avoid peak tourist crowds and secure better deals on flights and accommodations.
  • Off-the-beaten-path destinations: Explore lesser-known regions and hidden gems in Japan during the offseason for a more authentic and peaceful travel experience.

Keep in mind that the definition of offseason may vary between regions in Japan, so research the specific destinations you plan to visit and consider your travel preferences when choosing the best time to visit. Whether you prefer quieter travel experiences, cultural immersion, outdoor activities, or budget-friendly options, the offseason in Japan can offer unique opportunities to explore the country at a more relaxed pace.

h. Festivals of Japan

woman in red kimono standing near green trees

Japan is known for its vibrant and diverse festivals, which celebrate traditional culture, seasonal events, and local customs. These festivals, known as Matsuri, attract both locals and tourists with their colorful parades, performances, food stalls, and traditional rituals. Here are some popular festivals in Japan that showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage:

1. Gion Matsuri (Kyoto):
– Held in Kyoto during the entire month of July, the Gion Matsuri is one of Japan’s most famous festivals. It features colorful processions of traditional floats, known as Yamaboko, and locals dressed in traditional attire.

2. Takayama Festival (Takayama):
– The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn in Takayama, is known for its ornate floats, karakuri mechanical puppets, and traditional music performances. It offers a glimpse into Japan’s rural festival traditions.

two geisha in formal kimonos standing outside

3. Awa Odori (Tokushima):
– The Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima is a lively dance festival held in August, where participants dressed in traditional clothing dance through the streets to the sound of shamisen music. It is one of Japan’s largest dance festivals.

4. Sapporo Snow Festival (Hokkaido):
– The Sapporo Snow Festival, held in February, features stunning ice and snow sculptures displayed throughout Sapporo’s Odori Park. Visitors can admire intricate creations and participate in winter activities.

5. Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori):
– The Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, held in August, showcases giant lantern floats adorned with colorful designs and illuminated from within. The festival culminates in a parade of floats accompanied by taiko drum performances.

two women in yukata near market

6. Kanamara Matsuri (Kawasaki):
– The Kanamara Matsuri, held in April in Kawasaki, is a fertility festival featuring a phallic-shaped mikoshi (portable shrine) procession. The festival is known for its lighthearted atmosphere and vibrant celebrations.

7. Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo):
– The Kanda Matsuri, held biennially in mid-May, is a grand Shinto festival featuring vibrant processions of portable shrines, traditional music performances, and ceremonies at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo.

8. Aoi Matsuri (Kyoto):
– The Aoi Matsuri, held in May in Kyoto, is a traditional festival dating back to the Heian period. Participants dressed in elegant Heian-era costumes parade through the city, showcasing Japan’s historical heritage.

couple holding hands while walking on pathway in front of big apple building

These are just a few examples of the many festivals held throughout Japan, each offering a unique cultural experience and insight into the country’s traditions and celebrations. Whether you’re interested in traditional dance performances, elaborate floats, seasonal customs, or religious ceremonies, attending a festival in Japan is a memorable way to immerse yourself in the local culture and festivities.

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