Japan offers a unique artistic originality and effortless elegance to its visitors. The ancient Buddhist temples, ebullient fish markets, or neighborhoods flashing with neon, all speak to the uniqueness that it offers at every turn. It’s all encased in a vibrant cover, compelling each visitor to explore Japan’s sublime mix of an ancient tradition for an endless entertainment
Japan is simply a fascinating travel destination. Here, you’ll discover a smooth blend of new technology and old traditions. You’ll also find beautiful natural landscapes just a short train ride from sprawling, sparkling cities and jarring, loud outlets a short distance from peaceful areas full of meaningful rules. It’s a place where people have enough patience to stand in a queue after a natural disaster, but if you offend them in any way, will socially ghost you. With a culture and language so discrete, it is kind of difficult to actually list all the things you should be aware of before your Japan tour. We could spend hours describing the spectacular cuisine of the country, listing the top spots to find ramen and all the hidden gems, and explaining various ways in which you can offend someone accidentally. However, as for now, we’ll stick to the basics: all the things one should know so as to make sure that the Japan trip is fun and full of good surprises. And along the way, we’ll hopefully help you save some money too.
Japan is well-known for its dedication to rarity, precisely because of the staggering group of volcanic islands creating its own culture in the Pacific. The ancient Buddhist temples, exhilarated fish markets, or neighborhoods flashing with neon, all exhibit the uniqueness that this country offers at each turn. Every street in Japan is an attraction in itself, the exquisite concoction of sounds and sights providing limitless entertainment. However, the contrast between snow-covered Mount Fuji and iconic cities often makes even tropical postcards look pale. Other than this, even the forests are enticing, scintillating between coy carp-filled rivers, vast stretches of green bamboo, and lovely blossoms. The country has a plethora of stories, each emanating from the history and existence of its culture.
When we talk about transportation, undoubtedly, Japan is a leader. Bullet trains run across the country and connect faraway lands in impressively punctual opulence. Such a civilized transportation system in Japan makes it an easy and marvelous country to travel to. With the advancement in road construction, more convenient and efficient transportation options are available. Taxis, bicycles, and public buses are the most common vehicles for tourists to take. In some of the developed and modern Chinese cities, light rail and Maglev trains can be considered good options to get around the city.
All About Experiences in Japan
Explore the attractions of the Kansai region, which is home to the historic capitals of Nara, Asuka, and Kyoto, admire the superb ‘Omotenashi’ service and the authentic Japanese meals, and many other things on your Japan tour. Experience traversing through a speeding elevator to the 30th floor, and afterward land straight against a lovely sliding wooden door. Enjoy the traditional tea ceremony sitting on a tatami floor mat. Walk the beautiful sections of the Nakasendo Trail and get captivated by the varied temples, abundant nature, and one of the country’s most distinguished hot-spring towns.
Cash Rules in Japan
In Japan, cash is considered to be king. Usually, workers are paid in cash and most services and businesses, including shops and restaurants, accept only cash. Some big department stores and hotels will usually accept credit cards, but first, check always. Make sure to carry plenty of yen so as to avoid difficult conversations that can get lost easily in translation. In case you ever find yourself without cash in Japan, head straight to a 7-Eleven so as to use the ATM. It’s open 24/7 and your bank card is guaranteed to work every time.
Purchasing a Rail Pass in Japan
A Rail Pass in Japan can save you a lot of money, especially if you wish to travel around a specific region or the entire country. You can purchase an unlimited pass which is valid for country-wide or a particular region. This will provide you access to the JR-branded commuter trains, Shinkansen (bullet train), ferries, and buses, too at around the same price as that of two individual train tickets. Just be aware of the fact that these passes cannot be used on the Nozomi trains and are valid for a definite number of days within a 7, 14, or 21 days period. Moreover, these passes should be purchased before you arrive in the country, although you’ll still be required to get them validated at a JR office with your voucher and passport in hand.
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Japan carries this reputation for being quite expensive. However, it is not the case. Just like anywhere else in the world, it totally depends. If you are planning for a Japan tour and wish to immerse yourself completely in its unique experiences, consider the following list:
Tsukiji Fish Market Tour in Tokyo: This one is the largest and busiest market in the world. Its outer ring is a labyrinth of shops, winding alleys, and food stalls. The well-known tuna auctions happen in the inner sanction at dawn and the restaurant business of Japan takes place. Ensure to have an amazing Japan experience by embarking on a tour and avoiding getting lost. Your luxury Japan tour agent will ensure that you get exposure to the most fascinating aspects as well as history of the market. You will also get ample opportunities to sample freshest seafood available.
Relish the street food: Japan is considered a ‘street food central’. Although the various food markets here may not be as wonderfully chaotic and as cheap as in Southeast Asia, the food is going to be just as delicious. Discover snacks distinct to Japan such as tasty tidbits and salted cucumber-on-a-stick specific to the individual regions. For a light meal, a couple of selections are more than enough and is definitely one of the top culinary Japan experiences.
Visit to the art island Naoshima: If you are an art lover, then Naoshima is a must-visit for you. The museums here are designed by Tadao Ando and works by globally-acknowledged artists. Stay at the museum-hotel Benesse House, and also visit the small nearby at islands of Inujima and Teshima.
Try a mascot hunt: Japan is kind of obsessed with mascots. These characters signify everything from services and products to geographical areas. There are mascots for regional foods, sports team, and local tax offices as well. These range from lovely to completely terrifying. There are few mascots which can compete the dizzy success of Kumamon, which is a rosy-cheeked black bear depicting the southern prefecture of Kumamoto. In the year 2011, he was voted as the number 1 regional mascot in all of Japan and since then has achieved extensive fame, producing billions of yen in revenue. Not all mascots have progressed quite so well. Around 1500 mascots have been estimated across the country and some of the local governments have also started destroying the more insignificant ones so as to save money. Although, even if you only check out the most famous mascots, you’ll be weighed down with enough notebooks, cuddly toys and key chains to last a lifetime, at the end of your trip.
Try Walking on Drift Ice - Hokkaido: The northeastern coast of Hokkaido is the southernmost point where one can witness drifting ice during winters, usually from late January till early April. There are a number of drifting ice-related tours available on foot or by ice-breaking ships. When there isn’t much solid ice, you might be swimming instead of walking with walking tours. Even if the average temperature in the area is about -6 degrees, do not worry as the tour offers you wet suits.
The climate of Japan can be refined into four distinct seasons, i.e. Spring, Summer, Fall (Autumn), and Winter. Each is culturally significant in Japan. In general, late spring, i.e. from March till May and late autumn, i.e. from September till November are the best times of the year to visit Japan, when the skies are clear, temperatures are mild, and there is little rainfall. Moreover, the lively hues of leaves during fall and graceful cherry blossom of spring appear visually splendid.
To most tourists, the colder months of December - February are less alluring which results in cheaper traveling at these times. Additionally, costing less and being less crowded, many of the country’s attractions are even better in the winter months.
In Spring, March-May:
Lots of festivals and cherry blossoms at peak
Not much rain, pleasant temperatures
Lots of crowd because of cherry blossoms
In Summer, June - August:
Weather - hot and humid
Rainy period for 3-4 week, generally Mid June - Mid July
In July, starting of festivals and fireworks
In July, Mount Fuji is opened for climbing
Pleasant time for beach vacations in places such as Okinawa
In Autumn, September - November:
Colorful leaves make the landscape appear splendid
Lots of concerts, exhibitions, sports tournaments, and festivals
In Winter, December - February:
Skiing in Japan is considered to be one of the best in the world
Perfect temperature for outdoor onsens
Small towns covered in snow appear magical
Japan possesses a variety of accommodation options that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Although it’s not cheap, Japan is such a rewarding destination that it is well worth all the expense. If you happen to be on a budget, finding the cheapest accommodation in Japan will be a priority. If you can spend a little extra, staying in a ryokan which is a traditional Japanese inn is highly recommended. Another classic Japanese experience is sleeping on a futon in a tatami mat room. The accommodation prices may be high in Japan, so are the standards. Just be prepared for compact rooms and pack light since luggage storage space would be limited.
Hostel: You might think that hostels are the cheapest places in Japan to stay, however, the least expensive accommodation is business hotels. Though there are certain benefits of staying in hostels which include better facilities such as a kitchen, computers, WiFi, laundry, bike hire, common area to socialize and relax.
Business Hotel: One can book business hotels online and find the cheapest ensuite double rooms in cities. Rooms might be small but will be clean, and will have WiFi, equipped with other things you might need such as towels, shampoo, soap. Comb, toothbrush, and robe.
Ryokan: It’s a traditional Japanese inn. When planning staying options in Japan, adding a ryokan stay to your itinerary is highly recommended. As compared to standard hotel rooms, these are more expensive but worth trying once to get a real Japanese experience.
If you are a citizen of the U.S., Canada, and EU country, you do not need a visa to enter Japan. You can stay there up to 90 days without any hassle. However, from time to time you may have to prove that you are visiting Japan for some non-remunerative activities, and for that, a copy of your travel itinerary would be sufficient.
There are no strict laws on Japan for travelers. But, you may be questioned about the medication you are traveling with. Many over the counter medications are prohibited, such as pseudoephedrine like Sudafed or Vicks inhalers. You are more likely to be stopped at the airport if traveling with medications like strong painkillers and EpiPens. In a bid to bring such medications to Japan, you need to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei, or import certificate that you then declare to customs.
One of the most beautiful and amazing countries in the world, Japan is a far-flung as well as an exciting travel destination for most travel enthusiasts. From the buzzing city of Tokyo to the zen-like touch in Kyoto or the splendid Mount Fuji, Japan is modern and high-tech, with respect and honor for its traditions. Here are some of the things you must be aware of while traveling in Japan:
Medical facilities, as expensive as they are, are abundant in Japan. The medicine and treatment are of high caliber. Make sure that you are covered so as to avoid the medical bills racking up.
Squat toilets exist in Japan, mostly in older buildings and public toilets. In transportation stations and hotels, you’ll come across traditional Western toilets. You may also encounter electronic toilets in a private residence, some having more than 30 buttons on a control panel to wash and heat yourself.
Female travelers in Japan have reported others catcalling to them or asking personal questions. There have also been incidents of ‘chickan’ assaulting women physically by groping them on public transit. Many train companies have initiated women-only cars during rush hour, indicated by pink signs.
People in Japan are extremely welcoming and polite, but many tourists worry about offending them accidentally by doing or saying the wrong thing. Keep in mind the fact that Japanese people do not expect you, as a tourist, to be aware of all their customs. As long as you behave with respect and kindness, you’ll fit right in. Having said that, making a little effort can always go a long way and people in Japan really appreciate when tourists make efforts to known about their customs.
Bowing: This one is Japan’s most well-known custom, and most tourists know this fact that people in Japan bow while greeting one another. Bowing is also used when apologizing or thanking someone.
Removing Shoes: If possible, it is recommended to travel Japan with shoes that can slip on and off easily. Before you enter a home or any area with tatami matting, you’ll be required to remove your shoes. Since you’ll have to do this several times in Japan, it is always nice to carry shoes that can come on and off easily.
Taxi doors: Japan is well-known for its technology and efficiency and it is no surprise that the taxi doors in Japan open automatically!
Passing money: Money in Japan is rarely passed from hand to hand. Instead, when buying a service or an item, just place your payment on the small tray provided.