Are you looking forward to going to Japan this year? This information-loaded travel guide to the country will answer all of your questions. This best tourist guide will share everything, from traveling costs to Japan to accommodations, and some money-saving tips as well.
If you have been dreaming of traveling to Japan and are looking to plan your vacation, this is the best tourist guide to Japan! It is packed with tips and essential information that you will need to know before your vacation to ‘the land of the rising sun” begins. From foods to budgets to packing, and to the best things to do in Japan, we will cover everything in our best tourist guide for Japan.
Fun Facts about Japan
- The country is made up of over 6,800 islands
- On average, Japan receives about 1,500 earthquakes per year
- There are over 200 volcanoes in Japan
- There are 5.5 million vending machines in Japan, owing to their popularity. These vending machines dispense not just snacks but almost anything, from farm-fresh eggs to toilet paper.
- Japan has some of the most intelligent people, with a literacy rate of nearly 100%.
Things you will need before you visit Japan
Before you start planning your vacation to Japan, you should know something about transportation in the country. It is efficient and incredibly comfortable; however, it is not highly budget-friendly. Therefore, to save up on your money, you should consider getting a 7-days JR Pass.
Getting a JR Pass is something that should be on the top of your to-do list, especially when you are looking to visit more than one region. The pass will pay up for itself. Moreover, with the pass, you will also get to ride aboard the famous Japanese Bullet Trains.
Pro Tip: It is easy to apply for a JR Pass before entering Japan. You should plan ahead and get a pass a week before your vacation so the voucher can be shipped to you in time. The JR Pass can be availed for 7-days, 14-days, or 21-days.
Also, don’t forget to apply for good travel insurance before you visit the country. You can thank us later!
Even though it is unnecessary to enter the country, getting travel insurance is still a good bet for a safer vacation. It is just a very nominal price to pay to get yourself some peace of mind, knowing that if something goes wrong, you will be covered.
Before you book your vacation to Japan during the Spring season, you should know that this is one of the best times to visit the country, owing to its comfortable weather conditions, pleasant climate, and cherry blossoms with slight chances of rain.
There is a “Golden Week” that you should know about if you are looking to visit during the spring season. The golden week is made up of four national holidays that fall during the span of these seven days. This means that Japanese natives will also be traveling during the Golden Week. Almost all the accommodations and tourist attractions will be loaded with people and almost booked well in advance. If you are looking to travel during the Golden Week, ensure that you also book well in time before your vacation.
For 2022, the Golden week will fall between April 29 to May 5.
The currency in Japan is Yen (¥). The current exchange rate is as follows:
1 USD = 109.74 ¥
1 British Pound = 152.84 ¥
1 CAD = 87.77 ¥
1 Australian Dollar = 81.13 ¥
Will your credit card work in Japan?
Yes, most credit cards will work in Japanese hotel chains, fine-dining restaurants, and larger shops in the city. However, when in Japan, you would want to carry around some cash as well. If you are planning to visit some small restaurants, local markets, and rural towns, you should consider carrying cash as well. There are many places, even today, where credit cards are not accepted.
Should you take out money from your bank before your vacation?
It is your personal preference. You can take out some money for utilities on the way, or you can also wait till you reach the country and take out cash.
While you are at your airport, you will see many “Currency Exchange” countries, which are huge rip-offs. Avoid them. You can simply go to an ATM to get the best exchange rates in the country you are visiting.
However, if you want to carry your cash before you enter Japan, you can simply go to your local bank to get some Yen in exchange for your US Dollars, or other currency, before you leave.
Things to know here are that Japanese airports do have ATMs and are easy to find almost everywhere, even in the 7-Elevens and Family Marts.
Credit Card Tips
Before you start vacationing, ensure you tell and intimate your bank about the same, so it will be easier for you to take out some cash in Japan without any hassle. This will let the bank know that your transactions are not fraudulent.
Moreover, it is a great idea to carry more than one card, just if there is an issue with your first one. You should always have a backup, and of course, carry them in two different locations. If one gets lost or stolen, you should have another one handy and accessible.
Things to know about Japan for your vacation
Why should you visit Japan?
Japan is not just another metropolitan country; instead, it is a surprising blend of cultures and modernity. You will be surprised to witness both peace and chaos in the same place at the same time. The country has its rustic, old-world charms amid the new and developed areas. Japan is just perfectly idiosyncratic, making it an exciting and addictive place to visit. Once you visit Japan, you will come back looking for more!
Best time to visit
The best part about visiting Japan is that it is great to see at any time of the year. Every season has something to offer when in Japan. You will also have a completely different experience every time you visit the country, even when seeing the same places.
There is truly no bad time during the year to visit Japan. Every season can be enjoyed differently, with different highlights like the Cherry Blossom during springtime, Mt. Fuji climbs during summers, leaves changing their color during fall, and skiing through the country during winters. There is so much to do in Japan!
Do you require a tourist visa to visit Japan?
There are, in total, 66 countries where the citizens do not require a visa to travel to Japan. However, the total time you spend in Japan defines whether you need a visa or not.
Citizens from countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia can get a visa exemption. They can enter the country for free on a 90-day tourist visa. The only condition here is that these people will not be allowed to work in the country during their stay. People from other countries can get a temporary tourist visa for 15 days or less.
Is Japan safe?
The country is extremely safe with a very low crime rate. But even if the country is extremely safe, it does not mean that nothing wrong can happen to you. Just like visiting any other country, you need to be careful and aware of your surroundings. Getting travel insurance to ensure you have a safe vacation is therefore essential.
Vacationing in Japan
How expensive is a vacation in Japan?
It is helpful to know how affordable or expensive your travel destination will be, so you can have a fair idea to set your budget accordingly. This best tourist guide will offer you average prices in Japan and Tokyo, only to give you a simple baseline. You could find some things on this list at a lower price or sometimes at a higher price. The prices are going to vary depending on what region you are in.
Average prices in Tokyo
- You can expect to get a dorm bed for approximately ¥3,000, i.e., around $30.
- You can get a mid-range accommodation/private room in a guest house between ¥5,000 – 10,000, i.e., around $45-$90.
- You can get a high-end accommodation option between ¥10,000 – 30,000, i.e., around $90-$270.
Other average expenses
- One bowl of Ramen in Japan can cost around $7 or ¥800 at a restaurant. While at a convenience store, the same can cost you around $2.75 or ¥300.
- Train fare between Tokyo and Kyoto for a one-way journey can cost about $120 or ¥13,080
- A subway pass for one day can cost about $6.40 or ¥700 per person.
- A cup of coffee can cost you about $2.75 or ¥300.
Budget for one week in Japan
Japan is not a cheap country, no matter what people or the best tourist guide say. In comparison to popular tourist destinations in Asia like the Philippines or Bangkok, Japan is not the ideal destination for people on a budget. That being said, Japan is also not like any other country on the planet, and therefore, it is worth every penny you spend.
Depending on your personal travel style, our best tourist guide will walk you through different budget options. All the estimated budgets here are for one person only and do not include airfare.
For travelers on a budget
If you are looking to spend approximately $450 every week on your trip to Japan, you can expect to stay in a hotel and sleep on dorm beds. Your breakfast options will be limited to Family Marts or 7-Elevens, and you can explore and do only free activities around the city.
For Mid-range Travelers
Mid-range Travelers looking to spend approximately $850 per week can easily book an Airbnb or a cheaper-priced hotel comfortably. You can try out budget Japanese meals for most days, sparing 1 or 2 days for fine dining.
You can use public transportation to travel and get around the country to see as much as you can. However, you might have to make some adjustments and sacrifices to make the best of your money.
For High-end Travelers
For travelers willing to spend approximately $2000 per week, budgets will not be a significant concern for you. $2000 does not guarantee you a luxury vacation in Japan, but you will be able to do it all exceptionally well and conveniently. You can comfortably spend on unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and activities and stay comfortably at a decent hotel.
When traveling to another country, it is always a great idea to do some digging and research on their culture and mannerisms. This is important, so you do not end up accidentally being rude to the natives there.
Here are few customs that form essential manners in Japan as per Leisure’s best tourist guide:
- Do not eat while you walk. It is considered sloppy in the country. Simply find a place to sit down and eat in peace, even on a park bench.
- Do not point to someone or something. It is considered rude. If you want to, simply use an open hand gesture.
- Do not blow your nose in public. This is also considered rude in Japanese culture. If you have a stuffy nose, go to the bathroom to blow as other Japanese natives do.
- If you find yourself on a crowded subway, politely take your backpack off and hold it in your hands.
- Slurp your noodles when you eat. Not only will it cool them down faster, but it also will let the food maker know that you find the meal delicious. Slurping is considered polite.
- Take off your shoes as a common courtesy if you are visiting someone’s house. If you see a raised floor right in front of the doorway, remove your shoes.
- Tips are not expected in Japan. It can be considered rude if you are tipping. In fact, even if they are not offended, they will be left confused.
Religion in Japan
In Japan, there are primarily two religions followed, Buddhism and Shinto. However, they do not have a major impact on the lives of the modern Japanese people of today.
There are hundreds of temples and shrines that you can visit while on your vacation to Japan to gather more insight into the culture and religion in the country. While you are at it, you can also consider doing a temple stay to learn more about Buddhism.
Foods to eat in Japan
Sushi is a great option to eat when visiting Japan. However, the country’s cuisines are not limited to just sushi rolls.
You can also consume tempura, Ramen Noodles, Udon, Soba Noodles, Okonomiyaki, Teppanyaki, Yakiniku, Yakitori, Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki, and Fugu.
Top cities to visit when in Japan
Japan is a vast country, and if we make a complete list of places to visit, we will keep rambling on and on! Therefore, we have compiled a list of top cities you can see in one go when you are in Japan for a vacation. All of these cities are great to visit and can offer you a good taste of Japanese culture as per Leisure’s Best Tourist Guide.
The huge metropolis, Tokyo, is highly likely to be where you will fly in and fly out on your vacation to Japan. One of the most exciting and popular cities globally, Tokyo offers culture, modernity, technology, great food, fantastic shopping experiences, and quirkiness, all in one city. Tokyo should be on your itinerary for Japan.
A city dedicated to culture, history, temples, and shrines along with fascinating architecture and a charming atmosphere, Kyoto will not let you down, no matter what you do. The city is a favorite of Leisure’s best tourist guide.
After Tokyo, Osaka is another major city where you might see yourself flying in and out of the country. Osaka is another fantastic city in Japan to visit. It is famous for its food, rich culture and history, and so much more. The city also has some great options for a night out with your loved ones.
Situated at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Hakone is a popular tourist destination and a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities mentioned above. If you want a serene and quiet vacation, Hakone is the place to be. You can relish and indulge in nature and relax in an onsen.
Top sights to visit in Japan
1. Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is one of the most famous mountains in Japan and globally. You can get a peek of the mountain while you are traveling to Hakone.
2. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
The tourists around the globe know this place as the “Orange Gates.” There are thousands of grand orange gates, covered up like a little maze around the path leading up to the main shrine. As per Leisure’s best tourist guide, it is one of the most breathtaking locations in Japan.
Situated on the western side of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a region full of shrines and temples. The main attraction here is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
4. Temples in Japan
There are thousands of temples and shrines in Japan that will be on your list of sights to see. The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto should be your priority on this list. The stunning architecture, soothing and serene gardens and the reminiscent pond await your presence.
5. Shibuya Intersection
Known as the busiest intersection globally, the Shibuya intersection is quite an experience for someone visiting Japan for the first time.
6. Nara Deer Park
Spend an afternoon with nature and feed the deer at the Nara Deer Park. The location and the experience are truly unique and mesmerizing.
A popular reason why Japan is so famous is due to the various unique experiences it offers to tourists. It is a beautiful country for people who love adventure and leisure at the same time.
Here are a few unique experiences, straight out of Leisure’s best tourist guide to Japan.
1. Soak yourself in an Onsen
Strip down your layers and get in the hot tub, or as the Japanese call it, “Onsen.” Stay and relax in the hot tub until you get pruney. The Onsens here are private, and some can be used commonly, and of course, are separated as per the genders.
2. Click a memory at the photo booth
If you are traveling to Japan for the first time with your loved ones, you definitely have to do it. Get inside a photo booth and get prom-like shots taken. You can get your snaps, edit them instantly, slim down your jawline, or anything! Take clicking a selfie in Japan to a whole new level.
3. Jigokudani Snow Monkeys
You can visit a park just a few miles away from Nagano. Here you can find some local macaque monkeys soaking in a spring-fed hot tub while some are playing around in the snow.
4. Stay at a Ryokan
Experience tradition at Ryokan, a Japanese-style inn, and indulge in the warm cultural hospitality of the place.
5. Take a cooking class
Learn how to make perfectly rolled sushi or authentic Ramen noodles at a traditional Japanese cooking class, and impress your loved ones after returning from Japan. If cooking is not your forte, simply go down the streets and do a food crawl.
6. Sleep inside a temple
Experience one-of-a-kind temple stays when in Japan. A temple stay can rejuvenate your soul and be used as a retreat for your body and mind.
7. Enjoy at a themed cafe
Vampire-themed cafes to Butler-themed cafes, there are unique cafes in Japan that are quintessential and quirky. Visit one of these cafes, based on your interest and enjoy.
PS: There are also animal cafes for dogs and cats. Take your pet there, or just go pet one!
8. See a Geisha
Well, you can go to the older parts of Kyoto and get a glimpse of Geishas there. If you can spot a Geisha near you, do take a picture with them!
9. Themed Restaurants
Just like themed cafes, there are themed restaurants in Japan. You could be having your bowl of Ramen with two robots fighting in front of you to techno beats. Themed restaurants are a must-have experience.
10. Be a part of a fish auction
Show up around 3 in the morning and indulge yourself in a fish auction. It is a fun experience to see various fishers at a port near you selling their fish at the market around. You can then go to one of the closer restaurants to have fresh sushi, right from the ocean.
11. Ski around the mountains
When going to Japan during winters, you have to experience skiing and snowboarding. Japan is home to some of the best ski resorts globally, along with the best mountains for skiing and snowboarding. If you get a chance, don’t back off from doing so.
12. Watch a Sumo wrestling match
There are six Sumo wrestling tournaments held every year in Japan. If you are in Japan at the right time, you are lucky enough to witness the spectacle. Don’t miss out on such chances. Of the six matches, three are held in Tokyo in January, May, and September, and one each in Osaka in July and November.
Free (or almost free) things to do in Japan
Though Japan is not one of the cheaper countries, you still can find the best things to do that are either free or very cheaply priced in the country. You only need to be a little smart about everything.
Free walking tours
You can meet other travelers on a free walking tour and learn their life stories and experiences, which you could not have ever known in your life. There are multiple free walking tours in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo.
Visit the temples and shrines
Most of the temples and shrines in Japan are free to enter. Get in touch with your soul there.
Few parks around the country are absolutely free to enter, like the Meiji Shrine near Tokyo or the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto.
Get in touch with other travelers through the internet
You can simply join a meet-up, which can be easily found online. You can search for meetups on Google, and you will find one near your location. Enjoy and bond with fellow travelers, make friends if you are traveling solo.
Shop till you drop
There are hundreds and thousands of luxurious and local market areas in Japan. You definitely should not miss out on shopping here. Do not miss out on Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, or the Dotonbori Area in Osaka, a haven for people who love food.
Things to Pack for your trip to Japan
When looking forward to packing for your Japan vacation, the most significant factor can be the time of the year you are visiting. For instance, if you plan to go to Japan during winters, you could come across frigid temperatures and need warm clothes and extra layers. While, if you are traveling to the country during summers, you would need comfortable clothes, loose cotton clothes to bear all the extra heat.
There are, of course, many other things that you would want to pack for your trip to Japan. As per Leisure’s best tourist guide, we list down some essential items you will need in Japan.
- Long-sleeved top
- Light jackets/jumpers/pashmina
- Trekking shoes
- Casual sneakers/sandals for exploring the city
- For winters: warm jacket, socks, scarves, gloves, and a beanie hat
- A camera
- Electronic items of your preferences and their chargers
- Travel adaptor
- Kindle/Your favorite novel/book
- SPF Sunscreen and other toiletries
- A water bottle
- Your passport and visa
- Flight tickets
- Travel insurance documents
- Local currency
- Your credit card/debit card
- Essential medication
- List of important contacts
Tips to save money in Japan
Though Japan is not a cheap country to visit, there are indeed ways in which you can save some money while traveling around. These are a few tips from Leisure’s Best tourist guide to Japan.
- Get a JR Pass, as we had stated earlier. If you plan to go outside of Tokyo, this pass will come in handy and save you hundreds of dollars.
- Have breakfast and snacks from a 7-Eleven or Family Mart. You can find one almost anywhere in Japan. While it is known that convenience stores do not offer great options, surprisingly, in Japan, the food options are fresh, and plenty to choose from. Most locals are also seen eating around in these stores.
- Make lunch your primary meal during your vacation to Japan. Take advantage of “Lunch Sets,” “Happy Hours,” and other deals to get better meals that range between $5-7.
- Go to the conveyor belt sushi restaurants to try out all kinds of sushi on a budget. Not only will it save you money, but it will also offer you a joyous experience.
- Use budgeting apps to track your overall spending. It can be easy to deviate and overspend.
Getting Cell Services in Japan
WiFi is extremely common almost everywhere in Japan; therefore, you will be good even if you do not get a SIM card for yourself.
You can use WiFi at your hotel, in a cafe, restaurant, a convenience store, or anywhere for that matter and connect with your loved ones easily through internet-based applications.
However, if you want to get cell service in Japan, you can get a Japanese SIM card with a data plan.
PRO-TIP: Ensure that your phone is unlocked and can accept the foreign SIM Card.
That’s it, folks! You are all caught up for your next vacation to Japan. Keep this post handy, bookmark it; you might need our best tourist guide to Japan for your vacation plans this year.
Our private tours typically range from $500 - $1000 per person/per night depending on chosen hotels and room categories, vehicles used, types of tours, flight cost, time of year and other factors. Make an inquiry for a customized trip quote.