Located in East Asia, Japan is one of the most popular tourist destinations. It is a country that contains historic and beautiful temples and shrines, delicious cuisine, and innovative technology.
One of the world leaders of technology, Japan is forward-thinking, yet also has deep ties to culture and tradition. It is also home to over a dozen World Heritage sites. There are so many things to do and see here.
This Japan travel guide will help you prepare your next vacation.
Fast Facts about Japan
- Power voltage is 100V at 50 Hz. Type A and B.
- Japan’s currency is the Japanese yen (¥) and 1 yen is equal to 0.0092 USD.
- Traveling by bus is considered the best way to get around Japan.
- You do not need a tourist visa as long as your visit is under 90 days.
- The most popular cellular networks in Japan are Mobal, SoftBank, and DoCoMo. When purchasing a SIM card, it should be noted that only Mobal has a voice + data plan (making and receiving calls as well as texting), while all other providers will only allow data (texting). For more info on SIM cards, click here. https://tokyocheapo.com/business/internet/prepaid-cheap-japan-sim-card-options/
- We use KnowRoaming $3.99 per day Unlimited data. PlanetD readers receive an extra 50% off using promo code DDSave50
- Japan has a flat 8% tax rate on all items, with plans to increase to 9% in October 2019.
- Japan has a variety of greetings. Konnichiwa (kon-nee-chee-wah) is probably the greeting tourists are most familiar with. Though it translates to “good afternoon”, it can be used as a standard greeting. “Oyasuminasai” is a good way to say goodnight. When greeting, it is custom to bow to the other person.
Things to See and Do in Japan
- Mount Fuji: Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, spend a day visiting this iconic mountaintop or take a couple of days to climb to its peak!.
- Kyoto Cultural Forest, Shrine, and Temple Tour: Travel through some of Kyoto’s most treasured cultural sights. Stops include the Kiyomizu Temple (which was built in 778 and is full of history), the serene Bamboo Forest, and the Tenr-ji Temple, which has been declared a World Heritage site.
- Stay in a Traditional Ryokan – Immerse in Japanese Culture in a traditional bath hotel sleeping on futons, wearing yukatas, relaxing in public baths and eating a 16-course meal.
- Nikko – Nikko is a cultural area of Japan where the first Shogun is laid to rest. Visit this beautiful mountainous region to see the countless shrines, hiking, kayaking, and many outdoor activities with stunning views.
- Tokyo – The fun robot and cat cafes of Shinjuku and Shibuya districts.
Japan Travel Guides
Budget – Japan offers a variety of hostels or budget hotels for around 2,160 to 3,270 yen per night, many of which are centrally located in major cities and come with shared or private rooms, bathhouses, and a shared kitchen.
Mid Range – For mid-range hotels, expect to pay around 5,000 to 14,000 yen per night. Most of these hotels come with private suites, multiple restaurants, a fitness room and spa, and a bar, as well as free shuttle rides if the hotel’s close to the Universal Studios theme park.
High End – Upscale hotels will cost about 20,000 to 50,000 yen per night and come with a variety of amenities. Stay in Japan’s finest and enjoy top-of-the-line service, stylish rooms and suites, elegant hotel restaurants, luxury spas and hot springs, and refined bars, among other things.
Food: Japan has a renowned cuisine that focuses on rice, seafood, and seasonal ingredients. Sushi, rice with miso soup, and tempura (battered and fried fish) are all staples. If you’re out and about, try some Japanese Crepes. Marion Crepes in Harajuku is considered one of the best places to try these, and cost 400 to 1,000 yen. Expect to pay roughly 2,000 yen for a meal at a restaurant.
The Best Ways to Get Around Japan
Getting to Japan:
Getting to Japan – Narita is one of the best international airports to get to Japan and places you in the Greater Tokyo Area, just 60 minutes away from Tokyo city center by express train. If you’re going to Kyoto or Osaka, the Kensai International Airport is the best and is roughly 60 minutes away from both city centers.
Flights: You can check for the best flights to Japan on Skyscanner.
Transportation: Japan has an excellent train system. Bullet trains will get you around Japan quickly with speed reaching 200 miles an hour (321km/per hour) The average cost between cities is about $100 USD.
Regional and Limited Express trains are slower but much cheaper and worth taking to be able to relax and take in the scenery.
If you are staying in Japan for a while, a Japan Rail Pass is the way to go as prices start at $275 USD for a 7 day pass. Passes cover 7, 14 and 21 days. For the price of a return ticket Tokyo-Kyoto, visit the rest of Japan free for 7 days!
Buses: Buses are a cheap way to get around Japan and very efficient. There are many buses that run regularly and cost around 200 yen per trip.
Taxis/Uber: Taxis are expensive in Japan, but they vary from region to region.
Prices typicall start at 400-700 Yen ($4-$7) for the first two kilometers and increase by around 80-90 yen for every additional 300-400 meters. That adds up quickly.
One cool note, taxi doors open automatically for you when you get in and out.
Car Rental: To rent a car in Japan, you must be at least 18 years of age and purchase an International Driver”> You can also compare prices here
When to go To Japan
March through May and September to November are two great times to visit Japan. In both of these periods, the weather is great for outdoor activities.
In spring, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, especially in Tokyo and Kyoto, where the cherry blossoms bloom at the beginning of April.
In the fall, there are many beautiful autumn leaves.
The summer months of June through September can be a little more crowded, and there is more rain than in spring or fall.
Where to Stay in Japan
Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo: We stayed at the Tobu Hotel Levant and it was a very good location for the Skytree. Excellent breakfast buffet and spacious lobby.
We loved the Intercontinental Akasaka in Tokyo. Located right beside the subway, it was a central location with modern rooms and outstanding views.
The hotel bar is a hot spot in Tokyo for city views and we enjoyed two for one drinks at happy hour.
Kanaya Kinugawa is an exceptional traditional Ryokan in Nikko. Immerse in culture staying in a tatami room, sleep on a futon, dress in a Yukata and enjoy a traditional 16 course meal.
What to Pack for Japan
Japan has four seasons and varied weather. So depending on where and when you are going, you will need to pack accordingly.
- Google Translate: If you don’t speak Japanese or have an English Speaking guide, a translator app will save your life.
- Sunscreen: The sun can be strong, especially during summer months, so bring some sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Walking Shoes: You will most likely be doing a lot of walking, so a pair of comfortable walking shoes will help you get the most out of your trip.
- Layers: Depending on where you are going, it can get cold in the mountainous regions.
- Guidebook: As Japan is very large, a guidebook (preferably one with common Japanese sayings) will help ensure you get to where you need to go.
See our packing tips: packing tips
Japan Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
- Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
- Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
- VRBO: is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
- Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
- Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
- Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
- Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
- World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.