OUR JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDE



An island nation in the Pacific Ocean, Japan is home to ultra-modern facilities fused with ancient old traditions. Bursting at the seams with dense cities full of towering skyscrapers, imperial palaces, thousands of shrines and temples, and mountainous national parks that fill the rest of the landmass, Japan is a truly remarkable place that is a feast for your senses.

For us, Japan is way up there on our must-see list, in fact, it’s in our top 5, as the culture is so unique and unlike anywhere else and that’s not even mentioning everything else it has to offer. A place that many people instantly love, Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveler. To help you fall in love with it too, we’ve put together this guide to make sure you see and do as much as you can to really experience Japan in its entirety.

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Language

LANGUAGE

The primary language in Japan is Japanese. You will be fine in tourist areas, especially because of the upcoming Olympic games. When we were there, public transportation was very clearly laid out and had English translations everywhere.

It is very common to encounter menu machines in restaurants. This is where searching for blogs and google photos comes in handy as for the most part, the buttons are all in Japanese. We encountered a couple of these but the staff always were willing to lend a helping hand after we showed them a picture of what we wanted.

Japanese is a very difficult language to learn so if you’re brave enough, grab a book and try to! It is worth noting though, that many Japanese people love to hear English and would love to speak it so you won’t be offending everyone if they hear you talking clearly and slowly if you have to.

Currency 1

CURRENCY

The currency in Japan is the Yen. 1£ is equivalent to about 150 Yen.

Japan still mainly a cash society. Card machines are increasingly used in the more touristy areas of Japan, but we would still recommend that you carry enough cash on you to get you through the day.

Electric Sockets

Electric Sockets

100V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually for two, non-polarized pins. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adaptors for everywhere you go, we recommend picking up a Universal Travel Adaptor before you leave.

Visa

Visa

Holders of passports issued by 68 specific countries can travel to Japan visa-free for up to 90 days; this means that EU and US nationals, as well as Australian, Canadian citizens etc, can travel here without a visa. The only requirement is that your passport must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan. If you don’t come from one of the visa-exempt countries, you will have to obtain a visa from one of the Japanese diplomatic missions.

Coming from the Philippines, I had to fly back to Manila and apply for a Japanese visa using a 3rd party agency. My application was released within 3 days so the whole process was relatively easy.

Safety

Safety

Japan is one of the world’s safest nations, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are immune from risk.  During our two week stay in the country, we felt super safe and even wandered around many times during the night which is something we relatively don’t do in a new country.

Crime levels are low in Japan but there have been reports of foreigners being targeted in Tokyo’s entertainment districts (Roppongi and Kabuki-cho) for petty theft, drink spiking, and credit card fraud. Make sure to always keep your drinks with you and watch your valuables, it is also important that you always have your I.D with you.

A really handy safety measure to have while you travel is the NHK World TV app, this is the public broadcaster in Japan and they will send out emergency notifications in English to this app of such as earthquake or tsunami warnings as well as breaking news alerts. 

As always, no matter how safe a country is, we always recommend getting travel insurance. We recommend going with World Nomads, due to the large number of sports and activities that they cover. Safety Wing, is also a great choice as the offer monthly payments, making it easier for digital nomads.

Budget

BUDGET

Japan might be more expensive than other Asian countries, but it is comparable to a lot of countries in Western Europe with Tokyo actually being only slightly cheaper than both London and New York. 

When traveling around Japan, a lower-end daily budget would be anything below 11,000 ¥ per day (66£) with accommodation being the largest expense. 

WHERE TO GO IN JAPAN


Are you travelling to Japan for the first time or returning for more? We hope to simplify your Japan trip and help you chose where to go, how long to stay there and what to do once you have arrived. We research every destination we visit in-depth and have been to Japan multiple times. We travelled to various areas in Japan and have created travel guides for all the places we visited. Each destination guide also includes a detailed tried and tested travel itinerary.

The world’s most populous metropolis, Japan is full of sci-fi neon-lit cityscapes, award-winning architecture, unlimited shopping, entertainment, and culture, and has more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can fathom.
Let’s just say, it’s pretty easy to get lost here. With many museums, historic temples, and pristine gardens, the city offers something for everyone

Kyoto is a city located in the central part of Japan’s Honshu Island. It served as the imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, traditional architecture, beautiful gardens, and temples. Kyoto is also famous for its seasonal festivals and exquisite cuisine, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

OSAKA

Osaka is a bustling port city located in the Kansai region of Japan’s Honshu Island. Known for its vibrant nightlife, modern architecture, and delicious food, Osaka is a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers. The city is also home to several historical landmarks, such as Osaka Castle and the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

Hiroshima is a city located in western Japan, famous for being the first city in history to suffer a nuclear attack. Despite this tragic history, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving modern metropolis, while preserving its poignant reminders of the past, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The city is also renowned for its local cuisine, including okonomiyaki and oysters.

KANAZAWA

The world’s most populous metropolis, Japan is full of sci-fi neon-lit cityscapes, award-winning architecture, unlimited shopping, entertainment, and culture, and has more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can fathom.
Let’s just say, it’s pretty easy to get lost here. With many museums, historic temples, and pristine gardens, the city offers something for everyone

Kyoto is a city located in the central part of Japan’s Honshu Island. It served as the imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, traditional architecture, beautiful gardens, and temples. Kyoto is also famous for its seasonal festivals and exquisite cuisine, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

Osaka is a bustling port city located in the Kansai region of Japan’s Honshu Island. Known for its vibrant nightlife, modern architecture, and delicious food, Osaka is a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers. The city is also home to several historical landmarks, such as Osaka Castle and the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

Hiroshima is a city located in western Japan, famous for being the first city in history to suffer a nuclear attack. Despite this tragic history, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving modern metropolis, while preserving its poignant reminders of the past, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The city is also renowned for its local cuisine, including okonomiyaki and oysters.

The world’s most populous metropolis, Japan is full of sci-fi neon-lit cityscapes, award-winning architecture, unlimited shopping, entertainment, and culture, and has more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can fathom.
Let’s just say, it’s pretty easy to get lost here. With many museums, historic temples, and pristine gardens, the city offers something for everyone

Kyoto is a city located in the central part of Japan’s Honshu Island. It served as the imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, traditional architecture, beautiful gardens, and temples. Kyoto is also famous for its seasonal festivals and exquisite cuisine, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

KAMKURA

Osaka is a bustling port city located in the Kansai region of Japan’s Honshu Island. Known for its vibrant nightlife, modern architecture, and delicious food, Osaka is a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers. The city is also home to several historical landmarks, such as Osaka Castle and the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

Hiroshima is a city located in western Japan, famous for being the first city in history to suffer a nuclear attack. Despite this tragic history, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving modern metropolis, while preserving its poignant reminders of the past, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The city is also renowned for its local cuisine, including okonomiyaki and oysters.

The world’s most populous metropolis, Japan is full of sci-fi neon-lit cityscapes, award-winning architecture, unlimited shopping, entertainment, and culture, and has more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can fathom.
Let’s just say, it’s pretty easy to get lost here. With many museums, historic temples, and pristine gardens, the city offers something for everyone

Kyoto is a city located in the central part of Japan’s Honshu Island. It served as the imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, traditional architecture, beautiful gardens, and temples. Kyoto is also famous for its seasonal festivals and exquisite cuisine, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

OUR SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR JAPAN


We have created the ultimate itinerary for Japan that includes as many Japanese destinations as possible. This should alleviate any fear of missing out (FOMO). Here is the summary of the 14 day japan itinerary that we highly suggest you follow:

  • DAY 1 to 2 – Tokyo (3 nights)
  • DAY 3 – Hakone (1 night)
  • DAY 4 – Matsumoto (Day Trip)
  • DAY 5 – Kanazawa (2 nights)
  • Optional Day Trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park
  • DAY 6 – Takayama (2 nights)
  • DAY 7 – Shirakawago (Day Trip)
  • DAY 8 to 9 – Kyoto (3 nights)
  • DAY 10 – Nara
  • DAY 11 – Hiroshima (2 nights)
  • DAY 12 – Daytrip to Miyajima Island
  • DAY 13 – Osaka (1 night)
  • Optional Day Trip to Himeji
  • DAY 14 – Return to Tokyo (1 night)

We have written a very detailed post about the suggested two week Japan itinerary with lots of information and travel tips. The post also includes a couple of alternative itineraries for those who prefer to travel at a slower pace.

Husband walking through gate of asukusa temple

TRANSPORTATION IN JAPAN


Bullet train Shinkanzen passes Mt Fuji and Shibazakura at spring Shizuoka Japan

Transportation in Japan is SO efficient. Everything happens and runs like clockwork, making it an easy country to travel around. However, if you don’t plan your trip properly, transportation can be very costly, given the price of bullet trains (Shinkansen) to and from main cities.

Hands down, if you are planning to travel around Japan, stopping at two or more cities, getting a Japan Rail Pass is something we highly recommend. The passes grant you unlimited travel Japan Rail National trains, as well as JR bus services, ferry services, and airport transfers, as well as bullet trains between major cities.

While the initial cost of the rail passes turns off a lot of people, they actually work out cheaper than buying individual tickets! Our passes ended up saving us a few hundred dollars as we ended up going on a lot of day trips.

We got a 7-day unlimited train pass which we activated during the middle portion of our trip when we were traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka. You order the rail passes ahead of time and an exchange order is delivered straight to your doorstep. All you have to do is activate your plan as soon as you get to Japan, allowing you to use any JR trains immediately.

Being able to hop on any train without having to worry about the cost ahead of time was a huge relief and in the end, saved us tons of money!

BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT JAPAN


The average weather in Japan is temperate. That means that in summer (late June to August), Japan can get a bit hot and humid. And in Winter (December to February) temperatures drop but not enough to put you off traveling to Japan. The rainy season usually lasts from mid-June to July, mind you, it doesn’t rain every day.

Our recommendation on when to visit Japan, really depends on your personal preferences and what you want to see. It also depends on where in Japan you are planning to travel. The best time to travel to Okinawa for example, is very different than the best time to visit mainland Japan.

If you really want to see the famous cherry blossoms, then you have to visit Japan in spring, somewhere between the end of March and the first week in April

If you dislike crowds or are on a tight budget, then you should really avoid the peak season and definitely the Golden Week, Japan’s biggest holiday.

Our favourite season to travel to Japan is fall (September to November), because it barely any rainy days, tourist attractions aren’t crowded and the trees are just starting to show their autumn colours.

Japan Himeji castle White Heron Castle in beautiful sakura cherry blossom season

ACCOMODATION IN JAPAN


The variety of accommodation in Japan, is as vast as the city itself. You can stay at some of the most famous and luxurious 5-star hotels, curl up in your private nook in a pod hotel, enjoy some intimate time with your partner in a themed love hotel, have a homestay in an Airbnb, find some great apartment rentals, stay in a hostel full of fellow backpackers, rest your vary eyes in a business hotel or opt to sleep on a futon in a traditional Japanese Inn and everything in-between. There truly is an option here for everyone, no matter your budget and travel style. 

Below are some guides on where to stay in Japan and reviews of the hotels we stayed in ourselves.

Okinawa offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses. For those looking to enjoy the beach and water sports, staying near the famous beaches of Naha or Chatan is a good choice. Alternatively, staying in the central area of Okinawa City provides easy access to the island’s historical landmarks and cultural experiences.

The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo is a luxury hotel located in the heart of the city’s vibrant Roppongi district. Boasting stunning views of the Tokyo skyline and the iconic Tokyo Tower, the hotel offers luxurious accommodations, Michelin-starred dining options, a spa, fitness center, and other amenities, making it a popular choice for discerning travelers.

SShiba Park Hotel is a popular mid-range hotel located in the heart of Tokyo’s vibrant Minato ward. Boasting easy access to major tourist attractions such as Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace, the hotel offers comfortable accommodations, a variety of dining options, and excellent service, making it a great choice for both business and leisure travellers.

Tokyo Gate Hotel Kaminarimon is a modern and affordable hotel located in the heart of Tokyo’s bustling Asakusa neighborhood. With its convenient location near Sensoji Temple and the popular Nakamise shopping street, the hotel offers clean and comfortable accommodations, a variety of dining options, and excellent service, making it a great choice for budget-conscious travelers.

THINGS TO DO IN JAPAN


Japan is a fascinating destination with a rich culture, history, and natural beauty. There is so much to see and do in Japan, making it a perfect place for all types of travelers. Here are some of the top things to do in Japan:

  • Experience Japanese Cuisine: Japan is known for its delicious and unique cuisine, from sushi and ramen to tempura and yakitori. Be sure to try some of the local specialties during your visit.
  • Soak in Hot Springs: Japan is home to many natural hot springs, known as onsen. These hot springs are believed to have healing properties and are a popular way to relax and unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.
  • Explore Nature: Japan is home to several national parks, including the iconic Mount Fuji and the stunningly beautiful cherry blossom trees in spring. There are also many hiking trails and scenic spots, such as the picturesque villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama.
  • Attend a Traditional Festival: Japan is home to many traditional festivals, or matsuri, throughout the year. These festivals often include parades, performances, and traditional foods, and are a great way to experience Japanese culture.
  • Learn about Japanese History: Japan has a rich and fascinating history, and there are many historical sites and museums throughout the country. Be sure to visit places like Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, and the ancient capital city of Nara.

These are just a few of the many things to see and do in Japan. With so much to explore, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience in this amazing country.

Okinawa offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring the historical sites of Shuri Castle and the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, to enjoying the beautiful beaches and water sports, such as snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can also experience Okinawan culture through traditional performances, cuisine, and crafts..

Attending a sumo match in Tokyo is a unique and exciting experience that allows visitors to witness the ancient Japanese sport up close. Matches are held several times a year, and tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of the match. In addition to watching the matches, visitors can also enjoy the festive atmosphere, food, and drinks sold at the venue.

FOOD TO TRY IN JAPAN


Japanese food is definitely not for the faint-hearted as some of it comes across odd but if you don’t dive in head first, you are missing a big part of their culture.

Offering one of the most vibrant food scenes in the whole world, Japan is known for its out their seafood, top-quality ingredients, and for their chefs who are masters of technique and skill. It is not uncommon to find restaurants who only specialize in one thing because they train for years and years!

It’s really hard not to eat well in Japan (seriously, we never had a bad meal!) so grab those chopsticks and try one or all of these delicacies listed in our post about things to eat in Japan.

japan onigiri tokyo food

Okinawa offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring the historical sites of Shuri Castle and the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, to enjoying the beautiful beaches and water sports, such as snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can also experience Okinawan culture through traditional performances, cuisine, and crafts..

Attending a sumo match in Tokyo is a unique and exciting experience that allows visitors to witness the ancient Japanese sport up close. Matches are held several times a year, and tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of the match. In addition to watching the matches, visitors can also enjoy the festive atmosphere, food, and drinks sold at the venue.

WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR JAPAN TRIP


Japanese maid under an umbrella

What you need to pack obviously depends on when you are traveling to Japan. In the Winter, you will need long sleeve tops, jeans or long pants, woollen socks and boots – it gets pretty cold out there. We went right before cherry blossom season which meant we had a lot of cold and rainy days.

For Winter travel, consider investing in warm heat tech base layers and a high-quality down jacket and gloves. While in the Summer, you’ll need t-shirts, shorts/skirts, sunscreen, a hat, flip flops, and an umbrella – yep, it’s rainy season in the Summer too! It gets sweltering in the Summer in Japan, so it’s not uncommon for people to carry a towel around with them to pat down the sweat. Sounds gross but you’ll thank us.

Whatever you do, just make sure you check the weather and pack accordingly. Naturally, you can also just opt to bring a few pieces which will give you a reason to shop and splurge a little bit while you’re in the country.

Although traveling around Japan is easy, a good internet connection is a must! Looking for where to go, which trains to catch, and even where to eat needed wifi which is why one of the first things we got when we landed was a Pocket WIFI. We rented one from TEP Wifi ahead of time and picked it up from the airport as soon as we landed.

THE BEST GUIDE BOOKS FOR JAPAN


Planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming with so many things to see and do. To make the most of your time and experience all that Japan has to offer, it’s essential to have a reliable source of information.

On this blog we try to cover as much information as we can and provide information based on our own experience travelling to Japan. Since we have now travelled to this beautiful country several times, we are able to cover quite a bit of ground.

While travel blogs can provide a wealth of information, they often cannot compare to the convenience and comprehensiveness of a good guidebook. Guidebooks offer detailed information about a country’s history, culture, attractions, and transportation systems, as well as maps, recommendations, and insider tips from experts. They can be easily carried around and referred to at any time, even when you don’t have access to the internet.

There are many guidebooks available for Japan, each with its own unique style and features. Below we have highlighted some of the best guidebooks for Japan, to help you plan your trip and get the most out of your visit to this amazing country.

TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES FOR JAPAN


PLANNING

For all travel resources click travel planning

FLIGHTS

Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner

HOTEL

Find a good accommodation deal with Booking.com

ACTIVITIES

Book your activities in advance with GetYourGuide

INSURANCE

Protect your trip and your family with World Nomads