Japan Travel Guide
Japan is a country located in Asia with name that begins with letter J. High-tech, ultra-modern and at the same time culturally very independent – few countries in the world perform such a balancing act between modernity and tradition as the last country on earth in which an emperor is head of state. The East Asian island state calls itself in its national language Nippon or Nihon: “Land of the Rising Sun”. Around 126 million people live in an area the size of Germany and Belgium combined. Settlement is concentrated on the four main islands Hokkaidō, Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū. In total, over 6,850 islands in the Japanese archipelago are washed by the Pacific.
37 million people live in the Tokyo-Yokohama area in the east of the country – making it the largest metropolitan region and one of the most highly developed urban areas in the world. Only around a fifth of the land area of Japan is settled or can be used for agriculture; almost two thirds of the country are forested. A variety of birds and mammals have survived here, including the northernmost monkey population on earth with the Japanese macaque. Check Countryaah to find more countries that begin with letter J.
A valid passport is sufficient to enter Japan for tourist purposes. Upon entry, a fingerprint is taken and a digital image is made.
Japan stretches for 3,000 km from north to south, from the height of the Russian region of Premjore to the height of Taiwan. The climate in the various regions of Japan is correspondingly different. It is cool and temperate in the north and in the mountains, subtropical and humid in the south.
Food and drink
Sushi, maki, sake and green tea – the national dishes and drinks of Japan have long since found their way to the West. Japanese food is low in fat and dominated by fish and seafood – and of course the staple rice, which every bento box shouldn’t be without. Other main characters in Japan’s cuisine are noodles, tofu and other soy dishes, which often turn the use of traditional chopsticks into a test of skill. By the way: tipping in restaurants is absolutely unusual.
Japan is an ultra-modern and at the same time culturally very independent country. Buddhism and the related Shintoism have shaped the Japanese mentality. Exuberant expressions of feeling are not provided here; Instead, virtues such as mutual consideration and respect for the elderly are capitalized. You bow politely to greet you; when entering an apartment or a sanctuary, you slip off your shoes. Loud blowing the nose, but also eating and smoking in public are frowned upon. A few chunks of Japanese definitely brighten faces and facilitate interpersonal encounters. Sayounara!
A high medical and hygienic standard makes Japan an uncomplicated travel destination. Depending on the region you are visiting, protection against mosquitoes is recommended, as these can in rare cases transmit a form of meningitis. Bringing a personal first-aid kit is definitely advisable.
The crime rate is relatively low. Safety risks come more from nature – here in particular from the high seismic activity in Japan. Earthquake warnings from the authorities must be observed; it is best to familiarize yourself with the appropriate behavioral recommendations before going on vacation in Japan.
Climate and travel time
Japan has four distinct and distinctly different seasons, each of which has its own charm. The best travel times are spring and autumn.
Spring (March to May):
After the cold winter months, peach blossoms herald spring, which is crowned by cherry blossoms in late March or early April. Mountains, fields and gardens are covered with beautiful pink flowers.
Summer (June to August):
Summer begins in June with the three to four-week rainy season, which farmers use to plant the rice seedlings. From July it will be warm in summer. The Japanese like to spend these weeks on the beaches by the sea and in the resorts in the mountains. Summer in Japan is the time of festivals and many events.
Autumn (September to November):
The hot summer is followed by autumn with a refreshing breeze and pleasant temperatures. The color of the foliage in the forests provides a beautiful picture, as do the chrysanthemums now blooming in parks and gardens. Many exhibitions, concerts and sporting events take place in autumn.
Winter (December to February):
Winter temperatures in the plains of the Pacific coast are mostly above zero degrees Celsius, it is dry and often sunny. There are very good winter sports opportunities in central and northern Japan, while southern Japan has a pleasantly warm climate.
All about money
Currency and money exchange
The unit of the national currency is the yen – abbreviated with a ¥ or internationally with “JPY”.
You can import any currency, personal jewelry and other valuables and export the imported currencies and valuables again. Up to 1 million yen can be exported.
After presenting your passport, you can exchange yen at banks that conduct foreign exchange transactions and at specially authorized exchange offices. At the international airports in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, the exchange offices are open during normal business hours. There is no limit to the amount of money you can do when you want to convert your not-spent yen back into foreign currency.
International credit cards such as American Express, Visa, Diners Club and Master Charge are mostly accepted in hotels, shops and restaurants. With European Maestro bank cards and credit cards you can currently get money all over Japan at the ATMs of the Seven Eleven supermarket chain or at ATMs of the AEON banks, which can be found at international airports, for example.
Despite everything, Japan is still a cash country. Please always have some yen with you. If you wish, your guide will reserve a table for you in the restaurant on days that dinner is not included. In Japan it is not customary to pay separately when eating. Your guide will pay for everyone. Please give him the amount in cash. Please calculate with approx. JPY 3000, – (approx. € 25, -) per dinner.
Tips are uncommon in Japan. Trying to tip a waiter can create uncomfortable confusion. Good service goes without saying! The guides do not expect tips either. However, they are happy to receive monetary recognition for good service – so here is a small exception.
Other essential information
The time difference to CET is +8 hours, to CET summer time + 7 hours
The national language is Japanese, but English is taught in all school classes. If you would like to ask someone to help you on the street, please first speak to younger people or students who still fondly remember English from conversation courses. Please remember to speak slowly and clearly. A tip: Have the address written down in Japanese characters at the hotel so you don’t get lost.
The AC electrical voltage in Japan is typically 10 volts. However, there are two different frequencies: 50 Hz in eastern Japan including Tokyo, and 60 Hz in western Japan including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. In the hotels there are usually two sockets for 110 and 220 volts. Two-pole flat plugs are used in Japan. Before leaving, it is advisable to obtain a travel plug adapter (2-pin flat plug for USA / Japan – without protective contact) (plug type A).
You can drink tap water anywhere in Japan without hesitation. Please bring your own water bottle, you can fill it up again and again. That saves plastic bottles and is good for the environment.
On our trips to Japan we are almost exclusively on public transport (train, bus, ferry). Traveling around Japan by train is a real experience. Rail travelers are enthusiastic about the punctuality and reliability of rail transport, and Japan Rail’s (and some private operators) network of routes allows travel to the most remote areas of the country. Our Japan trips include a Japan Rail Pass for 14 days.