The Beginner’s Guide to Traveling To Japan

Japan is a very enticing destination for travelers. And after 2 and half years, the country finally reopened its gates to tourists. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of travel you’re doing, there’s plenty to see, things to do, and amazing places to visit. The language, culture, and customs are different from anything you’ve seen before, which can often make planning your first trip more challenging than it really should be.

This guide will explore all you need to know about traveling to Japan.

Japan Fast Facts

Known as the land of the rising sun, Japan is filled with immense beauty, rich culture, and outstanding technological innovations. They have the fastest shrinking population in the world and an array of delicious, unique cuisine. 

Check out these fast facts about Japan:

  • Currency is Yen (¥)
  • Population is over 126 million
  • Legal drinking age is 20
  • Credit cards are accepted but not widely used. It’s best to carry cash.
  • Tipping at restaurants and bars is accepted but not required/expected.
  • It’s okay to flush your toilet paper.
  • Japanese emergency number is 119.
  • Electrical outlets are 100V AC. Similar outlets with the USA with two flat non-polarized pins.

The Landscape

Located in East Asia, it consists of 6,852 islands but only 430 are inhabited. The major islands in Japan are Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Okinawa. First-time visitors typically visit Honshu. This is where popular places like Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Fiji, and Hiroshima are located. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Japan?

The best time to visit Japan depends solely on your preference. Japan experiences all four seasons so you could choose when to go based on what you’d love to do. Summertime is best spent on the beaches of Okinawa. Spring is Cherry Blossom season. Fall comes with the beautiful foliage of trees in Kyoto. And, you can make plans to ski in the mountains of Honshu during winter.

Summertime in Tokyo is around 80F while the winter temperatures dip up to 30 to 40F. Places like Naha in southern Japan experience warmer temperatures of 60F during winter. 

One of the most beautiful times to visit Japan is during spring or fall. The spring weather is perfect, warm, and breezy, and the trees are stunning. Japan gets really crowded in spring. To avoid the crowds, we advise that you visit right at the end of the cherry blossom season.

The fall weather is much cooler and less humid. To better experience the beautiful fall colors, plan to visit Japan between October and November.

How Safe is Japan? 

Because of its very low crime rate, Japan is dubbed one of the safest countries in the world. It is not unusual to see older ladies with their purses open in public. 

When visiting Japan, you don’t need to worry about petty crimes like pickpocketing or theft. The people are also generally kind and eager to help. This makes it a perfect destination for solo travel. 

What Is The Best Way To Change Currency In Japan?

As mentioned earlier, many hotels, shopping centers, and restaurants accept credit cards. However, it is still important that you carry some cash with you as lots of smaller businesses only take cash. 

Some of the best ways to change money in Japan are:

  1. ATMs: There are ATMs all over Japan. These give you better exchange rates than individual currency changers. Note that you’ll have to pay some fees when changing currency via an ATM. To waive these fees, you can get the Charles Schwab Debit card.
  2. Banks: Every bank in the country provides currency exchange services. However, their rates are not as good as that of ATMs. Note that this service is only open till 3 pm so it’s best to change your money earlier in the day.
  3. Airport: It is best to exchange only a small amount at the airport currency exchange counters – just enough for the bus or subway. This is because their rates are steep. 

Getting Around in Japan

The major mode of transportation is trains and subways. An intricate system of rail lines connects the entire country and allows easy navigation between and within cities. You can get tickets at the train stations. Most ticket machines take cash so be sure to have some on hand. The maps and instructions are written in both English and Japanese. Google Maps is also a great resource as it can tell you what train line to take and when. 

The HyperDia website or app is another great resource. It helps you find routes and tells you the time, line, and train (down to the color of the train) to get on. The subway shuts down by midnight so buses are the best option for getting into and around Tokyo from Haneda Airport.

If you’re visiting smaller cities outside Tokyo, buses are your best bet for moving around. Google Maps and HyperDia also cover bus routes and departure times. Bus tickets are sold on board and with cash payments only. 

Japanese Etiquettes

  • Slurping your noodles is seen as polite.
  • Eating while working or on the street is frowned upon. When you buy street food, there are designated eating areas where you can stay to finish your food.
  • Drinking in public is allowed.
  • When on the subway, wait in line, and don’t eat or talk loudly on the phone.
  • When on an escalator, stand to the left to allow people free passage.

Japan is a wonderful place to visit. There are great attractions for all ages and interests, including world-class museums, parks, gardens, and historical sites. At the same time, it is a technologically advanced country with a unique culture and lots of festivals to attend. 

Japan is not a cheap country to visit, but with some planning and preparation, it can be an incredible trip. There is so much to see and do here, people return again and again. Their traditions are fascinating, the food amazing, the locals are kind and friendly, and it will likely leave you wanting more. If you follow this guide closely you should be able to plan your very first trip to Japan, hassle-free.

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