Japan Mt. Fuji head
Home Travel Guide Japan Travel Guide Japan Travel Guide

Japan Travel Guide 2024

SKIP AHEAD

Travel to Japan promises a captivating blend of tradition and innovation, serene natural landscapes, and bustling urban hubs. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll equip you with all the things to know about travel to Japan, ensuring you make the most of your adventure. From discovering the top places to visit in Japan to savoring its delectable cuisine, understanding Japan’s diverse culture, and mastering the art of budget travel, we have your travel needs covered. Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a nature lover, or a culinary explorer, Japan has something remarkable in store for you. So, let’s embark on this journey together, delving into the heart of Japan’s captivating experiences and making your visit an experience to remember.

Recommended Itinerary

Japan at a Glance

  • Capital: The capital city of Japan is Tokyo, which also happens to be the largest and most populous urban center in the nation. Tokyo boasts a modern cityscape that seamlessly blends tradition and innovation.
  • Entry Requirements: To gain entry into Japan, you will require a valid passport, and depending on your nationality, you might need a visa or an electronic travel authorization (e-Visa). For visitors from many countries, a visa-free visit to Japan is possible for a specific duration. However, the duration of visa-free stays and entry conditions can vary based on the visitor’s nationality.
  • Currency: The official currency of Japan is the Japanese yen (JPY), which is divided into 100 sen. You can exchange foreign currencies at banks, post offices, airports, hotels, and select convenience stores. Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted at many places, although smaller shops and restaurants may primarily prefer cash payments.
  • Electricity: Japan uses a standard voltage of 100 volts, with a frequency of either 50 or 60 hertz, depending on the region. The power plugs and sockets utilized are of type A and B.
  • Major Cities: Apart from Tokyo, Japan boasts several other major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. Each city possesses its own unique allure and historical significance, offering a diverse range of attractions, activities, and culinary experiences to explore.
  • Language: The official language spoken throughout Japan is Japanese, which is the primary language of communication for the majority of the population. Various regional dialects, pronunciation variances, and vocabulary differences exist. While English is taught as a foreign language in schools, it is not commonly used in everyday conversations.
Japan Tokyo Nights
Busy Nights in Tokyo, Japan

Why Visit Japan

  • Breathtaking Natural Beauty: Japan boasts some of the most exquisite natural landscapes worldwide. Whether it’s the rugged wilderness of Hokkaido or the pristine, sun-kissed beaches of Okinawa, the country’s natural scenery offers incredible diversity.
  • Iconic Mount Fuji: Mount Fuji, known globally, is a must-visit destination year-round. This majestic peak isn’t merely a mountain; it holds a profound, sacred significance in Japanese culture.
  • Safety First: Japan stands out as one of the world’s safest nations, characterized by low crime rates and a high level of public safety, making it a secure and welcoming destination for travelers.
  • Culinary Excellence: Japanese cuisine enjoys worldwide popularity for good reason. From the delectable sushi to the heartwarming ramen, Japanese food delights with its unique flavors and artistic presentation.
  • Cultural Treasures: Immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, which permeates every corner of the nation. Explore ancient temples, serene shrines, and tranquil Zen gardens that bear witness to Japan’s historical and spiritual legacy.
Japan Fuji Hakone Izu National Park
View of Mount Fuji

Top Things to Do in Japan

Visit Tokyo – A City of Contrasts:

Tokyo, a vibrant city, seamlessly weaves together modern and traditional cultures. When visiting Tokyo, be sure to explore the historic Senso-ji Temple, relax in the tranquil Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and pay your respects at the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Explore Kyoto – A Cultural Gem:

Kyoto, steeped in history and culture, invites you to delve into its past. Notable attractions in Kyoto encompass the enchanting Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, the resplendent Kinkakuji Temple, and the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

Visit Hiroshima – A Story of Resilience:

Hiroshima, a city reborn from the shadows of the atomic bomb, beckons you to its history. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum stands as a poignant testament to the city’s past and is a must-visit site to comprehend its journey.

Conquer Mount Fuji:

Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest peak, stands as an emblem of the nation. Ascending this iconic mountain is a cherished activity among tourists seeking breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment.

Savor Japanese Delicacies:

Japanese cuisine is celebrated for its distinctive flavors and exquisite presentation. Your taste buds are in for a treat with dishes like sushi, ramen, and tempura.

Rejuvenate in an Onsen:

Onsen, Japan’s natural hot springs, are renowned for their therapeutic properties. These havens of relaxation can be found throughout the country, offering a soothing and revitalizing experience.

Witness Sumo Wrestling:

Sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport, promises an enthralling experience. Attending a Sumo match allows you to immerse yourself in this captivating and age-old tradition.

Japan Kyoto Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market in Kyoto

What to Eat in Japan

Japan is renowned for its diverse cuisine, which places a strong emphasis on the inherent flavors and textures of its key ingredients. Here’s a taste of some of the most beloved Japanese dishes you simply must try:

  • Sushi: Sushi is a delectable creation consisting of vinegared rice paired with an array of ingredients like raw fish, vegetables, and eggs. Typically, it comes with sides of soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
  • Ramen: Ramen is a comforting noodle soup featuring Chinese-style wheat noodles swimming in savory meat or fish-based broth. This flavorful concoction is often seasoned with soy sauce or miso and adorned with toppings like sliced pork, dried seaweed, and green onions.
  • Tempura: Crispy and golden brown, tempura is a delightful dish that showcases seafood or vegetables dipped in a light batter before being deep-fried to perfection.
  • Okonomiyaki: Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake crafted from a mixture of flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, and an assortment of meats or seafood. It’s typically garnished with a drizzle of sweet brown sauce, dollops of mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of dried seaweed.
  • Yakiniku: Embrace the interactive joy of Japanese-style barbecue, or yakiniku, where diners grill bite-sized meat pieces to their liking right at their table.
  • Soba: Soba offers a refreshing twist with thin noodles made from buckwheat flour, often served either chilled with a delectable dipping sauce or in a steaming hot broth.
  • Udon: Enjoy the heartiness of udon, thick wheat flour noodles immersed in a steaming hot soup broth. These noodles can be paired with various toppings like tempura or thinly sliced beef, creating a wholesome and satisfying meal.

See also Manners and Etiquette for Eating and Drinking in Japan

Japan Sushi-making

Top Places to Visit in Japan

Japan is a land of myriad experiences, from the bustling metropolises to the tranquil countryside. Here’s a selection of top destinations to visit in Japan:

  • Tokyo: As the capital city of Japan, Tokyo is a must-visit destination for all travelers. It’s renowned for its lively culture, delectable cuisine, and cutting-edge fashion. Iconic attractions in Tokyo include the Tokyo Tower, the historic Sensoji Temple, and the Imperial Palace.
  • Kyoto: Steeped in history and tradition, Kyoto boasts over 2,000 temples and shrines, among them the famed Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Shrine. The city also showcases beautiful gardens and traditional Japanese architecture.
  • Osaka: Known as “Japan’s kitchen,” Osaka is famous for its street food and local culinary delights. While in Osaka, make sure to visit attractions like Osaka Castle, the entertaining Universal Studios Japan, and the bustling Dotonbori district.
  • Nara: Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital, holds a wealth of historical treasures, including some of the nation’s oldest and largest temples. The Todai-ji Temple, home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, is the city’s most renowned attraction.
  • Hokkaido: As Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido is celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty. It’s home to several national parks, including Shiretoko National Park and Daisetsuzan National Park, providing ample opportunities for outdoor adventures.
  • Yokohama: Situated just a short train ride south of Tokyo, Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city, with a population exceeding three million. The city is famed for its vibrant Chinatown, stunning gardens, and thriving contemporary art scene.

How Long to Spend in Japan: Ideal Duration for Your Japan Trip

The length of your Japan vacation hinges on your interests and the adventures you wish to undertake. Here are some general recommendations based on different traveler profiles:

  • Families: Most families typically find 10-14 days to be a suitable timeframe for their Japanese journey. This allows for a balanced exploration of various attractions and experiences.
  • Couples (30s-50s): Couples in their 30s to 50s often opt for a vacation spanning 1-2 weeks. This duration enables them to delve into the essence of Japan while accommodating work schedules.
  • Couples (50 and above): More mature couples with the luxury of extended vacation time usually prefer 2-3 weeks for a comprehensive and leisurely Japan travel experience. This allows for a deeper immersion in the country’s culture.
  • Business Clients: For business clients visiting Japan, a stay of 3-5 days is typically adequate to fulfill their work commitments, with the possibility of squeezing in some leisure activities.

Here are some recommendations for how many days to spend in Japan based on your vacation time:

Vacation Length

Recommended Stay Length

Suggested Destinations

5 days

1 or 2 cities

Tokyo in-depth tour or Tokyo + Kyoto or Tokyo + Osaka

7 days

3 cities

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka

10 days

4 cities

Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hakone or Hiroshima

14 days

5 cities

Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hakone or Hiroshima, and Takayama

21 days

6 cities

Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hakone or Hiroshima, Takayama, and Nagano

28 days

Thorough exploration

Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south

Japan Travel Budget

Planning your budget for a trip to Japan involves several key elements that will impact your overall expenses. Here’s a breakdown of these crucial factors:

Accommodation:

Japan offers a wide range of lodging options, each with its price range. Depending on location, season, and amenities, expect to pay approximately:

  • 3,000 to 5,000 yen per night for a dormitory or hostel bed.
  • 6,000 to 12,000 yen per night for a single room in a business hotel or minshuku (family-run inn).
  • 12,000 yen or more per night for a ryokan (traditional inn) or Western-style hotel.

Some accommodations may include complimentary breakfast or provide discounts for longer stays.

Transportation:

For convenient and cost-effective travel around Japan, trains are often the best choice, especially if you plan to explore multiple cities or regions. Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass or regional rail pass for unlimited travel on JR trains, including the Shinkansen (bullet train). Prices vary based on duration and coverage, but roughly:

  • 29,650 yen for a 7-day nationwide pass.
  • 10,000 to 20,000 yen for a 3-5 day regional pass.

Other transport options such as buses, subways, taxis, or rental cars may be more expensive or less convenient, depending on your destination.

See also Japan Travel Cost: How Much Is a Trip to Japan

Activities:

Japan offers a diverse array of activities suitable for various interests and budgets:

  • Many major sights like temples, shrines, gardens, castles, and museums can be explored for free or a small admission fee of about 500 to 1,000 yen.
  • For cultural experiences like tea ceremonies, kimono dressing, calligraphy, origami, or martial arts, budget around 2,000 to 5,000 yen per person.
  • Adventure and entertainment activities like skiing, hiking, cycling, or rafting typically cost around 5,000 to 10,000 yen per person.
  • Visits to theme parks, aquariums, zoos, and other attractions generally range from 3,000 to 8,000 yen per person.

Food:

Japan is renowned for its cuisine, offering options to suit various tastes and budgets:

  • Affordable and satisfying meals can be found at convenience stores, fast food chains (e.g., ramen, curry, sushi), or vending machines, typically costing 500 to 800 yen.
  • Enjoy more authentic and diverse culinary experiences at izakayas (Japanese pubs), cafés, or family restaurants for around 800 to 1,500 yen.
  • For special or local delicacies like kaiseki ryori (multi-course meal), wagyu beef, or sushi, anticipate expenses of 3,000 yen or more.

Miscellaneous Expenses:

Additional costs to consider may include:

  • Visa fees (if required based on nationality and purpose of visit).
  • Travel insurance for emergencies or accidents.
  • Souvenirs or gifts (omiyage) for yourself and loved ones. Prices vary from inexpensive snacks, keychains, or magnets to pricier items like pottery, lacquerware, or dolls.

Based on the above information, we’ve outlined approximate daily budgets for various spending levels. Note that these are only rough estimates and do not include the cost of transportation between cities or regions.

Budget Level

Accommodation

Food

Activities

Miscellaneous

Total

Low

3,000 yen

1,500 yen

1,000 yen

500 yen

6,000 yen

Medium

8,000 yen

3,000 yen

3,000 yen

1,000 yen

15,000 yen

High

15,000 yen

6,000 yen

6,000 yen

2,000 yen

29,000 yen

Best Time to Visit Japan

Japan, an island country situated in East Asia, offers a rich tapestry of weather patterns influenced by the seasonal monsoons. These atmospheric currents bring warm, humid air from the Pacific Ocean during summer, while winter sees the arrival of cold, dry air from the Eurasian continent. Japan’s climate is divided neatly into four distinct seasons, each offering a unique and picturesque backdrop for travelers. Spring graces the land from March to May with mild temperatures and a spectacular cherry blossom spectacle. Summer, spanning June to August, bestows warmth and humidity, but also ushers in occasional typhoons and heavy rainfall. Autumn, from September to November, brings a vibrant panorama of changing leaves and crisp, invigorating air. Winter, lasting from December to February, swathes several regions in a snowy embrace, particularly in the northern reaches.

Here are some pointers to assist you in determining the ideal time for your Japanese adventure:

Cherry Blossom Splendor (Late March to Early May):

  • Best time to witness the renowned cherry blossoms, varying by region.
  • Be prepared for peak tourist season, accompanied by larger crowds and higher prices.
  • Embrace the tradition of hanami, picnicking beneath the delicate blossoms, in numerous parks and gardens.

See also How to Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip 2024

Autumn’s Vibrant Palette (Late October to November):

  • Cooler weather and colorful foliage make autumn a fantastic choice.
  • Admire the koyo, or autumn leaves, at temples, mountains, and lakes.
  • Ideal for hiking and outdoor pursuits in pleasant temperatures.

Winter Wonderland (December to February):

  • Perfect for winter sports enthusiasts or those keen on seeing snow monkeys.
  • Japan boasts world-class ski resorts with powdery snow and breathtaking scenery.
  • Warm up and unwind in hot springs and onsens amid the winter chill.

Summer Festivities (June to September):

  • An option for those seeking to avoid crowds and save on expenses.
  • However, summer is Japan’s hottest and most humid season, with temperatures often surpassing 30°C.
  • Be prepared for occasional rain and typhoons, though the season is rich in festivals and fireworks that spotlight Japan’s culture and traditions.

See also Rainy Season in Japan: When, What to Do & Expect

Japan Philosopher's Path
Philosopher's Path, a scenic trail bordered by cherry trees

Japan Transportation: How to Get to and Around Japan

How to Get to Japan

The most common and convenient choice to get to Japan is flying, but if you’re in close proximity to South Korea or China, you can opt for a boat journey.

By Plane:

If you decide to take to the skies, Japan boasts numerous accessible airports. Key hubs include Narita and Haneda in Tokyo, Kansai in Osaka, and Fukuoka in Kyushu. Other cities like Sapporo, Nagoya, and Okinawa also offer international flight options.

By Boat:

Alternatively, if a sea voyage appeals to you, ferries depart from locations like Busan in South Korea or Shanghai in China, connecting to various Japanese ports such as Hakata, Osaka, or Kobe. The duration of your ferry ride varies, ranging from 3 to 12 hours depending on the vessel’s speed and your chosen destination.

Japan Tokyo Narita International Airport
Narita International Airport in Tokyo

How to Travel around Japan

Getting around Japan offers a variety of options to suit your budget, schedule, and preferences.

Trains: The most favored method for traversing major cities is Japan’s efficient railway system, including the renowned shinkansen (bullet train). While train tickets can be pricey, consider the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for substantial savings on JR train travel. Additionally, look for regional passes or discounted tickets from private railways to economize.

Buses: A budget-friendly choice, buses may be slower than trains but cover a wider array of destinations. Long-distance and overnight buses link major cities and tourist attractions. Local buses are ideal for exploring rural areas and smaller towns. Explore savings with bus passes like the Japan Bus Pass or Willer Express Bus Pass if you plan on frequent bus travel.

Domestic Flights: For speed and covering long distances, consider domestic flights that link major airports across the country. Low-cost carriers like Peach and Jetstar Japan offer economical fares. Special fares like the Japan Air Pass or Star Alliance Japan Airpass are available for foreign visitors, permitting multiple flights at a fixed price.

Ferries: Enjoy scenic coastal views and reach remote destinations like Hokkaido, Okinawa, or Shikoku via ferries. These vessels come in various sizes and speeds, with some offering cabins or sleeping accommodations. Depending on distance, duration, and service type, ferry fares vary. Some ferries even allow you to transport your vehicle or bike.

Rental Vehicles: For ultimate flexibility and freedom, renting a car or motorcycle is an option, especially for rural and scenic routes. However, it comes with challenges and costs. Ensure you possess an international driving permit or a Japanese driver’s license. Pay attention to the distinct traffic rules, signs, and signals in Japan. Additionally, budget for tolls, parking fees, and fuel expenses, which can accumulate swiftly.

Contact us on

code

More Travel Tips & Ideas

Sample Itineraries for Your Inspiration

Plan your tailor-made trip with 1-1 help from our travel experts.

Lost your password?

A TripAdvisor award-winning China travel agency organizing diverse private and mini-group China tours. We offer in-depth experience, free cancellation, flexible & safe trips.

Email

WeChat/Whatsapp

Call

(+86)17392484719
(08:00-21:00 Beijing Time)

Send us a quick inquiry

    I prefer to be contacted via: