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Plan Your Trip to Japan 2024

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Are you planning a trip to Japan in 2024. To embark on this journey, understanding how to plan a trip to Japan is essential. This comprehensive guide offers insights into top recommended destinations, the ideal time to travel, estimated costs, suggested duration for your stay, available accommodations, and the best ways to reach and move around this fascinating country. Whether you’re captivated by the cherry blossoms in spring, the vibrant city life, or the tranquil countryside, these tips and insights will help you craft an unforgettable Japanese adventure.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan?

As per Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, any person visiting Japan needs a valid passport for their entire stay. It’s important to follow visa conditions based on factors like nationality, visit purpose, and duration.

Over 60 countries have agreements with Japan allowing their citizens to visit for tourism, business, or seeing family/friends without a visa, given they don’t work for pay. The visa-free time varies (from 15 to 90 days) based on the location. You can see the list of countries/regions exempt from visas here.

Japan Tokyo Sakura
Tokyo in Spring

Top 7 Places to Visit in Japan

Japan has loads of fantastic places to explore. Here are some top picks:

Tokyo: 

It’s Japan’s capital and the biggest city. Tokyo’s a bustling hub where old meets new. There’s everything from shopping, dining, and entertainment to cool art and traditional sights. Don’t miss the Tokyo Skytree, the Imperial Palace, Meiji Jingu Shrine, and the famous Shibuya Crossing.

Kyoto: 

This was Japan’s imperial capital for over a millennium. It’s all about culture and history. You’ll find over a thousand temples and shrines, many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Experience geisha culture, tea ceremonies, and fine dining. Visit Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Taisha (with thousands of torii gates), and Kiyomizu-dera (a temple with a breathtaking view).

Hiroshima:

Once devastated by an atomic bomb, Hiroshima now symbolizes peace and resilience. Explore the Peace Memorial Park and Museum to understand the history and impact. See the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome. Also, enjoy the stunning scenery and local cuisine, including Miyajima Island with its floating torii gate and the famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake).

Hokkaido:

Japan’s northernmost island is a nature lover’s paradise. You can do skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and relax in hot springs. The island experiences four distinct seasons. Hokkaido is renowned for seafood, dairy products, and beer. Don’t miss Sapporo, Furano, or Niseko.

Osaka:

It’s Japan’s second-largest city, often called the nation’s kitchen. This lively place is known for its delicious food like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushikatsu. Discover historical sites like Osaka Castle, the vibrant entertainment district of Dotonbori, and Universal Studios Japan.

Nara:

Japan’s first permanent capital, Nara’s brimming with history and culture. It boasts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Nara Park is famous for its friendly, sacred deer.

Kanazawa:

A former castle town, it holds the history of feudal Japan. Explore attractions like the Kenrokuen Garden, the Higashi Chaya District, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Don’t miss out on the local cuisine, especially the seafood and gold leaf products.

Japan Nara Park
Deer in Nara Park

Best Time to Visit Japan

Japan is a stunning country that showcases four unique seasons, each with its own perks and downsides. Depending on what you’re into, you might prefer visiting at different times of the year.

Here are some simple tips to guide you in choosing when to go:

Cherry Blossoms (Late March to Early April):

This time is perfect for witnessing the famous cherry blossoms. But keep in mind, it’s the peak travel season, so expect big crowds and higher prices.

See also How to Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip 2024

Colorful Autumn Foliage (Late October to November):

For those who love the vibrant colors of autumn, this is the ideal time. It’s a popular season too, but not as crowded as spring. The weather is generally nice and mild.

Avoiding Summer Heat (June to July):

If you’d rather dodge the scorching summer heat and humidity, consider going from June to July. The Japanese Alps are great for hiking and nature lovers during this time. However, be ready for some rainy days as it’s the rainy season.

Snow and Winter Activities (December to March):

If you’re all about snow and winter fun, plan your visit from December to March. Japan boasts amazing ski resorts and top-notch powder snow. Just remember, it’s the coldest season, so pack warmly with layers.

See also How to Plan a Japan Winter Trip

Recommended Itinerary

How Much Does a Japanese Trip Cost?

The usual daily cost for a trip in Japan is roughly around ¥18,967 ($127) per person. This amount covers your stay, travel, meals, sightseeing, and activities. However, your spending might differ based on how you like to travel and the time of year.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the main expenses:

Accommodation: 

On average, a double occupancy hotel room costs about ¥17,711 ($119) per night. But you can find cheaper alternatives like hostels, guesthouses, capsule hotels, or traditional ryokans, ranging from ¥2,000 ($17) to ¥10,000 ($85) per night.

Transportation:

The best way to get around Japan is through its extensive rail network. You can buy a Japan Rail Pass for a fixed time, allowing you to travel on most trains. Prices vary based on duration and service class. For instance, a 7-day ordinary pass costs ¥29,650 ($250). You can also use buses, subways, taxis, or opt to rent a car or a bike.

Food:

Japan offers a diverse and delicious cuisine for every budget. You can grab affordable meals at convenience stores, fast food joints, or street stalls for around ¥500 ($4) to ¥1,000 ($9). Or you can indulge in sushi, ramen, tempura, or other specialties at mid-range or high-end restaurants for around ¥2,000 ($17) to ¥10,000 ($85) or more per person.

Read more about Manners and Etiquette for Eating and Drinking in Japan

Attractions and Activities:

Japan’s rich culture and history provide many sightseeing and entertainment options. You can visit temples, shrines, castles, gardens, museums, and landmarks for free or pay a small fee of about ¥500 ($4) to ¥2,000 ($17) per entry. Natural attractions like mountains, lakes, hot springs, or beaches might be free or have a small charge. For more excitement, theme parks, karaoke bars, arcades, and other fun spots may cost around ¥3,000 ($25) to ¥8,000 ($68) per person.

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

How Many Days to Stay in Japan?

Japan, a vast and diverse country, is brimming with an array of attractions and experiences for every traveler. Whether you’ve got just a few days or a whole month, there’s something to suit every schedule.

If you’re limited to a few days, it’s smart to focus on one spot rather than hopping between cities. Tokyo is a fantastic choice, offering a vibrant mix of modernity and diversity. If you fancy a taste of nature and history, quick day trips to nearby places like Nikko and Kamakura can add some extra charm.

Extending your stay to a week opens up the chance to explore Honshu, Japan’s main island. Starting in Tokyo for 2-3 days, a bullet train ride to Kyoto and Osaka introduces the traditional and cultural side of Japan. If time allows, side trips to Nara, Kobe, Himeji, or Hiroshima can enrich your experience.

Dedicating two weeks lets you expand further, embracing regions like Hokkaido in the north, known for its breathtaking natural landscapes and diverse wildlife. A venture to Kyushu in the south offers volcanic terrains, soothing hot springs, and a culinary adventure.

For the adventurous souls with a month on hand, the journey across all four main islands beckons. Embrace both popular hotspots and lesser-known gems, immersing deeply in local culture, celebrations, and various activities at each stop.

In Japan, the beauty lies not just in the destinations but in the depth of experience each duration allows. Whether a fleeting visit or a more extended exploration, Japan’s allure is ready to captivate every traveler.

Japan Osaka Castle Park
Osaka Castle Park

Accommodation in Japan

In Japan, you’ll find a wide array of places to stay, both in traditional Japanese styles and modern Western setups. Some are quite unique, like capsule hotels and temple lodgings. Here’s a breakdown of the main types of places to stay in Japan, along with what you might expect to pay for a night’s stay:

  • Ryokan: These are traditional Japanese inns, offering Japanese-style rooms and usually including dinner and breakfast. Staying at a ryokan gives you a taste of traditional Japanese life. Prices vary from 6,000 to 40,000 yen per person.
  • Minshuku: These are Japanese-style bed and breakfast spots, often run by families, offering Japanese-style rooms and one or two meals. Prices usually range from 4,000 to 10,000 yen per person.
  • Western-style hotels: These are the typical hotels you’re familiar with, offering rooms and amenities in a Western style. You’ll find various international and Japanese hotel chains across Japan, particularly in big cities. Prices range from 8,000 to 50,000 yen per room.
  • Business hotels: These hotels offer small, basic Western-style rooms and have vending machines for snacks and drinks. They’re popular among budget-conscious business travelers and tourists. You might find rates between 5,000 to 12,000 yen per room.
  • Pensions: These are similar to minshuku, but with rooms in a Western style rather than a Japanese one. They’re commonly found in mountain resort towns and the countryside. Prices usually range from 6,000 to 12,000 yen per person.
  • Hostels and dormitories: If you’re on a tight budget, these places offer beds or rooms with shared facilities and common areas. Prices can be quite affordable, ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 yen per person.
  • Capsule hotels: These spots provide small sleeping capsules, often equipped with a TV and a shared bathroom. They’re mainly aimed at male guests who just need a place to sleep. Prices for a night’s stay generally fall between 3,000 to 4,000 yen per person.

Japan offers a wide variety of accommodation options to suit every preference and budget, making it easy to find a place that fits your style of travel.

Hotel Nikko Kanazawa
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa in Kanazawa Station Area

How to Get to and Around Japan?

How to Get to Japan?

Japan can be reached by various means, allowing travelers to choose the option that best fits their preferences, budget, and sense of adventure.

By Plane: Flying is the most popular and convenient way to get to Japan. All you’ll need is a valid passport and a visa if your country isn’t exempt. Numerous airlines operate flights to Japan from cities worldwide.

By Train: If you’re in a nearby country like China, Russia, or Korea, you could consider traveling to Japan by train. But keep in mind, this option tends to be pricier and more time-consuming than flying. Additionally, you’ll likely need to cross the sea via ferry or tunnel at some point.

By Ship: For those who relish sailing and have extra time and money, reaching Japan by ship is an option. Several cruise lines and ferries provide services to Japan from various ports globally. If you’re up for a more adventurous journey, traveling by freighter is also a possibility.

Japan Tokyo Narita International Airport
Narita International Airport in Tokyo

 

How to Travel around Japan?

Traveling around Japan offers a variety of options tailored to your budget, timeframe, and preferences. Here’s a rundown of the most common ways:

Train: Trains are a top choice for exploring Japan, especially if you’re hopping between cities and regions. The high-speed bullet trains (shinkansen) zip you to major destinations in no time, but tickets can be pricey, ranging from 3,000 to 23,000 JPY for a one-way trip. To save money, consider a rail pass, like the Japan Rail Pass, offering unlimited rides on JR services for a set period, or opt for regional passes that are more specific and affordable. Local or limited express trains are slower but cheaper alternatives to bullet trains.

Bus: Ideal for budget travelers willing to spend more time on the road, long-distance buses connect major cities and tourist spots at lower fares than trains. Some overnight buses can save on accommodation expenses. Yet, buses may be less comfortable and reliable than trains, sometimes encountering traffic or delays.

Plane: Quick and convenient for remote destinations, domestic flights connect various parts of Japan with frequent, reasonably priced options. Some flights can be cheaper than bullet trains, for instance, a one-way trip from Tokyo to Fukuoka at around 6,000 JPY. However, dealing with airport procedures and transport can be more bothersome than train travel.

Ferry: Slow but scenic, ferry travel suits island or coastal exploration. Connecting different ports and islands, ferries often offer cabins for overnight journeys. Fares differ based on distance and service type, generally cheaper than plane tickets. For example, a one-way trip from Osaka to Beppu, a renowned hot spring resort, can cost about 6,500 JPY. Yet, ferry schedules can be affected by weather and seasonal demands.

Car: For flexibility, especially in rural areas or where public transport is limited, renting a car from airports or major cities offers freedom. However, costs start at around 6,000 JPY per day, excluding gas, tolls, and parking fees. To drive, you’ll need an international driving permit or a Japanese driver’s license. Driving in Japan may be challenging due to left-side driving and differing traffic rules.

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