So you are planning a trip to Japan? Japan is like no other country you will visit. It is the only place where modern times can live in perfect harmony with ancient traditions.
Japan is a country steeped in history and rich culture. Planning a trip to the other side of the world can seem daunting but with our 5-step guide, you will be plane ready in no time.
5-Step Guide To Prepare For A Trip To Japan
Flying & Entry Requirements
Flights to Japan can be expensive so it is always advisable to book in advance, either online or through a travel agent.
By booking through a travel agent you will be able to get useful information regarding entry requirements, such as visas that you may need to apply for in advance.
If you are planning a trip to Japan it is worth considering starting this process a number of months before to ensure you can allow for delays with bookings or visa applications.
Create An Itinerary
When you arrive in Japan you may be asked what your plan is while you are in the country. By having a travel itinerary with you, printed out, you can show this to the immigration officers to clearly show you are a tourist and what you hope to do and see in their beautiful country.
Blogs are a great place to get ideas for your travel itinerary and useful tips. Consider what you want to see and then create a plan that will allow you to fit it all into your trip.
Often tourists will fly into Osaka and make their way across the country, from West to East, catching a return flight to their home country from an airport in Tokyo.
Book Your Accommodation
Accommodation in Japan can be booked up very quickly around public holidays, cherry blossom season, and what is called Golden Week in Japan.
It is best to book your accommodation in advance. This will not only help you to save money but also allow you to relax on your holidays as you won’t need to go in search of accommodation when you reach each new place.
Airbnb is extremely popular in Japan but if you want to enjoy more traditional accommodation consider homestays and capsule hotels.
These are a great way to experience the culture in Japan and to meet local Japanese people as well as other tourists.
Order A Japan Rail Pass
Travel in Japan can be expensive (see also ‘Is Japan Expensive?‘) if you are traveling across the country, especially if you are considering taking the Shinkansen, which is the bullet train that is only in Japan.
This train travels at high speeds and is a fantastic way of getting from the West to the East of the country in a matter of hours.
Ordering a Japan Rail Pass will give you cheaper transport and it can be used on local buses, Japanese Rail and also some Shinkansen services.
You will need to order this pass in advance and often it is posted to you at home before you arrive in Japan. If you are using a Japan Rail Pass you will need to carry a photo ID at all times as you may be asked to show this at both departing and arrival stations.
You will need to research what the weather will be like for your trip. If you are going during the colder months layers are a must and if you are going in the summer be prepared for the stifling humidity and heat in some parts of the country.
If you want to go when the weather is more bearable, springtime may be the best time for you. When packing, consider your itinerary and what you are hoping to do.
Our top picks that you should include in your bag, no matter what time of year you are traveling are:
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Warm layers.
- A sarong or shawl for visiting temples to cover any exposed skin.
- A light raincoat.
- An extra bag, since the shopping is fantastic.
- An unlocked phone to put a travel Sim Card into, giving you internet access all the time meaning you will have access to Google Maps and Google Translate (see also our article on power adapters in Japan).
- A secure purse.
- Cash – in most parts of Japan cash is king!
Japanese people dress very respectfully so this is worth keeping in mind when you are traveling.
Also, wearing shoes that are easy to take off will help when you go to a traditional restaurant, hotel, shop, or temple where you may be required to take off your shoes.
Top Tip! Learn the Basics
You might be wondering what we mean when we say learn the basics. Well, as Japan is so traditional it is worthwhile learning the basics of their native language and a few basic polite gestures.
Let’s begin with a few simple phrases that will help you in both the cities and rural towns of the land of the rising sun (see also ‘Why Is Japan Called The Land Of The Rising Sun?‘).
Japanese people are known for being polite, these phrases will help you get along in Japan while showing respect for the local people.
- Sumimasen = Excuse Me
- Arigatou = Thanks
- Hai = Yes
- Konnichi wa = Hello
- Onegaishimasu = Please
Japanese are used to tourists and so often they will politely gesture to what they are speaking about and when all else fails a simple shake or nod of the head will never get lost in translation. Next, let’s look at how you can show respect to Japanese culture.
- Remove shoes when required, and always carry a pair of socks in your bag.
- Don’t point, use two hands, with palms facing up, to gesture to something rather than point.
- Don’t tip, this is seen as extremely rude in Japan.
- Stay quiet on the trains, this is how commuters show respect to one another and create a relaxing atmosphere.
- Don’t skip lines, whether it is for a bathroom or a train, always join the line.
- Be respectful, don’t take pictures without permission.