👋 Konnichiwa! My name is Trisha and I’ve traveled and have lead group tours to Japan several times. I mostly come to Japan because of food but I am also continuously learning about the Japanese culture in my visits. Majority of my trips to Japan were motivated by local cultures. I’ve stayed with local families in Japan through Couchsurfing and I also volunteered here to stretch my finances further.
Obviously, this blog is about solo travel and if you are wondering if Japan is safe, it is absolutely safe and you don’t need to worry about your safety. I’ve visited Japan ALONE many times and through this aloneness, I actually made a lot of Japanese friends! In this Japan travel guide, I will share with you everything I know about Japan travel including budget, things to do, cheap flights, affordable accommodations, what to avoid, and more!
Should you have more questions about Japan, please don’t hesitate to ask me on Tiktok or send a message on Instagram. Enjoy your trip and let me know how I can be of help!
🇯🇵 Japan Travel quick info
- 💲 Currency: Japanese Yen (¥). $1 USD = ¥130 Japanese yen
- 🔌 Power plug: Japan uses type A (two flat parallel pins) and type B (two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin).
- 📱 Japan sim card: Unlimited data for 30 days in Japan costs $30.50 USD. You can order your Japan sim card before your trip and pick it up upon arrival at any major airport in Japan.
- 📡 Wifi: Japan is a first-world country so expect fast Internet connection everywhere! Wifi is also FREE all over Japan. Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi and Travel Japan Wi-Fi are two of the apps you can use to find free wifi all over the country.
- 🛃 Visa: Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Europeans are visa-free in Japan for 30 days. Depending on where you are from, you can check the Japan visa requirements for your country/passport or contact the consulate in your city.
- 🤟 Language: Very few people can speak English in Japan so make sure to practice some basic Japanese before your travel! You’d most likely to survive with hand signals – the Japanese are used to it and despite the language barrier, they try their best to help!
- ⛔ Safety: Japan has a very low crime rate and is on the top 10 of the safest countries in the world.
🗺️ Japan Map
✨ Japan travel tips for first-timers
- Use a Suica or Pasmo Card: These rechargeable cards will make your public transportation experience in Japan seamless. They can be used on buses, and trains, and even for purchasing items at certain convenience stores and vending machines. Purchase and recharge them at train stations.
- Master Japanese etiquette: Familiarize yourself with basic Japanese manners, such as bowing, taking off your shoes indoors, not tipping, and not eating while walking. This will help you avoid cultural faux pas and show respect to the locals.
- Visit local supermarkets and Konbini: These stores offer various affordable, high-quality food options. They’re great for picking up snacks, drinks, or quick meals. Look for the bento boxes, onigiri (rice balls), and sandwiches for an authentic taste of Japan on a budget.
- Rent a pocket wifi: Internet access is essential for navigating and staying connected in Japan. Rent a pocket Wi-Fi device upon arrival at the airport to ensure you have access to maps, translation apps, and other resources throughout your trip.
- Learn basic Japanese phrases: While many Japanese people can speak some English, knowing basic phrases will make communication easier and show respect. Learn simple phrases such as “Sumimasen” (excuse me), “Arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you), and “Eigo o hanasemasu ka?” (Do you speak English?).
- Utilize coin lockers: Many train stations and tourist attractions have coin lockers for storing your luggage while exploring. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling between cities and don’t want to carry heavy bags around all day.
- Be prepared for cash transactions: Although Japan is technologically advanced, cash is still the preferred method of payment in many places, especially smaller shops and restaurants. Ensure you have enough yen with you and familiarize yourself with the currency to avoid confusion.
- Take advantage of the Japan Rail Pass: If you’re planning to travel extensively within Japan, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. This pass offers unlimited travel on JR trains, including the Shinkansen (bullet train), and can save you a significant amount on transportation costs.
- Visit lesser-known cities and regions: While Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are popular destinations, consider exploring lesser-known cities like Kanazawa, Takayama, or Fukuoka. These places offer unique cultural experiences and may be less crowded than the more popular tourist spots.
- Experience traditional accommodation: Stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) or a minshuku (family-run guesthouse) for a more authentic Japanese experience. These accommodations typically include a traditional tatami room, futon bedding, and sometimes an onsen (hot spring) or a traditional Japanese bath.
Let me help you plan your trip to Japan!
I have been traveling to Japan for the last 10 years and have hosted trips and tours in Japan. Let’s talk on the phone and plan your Japan travel!
📅 Best time to visit Japan by month
January in Japan
January is a great time to visit Japan, with temperate weather and plenty of seasonal festivals to explore. Average temperatures in January range from 4-11°C (40-52°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and exploring different areas of the country.
Popular festivals held in January include Setsubun (for seeing out the end of winter) and the New Year’s Festival of Hatsumōde (where locals visit shrines at midnight on New Year’s Day). Other events such as Hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like skiing can also be enjoyed during this season.
Suppose you are looking to explore Japan in winter. In that case, visiting during January is a great choice, offering a unique experience of cultural traditions, vibrant nightlife, gastronomic delights, and exquisite landscapes that can be only fully appreciated when traveling during this month.
February in Japan
February is a great time to visit Japan, with mild temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to experience. Average temperatures in February range from 5-13°C (41-55°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and exploring the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in February include Setsubun (for welcoming the start of spring), Valentine’s Day, and Hina Matsuri (the Doll Festival for celebrating young girls). Other activities like hanami (flower viewing) and other outdoor activities can also be enjoyed during this season.
March in Japan
March is a great time to visit Japan, with warm temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to explore. Average temperatures in March range from 8-16°C (46-61°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and enjoying the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in March include Hinamatsuri (the Doll Festival for celebrating young girls) and White Day (a special day for expressing love). Other events like hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities such as cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed during this season.
April in Japan
April is a wonderful time to visit Japan, with warm temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to explore. Average temperatures in April range from 11-20°C (51-68°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and enjoying the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in April include Hinamatsuri (the Doll Festival for celebrating young girls). Other events like hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities such as cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed during this season. April is also when many historical sites open to the public, making it an excellent time to learn about Japan’s past.
May in Japan
May is an ideal time to visit Japan, with warm temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to explore. Average temperatures in May range from 16-24°C (60-75°F), making it an excellent time for sightseeing and enjoying the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in May include Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) and Tanabata Festival. Events like hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed this season.
June in Japan
June is a great time to visit Japan, with warm temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to explore. Average temperatures in June range from 18-26°C (64-79°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and experiencing the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in June include Tanabata Festival and Gion Matsuri (one of Japan’s oldest and largest festivals). Other events like hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities such as cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed this season.
July in Japan
July is an ideal time to visit Japan, with warm temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals to explore. Average temperatures in July range from 24-31°C (75-87°C), making it the perfect time for sightseeing and enjoying the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in July include Tanabata Festival and Open Air Taiko Festival (a three-day celebration featuring folk music, traditional dances, and fireworks). Other events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed this season.
August in Japan
August is an excellent time to explore Japan, with warmer temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals. Average temperatures in August range from 25-33°C (77-91°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and experiencing the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in August include Mineyama Festival (a three-day celebration of Japanese culture featuring traditional dances, music and food) and Obon Festival (a gathering of over 3 million people to commemorate ancestors). Other events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like cherry blossom viewing can also be enjoyed this season.
September in Japan
September is an excellent month to visit Japan, with pleasant temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals. Average temperatures in September range from 20-25°C (68-77°F), making it a great time for sightseeing and exploring the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in September include the Grand Shinto Festival (a three-day event featuring traditional dances, music, and parades) and Aki Matsuri (an autumn festival celebrating the changing of season). Other events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like fireworks display can also be enjoyed this season.
October in Japan
October is a wonderful time to visit Japan, with cooling temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals. Average temperatures in October range from 15-20°C (59-68°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and experiencing the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in October include Kōyō Matsuri (a three-day celebration of leaves changing colors) and Ise Jingu Festival (a gathering of over 3 million people to commemorate ancestors). Other events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like lantern parades can also be enjoyed this season.
November in Japan
November is an excellent month to visit Japan, with cooling temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals. Average temperatures in November range from 8-15°C (46-59°F), making it a great time for sightseeing and exploring the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in November include Kantō Matsuri (a parade of over 200 boats on Tokyo Bay) and Setsubun Fiesta (a traditional ceremony marking the start of spring). Events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor sports like snow sports can also be enjoyed this season.
December in Japan
December is a perfect time to visit Japan, with cooling temperatures and plenty of exciting festivals. Average temperatures in December range from 0-9°C (32-48°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing and experiencing the country’s many attractions.
Popular festivals held in December include the Nada Fireworks Festival and Mochi Tsuki Matsuri (where farmers gather to make mochi). Other events such as hanami (flower viewing) and outdoor activities like skiing can also be enjoyed this season.
☀️ Best time to travel to Japan by season
Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan is an exciting travel destination, with cold temperatures and plenty of seasonal festivities. Average temperatures between December and February range from 0-5°C (32-41°F). Popular winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, onsen bathing, hanami (flower viewing), and visiting holiday light festivals. Festivals to look out for include the Sapporo Snow Festival, New Year’s Eve Fireworks, and Kanamara Matsuri (a fertility festival).
Spring in Japan
Springtime in Japan is a beautiful season of renewal, with warmer temperatures and stunning cherry blossoms. Average temperatures from March to May range from 11-22°C (52-72°F). This is the perfect time for sightseeing and experiencing the country’s many attractions. Festivals to watch include Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival), Hanami (flower viewing), and unique events such as Hiking Festival in Takayama and Setsubun.
Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan brings hot temperatures and plenty of outdoor activities. Average temperatures between June and August range from 22-32°C (72-90°F). Popular summer activities include beach visits, sightseeing, festivals like Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, sports like surfing and golf, and traditional arts such as taiko drumming. Water parks are also a great way to cool off in the heat.
Fall in Japan
Fall in Japan is a pleasant season where temperatures range from 15-25°C (59-77°C). From September to November, you can enjoy wonderful autumn leaves and festivals such as Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and Akita Kanto Matsuri. Sake breweries are also open for tours during this time of the year.
For an extra memorable experience, participate in traditional activities such as tea ceremonies or kabuki theater. There are also many temples and shrines throughout the country which offer beautiful autumnal views. Enjoy all that Japan has to offer during your visit this fall season!
🚍 Getting around Japan
- 🚆 Japan Railways (JR): JR is the biggest transportation company in Japan operating many different routes all over the country. Each city has their own JR pass and you can also purchase regional passes depending on where you are going in Japan. The price of a JR pass starts at $226 USD and has 7, 14, and 21 days passes.
- 🚅 Shinkansen (Bullet Train): This world-class bullet train is the fastest train in the world. If you are traveling Japan on a shorter period, the bullet train can take you to different destinations in Japan real quick! Please note that the JR Pass is not valid for this train. You will need to purchase your Shinkansen pass separately.
- 🚇 Subways: all major cities in Japan has underground subways that cover the whole city. A one-day subway pass costs $3.21 USD.
- 🚂 Local Railways: the local railways has the exact same routes as the Shinkansen Bullet train but this is of course, way slower. This is the best transportation to travel slow and see the views of the countryside. Get the Greater Tokyo Pass (3 days) for Tokyo and the suburbs.
- 🚕 Taxis: Taxi drivers in Japan are honest and fares are calculated by the distance. In the evenings, there are late-night surcharges (10:00 PM – 5:00 AM) which is about $5 USD more. Japan uses three major taxi apps namely Takkun, Japan Taxi, and Tokyo Musen.
- 🚌 Busses: There are so many bus lines in Japan so you may have to do your research specific to your destination. To start off, use Japan Bus Web and Japan Bus Lines to familiarize yourself with the routes.
- ✈️ Domestic Air Travel: There are over 90 airports in Japan so flying is very convenient. For domestic flights in Japan, book with Ana Air or Japan Airlines. These are the two major carriers of Japan. For budget airlines, check out Jetstar Japan, Peach, SkyMark Airlines, Fuji Dream Airlines, and IBEX Airlines.
📍 Places to visit in Japan
Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, offers a captivating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity. A visit to this dynamic metropolis promises an unforgettable experience, with a multitude of attractions catering to diverse interests.
For history enthusiasts, Tokyo showcases its rich heritage through iconic landmarks such as the ancient Sensoji Temple and the Imperial Palace. The city’s vibrant neighborhoods, like Harajuku and Shibuya, captivate visitors with their unique blend of fashion, art, and pop culture. Food lovers can indulge in an array of mouthwatering cuisine, from world-renowned sushi to delicious street food, while exploring the famed Tsukiji Fish Market and countless Michelin-starred restaurants.
Tokyo’s efficient public transportation system allows easy access to breathtaking natural escapes, such as the serene Meiji Shrine, as well as to nearby destinations like Mount Fuji and Hakone. Art aficionados will appreciate the city’s numerous museums and galleries, including the Mori Art Museum and the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Whether you’re seeking thrilling experiences at Tokyo Disneyland and Odaiba, shopping in Ginza and Akihabara, or exploring the tranquil parks and gardens scattered throughout the city, Tokyo’s endless possibilities ensure an extraordinary adventure for every traveler.
Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, boasts a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere that entices travelers seeking a unique blend of culture, history, and modern attractions. Known for its friendly locals and exceptional culinary scene, Osaka offers an authentic taste of Japan that is both memorable and distinct from the experiences in Tokyo.
Foodies will relish exploring Dotonbori, a lively street food paradise, and sample local favorites such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). The city’s casual dining environment, epitomized by its numerous izakayas and kushikatsu bars, fosters a warm, communal atmosphere.
History and architecture enthusiasts can explore the striking Osaka Castle, a symbol of the city’s rich heritage, and delve into Japan’s past at the nearby Osaka Museum of History. The city’s modern side shines through attractions like the futuristic Umeda Sky Building and the massive shopping complex, Namba Parks.
Osaka’s convenient location also makes it an ideal base for day trips to nearby destinations like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, providing a well-rounded Japanese experience. Whether indulging in the city’s gastronomic delights, exploring historical sites, or embracing the bustling nightlife, Osaka guarantees an unforgettable journey for all travelers.
Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, enchants travelers with its timeless charm, rich cultural heritage, and captivating blend of ancient traditions and natural beauty. Home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, Kyoto offers a unique and immersive experience of Japan’s historic past.
Visitors can explore iconic landmarks such as the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the Zen rock garden at Ryoan-ji, and the captivating Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of vermilion torii gates. The city’s well-preserved geisha districts, Gion and Pontocho, offer a glimpse into the enchanting world of geisha culture, while the traditional wooden machiya houses and narrow lanes exude an air of old-world charm.
Kyoto is also renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, with seasonal landscapes that captivate the senses. The cherry blossoms in spring and vibrant autumn foliage in places like Arashiyama, with its famed bamboo grove, create picture-perfect moments for travelers.
Culinary enthusiasts will delight in Kyoto’s refined kaiseki cuisine, featuring meticulously prepared, seasonal dishes that showcase the region’s finest ingredients. Tea ceremony experiences offer visitors a chance to indulge in the city’s rich tea culture.
Whether exploring Kyoto’s historical sites, wandering through serene gardens, or savoring the exquisite local cuisine, travelers are sure to leave with cherished memories of this mesmerizing city.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, entices travelers with its unspoiled natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and unique cultural experiences. The island’s distinct climate and geography create a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering various seasonal activities.
In winter, Hokkaido’s renowned powder snow attracts ski and snowboard aficionados to popular resorts like Niseko and Rusutsu. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival dazzles visitors with impressive ice sculptures and snow-based activities, while the picturesque village of Otaru enchants its charming canal and historic architecture.
Spring and summer in Hokkaido present an array of vibrant floral landscapes, including the stunning lavender fields of Furano and the colorful flower gardens of Biei. These seasons also provide hiking and wildlife spotting opportunities in national parks such as Daisetsuzan and Shiretoko, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hokkaido’s rich agricultural heritage produces an abundance of fresh and flavorful ingredients, with the island’s seafood, dairy products, and produce highly sought after. Savor regional specialties like Sapporo ramen, fresh crab, and dairy-based treats like soft-serve ice cream.
Whether indulging in outdoor adventures, experiencing the captivating Ainu culture, or exploring vibrant cities like Sapporo and Hakodate, Hokkaido promises a refreshing and unforgettable journey for every traveler.
Nagoya, Japan’s fourth-largest city, offers a compelling blend of history, innovation, and culinary delights that make it a rewarding destination for travelers seeking a unique and authentic experience. Strategically located between Tokyo and Kyoto, Nagoya serves as an excellent base for exploring central Japan.
History enthusiasts can delve into the region’s storied past at the imposing Nagoya Castle, home to beautifully preserved palace rooms and art exhibitions. The Tokugawa Art Museum and Atsuta Shrine provide further glimpses into the city’s rich heritage and the powerful Tokugawa clan.
Nagoya’s reputation as an industrial powerhouse is showcased through the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology and the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, where visitors can learn about the city’s automotive and high-speed rail accomplishments.
Food lovers will relish the opportunity to explore Nagoya’s distinct culinary scene, which features regional specialties such as miso-katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet with red miso sauce), hitsumabushi (grilled eel served over rice), and tebasaki (spicy fried chicken wings).
The city’s shopping districts, like Osu and Sakae, offer a mix of modern and traditional retail experiences, while nearby attractions like Inuyama Castle and the Meiji Mura open-air museum provide fascinating day trip options. Nagoya’s distinctive blend of old and new ensures a memorable and enriching experience for all travelers.
Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital, is a treasure trove of historical and cultural attractions that offer visitors a glimpse into the nation’s rich and ancient past. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city boasts numerous well-preserved temples, shrines, and traditional structures that provide a fascinating and immersive experience.
One of Nara’s most iconic attractions is Todai-ji Temple, home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, housed in a massive wooden hall that ranks among the largest wooden structures globally. The nearby Kasuga Taisha shrine, with its enchanting stone lanterns and serene atmosphere, is another must-visit destination.
Nara Park, a sprawling public space, is renowned for its friendly and free-roaming deer population, considered sacred messengers of the gods. Feeding and interacting with these gentle creatures provide a unique and memorable experience for travelers of all ages.
Nara’s charming streets, lined with traditional wooden buildings, offer a delightful mix of quaint shops, restaurants, and teahouses. The city’s culinary scene features local specialties like kakinoha-zushi (sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves) and cha-gayu (rice porridge with tea).
With its impressive historical sites, tranquil ambiance, and captivating natural beauty, Nara promises a captivating and enriching journey for travelers seeking an authentic taste of Japan’s timeless charm.
Hiroshima, Japan is a destination that holds a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it an essential stop for travelers. The city, once devastated by the world’s first atomic bomb during World War II, has now transformed into a thriving and vibrant hub that stands as a symbol of hope and resilience.
One of the main reasons to visit Hiroshima is the opportunity to learn about its history and the impact of nuclear weapons. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, situated at the epicenter of the atomic blast, provides visitors with a powerful and poignant experience. Here, you can find the haunting ruins of the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of the few structures that partially survived the explosion, now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, the park houses the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where travelers can delve deeper into the events surrounding the bombing, its aftermath, and the importance of promoting peace in the world.
Aside from its historical significance, Hiroshima is also a gateway to the enchanting Miyajima Island. Just a short ferry ride away, the island is home to the iconic Itsukushima Shrine with its magnificent red torii gate that appears to float on the water during high tide. The island also boasts lush forests, ancient temples, and a friendly population of deer that roam freely, adding to its serene and mystical atmosphere.
Culinary explorations in Hiroshima should not be missed, as the city is famous for its delicious and unique take on okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake. Known as “Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki,” this local variation layers ingredients such as cabbage, noodles, and seafood, creating a flavorful and satisfying dish. A visit to Okonomimura, a multi-story building filled with okonomiyaki restaurants, provides an excellent opportunity to taste the city’s signature dish while mingling with locals.
Finally, Hiroshima offers an abundance of natural beauty to be discovered. The Shukkei-en Garden, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, features picturesque bridges, water features, and traditional teahouses, providing an idyllic escape from the urban bustle. For those interested in hiking, the nearby Sandankyo Gorge offers breathtaking views of waterfalls, lush greenery, and dramatic rock formations.
Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s fifth-largest city, is a remarkable destination for travelers seeking a blend of urban sophistication, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. As a rapidly growing metropolis with a rich history, Sapporo offers an array of attractions that cater to various interests, making it an essential stop for any Japan itinerary.
One of the most compelling reasons to visit Sapporo is its delightful culinary scene, which is highly regarded throughout Japan. As the heart of Hokkaido, the city boasts access to some of the freshest seafood, dairy products, and produce in the country. Sapporo is especially famous for its miso ramen, a flavorful noodle soup that combines rich miso broth with hearty toppings such as corn, butter, and succulent slices of pork. A visit to the bustling Ramen Alley, with its diverse selection of ramen shops, is a must for any food enthusiast. Additionally, Sapporo is the birthplace of the eponymous Sapporo beer, and a tour of the Sapporo Beer Museum offers insight into the history and craftsmanship behind this iconic Japanese brew.
Sapporo’s unique history and cultural attractions also make it a fascinating city to explore. The historic village of Hokkaido, an open-air museum, allows visitors to step back in time and experience life during the Meiji and Taisho periods through its well-preserved buildings and interactive displays. For those interested in contemporary art, the Sapporo Art Park provides an immersive experience with its sculpture garden and various art installations nestled within a lush, forested landscape.
The city’s natural beauty is another significant draw for travelers. During winter, Sapporo becomes a winter wonderland, hosting the internationally renowned Sapporo Snow Festival, which features gigantic and intricately carved snow and ice sculptures. The festival attracts millions of visitors and offers various activities such as snow slides, snow rafting, and live performances. Additionally, the nearby ski resorts, such as Niseko and Rusutsu, provide world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities. In contrast, the summer months offer lush greenery and vibrant flower fields, making it an excellent time to explore the picturesque Moerenuma Park or to visit the nearby lavender fields of Furano.
Lastly, Sapporo serves as an ideal base for exploring the rest of Hokkaido, an island renowned for its rugged landscapes, natural hot springs, and diverse wildlife. Popular destinations such as the enchanting Lake Shikotsu, the breathtaking Shiretoko Peninsula, and the awe-inspiring Daisetsuzan National Park are all within reach, offering unforgettable experiences that showcase the island’s stunning beauty.
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🗼 Popular attractions in Japan
- Mount Fuji: Japan’s highest and most iconic peak has inspired artists and poets for centuries. Visit during the summer climbing season to hike its well-trodden trails or admire its symmetrical beauty from nearby towns like Hakone or the Fuji Five Lakes area.
- Fushimi Inari Taisha: Located in Kyoto, this Shinto shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates lining the path up Mount Inari. The striking visual and serene atmosphere make it a must-visit destination.
- Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): This Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto is renowned for its top two floors covered in gold leaf. Set against a beautiful garden backdrop and reflecting in the temple’s pond, Kinkaku-ji offers a breathtaking sight.
- Himeji Castle: One of Japan’s most impressive and well-preserved castles, Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its stunning white exterior and intricate architecture make it an essential stop on any Japan itinerary.
- Itsukushima Shrine: Located on the sacred island of Miyajima, Itsukushima Shrine is famous for its floating torii gate. The shrine’s unique design and the island’s natural beauty create a truly captivating experience.
- Todai-ji Temple: Situated in Nara, Todai-ji Temple is home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. The massive wooden hall housing the statue and the surrounding Nara Park make it a must-see destination.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: This ethereal bamboo forest in Kyoto transports visitors to a world of tranquility and natural beauty. The tall, swaying bamboo stalks create a mesmerizing and unforgettable atmosphere.
- Nikko Toshogu Shrine: A UNESCO World Heritage site in the mountainous region of Nikko, this lavish shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Its intricate carvings and vibrant colors make it an architectural masterpiece.
- Kenrokuen Garden: Located in Kanazawa, Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens. Featuring ponds, streams, and seasonal flowers, the garden’s peaceful atmosphere and stunning design make it a must-visit for nature lovers.
- Jigokudani Monkey Park: Situated in the Japanese Alps, Jigokudani Monkey Park offers a unique opportunity to observe wild Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, as they soak in natural hot springs. The picturesque landscape and endearing monkeys make this a one-of-a-kind experience.
🛏️ Japan hotels and accommodations
Japan offers a diverse range of accommodation options to cater to the preferences and budgets of all travelers. Traditional Western-style hotels can be found in most major cities, with luxury hotels often situated in prime locations and providing high-end amenities, impeccable service, and well-appointed rooms. Mid-range hotels and business hotels cater to both leisure and business travelers, offering comfortable rooms and standard amenities at more affordable prices.
A unique accommodation option in Japan is the traditional ryokan, which provides an authentic Japanese experience. These establishments feature tatami-mat floors, futons for sleeping, and sliding paper doors. Many ryokans also have communal or private hot spring baths (onsen) and offer elaborate meals showcasing regional, seasonal ingredients. Ryokan prices can range from modest to luxurious, depending on the establishment’s quality and location.
Hostels and guesthouses are available throughout the country for budget-conscious travelers, providing dormitory-style or private rooms with shared facilities at a more affordable price. These accommodations often foster a social atmosphere, allowing guests to interact and share travel tips.
Capsule hotels are another budget-friendly option unique to Japan, offering small sleeping pods equipped with basic amenities, such as a bed, lighting, and sometimes a small TV. Capsule hotels typically have shared bathrooms and locker facilities and cater to travelers seeking a simple and economical resting place.
🍣 Japanese food: what to eat
- Sushi: Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish made of vinegared rice, often topped with fresh fish or seafood. It dates back to the 8th century when fish was preserved using fermented rice. Sushi has since evolved into various forms, such as nigiri, maki, and sashimi. Try Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, a world-famous sushi restaurant run by chef Jiro Ono.
- Ramen: Ramen is a popular Japanese noodle soup dish with Chinese origins. It typically features Chinese-style wheat noodles, a flavorful broth (often pork, chicken, or seafood-based), and various toppings like sliced pork, green onions, and nori. Visit Ichiran, a well-known ramen chain with multiple locations across Japan, for a delicious bowl of tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen.
- Okonomiyaki: Originating in the Kansai region, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake made from a batter of flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage, often mixed with ingredients like pork, shrimp, or squid. The dish is typically cooked on a griddle and topped with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes. Head to Mizuno in Osaka for a taste of their famous okonomiyaki.
- Takoyaki: Takoyaki is a popular street food from Osaka, consisting of small, round batter balls filled with diced octopus and cooked in a special molded pan. Topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and green onions, these savory bites are a must-try. Visit the Takoyaki Museum in Osaka, where several famous takoyaki shops offer their versions of the dish.
- Tempura: Tempura is a Japanese dish of deep-fried seafood and vegetables coated in a light, airy batter. It was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. Enjoy tempura at Tempura Tsunahachi in Tokyo, known for its high-quality ingredients and traditional preparation methods.
- Yakitori: Yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers, is a popular izakaya (Japanese pub) food. The skewers typically feature different parts of the chicken, such as thigh, breast, and liver, seasoned with salt or a soy-based sauce. Visit Torikizoku, a popular yakitori chain, to try various yakitori offerings.
- Udon: Udon is a type of thick, wheat noodle often served in a mild soy-based broth with various toppings like tempura, green onions, or tofu. Sanuki udon, from Kagawa Prefecture, is particularly famous for its square shape and firm texture. Try Marukame Seimen, a popular udon chain, for an authentic udon experience.
- Soba: Soba is a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. It can be served hot in a broth or cold with a dipping sauce. The dish has been enjoyed in Japan for centuries, with some evidence suggesting it dates back to the 8th century. Visit Honke Owariya in Kyoto, a soba restaurant with over 500 years of history.
- Kaiseki: Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal that showcases seasonal ingredients and refined culinary techniques. It has roots in the tea ceremony and has evolved into a form of high-end dining. Experience a kaiseki meal at Kikunoi in Kyoto, a renowned restaurant with a long history and a Michelin star rating.
- Donburi: Donburi is a rice bowl dish topped with various ingredients, such as fish, meat, or vegetables. Some popular types
💲 Japan travel costs
Accommodation prices in Japan can vary significantly based on location, type, and quality. Major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto have higher prices than smaller towns and rural areas. Still, options are available to suit a range of budgets and preferences.
Luxury hotels in prime city locations can easily cost around $270 USD per night, while mid-range hotels and business hotels typically offer rooms from $54 to $135 USD per night. These prices may fluctuate depending on the season, with peak travel periods like cherry blossom season and Golden Week often resulting in higher rates.
Budget-conscious travelers can find more affordable options in capsule hotels and hostels, where prices can start as low as $18 USD per night. These accommodations usually offer shared facilities and more basic amenities but can provide a comfortable and cost-effective stay.
Another unique accommodation option in Japan is traditional ryokans, which offer an authentic Japanese experience with tatami mat rooms, futons, and often hot spring baths (onsen). Prices for ryokans vary widely, from around $90 USD for simpler establishments to $360 USD per night for high-end establishments, often including meals prepared with local, seasonal ingredients.
The cost of dining in Japan can vary greatly depending on the type of establishment and location, with options ranging from affordable street food to exclusive fine dining experiences.
For budget-conscious travelers, street food and casual eateries, such as ramen shops, conveyor belt sushi restaurants, and izakayas (Japanese-style pubs), offer tasty and affordable meals. Prices for street food, like takoyaki or yakitori, can start as low as 100 yen ($0.90) per piece, while a bowl of ramen or a plate of sushi may cost around 800 to 1,500 yen ($7 to $14). Convenience stores, known as “konbini,” also offer a wide variety of inexpensive yet satisfying snacks and meals, including onigiri, bento boxes, and sandwiches.
Mid-range restaurants, which often serve more elaborate or specialized cuisine, such as tempura, tonkatsu, or shabu-shabu, typically charge between 2,000 and 5,000 yen ($18 to $45) per person for a meal. These establishments often provide a pleasant dining atmosphere and attentive service.
Fine dining in Japan, particularly at establishments serving traditional kaiseki cuisine or sushi, can be a more expensive experience, with prices starting at around 10,000 yen ($90) per person and potentially exceeding 30,000 yen ($270) or more for exclusive or Michelin-starred restaurants. These high-end establishments often feature exquisite dishes crafted from premium ingredients, providing a memorable and luxurious dining experience.
With a wide range of dining options available, travelers in Japan can enjoy a diverse array of culinary experiences, catering to various tastes and budgets.
Attraction and tour costs
The cost of touring Japan’s attractions can vary greatly depending on the location, type of attraction, and individual preferences. Japan is generally known for having higher prices than other Asian countries, but budget-conscious travelers can still find affordable options.
Entry fees for temples, shrines, and historical sites typically range from $3-$14 USD, with some popular attractions like Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Nara’s Todai-ji Temple charging around $4.50 USD. Museums and art galleries may charge similar fees, with some institutions offering discounted or free admission on certain days or for specific groups, such as students or seniors.
Theme parks, like Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan, are more expensive, with one-day tickets costing adults around $74 USD. Smaller attractions, like gardens, observation decks, and cultural experiences, can have varying prices, from a few hundred yen to a few thousand yen.
When touring Japan, it’s essential to consider transportation costs. While intercity travel can be pricey, options like the Japan Rail Pass can provide significant savings for tourists planning to visit multiple cities. Public transportation is relatively affordable in cities, and day passes for buses or subways can offer additional savings.
Transportation costs in Japan can vary widely depending on factors such as the mode of transport, distance, and the region in which one is traveling. Generally, Japan is known for its efficient and extensive public transportation system, which includes trains, buses, and domestic flights. While the cost of transportation in Japan can be relatively high compared to some other countries, the quality, punctuality, and convenience of the services often justify the expense.
Trains are Japan’s most popular and widely used mode of transportationh the extensive railway network connecting cities, towns, and even remote rural areas. The cost of train travel can range from affordable local trains to more expensive high-speed options, such as the famous Shinkansen or bullet trains. Long-distance train travel can be quite costly, especially when using the Shinkansen, with a one-way ticket between Tokyo and Osaka, for example, costing around $125 USD. However, for tourists, the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) provides a cost-effective solution, allowing unlimited travel on most JR trains for a specific period, including the Shinkansen, and can lead to significant savings if used strategically.
Buses are another viable option for intercity travel, often more affordable than trains. Long-distance highway buses connect major cities and offer a budget-friendly alternative for travelers willing to sacrifice speed and comfort for lower costs. Overnight buses are particularly popular, as they allow passengers to save on accommodation costs while traveling between cities.
Domestic flights can sometimes be convenient and cost-competitive, especially for longer distances or when traveling to more remote regions. Low-cost carriers such as Peach Aviation and Jetstar Japan have made air travel more accessible and affordable, with ticket prices occasionally rivaling those of trains and buses. It’s important to consider that the time and cost of getting to and from airports can offset the initial savings of flying.
When navigating cities, local public transportation such as subways, trams, and buses provide an affordable and efficient way to get around. A single ride on a city subway typically ranges between $1.75 to 4.50 USD depending on the distance. For those planning to use public transportation extensively, day passes or IC cards, such as Suica and Pasmo, can offer added convenience and sometimes additional savings.
Exchanging money upon arrival in Japan is an essential step for travelers, as Japan remains a predominantly cash-based society, especially outside of major cities. While credit and debit cards are becoming more widely accepted, cash remains king, making it important to have a sufficient amount of Japanese yen (JPY) on hand for day-to-day transactions.
When arriving in Japan, you will find several options for currency exchange. At international airports, such as Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda and Osaka’s Kansai, currency exchange counters and ATMs are conveniently located within the terminals. While airport exchange counters often offer slightly less favorable rates compared to other options, they provide the advantage of accessibility and extended operating hours. For smaller amounts of cash needed immediately upon arrival, exchanging money at the airport can be a convenient choice.
A more cost-effective alternative to airport exchange counters is to withdraw Japanese yen directly from ATMs using your debit or credit card. Many ATMs in Japan, particularly those located within 7-Eleven and FamilyMart convenience stores or at post offices, accept international cards and offer competitive exchange rates. Be aware, though, that your home bank may charge foreign transaction or withdrawal fees, so it is advisable to check these in advance.
Another option for exchanging money is visiting specialized currency exchange houses or banks in city centers. In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, you can find exchange houses such as Sakura Exchange, Nihonex, and Travelex, which usually offer better exchange rates than airports or hotels. Additionally, major banks such as Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Mizuho provide currency exchange services at their branches. Keep in mind that opening hours may be limited, and some smaller branches may not offer currency exchange services.
Regarding exchange rates, it is important to understand that they fluctuate regularly based on global economic conditions. To ensure you are receiving a fair rate, you can consult websites or apps like XE Currency or OANDA, which provide up-to-date information on exchange rates. Aim to find an exchange service with rates close to the current market rate and pay attention to any additional fees or charges associated with the transaction.
ATM withdrawals in Japan are a convenient way for travelers to access Japanese yen (JPY) using their foreign debit cards. As Japan remains largely cash-based, having a sufficient amount of local currency on hand is essential for a smooth travel experience. Fortunately, Japan offers numerous ATMs that accept international cards, often providing competitive exchange rates and allowing you to withdraw cash as needed.
When looking for ATMs compatible with foreign debit cards, it is important to know where to find them. The most reliable and widely available ATMs for international withdrawals are found in 7-Eleven convenience stores, which are ubiquitous throughout the country. These ATMs are branded as “Seven Bank” and accept cards with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, UnionPay, and other major networks.
Another reliable option is the Japan Post Bank ATMs, located in post offices across Japan. These ATMs also accept a wide range of international cards and are often available in smaller towns and rural areas where 7-Eleven stores may be less common. Additionally, ATMs operated by major Japanese banks such as Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Mizuho may accept international cards, but compatibility can vary depending on the specific branch and ATM.
It is essential to be aware of the withdrawal rates and fees associated with using your foreign debit card in Japan. The fees charged can vary depending on your home bank and the specific ATM used. Typically, Japanese ATMs charge a local fee ranging from 100 to 220 yen (approximately 0.90 to 2 USD) per transaction, while your home bank may charge a foreign transaction fee, which can be a flat fee or a percentage of the withdrawn amount.
Moreover, your home bank may also charge a currency conversion fee, which is typically a percentage of the transaction value. To minimize these costs, it is advisable to withdraw larger amounts less frequently, as this can help reduce the overall number of fees incurred during your trip. Keep in mind, however, that both your home bank and the local ATM may impose daily withdrawal limits, so it is essential to plan accordingly and be aware of these restrictions.
Before departing for Japan, it is a good idea to inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid potential issues with your card being flagged for suspicious activity. Also, take note of your card’s personal identification number (PIN), as it may be required for ATM withdrawals in Japan.
Credit card usage in Japan has been steadily increasing, particularly in urban areas and tourist hotspots. However, it is important to remember that Japan still maintains a strong cash-based culture, especially in rural areas and smaller businesses. As a result, it is always advisable to carry some cash alongside your credit cards for seamless transactions during your stay.
The most widely accepted credit cards in Japan are Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, with other cards like JCB, Diners Club, and Discover also being accepted at certain establishments. Major department stores, hotels, and chain restaurants typically accept credit cards, while smaller shops, local restaurants, and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) may require cash payments. It is always a good idea to look for credit card acceptance signs near the entrance of an establishment or ask the staff before making a purchase.
Using credit cards in Japan is generally safe, thanks to the country’s low crime rates and stringent security measures in place for electronic transactions. Chip-and-PIN technology is the standard, providing an additional layer of security to protect your card information. However, it is essential to practice basic safety precautions, such as regularly monitoring your transaction history, keeping your card in sight during transactions, and immediately reporting any suspicious charges to your bank.
When using a credit card in Japan, it is also essential to be aware of any foreign transaction fees charged by your bank. These fees, typically a percentage of each purchase, can add up quickly during your trip. To minimize these costs, consider using a credit card that offers no foreign transaction fees or a travel-specific card that provides additional benefits and rewards for international spending.
Tipping culture in Japan is quite different from that in many Western countries. In general, tipping is not customary in Japan, and attempting to tip can sometimes be seen as inappropriate or even offensive. Japanese people take pride in providing excellent service as part of their job, and tipping can be perceived as questioning the value of the service or implying that the worker needs extra financial motivation.
As a traveler in Japan, you are not expected to tip in most situations, including restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis, and guided tours. The prices you pay for goods and services already include the cost of excellent service, and additional tips are not necessary. If you receive exceptional service or wish to express your gratitude, a polite “thank you” (arigatou gozaimasu) is usually more than enough.
In some rare cases, such as high-end ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) or when taking part in private or customized guided tours, tipping may be considered acceptable. In these instances, it is crucial to follow the appropriate etiquette. Rather than handing cash directly to the service provider, place the money in an envelope (preferably a small, decorative one) and present it discreetly, emphasizing that it is a token of your appreciation.
Another exception to the no-tipping rule is when engaging the services of a personal guide or assistant, particularly if they have gone above and beyond in helping you during your trip. In this case, offering a small gift from your home country or something that reflects their interests would be more appropriate and appreciated than a cash tip.
In summary, tipping is not customary in Japan, and travelers should generally avoid offering tips during their stay. Instead, expressing your gratitude verbally or, in exceptional situations, presenting a small gift or a cash-filled envelope is more in line with Japanese customs and etiquette. By adhering to local tipping practices, you can help maintain the harmonious and respectful atmosphere that characterizes Japan.
💵 Money-saving tips
- Eat at convenience stores and supermarkets: For affordable and delicious food options, visit konbini (convenience stores) and local supermarkets. They offer a wide variety of prepared meals, snacks, and drinks at budget-friendly prices.
- Take advantage of lunch sets: Many restaurants offer teishoku (set meals) during lunchtime, which are often cheaper and more substantial than their dinner counterparts. Look for these deals when dining out during the day.
- Use public transportation: Avoid taxis and instead use trains, buses, or subways to get around. Purchase a Suica or Pasmo card for seamless and cost-effective travel on public transportation.
- Stay in business hotels, hostels, or capsule hotels: These accommodations often provide a more budget-friendly option than traditional hotels. Business hotels offer small but functional rooms, while hostels and capsule hotels can provide a unique and affordable lodging experience.
- Shop at 100-Yen Stores: These discount stores offer various products, from household items to snacks and souvenirs, all for around 100 yen (roughly $1 USD). Look for Daiso, Seria, or Can★Do as popular options.
- Go to free attractions: Japan has many free attractions, such as parks, temples, and museums. For example, the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto are both free to visit.
- Eat at standing sushi bars and ramen shops: These establishments offer high-quality sushi and ramen at affordable prices. Look for the standing sushi bars called tachigui or local ramen shops to enjoy a tasty meal without breaking the bank.
- Cook your meals: If you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, consider cooking some of your own meals. Visit local supermarkets or produce markets to buy fresh ingredients and enjoy a home-cooked meal.
- Travel off-peak: Plan your trip during off-peak seasons (like late winter or early autumn) to save on accommodation and transportation costs. Additionally, attractions may be less crowded, making for a more enjoyable experience.
- Use discount ticket shops: Known as kinken shops; these stores sell discounted tickets for various attractions, transportation, and events. Look for these shops in major cities to save on admission fees and train fares.
📱 Useful Japan travel apps
- Tokyo Metro Subway Map: did you know that even the Japanese themselves get lost in the stations of Tokyo? This is a good app to learn about Tokyo’s subway and avoid getting lost in the big city.
- Tabido: an app that will give you an overview about cultures in Japan. This is a great app for digital nomads and expats who want to integrate in the local life in Japan.
- Japan2Go!: an app that will provide all the tourist attractions near you including information on how to get there and what to expect when you visit.
- Japan Restaurant Guide: find all the best restaurants in the area including places that you will not findin any other Japan travel guide.
- sakefan World: An app where you will find all the best sake places in the country. Yep, they have their own app for this iconic Japanese drink!
- Travel Japan Wi-Fi: search for free wifi within your area. Wherever you are in Japan, you’ll always get to connect to the Internet because of this free wifi service!
- WeatherJapan: a detailed travel weather app that will give you accurate weather forecast in Japan.
- Google Maps: Google Maps is an essential app for navigating Japan, providing accurate directions for walking, driving, and public transportation. With detailed maps, street view, and real-time traffic updates, Google Maps can help you find your way around the country with ease.
- HyperDia: This app is indispensable for planning train journeys in Japan, as it provides detailed information on train schedules, routes, and fares. HyperDia is particularly useful for maximizing the value of your Japan Rail Pass, as it allows you to filter results to show only JR train options.
- Japan Official Travel App: Developed by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), this app offers comprehensive travel information, including sightseeing guides, local event listings, and practical travel tips. The app also provides useful information on Wi-Fi hotspots, ATMs, and currency exchange locations.
- Gurunavi: Gurunavi is a popular restaurant search app in Japan, offering a comprehensive database of dining options across the country. With detailed information on menus, prices, and user reviews, Gurunavi can help you find the perfect meal based on your preferences and budget.
- JapanTaxi: This app allows you to book a taxi in Japan with just a few taps, offering a convenient alternative to public transportation. JapanTaxi is particularly useful in cities where hailing a cab on the street can be challenging or during late-night hours when trains and buses are less frequent.
- NAVITIME for Japan Travel: This comprehensive travel app provides a wealth of information on transportation, including train and bus schedules, route planning, and estimated travel times. The app also offers additional features such as Wi-Fi hotspot locations, currency conversion, and sightseeing spot recommendations.
- Yurekuru Call: This app provides real-time earthquake alerts and safety information in Japan, a country prone to seismic activity. Yurekuru Call can help you stay informed and prepared in the event of an earthquake, offering peace of mind during your travels.
- Tabelog: Tabelog is another popular restaurant search app in Japan, featuring user-generated reviews and ratings for dining establishments nationwide. The app offers a more local perspective on the dining scene, allowing you to discover hidden gems and authentic Japanese eateries.
🈲 Helpful Japanese phrases
- Konnichiwa: hello
- Ohayou gozaimasu: good morning
- Konbanwa: good evening
- Moshi moshi: hello for answering the phone
- Ogenki desu ka?: how are you?
- Genki desu: I’m good
- Ohisashiburi desu ne: long time no see
- Namae wa nan desu ka? what’s your name?
- Watashi no namae wa Trisha desu: my name is Trisha
- Watashi wa Philippines kara kimashita: I’m from the Philippines
- Sou desu ka? Really?
- Arigatou gozaimasu: Thank you
- Douitashimashite: you’re welcome
- Sumimasen: Excuse me
- Gomen nasai: I’m sorry
- Itadakimasu: Bon appetit
- Gochisousama deshita: that was delicious!
- Wakarimasen: I don’t understand
- Shirimasen: I don’t know
- Mou ichido kudasai: can you repeat that please?
- Tetsudatte kuremasen ka? Can you help me?
- Doko desu ka? Where is it?
- Itsu desu ka? When is it?
- Doushite? Why?