What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Japan

Are you ready to embark on an incredible adventure in Japan? Whether you’re captivated by the modern cities, excited to conquer Mount Fuji, craving delicious sashimi, or eager to witness the cherry blossoms in full bloom, Japan has something for everyone. However, planning a trip to this fascinating country can be overwhelming. But worry not, we’re here to guide you through the process and ensure that you’re well-prepared before setting foot in Japan. Read on for our comprehensive guide on what to prepare before going to Japan.

Japan Travel Tips

Check Visa Requirements

Once you have your flights booked, the first priority is to sort out your visa requirements for Japan. The good news is that most nationalities, including the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Scandinavia, and Brazil, will receive a 90-day visa on arrival for free. However, if you hold a passport from China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, India, Russia, or any of these countries, you’ll need to apply for a visa at your local embassy before traveling. Additionally, ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in Japan.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Before you travel to Japan, it’s crucial to buy a comprehensive travel insurance policy for peace of mind. Remember, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel! Japan is a country prone to volcanic activity, which means earthquakes are not uncommon. Therefore, make sure your policy covers natural disasters so that you can enjoy a worry-free trip. Pro tip: Click here for a quote.

Pick the Perfect Season

Deciding when to visit Japan can be a difficult decision. Unlike tropical countries in Asia, Japan experiences four distinct seasons. If you love skiing, winter is the season for you. Spring is famous for its cherry blossoms, but be prepared for crowds and the need to book your visit well in advance. Summer is hot but offers local festivals and fewer tourists. Autumn is a favorite for its beautiful foliage and comfortable weather for sightseeing. Consider the pros and cons of each season to choose the one that suits your preferences.

Determine Your Duration

How long you should spend in Japan depends on various factors, such as your budget, the time you can take off from work, and what you want to see. If you only have a week, focus on visiting a couple of cities. However, if you have a month or more, you can explore multiple regions at a more relaxed pace. Keep reading for more information on planning your Japan itinerary.

Have an Itinerary in Mind

Arriving in Japan without an itinerary can lead to confusion and wasted time. It’s essential to be organized and have a list of places you want to visit and experiences you want to have. If you’re looking for a hassle-free way to see the highlights of Japan, consider joining a group tour like INTRO Travel’s 13 Day Japan Adventure. With knowledgeable guides and fellow travelers to share the experience with, group tours are perfect for solo travelers, backpackers, and couples who want to make the most of their time in Japan.

Learn Useful Japanese Phrases

While English is widely spoken in major cities, learning a few basic Japanese phrases can go a long way. Greeting people in their native tongue shows respect and helps bridge the language barrier. While you’ll have no trouble communicating in cities, rural areas may require some creativity, such as using sign language. Embrace the fun of communicating in a different language! Click here for some basic Japanese starters or check out the helpful phrases in the ‘About Japan’ section of the INTRO Travel app.

Manage Your Money and Currency

When traveling, cash is king, and having some Japanese Yen with you is a smart move. Exchange centers in airports are known for offering unfavorable rates, so it’s best to have some local currency on hand. Once you’re settled, you can easily withdraw more cash from ATMs using a travel money card or your standard bank card. Convenience stores like Family Mart offer ATMs with better exchange rates. Pro tip: When paying for larger purchases by card, choose the option to pay in JPY rather than your own currency to avoid international fees.

Book Tickets in Advance

To avoid disappointment, it’s advisable to purchase tickets to popular activities and attractions in Japan in advance. Some examples include the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, Sumo Wrestling, Tokyo Disney, traditional tea ceremonies, and Studio Ghibli. If you plan to travel via bullet train, consider buying a JR Rail Pass in advance. However, it’s important to calculate the cost of the pass compared to individual ticket purchases. If you’re only visiting one or two cities, the pass may not be cost-effective.

Get a SIM Card for Your Phone

While there is free Wi-Fi available in many places, it’s always a good idea to have a reliable internet connection while traveling. Purchasing a SIM card for your unlocked phone allows you to stay in touch with friends and family back home, access recommendations on-the-go, and navigate with ease using Google Maps. SIM cards are affordable and can be obtained from mobile providers or airport kiosks upon arrival.

Public Transportation is Key

When it comes to getting around in Japan, there’s no need to worry about driving. The country has an excellent public transport system that conveniently connects cities. Hiring cars can be expensive, and while Uber technically exists, it is sparse and costly. Embrace the convenience of public transportation, or if you prefer a more comfortable option, opt for a standard taxi (bear in mind that it may come at a premium).

Discover Unique Souvenirs

Japan offers a wide range of unique and memorable souvenirs that will remind you of your trip. Instead of buying from big chain stores, consider supporting local vendors and artisans. You’ll find countless fascinating items such as electronics, chopsticks, matcha tea, anime merchandise, folding fans, lucky charms, and ceramics. These handcrafted pieces are symbols of Japan’s rich culture and history.

Respect Cultural Etiquette

To make the most of your journey and avoid any cultural mishaps, familiarize yourself with Japanese etiquette. The Japanese people are known for their politeness, and it is essential to reciprocate their kindness. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid walking while eating or smoking.
  • Learn how to use chopsticks properly and avoid playing with them.
  • Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home or traditional establishments.
  • Refrain from asking geishas for selfies or bothering the sacred deer.
  • Slurping your noodles is considered polite in Japan.
  • Learn how to bow correctly when meeting, thanking, or saying goodbye to someone.
  • Maintain a quiet demeanor while using public transportation.
  • Tipping is not customary in Japan as good service is expected.
  • Remember to walk on the left side and queue in an orderly manner.
  • Pour drinks for others in your party when dining together.
  • Avoid blowing your nose loudly or burping at the table.
  • Respect the sanctity of areas such as temples and refrain from using your phone.
  • Avoid jaywalking and follow traffic rules.

For a full list of cultural do’s and don’ts, refer to this article. It may seem like a lot to consider, but making an effort to understand and respect Japanese etiquette will be greatly appreciated by the locals.

Embrace Tradition and Modernity

Japan is a country that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity. To have a well-rounded experience, try to include both traditional and modern activities in your itinerary. Some traditional activities worth considering are attending a sumo tournament, visiting temples and shrines, experiencing an onsen (hot spring), wearing a kimono, staying in a ryokan (traditional inn), and participating in an ancient tea ceremony. To immerse yourself in the ultra-modern side of Japan, you can dine at the Robot Restaurant, stay in a capsule hotel, explore vending machines that dispense various items, visit themed cafes, discover hidden bars in Kyoto, or enjoy the high-speed thrill of traveling on a bullet train.

Japan Packing Tips

Make a List and Pack Light

When packing for Japan, it’s recommended to bring a backpack and pack light. As you’ll be using trains frequently, lugging around a bulky suitcase can become quite cumbersome. Here are some top tips for packing efficiently:

  • Make a list of everything you need and then cut it down. Bringing unnecessary items can become a burden during your travels.
  • Essential items include your passport and flight tickets, travel insurance documents, credit cards, cash in Japanese Yen, phone and charger, power adaptors, suitable clothes for the season, a dressier outfit for special occasions, a light rain jacket, a warm jumper, comfortable walking shoes (that you can easily slip on and off), sunglasses, sunscreen, toiletries, any necessary medication, a book or Kindle for entertainment, and a refillable water bottle with reusable cutlery to reduce single-use plastics.

Maximize Space

To optimize space in your backpack, consider using packing cubes and compression bags. These tools can help you organize your belongings, making them compact and saving precious space. Plus, you’ll have extra room to bring back souvenirs!

Check Luggage Weight Restrictions

Before heading to the airport, make sure to check the weight restrictions for your luggage. This will save you from having to discard any items upon arrival.

Keep Valuables with You

If you’re traveling with valuable or fragile items such as cameras or laptops, it’s best to keep them in your hand luggage to ensure their safety.

Ready to Embrace Japan?

Now that you’re armed with essential advice and tips for traveling to Japan, you’re ready to embark on your adventure of a lifetime. Whether you’re soaking in an onsen, participating in a sushi-making class, attending a cosplay convention, or witnessing a sumo tournament, Japan promises unforgettable experiences at every turn.

If you’re looking for an extraordinary way to explore Japan, consider joining INTRO’s Japan Adventure small group tour. With a carefully crafted itinerary covering Tokyo, Nagano, Hakone, Osaka, Koyasan, and Kyoto, you’ll have the opportunity to roll sushi, learn from a real Samurai, explore enchanting castles, and spend a night in a 1000-year-old Buddhist temple. Traveling with experienced guides and a fun group of fellow explorers, INTRO’s Japan Adventure is the ultimate way to discover the wonders of this fascinating country.

Say “Konnichiwa” to the adventure of a lifetime!

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