Preparation

Planning a trip to any country can be a difficult, and Japan is no different. This page will explain how you should prepare your trip to the land of the rising sun.

Table of Contents:

Where to start?

The best way to start to plan your trip is to ask yourself these three basic questions:

When to go?

Timing is of great importance. And when you should go depends on what you want to do in Japan. If you love nature, and want to see the beauty of the cherry tree blossom, you should go around the end of March. If you want to see the mesmerizing momiji trees, it’s best to go around the end of October.

If you prefer outdoor activities such as hiking or surfing, the best time to go is during the warm season around the Summer. But if you prefer skiing or snowboarding, you will be best to come during the Winter.

Of course, there are other things to consider such as a festival you want to see, or take part to a special holiday such as Children’s Day for example.

When to go will depend on what activities you want to do in Japan.

Where to go?

With its 47 distinct prefectures and unique locations, the choice is ample.

It is also important to note that tourism in Japan is booming, making it hard to find lodging during the peak of tourism. Some hotels in the busiest cities are even full one year in advance!

For instance, the most visited prefectures in 2017 were Tokyo, Osaka, and Hokkaido. The least visited ones were Kochi, Fukui, and Shimane.

You should also think about what you want to see and what activities you want to do.

How long to go?

The time of your visit depends, of course, on the time you are able to take off to come to Japan, as well as what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend for your trip. Some people have also a hard time with the jet lag, and may need one or two days to adjust, depending on what country you come from.

However, if you intend to visit only Japan and have no other stopovers to any other nearby Asian country, you should consider to stay in Japan for at least one week to really enjoy your trip. Thanks to the shinkansen, or Japanese bullet train, as well as other public transport, it is easy to go from one place to the other, even with only one week to spare. For instance, a trip with the shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo (about 500 km or 310 miles) only takes 2 hours 15 minutes.

While not recommended, this means you could go and visit a small part of Kyoto in only one day. A JR Pass is mandatory if you intend to do many such trips.

Once you know where, when, and for how long you should go, the next thing to do will be the basic preparations.

Basic Preparations

Passport

In order to come to Japan, you will need to have a valid passport with at least 6 months left to go to Japan. This is not only mandatory for Japan, but many airlines refuse passengers to board the airplane with less than that amount of time left on your passport. If your passport has less than 6 months of validity, it is recommended to get a new one.

Travelers from most countries do not need a visa in order to enter Japan, and are usually allowed to stay for up to 90 days as a tourist. This includes Europe, Oceania, most of the Americas, etc… Travelers from Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand can only stay for 15 days, and travelers from the United Arab Emirate can only stay 30 days without a visa. Some countries such as China, Russia, the Philippines, Georgia, and certain other countries need to apply for a visa in order to visit Japan. It is recommended to consult the embassy of Japan in your country to see if you need a visa or not.

Money

The currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen. Cash is still used a lot on a day-to-day basis in Japan. Although it is possible to pay with your credit card in most shops, especially bigger ones, some of the smaller shops may not accept payment by credit card. It is also possible that your credit card doesn’t work properly in Japan. To avoid any problems, you should contact your bank before your trip to make sure you will be able to use your cards, as well as to check for your daily and monthly withdrawal limit.

Learning

If you want to travel in the bigger cities, you will likely have no problem going around if you don’t understand English. Many places have both Japanese and English translation. All public transport in big cities have comprehensive maps and directions. Trains, subways, as well as buses will also lead you by voice, in English.

In case you want to go to the country side and visit small villages, going around may be a little harder if you don’t understand Japanese. However, people are generally nice and helpful. In case you are lost you can ask someone to help you.

Either way, it is recommended to learn a few basic phrases such as how to greet or how to thank people.

Accommodation

Because Japan is a country with tourists numbers increasing every year, it is recommended to plan and make your reservation well in advance to take advantage of the best possible price. If you aren’t able to plan your trip in advance and most hotels have been taken, you can also opt to go for an RBNB, as they are prolific in Japan.

Transportation

Transportation in Japan is modern, reliable, and highly developed. The metro or sometimes the bus is the best way of moving around in big cities. The shinkansen and the highway bus are the two best options to move from one far-away city to another.

Transport is also relatively cheap, and there are many different type of good-value passes, which will make your trip even easier.