Traveling to Japan requires planning, whether you are going for a short trip or opting for an extended stay in the country. Your time here is most valuably spent when you have certain things taken care of and can then focus on enjoying the rest of your vacation. Here are a few things to take care of when planning a trip to Japan
Japan has no visa requirements for most nationalities for short stays of up to 90 days. They do require you to have booked a return flight out. Be prepared to be questioned on this aspect upon arrival and have your tickets ready.
A very interesting Railway Pass option, the shinkansen (bullet train) pass will allow you to travel from any place in Japan to any other on their super fast trains. Though quite expensive averaging over £300 /$400 per person, this two week pass allows you to travel on any train within the country. There is no need to book any seat in advance. All you have to do is choose a train, show your pass and get in.
The pass is totally worth the steep price if you want to explore the country and will take many, rather than a couple of journeys. The only thing is that you need to decide about getting the pass before you get to Japan as these passes are only available to foreigners. You can order them online on websites like JRailPass , which will deliver the pass to your accommodation in Japan.
Practise the basics of Japanese before your trip to Japan. It will be especially useful when traveling within Japan. Numbers and greetings are universally useful, as are specifics about food, especially if you are a vegetarian or have dietary restrictions.
The summers are generally quite hot and humid . It is therefore recommended to bring plenty of lightweight clothes. Also remember to pack jackets or cardigans if you’re traveling via the train in Japan, as the air-conditioning is quite strong.
If you’re traveling during the winter, pack some layers. Most days are nice and cool, but it may sometimes become quite stormy.
Remember that you may have to take off your shoes quite a lot in Japan. Even at places like restaurants, shopping centres and temples.
It is a good idea to carry toiletries from home as basic things like deodorant, and face wash can vary quite a bit from place to place and you may find that some of these don’t work as well for you.
Visiting Japan is quite wonderful as there are a huge range of options for you to choose from. Even if you want to wing it and not plan anything substantial, do keep some time for the following places which are of particular interest to visitors planning a trip to Japan:
Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is most probably where you will fly into. It is famous for its crowded streets, electronic and souvenir shops, temples and food vending machines. Tokyo is a city full of temples, and a visit to Sensoji, one of the oldest temples, is essential for any traveler. The temple is about one and a half millennia old and you can buy souvenirs and incense in the nearby shops.
One can travel to Osaka by the high speed bullet train, or Shinkansen, one of the defining features of Japanese investment in technology. From Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of about 500 km, takes less than 3 hours by the Super Express Nozomi train. Travelers to Osaka are known to enjoy a visit to the Universal Studios, Osaka Castle, the huge Osaka Aquarium (one of the world’s biggest) and Dōtonbori, the principal tourist area in the region.
Known for its serene landscapes and countryside, Kyoto offers an unforgettable experience. It’s located just 30 minutes via train from Osaka and has a large number of shrines and temples to visit, since it was where the emperors of Japan lived over a thousand year period. Perhaps to highlight the contrasts, there are some really nice restaurants and nightclubs in Kyoto that any traveler must visit.
Nikko, the mausoleum built for Tokugawa Ieyasu, is an extremely beautiful and peaceful place. Built as a shrine to the Shogun of Japan, the area consists of about a dozen Shinto and Buddhist buildings.
Visit the monkey park in Jigokudani. This is one of the areas known for snow monkeys that bathe in the hot springs in winter. It’s also the location of the winter Olympics of 1998. The name Jigokudani, derives from the equivalent of "Hell's Valley", and is named because of the steam and boiling water that escape from small fissures in the frozen ground. The area is also enclosed by steep cliffs and formidable forests.
Japan’s tallest peak, Mt. Fuji, an active volcano, is also known as Fuji-san to the locals. The volcano, being one of Japan’s 3 sacred mountains, has been a holy spot and for centuries, pilgrims have visited the island where it is located.
Do plan well for your trip to Japan and ensure that you have money handy for whatever you need to book.