15/05/2020

A Short Guide of Things to Do and Know before Traveling to Japan

There are numerous things to see and do in Japan. More often than not, no amount of planning can make any trip perfect. Here is a short list of essentials to make that Japan trip memorable, in a good way.

Japan Travel Guide

Why travel to Japan? 

Japan is a tourist’s paradise. A first-world nation, the country remains traditionally and culturally tied to its rich past filled with breathtaking achievements and customs. The Japanese people are world-famous for their work ethic, orderliness, and politeness. These stand out character values turned this once hermit nation into one of the best places to visit and experience in one's life.  

How many days should you allot for traveling?

The amount of time you will spend will depend on your budget and your interests. There are many tour packages being offered, complete with airfare, guides, accommodation, and meals.

The number of days depends almost entirely on the budget, places to visit, and energy that a traveler can have! Less than a week might be too short, and is only enough to scour general locations but not enough for a full travel experience. A good time to truly travel to most key locations is around 15 days to a month if you are planning to roam far, distant places. 

There are also other factors, such as people you are with. Traveling with children or the elderly may need to allocate time for their needs, and may not be suited for very long travels and specific activities, or places, like mountainous areas. The longer you stay, the higher the costs you will spend, this is a factor to consider. Again, it depends on the variable factors mentioned above and consider your availability as well to be able to savor every moment.  

How to find places to visit

There are myriad places to go in Japan, be it for relaxation, an educational tour, for viewing of the country's precious relics and natural heritages, or even attending events; people have different reasons for going.

When plotting a travel route in Japan, it is important to know the distances of each spot you want to visit. It might be better to roam one to three cities per visit or focus on one, depending on your interests. For example, Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and has various historical locations, ancient relics, and all things historical Japan has to offer; it might be a good location for history enthusiasts. For anime fans, Akihabara is a holy land one must go to, but there are various anime shops scattered in Tokyo. There are also various world-famous castles, temples, and shrines scattered throughout the country, but visiting all of them would require a much longer stay.

Plotting a travel route would depend on your days of stay in Japan. If you are planning to attend an event as your main reason for going, roaming the city where the event will be held is a wise choice. You can enter the country early and enjoy what the city has to offer before the event even starts.

Good planning can save you time and maximize your travel experience. It might be better to plot a course, activities, and allot days for each destination to visit as much as you can.        

What to consider before your travel and during your stay

Visa, other legal requirements, timing and buying tickets early 

A Japanese tour would require a visa but there are countries who are visa-exempt. A Japan tourist visa is only for short-term stay of 30 to 90 days. A double-entry visa for two short trips within a 6-month period can also be applied for. 

Countries with visa exemptions are entitled to stay in Japan for 90 days but most countries are without this exemption. One normally has to apply for a visa in the Japanese embassy in their country of origin and process their tourist visa.

Some of the visa requirements include: valid passport with at least 6 months remaining and 2 blank pages, completed visa application form, a recent color passport photo and a certified copy of your birth certificate, applicant’s tax return,schedule and travel plans for the trip. For further information, check your consulate or embassy.  

※ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Procedures Chart for Short-Term Stay”

Event Timing and Convenience of Accommodations

It is important to find a good timing for your visit and this will also depend on your aim. If you want to see Japan for a particular season or event, then research it accordingly prior to your visit. Study weather patterns and the typhoon season. As a tourist, the best time to visit is during early spring to witness the short-lived cherry blossoms.

Other good times to visit Japan are autumn foliage season, ski season, and summer festival season such as during the Obon festival. However keep in mind that these are popular seasons to visit.

It is highly recommended to reserve your accommodation well in advance, especially during the peak season to save time and nerves. Last-minute reservations are possible but it will not save you money. They may even be impossible.  

Plotting a travel plan and budgeting

The main figures on the list are the visa, travel insurance, airfare, food and accommodations, transportation fees within Japan, tickets to places or events, and souvenirs and other desired items. You may also consider renting a pocket wifi or buying a 4G sim card to enable the use of google maps and to stay in touch with family and friends. Buy travel books about the places too.  The budgeting depends on whether it's the experiences or the shopping you’d go for. Carefully account how much you are willing to spend and how much will be on standby budget.

Here are some things to remember for a more trouble free experience;

  • Begin plotting a travel plan in Japan, where you want to go,

  • Know special dates and holidays that will make moving around difficult,

  • Buy tickets for events in advance,

  • Consider a local guide if you want to explore further,

  • Take enough money to convert into Japanese Yen with you, and

  • Study the transportation methods.

Japan has four distinct seasons, much like the countries of Europe and certain places in the United States. It is essential to wear appropriate clothing to accommodate the weather during your visit. Be sure to prepare enough summer or winter clothes as it would significantly affect your travel experience, especially if you plan to travel a lot!

Ensure you are well suited for the weather - it's better to bring a coat and sweater during the winter period.

Things to Know or Consider

Manners are important in Japan, and not following them is a breach of etiquette that all travelers must avoid. It is important to know the things that you can do and the things you cannot. Simply said, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".

The etiquette depends on the activities and the places one visits or goes to. For example, upon entering a Japanese home, there is a border between inside and outside just after entering the front door. This is called the genkan. It is a requirement to leave the shoes or other footwear worn before entering the main abode. 

In Japan, people often greet each other by bowing. It ranges from just a small nod of the head to a deeper, longer bow which indicates respect. The first one is informal.  Bowing is also done to apologize, thank, make a request, or ask for a favor. 

These are just a few of the manners followed by the Japanese in strict adherence to their upbringing and way of life and one must familiarize themselves by researching thoroughly or asking relevant resources.

The Advantages of Learning Basic Japanese

In addition, it would be really helpful to have some basic Japanese vocabulary handy for your trip. 

Examples of basic Japanese greetings and words include "Hai" for yes, "Onegai shimasu" for please, "Konnichiwa" for Hello / Good day, "Ohayō gozaimasu" for Good Morning, "Sumimasen" for Excuse me, "Arigatō" for Thank you, "Konbanwa” for Good Evening, "Iie” or “Uun" for No, "Wakarimasen" for I Don’t Understand, "Doushimashita?" for What happened?/Are you okay?, "Douitashimashite" for You're welcome, and "Daijoubu desu" for That's ok!

Again, these are just a few but it will go a long way to make your trip more memorable in terms of cultural immersion. 

Japan’s Train System

The Japanese Railway system is world renown for being well-organized and efficient. It would appear daunting to those who will see its network connections the first time though. You might need to switch between the surface and underground lines to travel efficiently.

To save on transportation, you may use discount tickets and passes. You must remember to take note which railway system your ticket is valid for.  

The trick is distinguishing what are the surface train lines and which are the underground train lines. There are various railway companies operating these lines and it can get confusing when they’re all in one station.

Summary

Japan is a tourist-friendly country. Not only will the experiences afforded by the country be remembered for as long as one lives but the quality of hospitality, reception, and services one can be provided are truly spectacular. The only thing to take into good consideration is how to plan every step of the way before embarking on this possibly once in a lifetime trip. But once you have done so, it will make every single hurdle and expense worth it.

You don't have to worry alone anymore A Q&A community about Japan

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