Japan Travel Guide

Japan is an island nation located in East Asia, made up of four main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku) and thousands of smaller islands. Japan has a rich history and culture, and is known for its modern cities, beautiful natural scenery, delicious cuisine, and advanced technology.

Japan has a unique and fascinating culture, known for its traditional arts and crafts, such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement. Japan is also famous for its pop culture, including anime, manga, and video games.

Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on fresh ingredients and simple flavours, with a focus on rice, seafood, and vegetables. Some popular dishes include sushi, ramen, tempura, and yakitori. Japan is also famous for its wide variety of sweets and desserts, including mochi, green tea ice cream, and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).

Japan is a country of stunning natural beauty, with a diverse range of landscapes and ecosystems. Some popular natural attractions include Mount Fuji, the cherry blossom trees in spring, and the autumn leaves in fall. Japan is also surrounded by the sea, and is famous for its beaches, hot springs, and skiing destinations.

When is the best time to travel to Japan

Japan has 4 seasons, each season is suitable for different kinds of activities of travelling, we recommend checking for festivals and public holidays, which may affect travel and accommodation availability. The best time to visit Japan depends on personal preferences, budget, and travel goals.

Spring (March – May): Spring is one of the most popular seasons to visit Japan due to the cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms typically bloom from late March to early April, it depends on the location and weather conditions of each year. Spring is a good time to travel as the weather is mild and pleasant.

sunset in Kyoto, Japan

Summer (June – August): Summer in Japan can be hot and humid, it is a good time to visit the beaches and enjoy summer festivals, such as Obon and Tanabata. July and August are also the peak travel seasons for domestic tourists, so prices for accommodations and transportation may be higher.

Autumn (September – November): Autumn is a time to visit Japan due to the beautiful autumn foliage, typically in November. It is also a good time to visit Hokkaido, where you can enjoy autumn festivals and outdoor activities.

Winter (December – February): Winter in Japan can be very cold, a good time to enjoy winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding in Hokkaido and the Japan Alps.

Winter in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Japan Public Holidays:

New Year’s Day: January 1st. A one-day holiday, but businesses and offices in Japan often close for several days during the New Year period, usually from December 29th to January 3rd.

Coming of Age Day: The second Monday in January. It is a one-day holiday that celebrates young people who have reached the age of 20, which is considered the age of adulthood in Japan.

Foundation Day: February 11th. It is a one-day holiday that commemorates the foundation of Japan and the establishment of its first emperor.

Showa Day: April 29th. It is a one-day holiday that honours the birthday of Emperor Shōwa, who reigned from 1926 to 1989. This holiday is also associated with reflecting on Japan’s turbulent past and fostering a peaceful future.

Constitution Memorial Day: May 3rd. It is a one-day holiday that commemorates the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of Japan in 1947.

Greenery Day: May 4th. It is a one-day holiday that was formerly celebrated on April 29th but was moved to May 4th in 2007. It focuses on appreciating nature and the environment.

Children’s Day: May 5th. It is a one-day holiday that celebrates the happiness and well-being of children, particularly boys. Families often fly carp-shaped streamers and display traditional dolls.

Marine Day: The third Monday in July. It is a one-day holiday that celebrates the ocean and maritime activities. The date was originally set as July 20th but was changed to be observed on the third Monday of July starting from 2003.

Mountain Day: August 11th. It is a one-day holiday established in 2016 to honour mountains and promote outdoor recreation. It encourages people to appreciate Japan’s natural beauty.

Respect for the Aged Day: The third Monday in September. It is a one-day holiday that honours and shows respect to the elderly.

Autumnal Equinox Day: The date varies between September 22nd and 24th. It is a one-day holiday that marks the changing of seasons and pays respects to ancestors.

Health and Sports Day: The second Monday in October. It is a one-day holiday that promotes sports and a healthy lifestyle. The date was originally set as October 10th but was changed to be observed on the second Monday of October starting from 2000.

Culture Day: November 3rd. It is a one-day holiday that celebrates Japanese culture, arts, and academic endeavours. It often involves cultural events and exhibitions.

Labour Thanksgiving Day: November 23rd. It is a one-day holiday that expresses gratitude for labour and harvest. It is also associated with giving thanks and showing appreciation.

Accommodations in Japan

Generally, the cost of accommodation in Japan is a bit higher than in Australia, especially during peak seasons. The prices vary widely depending on the location, type of accommodation, and season so the comparison is relative. There are 4 main kinds of accommodations for tourists in Japan, Ryokan – traditional Japanese Inns, Shukubo – temple lodging, minshuku – traditional Japanese guesthouse and western style hotels.

Ryokan

Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers a unique cultural experience for travellers. Ryokans typically feature tatami-matted rooms with sliding shoji doors, low tables, and futon bedding. Some ryokans have private baths and some have communal baths. Guests are usually provided with yukata (cotton kimono) to wear during their stay and offer traditional Japanese hospitality, including tea ceremonies, kaiseki (a multi-course traditional Japanese dinner), and cultural activities such as calligraphy or flower arrangement, usually breakfast and dinner also included.

Ryokans vary in price, from budget to luxury, but they tend to be more expensive than other accommodations in Japan. We highly recommend ryokan to travellers who want to immerse themselves in traditional Japanese culture.

ryokan

Shukubo

Shukubo is a kind of temple lodging where travellers can stay overnight at a Buddhist temple. Some shukubos are located in scenic locations, such as in the mountains or by the sea, making them an ideal place for those who are looking for a spiritual retreat. Most shukubos offer communal baths, which are usually hot springs or sento (public baths). Guests are also welcome to participate in the temple’s morning prayers and meditation, as well as enjoy traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin ryori. One of the best places to experience a night at a temple is Mount Koya.

shukubo

Minshuku

Minshuku is a traditional Japanese guesthouse where travellers can experience Japanese hospitality, food, and culture. Minshukus are usually family-run and offer simple, affordable accommodations. Guests sleep on futon mattresses laid out on tatami-matted floors in communal rooms, which can be shared or private. Minshuku often offer traditional Japanese meals, such as breakfast and dinner, which are usually included in the price of the room.

minshuku

Western-style hotels

Western-style hotels are common in Japan, particularly in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. They range from budget to luxury, and offer a wide variety of amenities, including private bathrooms, restaurants, and fitness centres. Most western-style hotels feature comfortable, modern furnishings, with beds and other amenities commonly found in Western countries. Some hotels offer traditional Japanese-style rooms as well, but with modern comforts.

Transportation in Japan

Japan has a well-developed transportation system that makes it easy for travellers to get around the country.

Train

Japan has an extensive and efficient train system, renowned for its punctuality and speed, covering most of the country. The train is the most popular mode of transportation for both locals and tourists, and it is a great way to get around the country.

There are several types of trains in Japan, including local trains, express trains, limited express trains, and bullet trains (shinkansen). The shinkansen is the fastest and most convenient way to travel between major cities, with speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph). The shinkansen has several classes of seats, including standard, green (first class), and Gran Class (premium first class).

Shinkansen

The Japan Rail Pass (Seishun 18 Kippu), which allows for unlimited travel on most trains operated by Japan Railways (JR) for a set period of time, is a popular option for tourists, can be purchased before arriving in Japan. Local trains are generally cheaper than express and shinkansen trains. You can buy a ticket before you travel to Japan https://japanrailpass.net/en/purchase.html

The cost of the Japan Rail Pass varies depending on the duration of the pass and the class of travel (ordinary or green car), but a 7-day ordinary pass costs around 29,000 yen ($260 USD) for adults. Local trains and subway systems are also available in most cities, and fares range from around 200 yen ($1.80 USD) to 500 yen (~$4.50 USD) depending on the distance traveled.

It can get very crowded, especially during rush hour, however, trains are generally very clean and comfortable, with amenities such as vending machines, restrooms, and luggage storage.

train station in japan

Bus

Buses are another option for traveling within and between cities in Japan. Long-distance buses are often cheaper than trains, and there are several overnight bus services available. The cost of a long-distance bus ticket varies depending on the distance travelled, but a one-way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, for example, can cost around 6,000 yen (~$54 USD).

Taxi

Taxis are available in most cities in Japan, but they are generally more expensive than trains or buses. The starting fare for a taxi ride in Tokyo, for example, is around 410 yen (~$3.70 USD), with additional charges for distance travelled and waiting time.

Japan’s transportation system is efficient and reliable, but costs can add up quickly, especially if you are traveling long distances or using taxis frequently. The Japan Rail Pass is a cost-effective option for those planning to travel extensively by train, while buses can be a cheaper alternative for shorter distances.

taxi-stand

Written and Shared by Youin Travel Team

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