There’s something for everyone in Japan. From Tokyo to the almost 7,000 islands that belong to it, Japan is full of culture, tradition, and beauty. It’s well known for its anime, technology, and cuisine. From the first time we visited and climbed Mt. Fuji, to living in Northern Japan, and now living in the old capital of Kamakura, Jim and I have loved Japan.
Japan is an island nation located to the west of the continent of Asia. The only two ways to get there is by air and by ship.
Location and Visa
For most countries, Japan has a 90 day free visa upon arrival. They do expect you to leave before the 90 days is up, but for one time only, you can do a visa run to another country, like Taiwan or Korea and get another 90 days. However, after that you need to leave unless you can apply for a residency card.
Public transportation in Japan is varied and timely. Most people get around using the train and subway system. Roads get packed and jammed very quickly, especially on the Kanto Plain. Driving in Japan is on the left, but driving a rental car will quickly turn expensive, especially if you are driving in toll roads. We did one two week road trip and our tolls added up to over $200 US.
Airplane is one of the main ways that people arrive in Japan, and Tokyo is served by two airports, Narita and Haneda. Both have plenty of public transportation options into the city or surrounding areas. Upon arrival, you will have to fill out an entry card, a customs card, and make sure your passport is good for at least six months.
Most tourists travel by train, both within the Tokyo/Kanto area, and to other places as well. If you are coming for a short time, you will want to look into buying a Japan Rail Pass to see if it is worth it to you. It’s good if you plan to do a lot of train travel in the time frame, but if you are only going to one or two places, it may not be worth it.
To use the train and subway system, it’s best to purchase a Suica or Passmo refillable card. There are machines in every train station that will allow you to put more money on it, and you don’t have to worry about buying tickets for each leg.
You can get buses everywhere. Most train stations have a bus terminal right there, because you will need to use both train and bus to get to many places. Buses are cheap and most map apps these days will help you navigate the system.
The Japanese currency is the yen. There are coins that range from 1 yen to 500 yen, so be careful when collecting coins, they add up quick. It’s a good idea to try and use them as soon as you can since, as with mkost currencies, you can’t convert coins once you are out of the country.
ATMs and Banks
You can find ATMs everywhere, but the best places to find them are at the konbinis (convenience stores like 7-11).
Credit Cards vs. Cash
Many small businesses still prefer cash, so make sure to keep some on you at all times. One way to get around carrying too much cash is to get a Suica or Passmo card. These cards were originally designed only for use on public transportation, but they are so convenient that people and businesses started using them like a pre-loaded debit card. You can even buy a hot can of coffee out of a vending machine using your Suica or Passmo card.
Health and Safety Concerns
For a short stay in Japan, the CDC recommends that travelers be up-to-date on all regular vaccines. However, it doesn’t hurt to have your Hepatitis A and B as well as Japanese Encephalitis, especially if you will be doing any hiking or other outdoor activities in remoter areas.
Water is safe all over Japan unless stated otherwise. You can also buy water in bottles in every convenience store and vending machine across the country.
For over the counter medications like aspirin or Tylenol, you can usually find these types of things in a konbini or food shop. However, if you want to fill a prescription, you must first make an appointment to get a Japanese doctor to write you a script, then he can tell you where to buy it nearby. If you think you will be running out of a medication, make sure to have your original prescription available to show the doctor.
When is the best time to go?
Luckily, every season is great for traveling in Japan. After living here, we’ve come to look forward to each season and the special events that it brings. In spring, of course, you can follow the cherry blossoms from the southern end all the way north, from about February through April.
Then in fall, the Japanese maples sport the most beautiful reds, oranges, and bronzes; the ginkgo trees turn gold, and the temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking or biking.
In winter, Japan has some of the best skiing snow I’ve ever encountered. The temperatures hover right about freezing, so it really doesn’t seem to get too cold, yet there is plenty of snow.
To be honest, even though summer is the most popular season, it’s my least favorite. The temperatures can get up into the low 100s and the humidity is high as well. It’s downright miserable. However, like any other country, it’s a time with lots of events and festivals to go to as well, so it’s a trade off.
- When is the Best Time to Visit Japan? A Country for 4 Seasons
- What to Eat in Japan Food Guide
- Day Trip to Kamakura and Its Beach
- Plan a Trip to the Gassho Zukuri in Shirakawago – World Heritage
- Matsumoto Castle and Art
- The Best Hotels in JapanOur Top Ten List for Japan
- How to Find Snow Monkeys in JapanSnow Monkeys in Hot Tubs – Bucket List Japan101 Japanese Kit Kat Candy Bars – A Taste Challenge
- Indulging Your Fantasies at Japanese Themed Restaurants
- The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly! Animal Cafés in Japan
- Bunruku – Japanese Puppet Theater
- Cherry Blossom Time in JapanHanami – Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan
- Tiniest Hotel Rooms – A Capsule Hotel in Japan
- Christmas Dinner in Japan….KFC?!Best Japanese Restaurants in Tokyo
- Best Themed Restaurants in Tokyo
- Japanese Street FoodVisiting a Cat Cafe – Tokyo,
- JapanWorld Heritage Nikko – Day Trip from Tokyo
- Pokemon Cafe Tokyo
- How to Visit the World-famous Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market
- Visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto
- Visting the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple – Kyoto
- Ramen Museum and Cup Noodles Museum – Yokohama
- Love Hotels In JapanMochi, Mochi, Mochi – A Japanese New Year’s Tradition
- The Buddha Statue of AomoriWatching a Sumo Tournament – Tokyo
- Top Tourist Sights and Places to See – Tokyo
- Kawasaki Warehouse Arcade – A Must-visit near Tokyo
- Walk Nogogiriyama on the Boso Peninsula
And if you are interested in a cute little story about how important selling fish roe to Japan is to the Alaskan economy, here’s an experience I had a few years ago. Enjoy.