Japan, known in Japanese as Nihon or Nippon, is an East Asian island nation with a unique and very complex culture. Despite going through many war conflicts throughout history, the people of Japan have focused on inner peace, tranquility, and natural beauty. Nowadays, Japan is a modern and highly developed country, where traditional values preservation is more important than ever. The mix of ancient and ultramodern is visible on every step.
The elegant cuisine of Japan has spread globally first through sushi (and the less sophisticated but even more popular ramen noodles) to all corners of the world, through countless Japanese restaurants and Asian fusion eateries.
As a sociological and cultural phenomenon, unique Japanese pop culture such as manga comics and anime cartoons has also spread worldwide and achieved massive following mostly by the younger population.
Japan is a must-visit place when traveling through Asia and we cannot recommend it enough. Enjoy!
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Japan
- Capital: Tokyo
- Country population: 126.4 million
- Area: 377,864 sq km (145,894 sq miles)
- Major language: Japanese
- Major religion: Shintoism, Buddhism
- Life expectancy: 81 years (men), 87 years (women)
- Currency: Yen
2. Where is it?
Japan is an island nation in Asia and it is a relatively large country, it is the 62nd country in the world by land area. Japan doesn’t share any land border with other countries. Its closest neighbors by the sea are Russia, North and South Korea, and China.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete your visit to Japan, so please plan ahead. Unless your country has an agreement with Japan for visa-free travel, you will need to obtain a tourist visa when traveling to the country. Usually, you should apply for a visa in the nearest embassy, but Japan will provide online visa applications in 2020.
More details about visa requirements can be found here.
For general details about visa requirements please click here.
4. Getting there
Getting to Japan is the best via one of many international airports: Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND), Kansai (KIX), near Osaka and Kyoto, Chubu (NGO) in central Japan, New Chitose Airport (CTS), and several more. There are international airports that serve regional traffic with nearby Asian countries as well.
Cheap Flights to Tokyo
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5. Where to stay in Japan?
Japan has a very developed tourism industry and it offers great accommodation opportunities to cover every possible taste, preference, or budget.
Apart from hotels of various classes and pricing, Japan offers traditional inns (ryokan), Machiya Home Rentals (wooden cabins), pensions, and even Buddhist temples accommodations.
For unconventional accommodations, there are capsule hotels (individual sleeping pods) and so-called ‘love hotels’ (hotel rooms rented by the hour).
For the latest offers on hotels from our providers use the search form below:
6. Moving around
Japan has a very developed airline, bus and train network, which you can use to travel from city to city quickly and efficiently. There are many airports in Japan, and most of them are international.
If you prefer ground transportation, taking the train can be exciting as you will be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery. There are even special train routes designed to pass through the most beautiful areas of the country. Buses are recommended in the areas that are not very well covered by the train network and they also have sightseeing routes.
If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car, but due to distances driving could be a tiresome activity for longer trips.
More info about transport in Japan can be found here.
To move between cities you can also rent a car, which you can do online from our website or from many car rentals.
7. Food in Japan
Japanese cuisine is well known around the world, especially for its most commercialized part – sushi. But Japan has much more to offer, its food is known for being delicious, nutritious, and well-balanced to be more enjoyable. Since it is an island nation, fish and seafood is making up the majority of dishes.
Sushi is made with vinegar fermented rice and fresh fish and it has a variety of tastes and designs as it was always meant to look pretty and interesting.
Another fish-based dish is tempura – a variation of battered and fried fish, seafood, or vegetables. Depending on the region, it is served with different dipping sauces.
Yakitori is a grilled chicken dish – small cuts of chicken grilled on a skewer. What is different from other chicken skewer dishes – in Japan, they use every part of the chicken, not only chicken breasts – heart, liver, and even chicken comb.
Kaiseki is a traditional dish mostly offered in fine dining venues. Originated from team ceremonies, this dish is carefully crafted with diverse ingredients and designs with attention to detail.
Udon is a very popular noodle dish, made from wheat flour. Popularity comes from its delicious taste, variety of toppings, and very affordable price.
Sashimi is raw food that predates sushi. It refers to thinly sliced raw beef, chicken, fish, or seafood. Differs from sushi by not including rice or intricate decoration.
Miso soup is a traditional starter meal in Japan, made of dashi stock, fish, or kelp – mixed with miso bean paste with savory umami element. Other ingredients include tofu, sliced green onions, fish, clams, and pork depending on a region or personal taste.
How safe is Japan for tourists and to move around? Japan is a very safe country in general, and you need to use general caution such as not leaving valuables in the open sight in the car, carrying large amounts of cash, etc. Most of the risk is coming from visiting entertainment areas, especially red-light districts in big cities or slums (which we do not recommend visiting).
More details about safety in Japan you can find here.
Japan can be very affordable for tourists and the biggest expense would be a plane ticket if you are not coming from neighboring countries or Asia in general.
For detailed pricing information for various items, click here.
Prices throughout Japan are almost the same for common items, with slight variation, but major cities naturally are more expensive, so Tokyo, Yokohama, Miyazaki, and Osaka lead the list of the most expensive places.
Japan is spread out between north and south and, although the country, in general, has a moderate climate, south parts are affected by the tropical climate and northern parts are with continental weather. In general, Japan has a change of seasons that is more continental in nature and experiences severe weather, such as typhoons and storms.
11. Best time to visit Japan
Due to its geographical distribution from northeast to southwest, Japan is a place you can visit any time of the year, whether you like warm weather or winter. Nevertheless, to avoid crowds caused by mass travel movements of locals, you should avoid time around New Year’s, end of April, beginning of May, and middle of August. Those times are popular with locals and transportation might be overcrowded and hectic.
12. Money matters
Japan’s currency is Yen (JPY) so visitors should take note of the exchange rate. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for a taxi ride. There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in local currency with a fee.
Major banks charge reasonable ATM fees to foreigners, but privately-operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, the machine should warn you about the charge, so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it. If the machine offers you to do the conversion into local currency, you should decline it as you will be charged unfavorable rates.
13. What to see in Japan?
We are listing here around the top fifty interesting attractions to see in Japan and this is really just a small sample of what you can see and do there. We will be covering in detail major cities where more attractions will be listed. You can make your own list of what to see in Japan when your plan your visit.
Mount Fuji. Iconic snow-capped mounting peak, around 100 km southwest from Tokyo. Standing at 3,776 meters, it is an active volcano and a true symbol of Japan.
Kinkaku-ji. One of the top attractions in Japan, this tranquil Zen Buddhist Temple is located in Kyoto. Surrounded by landscaped gardens and a pond reflecting surroundings, it is a destination of many visitors escaping the city’s hectic rhythm.
Arashiyama. Located on the west outskirt of Kyoto, this scenic site is famous for bamboo forest and monkey sightings.
Kiyomizu-Dera. Iconic Buddhist Temple in east Kyoto formally known as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-Dera. Offering scenic views from its large veranda.
Fushimi Inari Taisha. Mountainside Shinto shrine dating back from the 8th century, featuring a path with hundreds of traditional gates. Located in Kyoto, it is the head shrine of the kami Inari.
Tokyo Skytree. The tallest structure in Japan, this communication and observation tower is standing at the height of 634 meters. Located in Tokyo, it offers panoramic city views.
Sensō-Ji. Iconic, a historic temple dating back from the 7th century. Dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kannon, and located in Tokyo.
Osaka Castle. Located in Chūō-Ku, Osaka, this historic castle played a major role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century. It was renovated and it is featuring gardens and a museum with diverse exhibits.
Tokyo Tower. Famous tower in Tokyo, resembling more famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. Standing at 333-meter height, it offers city views and other attractions.
Meiji Jingu. Famous Shinto shrine with a garden, located in Shibuya City, west Tokyo. It is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife and is surrounded by forest.
Odaiba. Entertainment hub with high-tech attractions, located in Tokyo Bay. Accessible via the Rainbow Bridge or the futuristic Yurikamome train.
Imperial Palace. The primary residence of the Emperor of Japan, the current Imperial Palace (Kōkyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area in the center of Tokyo, surrounded by moats and massive stone walls, a short walk from Tokyo Station.
Itsukushima. Also known as Miyajima, is a small island in Hiroshima Bay. It is known for its forests and ancient temples. Just offshore, the giant, orange Great Torii Gate symbolizes the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds.
Lake Kawaguchi. Of the five lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji, Tokyo’s easiest connection is Lake Kawaguchi. You can see a perfect mirror image of Mt. Fuji mirrored in the lake on a still, clear day.
Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland is a theme park based on Walt Disney’s movies. It was the first Disney theme park that opened outside of the US. Modeled after California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland consists of seven theme parks with seasonal decorations and parades.
Tōdai-ji. Also known as the “Great Eastern Temple”, this is one of the most prominent and historically significant temples in Japan, as well as a Nara landmark. The temple was built in 752 as the head temple of all Japanese provincial Buddhist temples and became so powerful that the capital was transferred from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 to diminish the influence of the temple on government affairs. Famous for hosting Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statue.
Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle (Himejijō), also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo), is widely regarded as Japan’s most impressive castle due to its formidable size and elegance and its well-preserved, complex castle grounds.
Universal Studios Japan. This movie-themed amusement park with rides based on popular American movies is located in Osaka.
Nijō Castle. Built as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun in the Edo period (1603-1867), Nijo Castle (Nijōjō) was completed in 1603. His grandson Iemitsu completed the palace buildings of the castle 23 years later and extended the castle further by adding a five-story castle keep.
Dōtonbori. It is the most famous entertainment district in the city and offers plenty of options for dining and shopping. One of the two major city centers in Osaka.
Nara Park. A central park in the city of Nara. Established in 1880, it is the site of many of the attractions of Nara including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji, and the National Museum of Nara. Famous for hundreds of deer freely roaming deer.
Tsukiji Market. Sprawling fish market with an array of seafood and viewing areas for a popular tuna auction. Located in Tokyo.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. One of the most popular and largest parks in Tokyo. Just a short walk from Shinjuku Station, the spacious lawns of the paid park, meandering walking trails, and quiet scenery provide a relaxing escape from the busy urban center around it.
Lake Ashi. Formed after the last eruption of the volcano 3000 years ago, Lake Ashinoko is on Mount Hakone. Today, the lake with Mount Fuji in the background is the symbol of the area.
Harajuku. Harajuku refers to the area surrounding Harajuku Station in Tokyo, situated on the Yamanote Line between Shinjuku and Shibuya. It is the hub of the most intense teen cultures and fashion trends in Japan, but it also offers adult shopping and some historic sights.
Ueno Park. Ueno Park is a large public park located in central Tokyo next to Ueno Station. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, which during the Edo Period used to be one of the largest and richest temples in the city and a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan.
Kenroku-en. Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, along with Mito’s Kairakuen and Okayama’s Korakuen, is justifiably listed as one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens.” The vast grounds used to be Kanazawa Castle’s outer garden and were developed over a span of nearly two centuries by the ruling Maeda family.
Atomic Bomb Dome. Historic remains of the atomic blast in the Industrial Promotion Hall which was destroyed by the atomic bomb during WWII. Located in Hiroshima.
Yoyogi Park. One of the largest city parks in Tokyo, with large lawns, ponds, and wooded areas. It’s a perfect place to practice jogging, picnics, and other outdoor activities.
Higashiyama Jisho-ji. This 15th-century Zen temple features picturesque gardens and a sand mound shaped like Mount Fuji. Located in Kyoto.
Tokyo Disney Resort. Amusement park and toy story. The Tokyo Disney Resort is a theme park and holiday resort located just east of Tokyo in Urayasu. It is owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company.
Kasuga-Taisha. Kasuga Taisha is the most well-known shrine in Nara. It was set up simultaneously with the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the city’s protection.
Roppongi. A Tokyo district is well-known among foreigners as the most popular nightlife district in the region, offering many foreign-friendly bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located in the bay area of Osaka’s Tempozan Harbor Village and is one of the most spectacular aquariums in Japan. This incorporates numerous forms of life inhabiting the Pacific Rim in a well-structured and spectacular manner.
Ōwakudani. Owakudani is the area around a crater that was formed some 3000 years ago during the last Mount Hakone eruption. Much of the area today is an active volcanic zone where it is possible to experience sulfurous gases, hot springs, and warm rivers.
Kōtoku-in. Temple with a huge statue of the Buddha, the second largest in Japan. Located in Kamakura, Kanagawa.
Nishiki Market. Nishiki Market is a narrow shopping street, five blocks long, lined by more than a hundred shops and restaurants. This vibrant retail market, known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” specializes in all items related to food, such as fresh seafood, vegetables, knives, and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood, and sushi.
Nikkō Tōshō-gū. Opulent 17th-century shrine complex honoring the first shogun and featuring colorful buildings and art.
Jigokudani Monkey Park. The park provides tourists the unique experience of wild monkeys swimming in a natural hot spring. Japanese Macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys, inhabit the park.
Kyoto Imperial Palace. Up until 1868, when the emperor and capital were relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo, the Kyoto Imperial Palace used to be Japan’s Imperial Family residence.
Kumano Kodō. Kumano Kodo refers to a pilgrimage network through the southern region of Kansai. The Kodo (“old ways”) is a key part of the UNESCO classification of the area and has been in use for more than 1000 years.
Heian Shrine. Heian Shrine’s history is relatively short, dating back just over a hundred years to 1895. The shrine was built in Kyoto to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the capital and is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned in the city.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Tourists frequently visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku for its free observation decks which offer good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond.
Fuji Five Lakes. A region at the base of Mount Fuji, Japan. It comprises Yamanaka, Kawaguchi, Saiko, Shōji and Motosu lakes. At its heart is Fujiyoshida city.
Mount Takao. Mount Takao is one of central Tokyo’s closest natural recreation areas, offering beautiful scenery, an interesting temple, and attractive walking opportunities.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Widely regarded as the best aquarium in Japan. It is the Ocean Expo Park’s main attraction on the former International Ocean Expo grounds in northern Okinawa Honto in 1975. In 2002, the aquarium was completely renovated and reopened.
Kamikochi. A popular resort in Nagano Prefecture’s Northern Japan Alps with some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Japan.
14. Interesting facts about Japan
Here are some interesting facts about this amazing country:
- Japan consists of over 6,800 islands.
- Japanese trains are among the world’s most punctual: their average delay is just 18 seconds.
- Around 24 billion pairs of chopsticks are used in Japan each year.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Japan and that you will visit soon!
Last Updated on October 28, 2021 by Tours Editor @ gotravelyourself.com