Japan Travel Tips

tokyo sidewalk

tokyo sidewalk

Planning a trip to Japan?  Don’t go before you check out our travel tips to Japan.  Japan, also known as the Land of The Rising Sun, is a wonderful country to visit and the goodwill of its people will leave you in awe.  If are looking for a safe, modern, and beautiful Asian country to visit, then Japan is your best bet.  Here are tips for getting around in Japan:

Getting to and Around Japan

Before you get too jumpy and count the days until you set off for your trip, you need to attend to a few necessary matters – travel papers. In general, tourists who do not intend to work or participate in money-generating activities while in the country are not required to obtain visas. Instead, a temporary visitor visa or a tanki-taizai visa will be issued to them upon arriving.

American citizens enjoy the privilege of being granted temporary visitor visas for 90 days of pure fun and pleasure, and the same is true for Australian and New Zealand citizens. Citizens from Sweden, Singapore, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Italy, Iceland, Finland, Canada, Argentina, and a multitude of other countries are also allowed to stay in Japan for a time period of up to three months.

Citizens of the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, and Ireland get to enjoy Japan even more as they are allowed to stay in the country for a period of up to six months. Typically, upon arriving, they are given a temporary visitor visa good for 90 days. Another 90 days can be added to this visa upon request at Japan’s immigration bureau.

An ongoing ticket for air or sea travel (or its equivalent) is required for anyone who wishes to enter the country on a temporary visitor visa. In the real setting, only a few tourists are requested to present such papers, but just to be on the safe side, you should be ready to produce yours. A valid passport is also necessary. Be sure to check that your passport still has enough months of validity to cover the trip and beyond. If your passport is set to expire before the visa does, you won’t be granted one. To gain more information on visas and related regulations, you may consult the nearest Japanese consulate or embassy, or visit the official website of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now that you’ve gotten the matter of visas and passports out of the way, you can start searching for the best way to travel to the country. Want to fly into Japan? There are three major airports where almost all intercontinental flights land: Kainsai Airport (KIX), which is close to Osaka and Kyoto; Narita Airport (NRT), which is nearby Tokyo; Chubu International Airport (NGO), which is close to Nagoya. All these airports are located at a considerable distance from their corresponding city centers. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t have much trouble travelling to the heart of the cities since these airports are well connected by regional rail networks as well as countless bus services. You can also aim to arrive at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND), which caters to international flights, too.

If you’re flying in from your country of origin, it’s best to hunt for air tickets ahead of time, especially if you’re planning to travel during the peak travel seasons. Aside from the rates reaching the sky’s limit, you might not be able to book the flight you so desperately wanted if you don’t make travel arrangements well in advance. For cheaper flying costs, you might want to search online travel agencies for great bargains.  You can also check out the official websites of All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. These are the country’s two main airlines. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines may be worth checking out as well.

Another alternative for getting to Japan is to travel by international ferries. Granted, it might seem an interesting experience, but you should seriously reconsider. With the possible exception of the ferries from Busan, Korea to Shimonoseki and to Fukuoka, ferries generally cannot compete with air travel. The travel takes a lot of time, the fares cannot rival air ticket bargains, and the schedules can be quite unreliable. However, if you’re really set on traveling by water crafts, then the various ferries from China, Russia, Taiwan, and Korea should do the job.

Once in the country, you can get around through a number of ways. The country is famous for its excellent transport systems, with the highly efficient and speedy railway system as the most popular means of getting from one place to another. One of the most perplexing things about the system is that you might encounter a few overlaps between the JR network and numerous private railway systems, particularly in Tokyo and other major cities. To make things even more confusing, there are also two distinct metro systems in Tokyo. Knowing this fact will go a long way towards diminishing your confusion as you scrutinize the railway maps and attempt to get around. Nevertheless, you’ll find that Japan’s trains are quite efficient and nearly always on time. Don’t be tardy, or you’ll most certainly fail to catch your train.

Since the country’s railway system is one of the best there is, flying is more a luxurious option than a necessary one. However, air travel is still the most cost-efficient way of getting to the outlying islands. It is also a great way to get around the places where there’s no Shinkansen network, just like Hokkaido. Other ways to get around include renting a car, hailing a taxi, riding on a bus, and getting on a boat.

The Best Time to Visit

There is no doubt that the period from March to May (Spring) and from September to November (Autumn) are the most opportune months to take a trip to Japan. During spring, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the wonderful blooms of the country’s world renowned cherry blossom trees (sakura). The soothing temperatures and pleasant Autumn colors also make the season an equally great time to be in Japan. The other two seasons, Summer from June to August and Winter from December to February, may present a few challenges to the temperature-sensitive.

You should also note the peak seasons that bring out the dense crowds and may make booking accommodations a taxing feat. Late April to early May is when the Golden Week is celebrated, while mid-August is when the Festival of the Dead or O-Bon is observed. If you travel during the New Year period or Sh?gatsu, you shouldn’t be surprised to see that everything in the country is shut down. All the same, you can visit and take pleasure in all that Japan has to offer at virtually any time.

Famous Tourist Attractions in Japan

Japan is a country full of spectacular attractions waiting to be explored. Here are a number of the places you shouldn’t miss:

Golden Pavilion

Constructed in the later part of the 14th century to serve as Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s retirement villa, the original Temple of the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji suffered a burning tragedy in 1950 at the hands of an obsessed young monk.  Thankfully, restorations were started and completed about five years after the disaster, and a precise copy now stands in the place of the original. Once you arrive at the vicinity, you’ll be amazed at how harmonious the building is with the surrounding gardens. You’ll also be awed at the beauty of the gold leaf-covered architecture and its reflections on the pond. Without a doubt, you’ll conclude that the Temple of the Golden Pavilion deserves its reputation for being one of Japan and Kyoto’s most famous tourist magnets.

Mount Fuji

The name Fuji doesn’t just refer to a delicious and mouthwatering apple; it is also the name of Japan’s highest and frequently photographed mountain. With a towering height of 12,388 feet or 3,776 meters, Mount Fuji is every inch the perfect cone. Not only is it vastly worthy of being depicted in artworks and pictures, but it is also a mountain that draws a significant number of sightseers as well. Climbers also come to Mount Fuji to pit their stamina and wits against that of the glorious mountain. The entire climb, from ascent to descent, can be completed within a range of five to thirteen hours.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

The Tokyo Imperial Palace serves as the majestic home of the Emperor of Japan. Aside from this purpose, the palace is also the center of administrative functions and acts as a showcase for the country’s artworks and historical relics. Situated on the remains of the past castles that were laid to waste by war or fire, the temple itself shows just how much the Japanese honor their past. With traditional design elements incorporated into its modern style, the Imperial Palace and its surrounding Japanese gardens never fail to take the tourists’ breaths away.

Tokyo Tower

Nothing in Japan testifies to the advancements made in modern life and technology more than the Tokyo Tower. Not only is the Eiffer Tower-inspired structure a communications tower, but it is also a great place for observation. As the country’s second tallest structure made by man, the Tokyo Tower encourages visitors to climb its heights in exchange for some of the best views of Tokyo as well as its nearby areas. Numerous restaurants and shops also add to the allure of this tower.

The Todaiji Temple

As the entire planet’s most enormous building made of wood, as well as the home of its biggest bronze Buddha statue, the Todaiji Temple can practically be called a miracle of engineering. Located in Nara, the temple’s natural beauty is made even greater by the gorgeous gardens surrounding it. The Kegon School of Buddhism finds its center in this temple, and you’ll find plenty of artifacts depicting the history of Japan and Buddhism in the temple’s grounds. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see deer and other forms of wildlife roaming the land as well.

Great Buddha of Kamakura

If you haven’t had your fill of Buddhas with the one found inside the Todaiji Temple, then you should also check out the bronze outdoor representation of one of the country’s most eminent Buddhist figures – The Great Buddha of Kamakura. Since a 15th century tsunami washed away the original temple where the Great Buddha was housed, the statue can now be admired in the open air. With a height of 13 meters and a weight of almost 93 tons, the statue representing Amida Buddha is surely an impressive one.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

If your ideal trip consists of visiting hot springs and getting to see wild Snow Monkeys at the same time, then the Jigokudani Monkey Park is the best place for you to go. Situated near Nagano, the park is a well-known hot spring area. Even the name of the park attests to this. Jigokudani, which is translated as Hell’s Valley, is aptly named as it boasts dauntingly cold forests and sheer cliffs surrounding grounds that spout steam and water that could only be described as boiling. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t be frightened by the name. With plenty of wild snow monkeys and numerous wonderful sights, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is actually a heavenly place for tourists.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

What trip to Japan is complete without devoting a few moments of silence to the lives lost in the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima? Aside from being a tribute to the people who died in that bombing, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial is where you’ll also find the only structure left standing after the tragedy happened – the Genbaku Dome. Though this part of anyone’s itinerary may be a harsh reminder of the ravages of war, it serves as a symbol of the value of human life so that never again shall the innocent have to pay for sins that aren’t theirs.

Ginza

Compulsive and dedicated shoppers won’t be disappointed with this shopping district reminiscent of New York’s 5th Avenue. You’ll find in Ginza every luxury boutique you can ever hope to find. Already blessed with astoundingly amazing architecture and modern buildings, the district’s attractive neon colors in every corner create an even more wonderful scene at night. As such, Ginza is the loveliest place to shop until you drop!

There are plenty of other tourist attractions in this hauntingly beautiful land. Each city of Japan is home to a wonderful plethora of must-see and must-visit sites, and there’s a long list of enjoyable activities to take part in as well. The Japanese cuisine, with its delectable sushi, gyoza, udon, and even the almost-deadly fugu, is one that shouldn’t be missed out on. So if you’re looking to book a trip to one of the world’s most exciting places to visit, then few destinations can rival Japan.

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