Voltage: 100V, Frequency: 50Hz / 60 Hz
Yen (JPY) exchange rates
UTC +9 hours
What to expect
Japan is a nation rich in history, yet remarkably modern. Bustling Tokyo mixes a futuristic vibe with old-world gardens and teahouses, while charming Kyoto is a cultural hub home to Japan's famous geishas, traditional theatre and atmospheric streets. There are traditional hotel options with tatami mats, tea ceremonies and relaxing hot springs, delicious cuisine to explore and unfailingly polite hosts.
At the foot of the Japanese Alps are charming towns that seem untouched by time, offering temples, Shinto shrines, lakes and traditional architecture. Japan has something for everyone, from bullet train rides through the countryside to the enthralling street fashion of Tokyo's Harajuku district. Japan's unique, strongly developed culture is a delight to explore, and a visit to Japan is a truly memorable experience.
approximately 12 hours
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed here. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our USA-based Asia specialists for details.
1 January is New Year's Day
, marking the beginning of Japan's most significant holiday period. Businesses may be closed for several days in the lead-up to New Year's Day and for several days afterwards.
January (second Monday) is Coming of Age Day
, where ceremonies and celebrations are held for all those who have reached the age of 20 (or maturity) during the year.
11 February is National Foundation Day
, a day of national pride celebrating the founding of the country.
20 March is Vernal Equinox Day
, originally a day of ancestor worship and now a celebration of nature and living things.
29 April is Showa Day
is named in honour of the Emperor Showa, and marks the start of Japan's Golden Week period, or week of public holidays.
End of April/first week of May is Golden Week
, a week of public holidays where Japanese people travel extensively, both domestically and internationally.
3 May is Constitutional Memorial Day
, commemorating the day Japan's post-war constitution took effect.
4 May is Greenery Day
, designed as a day to appreciate and commune with nature.
July (third Monday) is Marine Day
, signifying gratitude for the ocean and its abundance, and hoping for prosperity for Japan as a maritime nation.
September (third Monday) is Respect for the Aged Day
, designed as a day of respect for the elderly.
22 September is Autumnal Equinox Day
, a day of ancestor worship.
October (second Monday) is Sports Day
, a day in which to contemplate keeping a healthy mind and body.
3 November is Culture Day
, commemorating the announcement of the constitution in 1946 and a day to celebrate both peace and culture.
23 November is Labour Thanksgiving Day
, a day for recognising the country's labour and production efforts.
23 December is The Emperor's Birthday
, celebrating the birthday of the reigning Emperor.
Health & Fitness
Travellers to Japan should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Japan is a developed nation so international-standard medical facilities are available throughout the country.
Diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever do not exist in Japan so medical professionals do not normally recommend vaccinations. However, it is strongly recommended you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.
Citizens of Australia, UK, US, EU Countries, New Zealand and Canada are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Japan for stays of up to 3-6 months. All other nationalities should check with the Japan embassy or consulate in their country of residence. To enter Japan you will require a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your departure from Japan.
Tourist visas for stays of 3-6 months are issued upon arrival for the afore-mentioned nationalities, but please note that you must carry proof of your onward travel arrangements, confirming that you will depart Japan within the required time frame, to present at immigration upon request. International arrivals are fingerprinted and photographed on arrival (a quick and efficient process).
Please note Japanese visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and it is your responsibility to ensure your visa is in order before you travel. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.
Safety and security
Japan is a very safe and secure country by world standards, though usual common sense precautions apply. Petty theft rates are significantly lower than in almost all other developed countries due to high average incomes, low unemployment rates, and a stigma associated with breaking social norms.
As a precaution we do recommend you keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible. Read our safety guidelines for further information.
‘Culture Shock Japan’, by Sean Bramble
- Part of the Culture Shock series, this title is brimming with information on Japanese cultural nuances, and useful tips for the traveller to Japan.
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, by Arthur Golden
- A detailed, best-selling fictional account of the experiences of a young girl plucked from a small village to work in the Gion geisha district of Kyoto.
‘Geisha’, by Liza Dalby
- Equally as interesting as Memoirs of a Geisha, but not as well known. This book - based on a thesis - is a recount of the author’s time spent as a Western geisha working in Kyoto.
‘Shogun’, by James Clavell
- The first of a series of best selling titles set in feudal Japan, this entertaining read details the encounters of a European trader with the Japanese princesses, warlords, and shoguns.
‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami
- the most famous of Murakami’s many books, and widely read by Japanese people. A lucid insight into Japanese college life and the pressures endured by young, urban Japanese people.
‘Lost Japan’ by Alex Kerr
- Reflections of a long-term American resident of Japan on the gradual dilution of Japanese traditions in the face of mass import of Western ideas and popular culture.
Useful words & phrases
Hello (or hi)
How are you/ are you well?
O-genki desu ka
Excuse me/ I'm sony
Thank you very much
Arigato gozaimasu/ Domo arigato gozaimashita
What is your name?
O-name wa, nan desu ka
My name is…
How old are you?
Shitsurei desu ga, nan sai desu ka
I am …years old
Watashi wa,...sai desu
How much is ...?
Ikura desu ka
It's too expensive!
Takai desu yo
Goodbye!/ See you later
Sayonara/ Ja Mata Ne
Arrival and departure transfers
Rail travel is a significant method of transportation in Japan, and their train system is modern and efficient. Trains almost always run on time. There are also bullet trains or shinkansen, which travel up to 300 kilometres an hour. Insider Journeys uses rail travel to cover much of Japan, however for shorter journeys you will travel by air-conditioned cars or minibuses, dependant on group size.
Most domestic flights in Japan are on modern Boeing or Airbus planes, though it is important to be aware that schedules do change and travel plans may need to alter. Taxis in Japan are safe as well as metered. It is a good idea to have a business card with your hotel details to give drivers.
Japan is home to internet cafes, yet in large cities can be difficult to locate, with rates up to 700 yen per hour. In smaller villages and towns, they may be non-existent. You can make international phone calls from hotels, however it is cheaper to purchase a pre-paid international phone card and use it at a compatible public phone.
Only 3G mobile phones operate in Japan. You can hire these upon arrival at Tokyo's or Osaka's airports for less than 4 USD per day, and phones can then be dropped off at your departure airport. International mail sent from japan is efficient and usually reaches its destination in less than seven days, with prices slightly more expensive than in Western countries.
Food & drink
Japanese cuisine varies widely from region to region, and includes many dishes familiar to visitors, like sushi, sashimi, udon, ramen and tempura, to those hardly seen outside Japan. Some dishes may appear completely foreign to visitors, like the sauteed grasshoppers regarded as a delicacy in central Japan.
Rice is a staple of most meals, and miso soup is often consumed at the end of meals. There is an emphasis on fish and vegetables, and many other seafood specialties. Tap water is safe to consume in Japan, though bottled water is readily available if you would prefer.
We believe tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for receiving great service, and while it is accepted practice in Asia, it should never feel like an obligation. At the beginning of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will ask for a small sum (around 50 cents a day) to cover tips for hotel porters and boat crews throughout the trip.
This helps prevent over tipping and having to always carry small change. We are confident that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our guides, drivers and tour leaders, and in many cases will choose to show this through a tip, so we do not include compulsory tipping for any Travel Indochina representatives on any of our trips. The choice to tip is always completely up to you.
There are some opportunities for swimming in Japan - many hotels feature swimming pools, which are generally safe, clean and well maintained. In addition, several locations in Japan feature onsens, or hot springs in which to soak in, including some that are part of traditional ryokens or inns.
In order to minimise our environmental footprint in Japan, we have included a number of walking tours and use of local trains (both within cities and between cities) throughout journeys. We have also chosen to offset all the carbon emissions generated during travel on our popular 'Secrets of Japan' Small Group Journey. Learn more about our focus on responsible travel.