Voltage: 100V, Frequency: 50Hz / 60 Hz
Yen (JPY) exchange rates
UTC +9 hours
What to expect
Japan Few destinations cast a spell on travellers the way Japan does. Japan’s history goes back to BC 30,000, yet today this island nation presents a quintessentially modern image. A 21st century economic superpower of skyscrapers and sprawling urban development, mesmerising Japan is also home to an array of ancient traditions, including delicate tea ceremonies, graceful theatre performances, and deft displays of calligraphy. Japan truly is a land of contrasts; a land which offers something for every traveller.
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
Japan is a developed, wealthy nation, so medical facilities throughout the country are of a high international standard. Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and cholera do not exist in Japan, so medical professionals do not usually recommend vaccinations prior to holiday. We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs; it is recommended you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for current health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.
Temporary visitor visas are issued on arrival (at no cost) for holders of Australian, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canadian and United States of America passports. International arrivals are fingerprinted on arrival (a quick and efficient process). International and domestic departure taxes are included in air ticket prices.
Safety and security
Tourist areas in Japan are safe by world standards, but the usual commonsense safety precautions should be adhered to.
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.
Internet cafes exist but can be hard to find in main cities (rates can be up to 700 JPY per hour), and may not exist in smaller towns and villages.
Only cell phones which are 3G compatible will operate in Japan. You may like to hire a 3G cell phone on arrival at Tokyo’s Narita or Osaka’s Kansai Airports. Daily rental charges are usually less than 4 USD per day (call rates are also affordable), and phones can be dropped-off at your departure airport.
Food & drink
Japan is famous worldwide for the freshness of its cuisine and its emphasis on fish and vegetables. Most foreigners would be familiar with Japanese favourites such as sashimi (raw fish), gyoza (dumplings) and udon (rice noodle soup), however there is much more to the Japanese diet than these stock-standard favourites. The sheer diversity of Japanese cuisine however means that there is something for everyone when it comes to meal time.
If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.
Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your Local guide, driver or Tour leader, please let us know.
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.
Insider Journeys practices a thorough, realistic responsible travel policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we largely work in a developing part of the world.
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.