Where to visit in Japan
From Tokyo’s bustling street-life to Kyoto’s breathtaking temples, Japan is a fascinating blend of modern and traditional culture. Located in East Asia, Japan is made up of several islands, the four most significant being Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. With an endless number of activities to do, Japan is an experience like no other, and one to add to the top of your travel bucket list.
For details on Japan’s Coronavirus (Covid-19) travel regulation – please visit https://www.japan.travel/en/coronavirus/
Arriving in Japan
The most common airport for travellers is the Narita International Airport in Tokyo. After going through immigration and customs, you can purchase a train ticket to reach your accommodation. Alternatively, you can opt to purchase tickets for a limousine bus, another convenient mode of transport to travel into the main city. Before leaving the airport, it is best to withdraw cash in the local currency and purchase a PAY G SIM card. This gives you access to 3GB of data and 60 minutes of calls for up to one week. Once you have this taken care of, your trip around Japan officially begins!
Places to visit in Japan
A trip to Japan isn’t complete without a visit to the country’s capital. Tokyo is both a modern and populated city, and the best way to explore it is by subway or train. The city is well known for its cuisine, skyscrapers, fashion district and world-renowned technology. Some of the most worthwhile places to check out include Ginza and the Harajuku neighbourhood, where you will spot unique street fashion and clothing stores. Tokyo is also home to the famous Shibuya Crossing, one of the city’s liveliest areas, and the Tsukiji Fish Market, an unmissable tourist destination. Away from the city’s hustle and bustle are several traditional shrines, such as the Meiji Shrine, which honours the late Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
After experiencing Tokyo’s fast-paced city life, Hakone is a 1.5 hour train ride away and is the perfect place for a peaceful getaway. The town is famous for its relaxing hot springs, which were found over 1,200 years ago. While many people spend a day or weekend in Hakone for the hot springs, you will also find plenty of nature, such as mountains, lakes and greenery, that you can witness from a cable car or mountain train ride.
Although not as common of a destination compared to Tokyo or Kyoto, Hokkaido is still worth a visit for the nature lovers looking to explore a more serene side of Japan. One of the best ways to reach the island is by taking a 4-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo, where you can witness picture-perfect scenery along the way. Once reaching Hokkaido, you will spot plenty of nature, wildlife and national parks. In the winter, Hokkaido is covered in snow and is the perfect opportunity to ski at one of the many ski resorts located around the island.
Once referred to as Japan’s imperial capital, Kyoto has a lot of historical and cultural significance. While Tokyo is famous for its technology, Kyoto is known for its beautiful temples, such as the Kinakakuji Temple, most notably covered in gold leaf. Kyoto is also famous for the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, a popular photo spot due to the striking red coloured walkway that you can wander through to reach the shrine. For a glimpse of Kyoto’s modern side, an early evening visit to the Kyoto Tower presents incredible views of the city as the sun sets over it.
To explore even more of Japan’s historical side, Nara is a short train ride away from Kyoto, making it the perfect day trip. Nara is home to many stunning temples and shrines. One of these includes the Kofukuji temple, which was once considered one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. For a taste of nature, visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk across Nara park, where many deer reside, and can even be fed by tourists. To round off the day, visitors can wander the lanes of Downtown Nara, which are lined with many boutiques, cafes, restaurants and museums.
Osaka is Japan’s second biggest city and is the best place to experience the local food and nightlife. One of the main places to explore is Dotonbori, which comes to life at night with its neon lights, food stalls and lively crowds. The Osaka Castle is another unmissable attraction in the city, known to be one of the three famous Castles in Japan. The castle is best to visit in spring to catch the apricot trees and cherry blossoms blooming around it. Osaka is also the perfect place for a shopping trip, as the city is surrounded by department stores, boutiques and underground shops.
Where to stay
Japan offers a range of traditional and western style options for accommodation. However, one of the most unique ways to experience Japan for first-time travellers is by opting to stay in a capsule hotel. This is an ideal, budget-friendly option for solo travellers or travellers who are visiting the country for a short period of time. Capsule hotels consist of individual sleeping pods, storage space for luggage, and access to WiFi and facilities, such as restaurants.
If you’re looking to get a full cultural experience of Japan, staying at a traditional Japanese hotel is another interesting option to consider. This is otherwise referred to as Ryokan (inn), typically an old wooden building that features Tatami mats in place of beds.
Travellers Tips and Japan FAQ –
- When is the best time to visit japan ? It is best to avoid visiting during the summer as Japan experiences very high-temperature levels. Typically the best time to visit is March-May, just in time to witness the cherry blossom season.
- Is japan card friendly? or should you have cash to travel in japan? Most stores and restaurants will not accept the use of a credit/debit card.
- Does google maps work in japan? Yes, Download Google Maps or Maps.ME to help guide you around. This is especially useful for travellers who are unfamiliar with the local language. Speaking of which, you may want to consider learning a few basic Japanese phrases, such as ‘Please’, ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Thank you’. This will be helpful to know when conversing with the locals.
- Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass ticket, which is valid between 7-21 days, as it is a budget-friendly option to travel around Japan.
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