Japan: What you need to know

Want to know how to go about visiting Japan? We’ve got all your questions answered.

Japan: What you need to know

Japan has become a very popular destination over the last few years, and for good reason too. Considering a trip? We’ve got all the essential details of the when, how, where and why covered.

Q: When is the best time to visit Japan?

A: Japan has something to offer in every season. Winter sports and onsen (hot springs) are popular in winter – December to February. Spring, around April, is known as the season for sakura (cherry blossoms) and the autumn leaves are spectacular in November. Summer – June to August – is packed with festivals if you don’t mind the heat and humidity. Or, you can avoid the rainy season and hotter weather by travelling up north to Hokkaido. If travelling in peak season, make sure you book well in advance.

Q: What are the recommended places to visit in Japan?

A: If you are visiting Japan for the first time you can explore the ‘Golden Route’ that includes Tokyo, Kyoto/Nara, Osaka and Hiroshima. Should you have extra time, or this isn’t your first trip to Japan, you can explore the ‘Second Golden Route’ that includes Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawago in the North.

Q: What is a convenient and economical way to travel around Japan independently?

A: Travel around on Japan Railways, purchasing a JR pass. It covers all JR group railways across the country including the shinkansen bullet trains (except for Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen) as well as some local line JR buses and the JR Miyajima ferry. It also allows you to make seat reservations free of charge. Available in seven, 14 or 21 day options, the JR pass must be purchased prior to departure from Australia through a travel agent or online. For costs and further details refer to Japan Rail Pass. There are also regional passes available, and if you’re concerned about travelling around with a suitcase, you can easily send your luggage by courier from one destination to another.

Q: Where can I get further information on travelling to Japan?

A: The Japan National Tourism Organization website is a great place to start. If you’d prefer hard copy brochures, you can visit its self-service brochure room in Sydney or have them mailed out to you. On Tuesdays and Thursdays between two and five pm, it also accepts phone enquiries, or at all other times you can submit an email enquiry.


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    27th Jun 2015
    I've never had any yen to go to Japan.
    27th Jun 2015
    Was in Japan a month ago. Some wonderful places to see but the pollution is really bad. We saw the brown ring around Mount Fuji as we came in to land and the visibility was bad for the 10 days we were there.
    Wonderful sights included Imperial palace and Rikugien gardens in Tokyo, Imperial Palace (wow!) in Kyoto, Nagoya Castle in Nagoya and Bamboo Gardens in Kyoto (highly over rated though). The best thing we saw was the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano (amazing). A half hour walk to get there in the most pristine park and then these critters although wild would walk right past you as if you were not there. The best came after that when we had the best sishini we have ever had made in front of our eyes.
    The thing that impressed us a lot was that there were no litter or graffiti anywhere. When we got got back home the difference was black and white.
    Japanese people are the most honest folk we have ever seen. Won't take tips. Won't rip you off. Won't steal from you if you make a currency mistake. Try that one in Australia.
    The JR Shinkasens were amazing although it was hard to feel like we were travelling over 300 km/h. The trains get cleaned, not that they need it, when they get to their end destinations (Tokyo) and this takes about 5-10 minutes. Nicest trains we have ever travelled in and the only way to go. The 7 day pass cost us just over $300 pp and was enormous value. We did have to pay for the NEX fast connection from the airport to Tokyo city but that was cheap. Oh, while I remember using the Tokyo subway is great but it is complex and very few Japanese speak more than a word of English. Even those who are dealing with the public. Whilst the ONLY way to see Japan is rail and suburban bus it does take a bit of learning and the Information booths were mandatory. We managed. Any readers going to Japan and wanting further in formation are welcome to contact me through this website and I will be glad to help if I can.
    Before I finish, unless you are loaded, avoid the tours. These are highly over-priced. We did Japan on just over $2000 for both of us including everything as well as an all day tour of Mount Fuji and surrounds.
    Personally, Germany is much better than Japan. Decisions, decisions!
    27th Jun 2015
    Definitely make sure you have the right travel insurance and plenty of money on your credit card. If you injure yourself over there, regardless of whether you have travel insurance you are expected to pay up front for x-rays and other hospital treatment. If you have an accident while ski-ing something similar it costs a fortune for your luggage/equipment to be retrieved and taken to you. I know somebody who was injured up there. He had to claim from his Travel Insurance after her returned to Adelaide.
    27th Jun 2015
    Get a Platinum credit card...with which you buy your flights. You then have Travel Insurance. Then get a Citibank debit card for foreign currency withdrawals which cost NOTHING. Done!
    27th Jun 2015
    You get free travel insurance when paying with a Commonwealth and ANZ credit card, as well.
    27th Jun 2015
    Correct. No other insurance needed...as long as you do not have pre existing conditions which you fail to disclose.
    Have never had to claim but a check of Tripadvisor indicates that those who have claimed get paid out.

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