Japan vacation travel guide
Why choose Japan?
Thinking about your next vacation spot? You’ve got to consider Japan!
It’s a place where every corner has something unique to offer. Imagine wandering through busy Tokyo streets, lit up with neon lights, or finding peace in Kyoto’s calm temples. Japan’s food? It’s out of this world! From sushi to ramen, each bite is a whole new experience. Nature lovers, get ready for some stunning sights, like Mount Fuji or the magical cherry blossoms in spring. And let’s not forget about the rich history and culture, from ancient samurai tales to the quirky world of manga and anime.
Japan is the perfect place for anyone looking for an adventure, cultural exploration, or just some really good food. Give it a go and let us know how much you love it! Plus, don’t miss these 6 things to see and experience in Japan on your trip of a lifetime.
Planning your Japan vacation
• Visa: Many countries benefit from Japan’s visa exemption program allowing for short-term stays, but check the visa requirements based on your nationality.
• Vaccinations: There are no specific vaccination requirements for most travelers visiting Japan. Consider getting vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or in rural areas, especially during mosquito season.
• Flight Booking: Check out our flight booking tips to make sure you get the best value for your money.
• Currency: The currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (¥). It’s advisable to have some cash on hand upon arrival, as not all places in Japan accept credit cards, especially in rural areas or small establishments.
Famous festivals in Japan
• Hanami (Cherry Blossom Festival): Celebrated in spring, this festival involves picnicking under cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossoms, or sakura, are deeply symbolic in Japanese culture, and viewing them is a popular activity.
• Gion Matsuri: Held in Kyoto in July, this is one of Japan’s most famous festivals. It features elaborate floats and parades.
• Sapporo Snow Festival: Taking place in Hokkaido in February, this festival showcases massive ice sculptures and snow statues.
• Tanabata Matsuri: Also known as the Star Festival, it’s celebrated in July. People write wishes on tanzaku papers and hang them on bamboo trees, hoping their wishes come true.
• Nebuta Matsuri: A summer festival in Aomori, featuring large, colorful floats and lots of dancing.
Can't-miss Japan attractions
• Mount Fuji: Japan’s highest mountain, a popular spot for hiking and photography.
• Himeji Castle: Also known as “White Heron Castle,” this is one of Japan’s most beautiful and well-preserved castles.
• Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa: One of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens”, known for its beautiful landscaping and beauty.
• The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu): A massive bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous icons of Japan.
• The Sand Dunes of Tottori (Tottori Sakyu): The largest sand dunes in Japan offering unique desert-like landscapes, activities like camel rides, and beautiful views of the Sea of Japan.
Our favorite food in Japan
• Gyudon: A popular and comforting bowl dish consisting of thinly sliced beef and onions in a mildly sweet sauce served on top of steamed rice. It’s a fast-food favorite in Japan.
• Udon: Thick wheat flour noodles served in a savory broth, often with toppings like tempura (battered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables), tofu, or scallions.
• Chawanmushi: A savory egg custard appetizer that’s steamed in a cup and often includes shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, or ginkgo nuts.
• Tonkatsu: Breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, typically served with shredded cabbage and a sweet and sour sauce.
• Dorayaki: A popular dessert, dorayaki is made of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of sweet red bean paste.
Cultural experiences in Japan
• Tea Ceremony: Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which is a choreographed ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, known as matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea.
• Stay in a Ryokan: Experience traditional Japanese hospitality by staying in a ryokan, a type of traditional Japanese inn that typically features tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata (kimono) and enjoy the ryokan experience.
• Attend a Sumo Wrestling Match: Experience the unique sport of sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport. Watching a sumo match or visiting a sumo stable to see a morning practice session is an unforgettable experience.
• Onsen Experience: Relax in an onsen (hot spring), which is a quintessential Japanese experience. Many onsens are located in scenic areas, offering a relaxing dip with a view of nature.
• Watch a Kabuki Performance: Experience Kabuki, a traditional Japanese form of theatre with elaborate costumes and makeup, known for its dramatic storytelling and the beauty of its staging.
Japan customs and etiquette
• Bowing: Bowing is a traditional way to greet, thank, or apologize to someone. The depth and duration of the bow depend on the situation and the level of respect you want to show.
• Handling Money: When paying for goods or services, use the small tray provided at the cash register to handle money, rather than handing it directly to the cashier.
• No Tipping: Tipping is not customary in Japan and can sometimes be considered rude. The price you pay includes the service.
• Shoes Off: In many places like homes, temples, traditional inns (ryokan), and even some restaurants, you’ll be expected to remove your shoes. You may be provided with slippers to wear indoors.
• Chopstick Etiquette: Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice and avoid passing food directly from your chopsticks to someone else’s, as this resembles a funeral ritual.
How do I avoid Japan roaming charges?
Travel tips for your Japan vacation
Famous temples to visit in Japan
• Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) – Located in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple known for its stunning golden exterior. It’s set over a pond, creating a beautiful reflection, especially in the fall and winter months.
• Senso-ji – Tokyo’s oldest temple, located in Asakusa, is famous for its gates, like the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), and a quaint street leading to the temple, lined with shops selling traditional goods and snacks.
• Todai-ji – In Nara, this temple houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The temple is also famous for its massive wooden structure, which is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world.
• Horyu-ji – Near Nara, it’s one of the country’s oldest temples and holds the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures. It’s significant in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan.
• Kiyomizu-dera – This temple in Kyoto offers a stunning panoramic view of the city and is famous for its wooden stage sticking out from the main hall, way up about 13 meters above the ground.
Japan phrases that will come in handy
Try to learn a few basic phrases, as this is appreciated by locals and can enhance your travel experience.
• こんにちは (Konnichiwa) – Hello.
• ありがとうございます (Arigatou gozaimasu) – Thank you very much.
• すみません (Sumimasen) – Excuse me/I’m sorry.
• はい (Hai) – Yes.
• いいえ (Iie) – No.
• チケットはどこで買えますか？ (Chiketto wa doko de kaemasu ka?) – Where can I buy a ticket?
• 写真を撮ってもいいですか？ (Shashin o totte mo ii desu ka?) – May I take a photo?
• お願いします (Onegaishimasu) – Please.
• トイレはどこですか？ (Toire wa doko desu ka?) – Where is the restroom?
• いくらですか？ (Ikura desu ka?) – How much does it cost?
• 乾杯！(Kanpai!) – Cheers!
• 元気ですか？ (Genki desu ka?) – How are you?
Top cities to visit in Japan
• Kyoto: Known for its well-preserved temples, traditional tea houses, and beautiful geisha district (Gion).
• Nara: Home to the Todai-ji Temple, which houses a giant bronze Buddha, and Nara Park, famous for its free-roaming deer.
• Hakone: A hot spring resort town near Tokyo, offering views of Mount Fuji, outdoor onsens (hot springs), and the Hakone Open Air Museum.
Go on a Japan shopping spree!
• Convenience Stores: Japanese convenience stores (konbini) like 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson are not only great for quick snacks but also for a variety of goods including souvenirs, bento boxes, and even clothing.
• Tax-Free Shopping: Many stores in Japan offer tax-free shopping for tourists on purchases over a certain amount (usually around 5000 yen). Look for signs that say “Tax-Free” and remember to bring your passport with you when you shop.
• Anime Merchandise: Often referred to as the anime and manga capital of the world, Akihabara in Tokyo is a must-visit for any anime enthusiast. The district is filled with stores selling a wide array of anime and manga merchandise, including rare collectibles.
Plan the perfect Japan vacation
Japan in January
The coldest month in Japan, with temperatures often falling below freezing in many regions. In Tokyo, temperatures range from 2°C to 10°C (36°F to 50°F), while in Hokkaido, they can fall well below freezing.
Japan in February
February in Japan continues to be cold, with temperatures from 3°C to 11°C (37°F to 52°F) in Tokyo. Southern parts like Okinawa are milder, with averages of 12°C to 17°C (54°F to 63°F).
Japan in March
March in Japan sees rising temperatures from 4°C to 14°C (39°F to 57°F), marking the start of spring and cherry blossom season.
Japan in April
Spring is in full swing with mild temperatures between 10°C to 19°C (50°F to 66°F). Cherry blossoms are a highlight, making it a popular time for visitors.
Japan in May
Warm and pleasant, May sees temperatures from 15°C to 23°C (59°F to 73°F). The weather is great for outdoor activities.
Japan in June
The rainy season begins, with humid days and temperatures ranging from 18°C to 25°C (64°F to 77°F). Pack an umbrella and light rain gear.
Japan in July
Hot and humid, July has temperatures from 23°C to 29°C (73°F to 84°F). It’s a great time for beach visits or mountain escapes.
Japan in August
The peak of summer with high humidity and temperatures between 24°C and 31°C (75°F to 88°F).
Japan in September
In September, the weather cools slightly to 20°C – 28°C (68°F – 82°F). Early September can still be quite warm and humid.
Japan in October
October in Japan is a beautiful month with fall colors and cooler temperatures from 14°C to 22°C (57°F to 72°F). Ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
Japan in November
Crisp and cool, with temperatures ranging from 8°C to 17°C (46°F to 63°F). The fall foliage is stunning in many parts of the country.
Japan in December
Winter begins, bringing colder weather from 2°C to 12°C (36°F to 54°F). In northern regions and mountains, snowfall starts, perfect for winter sports enthusiasts.
How do I use my phone in Japan?
Choose a data package
Install your eSIM
An eSIM is a downloadable SIM card, so you’ll install your eSIM on your phone or tablet. It takes less than two minutes, and then you will have a Japan eSIM on your phone.
Activate your package
When you’re ready to start using your Japan eSIM you’ll activate your data package and make sure your device knows to use your Japan eSIM for all mobile data.