Japan: The Ultimate Travel Guide by TourRadar 2/5

Ah, Japan. Land of the Rising Sun. Or Nippon to the locals. This stunning island nation will spirit you
away to a place where modernity and history come together. A travel destination truly fit for an emperor. And for the indecisive traveller, the ones
who want to see it all and do it all, Japan is paradise. Stay with us as TourRadar’s ultimate travel
guide reveals everything you need to see, eat and do to ensure your time in Japan is
both inspiring and painless. Are you ready? Welcome, to Japan. Let’s start with the basics. Japan is 377,972 square kilometres big, that’s
smaller than California but larger than Germany and the country is made up of 6,852 islands,
66 percent of which are covered by trees that provide shade to the nearly 130 million people
who call Japan their home. Apart from shade the Japanese also enjoy having
the highest life expectancy in the world at 83.7 years. The country boasts the second lowest homicide
rate after Iceland and is listed in the Global Peace Index’s top 10 safest countries to
call home. It’s not unusual to see bikes left unlocked
and lost wallets returned. However you should always remember to take
the same precautions you would at home. And the Japanese speak, well Japanese of course! We suggest learning some basic phrases since
English is not widely spoken throughout the country. Of course, you can always rely on the Japanese
for their exceptionally accommodating and notoriously polite demeanors to get you from
point a to point b. After all, the Japanese have 3 different ways
of saying ‘I Love You’ & 20 different ways of expressing that they’re sorry. During your visit you’ll be paying for things
with the Japanese yen. Keep in mind that it’s fairly uncommon to
pay for things using debit or credit cards. You may also be surprised to learn that access
to public wifi is rare. Remember to bring an international SIM card
or rent a pocket wifi device. Now of course, once you arrive you’ll certainly
want to explore as much of the country as possible. For travel within Japan’s capital, the Tokyo
Metro will be your main choice of transportation, welcoming more than 6 million passengers every
day. However, travel throughout Japan can be very
expensive if you don’t plan ahead. The easiest and cheapest way to get around
the country is by using the Japan Rail pass. This pass allows you unlimited access to most
major railways around the country for one lump sum. And of course you’ll absolutely want to
explore the country because well there’s something for everyone. Fashion lovers have Tokyo’s Harajuku Bridge,
near Meiji Jingu Shrine, where on Sunday afternoons travellers can spot Japanese youth dressed
to the nines in impressively complex and extravagant clothing, not to be confused with cosplaying. Looking for a little live entertainment? Then witness the art of kabuki, a traditional
Japanese theatre performance that combines dance, drama and elaborate makeup. You can catch a show in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Or maybe you wish to take the stage? In that case, stop by a karaoke bar in Tokyo’s
Roppongi neighborhood and enjoy your moment in the spotlight. Big fan of sports? Then watching a game of baseball at the Tokyo
Dome or “Big Egg” as the locals call it, is a can’t miss event. Or maybe you’re the one seeking some adrenaline
pumping activities to cross off that bucket list. Don’t worry, Japan has you covered. Forget Aspen and Whistler, the Japanese Alps
are the new place to ski. The snow is world renowned and the slopes
come with unbeatable views. Check out the hundreds of resorts on the north
island of Hokkaido, and the main island of Honshu. The most popular resort, Niseko, is a popular
first choice for foreigners as it’s fairly English friendly. Hiking is one of Japan’s national past times
so you absolutely must partake while visiting. You can start with shorter, less intimidating
trails in Kamakura, which are only about 3km in length and then work your way up to Japan’s
highest mountain at 3776m, Mt. Fuji. This active volcano welcomes most of its climbers
from July to October. The rest of the year the mountain is fairly
treacherous for inexperienced climbers due to heavy snowfall. Not a fan of the cold? Then take some well deserved “me time”
and rejuvenate at an onsen. Onsens are Japanese hot springs whose steaming
waters are naturally warmed by the country’s many volcanos. The temperatures are hotter than a standard
jacuzzi and combine indoor and outdoor bathing facilities for a truly unique experience. Once your body is at ease you must visit Japan’s
shrines and temples, each with their own impressive history. While these sacred buildings can be found
just about anywhere, Kyoto is the ideal place to see them as this prefecture alone is home
to over 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. At the top of your list should be Fushimi
Inari and Toji Temple. Many temples even allow you to do a temple
stay, where you will be immersed into lifestyle of the Buddhist monk. Other uniquely Japanese experiences include
a visit to a cat cafe, a day petting deer in Nara, an evening playing games at Club
Sega arcade in Tokyo, studying the geisha way of life in Gion and more. Thanks to the country’s incredible length,
there’s never a bad time to visit. You can go skiing during spring if you’re
in the north, and then head down south to take a dip in the sea. Spring runs March through May and is often
the most popular time to travel to Japan, because of special festivities like Golden
Week and the cherry blossom festival. Locals will also be on vacation throughout
April and May so book accommodations and transportation in advance to avoid missing out. Summer runs from June to August but June and
July are considered Japan’s rainy season in nearly every region aside from Hokkaido. You can expect oppressively humid temperatures
nearly everywhere you travel so be sure to pack breathable clothing. Fall begins in September when the weather
can be both unpredictable or typhoon ridden. October is a decent time to visit because
the crowds will taper off and the humidity begins to disappear and the leaves begin to
change. Winter begins in December and is a great time
to travel to Japan if you’re a fan of winter activities, New Year celebrations, and small
crowds. The Japanese Alps, the northern island of
Hokkaido and the Japan Sea coast all get a lot of snow so be sure to pack a winter jacket,
sunglasses and the sort. You can expect to get little to no snow if
you’re staying in Tokyo where average seasonal temperatures sit around 5 degrees celsius. No matter the time of year, you’re always
less than 500 metres from a great meal. But beware, dining in Japan can be very different
from what you’re used to. When you first enter a restaurant you can
typically expect to be greeted with “irasshaimase” which means “welcome, please come in.” In Japan, it’s not common for restaurants
to have guests seat themselves so wait to be guided. Most restaurants in Japan offer western-style
dining experiences, meaning tables and chairs, but many also have zashiki-style dining settings,
which include low tables where guests sit on pillows on the floor, and remove their
shoes upon entry. You will dine with a set of chopsticks and
keep in mind that tipping is neither expected nor encouraged. Japan boasts plenty of gourmet restaurants
for the connoisseurs among us, where a dinner out can cost more than 20,000 yen. To put that into perspective, meals at an
average restaurant cost between 1,000 to 3000 yen. During lunch you can usually purchase set
menus for about 1000 yen and they’ll leave you…and your bank account just as contented. And what should you be sure to try during
your visit? Start with a serving of okonomiyaki, panned
fried batter and cabbage topped with everything from seafood to cheese and sliced meat. Next, sample crunchy tempura, made of deep
fried pieces of seafood and vegetables that have been cooked in canola and sesame seed
oil. You will also have a variety of noodles to
choose from, ranging from ramen noodles to soba and udon as well, each varying in flavour
and thickness. And of course you couldn’t talk about Japanese
cuisine without mentioning sushi, small rolls of vinegar flavored cold cooked rice served
with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables, or egg. When it comes to drinks, a beer in Tokyo will
run you around 600 yen. We recommend the classic three: Kirin, Sapporo
or Asahi. The Japanese are also expert whiskey distillers
so don’t shy away from a sip of the good stuff. And there’s always sake, Japanese rice wine
served either hot or cold. To nurse your impending hangover enjoy a cup
of green tea or an iced coffee drink. Once your thirst is quenched and your stomach
full you can get back to discovering everything this impressive country has to offer. A place truly frozen in time yet constantly
evolving, Japan will leave you breathless, inspired and astounded. We hope these tips ensure that your time in
the Land of the Rising Sun is tanoshii. If you still can’t get enough then check
out Days to Come for more inspiration and travel tips. If you’re ready to experience the country,
visit tourradar.com. As they say in Japan, farewell, sayonara and
mata ne!

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