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Traveling to Japan: What can I expect

Japan has long been a bucket list destination for travellers from all over the world. It’s not hard to see why.

Vibrant, technologically advanced cities contrast with serene zen temples & sushi, ramen and sake tempt the tongue. Iconic Mount Fuji, the beaches of Okinawa, and Kyoto’s geisha district are but a few of the country’s gems. Japan’s idiosyncratic culture will keep you engaged and curious for as long as you’re there, and only leave you wanting more.

In this guide, I’ll cover the basics of traveling around Japan, including the best things to do and see, general costs, as well as my tips for getting the best out of your visit.

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Best Things to Do in Japan

Japan is made up of over 6,800 different islands, but you’ll likely be spending most of your time on Honshu. It’s Japan’s main island, and home to most of its major cities, cultural attractions and people. The popular tourist haunts of Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka are all located here, and you could easily spend months exploring these areas.

If you have time, a visit to the incredible beaches and vastly different culture of Okinawa is also well worth your effort.

Here are some uniquely Japanese experiences to indulge in:

  • Marvel at Fushimi Inari and Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.
  • Have the freshest sushi possible at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
  • Lose yourself in the crowds at Shibuya Crossing.
  • Sleep in a capsule hotel.
  • Try the best beef in the world, at its source, in the city of Kobe.
  • Commemorate history at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
  • Feed hundreds of wild deer in Nara Park.
  • Hike up iconic Mount Fuji at sunrise.
  • Let your cares float away in a soothing onsen.
getting help at the subway station in tokyo
uni in kyoto

When’s the Best Time to Visit Japan?

When visiting the Honshu Region, the best times to do so are spring and autumn. From mid-March onwards, colourful flowers and cherry blossoms bloom all over the country. It’s a super fun time to be in Japan, as locals participate in “hanami.” These cherry blossom parties or picnics usually involve friends, copious amounts of alcohol, and a festive spirit.

By June, monsoon rains cover the country, making it the wettest month in Japan. Summer overall is hot, humid, and uncomfortable, so if you can’t make it in spring, it’s better to wait until September to visit. Autumn in Japan is glorious with wonderful foliage and pleasant weather.

Try to avoid going during Golden Week, Japanese New Year or Obon Festival in August. These extended holiday periods in Japan ensure crowded sites, higher prices and more difficulty traveling around.

kinkakuji temple kyoto

Minimum daily budget: 6000 yen and up.

Japan has a reputation for being an expensive country, but it doesn’t have to be. With 6000 yen, you could stay in capsule hotels, eat ramen and donburi, and take advantage of many free or discounted activities. However, if you want to do more than just be in the country, budget more.

Money Saving Tips

1
Consider flights Check budget airlines before booking an expensive train ticket. Prices for flights on low-cost carriers like Air Asia in Japan, Peach Air, Jetstar Japan, and ZIPAIR Tokyo can be cheaper... especially if you book during a promotion.
2
Eat at the konbini A ``konbini`` or convenience store can be found on every corner, and it's one of the cheapest places to get a bento box, fried chicken, onigiri, or instant noodles in Japan. The best part? It's actually GOOD.
3
Take the sushi train If you need to eat all the sushi, all the time, opt for a ``Kaitenzushi,`` instead of an expensive omakase or sushi set. These conveyer belt restaurants offer quality sushi for as little as 100 yen per plate!
4
Book JR Rail passes in advance If you're traveling to multiple cities in Japan, the convenience of a JR Rail pass can't be beat. It's valid for all JR national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains, and the Narita Express. Be sure to book in advance and save up to 20%.

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