Traveling to Japan as a first-time visitor is both an exciting and challenging task. Depending on the length of your stay, it can feel tempting to book as many activities as possible. However, the point of your visit should be to maximize it while still being able to enjoy a leisurely experience.
This Japan Travel Blog is the perfect read for both first-timers and returning visitors who want to make the most of their stay without tiring themselves out by filling their itinerary to the brim. Instead of pushing the limits of your schedule, we run down the basics you need to know to plan the perfect Japan trip for your schedule, budget, and interest.
Read on and discover all you need to know before visiting Japan this 2024!
Is Japan Worth It?
Japan is rich in culture and history while still using cutting-edge technology – it all depends on where you visit. Aside from getting the best of both worlds, you can also taste authentic Japanese cuisine at its freshest while exploring tourist spots that are perfect for your interests.
City dwellers and pop culture fans will likely love the hyper-advanced Tokyo Metropolis. Here, tourists can shop til they drop at Shibuya or snag rare anime collectibles at Akihabara. On the other hand, history buffs will absolutely appreciate a visit to the former capital of Kyoto and the timeless city of Nara.
Japan also has plenty of options for visitors who prefer the outdoors. Visit the many temples scattered across the country, or enjoy some fun winter sports at the popular winter hotspot, Niseko. No matter what kind of traveler you are, Japan has plenty of diverse experiences to make any trip worth your while.
When Should You Visit Japan?
Japan is an excellent destination all year round, but there is something special about visiting it during your preferred season. Here is what each season has to offer depending on when you head out to Japan for your adventure!
In Japan, Spring generally runs from the months of March to May. Tourists and locals alike flock to the streets and shrines of Japan to admire cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Sample delicious sakura-flavored delicacies like mochi and sakura senbei, or snap a photo as the iconic pink petals fall from the trees like pink snow. This is also the best time to try Japan’s famous strawberries, as they seem to be the sweetest this time of the year.
Head to Japan in the springtime if you: wish to see cherry blossoms in bloom, prefer pleasantly cool and moderate weather, and love to eat the best fresh produce.
You May Also Like:
- Cherry Blossom Forecast Dates
- Best Sakura Spots In Tokyo
- Best Sakura Spots In Kyoto
- Best Sakura Spots In Osaka
Another flower that is really underrated is peach blossom and it also bloom in spring. You can get more info on how to view peach blossom in Japan here!
Summer months in Japan happen around June to August, so you can expect a much warmer climate with a touch of humidity. Despite the humid weather, summertime in Japan is great for enjoying many of the country’s summer festivals.
Here, you can dress up in a kimono or yukata and sample seasonal street food while watching breathtaking fireworks displays. We highly recommend the famous Gion Matsuri in Kyoto or the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai for a colorful festival experience.
Head to Japan in the summertime if you: prefer warm weather, enjoy festivities and parties, or dream of wearing beautiful kimonos!
Read More: Best Japanese Festivals Month By Month
For many reasons, fall is one of the coziest and toastiest of seasons to visit Japan. Not only is it fun to visit this East Asian country during sweater weather between September to November – it is also a beautiful sight as the leaves turn all shades of red, orange, and yellow.
These warm hues are easy on the eyes and make for a stunning view as you visit Japan’s many tourist spots. Visit Lake Towada for a leisurely boat ride amid the maple trees or wander through Hitachi Seaside Park’s magenta pink kochia for an amusing photo opportunity!
Head to Japan in the fall if you: love sweater weather, prefer the warm colors of autumn, or love piping hot food like nabe and sukiyaki to soothe your soul from the cold.
You May Also Like:
- Autumn Foliage Forecast In Japan
- Best Autumn Spots In Tokyo
- Best Autumn Spots In Kyoto
- Best Autumn Spots In Osaka
There is nothing quite like seeing the Japanese countryside covered in a fresh layer of powdery white snow. Japan is one of the few countries in Asia to have a winter season, so it is a popular winter destination for its neighbors living in more tropical conditions.
Wintertime in Japan is great for avoiding the crowds that come with summer and spring, and it also makes a great reason to head to Japan’s many onsen destinations. If you are feeling adventurous, try out winter sports at Hokkaido or Nagano while you’re visiting.
Head to Japan in the enter if you: enjoy winter sports, love playing in the snow, or wish to enjoy the soothing onsen waters as relief from the biting cold.
Read More: Where To Ski In Japan
By the way, if you missed Sakura in spring, you can see the early cherry blossoms called Kawazu Zakura in February!
In conclusion, no matter what time of year to choose to visit, there is always a reason to head to Japan for a quick vacation!
The Best Cities to Visit in Japan
Japan has no shortage of interesting cities for tourists to visit. Here are the best ones to head to, especially if you are on a tight schedule.
Seeing Tokyo is a must for every first-time visitor to Japan. This concrete jungle is often every traveler’s first stop when they fly in. Japan’s capital city is a great stop for many reasons. One of these is the city’s perfect balance of pop culture and cutting-edge technology with historical sites and mementos. If you are crunched for time, this is a great way to get a taste of what Japan has to offer.
More travel tips here: Tokyo Travel Blog.
While many travelers get Tokyo and Kyoto confused, there is so much that makes this former capital city a unique and jaw-dropping stop. Often regarded as Japan’s most beautiful city, Kyoto is the place to be if you love a deep dive into history and culture.
The city is peppered with landmarks that showcase the richness of Japanese history – with famous destinations like the Fushimi Inari Taisha and the Kiyomizudera Temple, which is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage location.
More travel tips here: Kyoto Travel Blog.
Nicknamed ‘Tenka no Daidokoro’, this particular city is famous for having delightful cuisine. The nickname translates to ‘the Nation’s Kitchen’ because of Osaka’s role as a leader in the country’s foodie scene but also because the city used to be a major trading hub and holding area for food trade, especially for rice in the Edo period.
While the city’s merchant days may be over, many tourists still flock to Osaka to try signature eats like the Osaka okonomiyaki, hakozushi, and authentic Osaka takoyaki.
More travel tips here: Osaka Travel Blog.
Kyoto is not the only city with amazing temples to visit and experience. Nara is home to plenty of them too! This city is a popular stop, especially for Buddhist believers due to its strong Buddhist background and the presence of long-standing Buddhist temples. It is also home to many famous outdoor spaces, like the peaceful Nara Park. Here, you can meet friendly wild deer that have long been a charming reason for tourists to come and visit!
No list of must-visit Japanese cities would be complete without the fun and exciting winter destination, Sapporo! Aside from having buildings with interesting architecture that incorporates Western and Japanese techniques, it is also great for relaxing in ryokans with onsens, attending winter festivals, and trying out winter sports.
Avid fans of the famous Sapporo Beer brand can also visit the Sapporo Beer Museum and learn more about their favorite brew. Not a fan of beer? There are also plenty of art museums and famous landmarks like the Clock Tower and Moerenuma Park that you can visit as you tour this winter wonderland.
More travel tips here: Hokkaido Travel Blog.
Transportation in Japan
You may be wondering how to get to all of the amazing cities mentioned above. Don’t fret, as Japan has a comprehensive and efficient transportation system.
The Japanese Train System
Tourists and locals alike use Japan’s Shinkansen train system to get around major cities in the nation. This is supplemented by smaller train systems that can help you get to more precise destinations in other regions. City metro trains are also a great way to get around safely and consistently within major cities.
Read More: How To Use Shinkansen In Japan
Because of its island geography, many locals do opt to travel around Japan by plane. A total of 98 airports are currently operational in Japan, with some having international travel and others solely dedicated to local stops. If you are planning to skip Tokyo altogether during your trip, you can check if you can fly directly to the city you want instead of getting a layover or a separate domestic flight.
Japan’s highway bus system is the perfect option for travelers on a budget. Save on hotel and transportation fees by taking highway buses out of major cities instead of the bullet train or a domestic plane. Do bear in mind that bus rides are typically slower than other transportation options in Japan.
However, they are still very comfortable and convenient with features such as reclinable seats, in-house toilets, storage compartments, charging outlets, and even dining trays. Buses can also be used within cities, with some city buses even featuring routes specifically for sight-seeing tourists.
Types of Accommodation in Japan
Depending on your budget and itinerary, there are many accommodation types to choose from around Japan. Be sure to check ratings on Google Maps and popular accommodation booking sites or apps before you pay a downpayment!
A more traditional accommodation experience by far, ryokans are definitely worth it if you want to enjoy a stay surrounded by Japanese architecture and design. Often equipped with plush futons, private baths (and even onsens!), and in-house dining these are the perfect choice for a memorable Japanese experience
Ryokans also come at multiple price points. You can find out how much Ryokans cost in Japan here.
We have recommend a lot of Ryokans in Sugoii Japan so make sure you read the articles here: Ryokans Collection!
Another type of accommodation that is very Japanese is capsule hotels! If you are not claustrophobic, we highly recommend you to try it, specially if you travel solo. You will basically spend the night in a small capsule and to be honest with you, they are quite confortable. And affordable!
One of the most common type of accommodation both in and out of Japan is hotels. Depending on their rating, these can range from extremely luxurious to the bare essentials. You can find many hotel options in major cities and even in remote destinations. However, good quality hotels have the highest chance of having English-speaking staff. If you are a first-timer in Japan, these many be the best option for you.
If you are a bit adventurous, feel to try one of these unique hotels in Japan. You will be surprised!
Hoping to save on your accommodation options? Maybe you are traveling with a group? Airbnbs offer more range and flexibility for travel plans and large groups since hotels can be pretty strict about capacity per room and booking additional rooms is an easy way to drive your travel budget up. Enter your city of choice into the Airbnb search bar and you will see plenty of listings that you can rent for your stay! The downside is that assistance from your Airbnb host is never guaranteed. To be frank, I wouldn’t really recommend booking an Airbnb in Japan.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Japan
The cost of your trip to Japan really depends on the budget you are willing to spend. Some travelers are fine with flying economy on a budget airline, while there are those who would splurge for first class especially if they have a long flight. The same principle will apply to those choosing between affordable and 5-star accommodations.
In terms of their daily expenses, tourists on a budget can get away with spending about 50 to 100 dollars a day on food and domestic travel costs. However, more expensive experiences in Japan such as high-end restaurants and tourist destinations can bring mid-range travelers’ daily expenses to as much as $250 if they avail of these experiences in moderation.
We strongly recommend coming up with a budget ahead of planning your itinerary to avoid any surprise splurges and unexpected expenses that will leave you burning a hole into your savings.
How to Get Internet in Japan
Traveling to Japan from abroad but still want to stay online? There are plenty of options for travelers who need to stay connected to the internet. Many hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs actually provide complimentary WiFi access to checked-in guests, and cafes with internet access also populate many of Japan’s major cities.
But if you want internet on the go, you can do any of the following methods:
Local Sim Card
Acquire a local prepaid SIM card that you can top up with data. These can easily be found at malls, convenience stores, airports, and train stations. Do bear in mind that all built-in technical support from the telecom provider will be in Japanese. Local sim data packages also have expiring dates, so don’t forget to get one that lasts until the end of your trip.
What we actually recommend is to buy an e-sim card in advance to save you time during your trip. The provider we would recommend is probably Klook as they have great offers that are also affordable: Klook E-Sim Card Japan.
One of the most common and fuss-free ways to get an internet connection in Japan is to rent a portable WiFi router. This allows you to connect multiple devices, so it is a good option for small groups looking to save a little.
Japanese pocket WiFi devices can be rented and picked up straight from the airport or delivered to your booked hotel. Once you’re done and on your way home, you can drop it off at the designated post box or airport!
Useful Japanese Sentences For Your Trip
When visiting any foreign country that speaks another language, picking up a few Japanese sentences that you can use in your travels is definitely a good idea! Here are a few useful sentences that you can use to get by in Japan!
トイレはどこですか？(Toire wa doko desu ka?)
One of the most important sentences you need to know is how to ask where the restroom is. Oftentimes, locals will point it out to you or even give detailed directions if they realize you are a tourist. Count on this sentence to get you swift answers if you need an emergency toilet break.
電車の駅はどこですか (Densha no eki wa doko desu ka?)
Japan is one country that heavily relies on trains as a mode of transportation. Knowing how to ask where the train station is can be a lifesaver if you are in a rush to get somewhere and you need a train ride to get there. This is especially good if you are not staying in a hotel with tourist assistance.
いくらですか？(Ikura desu ka?)
Don’t know Japanese but have an itch to shop? Knowing this one sentence is perfect for many situations. You can point at a dish on a Japanese menu or display and ask the staff for the price with this simple question. You can also do the same for any retail goods or souvenirs that catch your fancy. This way, you don’t end up making any unplanned purchases that will break the bank.
英語が話せますか？(Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?)
Having trouble getting directions? Perhaps you want to know about recommended local tourist destinations? Ask hotel and restaurant staff or even friendly locals if they can speak English by asking this simple question. This will make your conversation much easier especially if you are in need of more detailed information.
どうも ありがとう! (Doumo arigatou!)
Contrary to popular belief, arigatou is simply not enough to express gratitude in most social situations. This is the most appropriate and polite way to say thank you to those helping you, including hotel and restaurant staff as well as shop attendants and friendly locals who help you in your travels!
Scams to Avoid In Japan
While Japan is known for being a safe tourist destination most of the time, you can never be too careful because selfish individuals exist in any country and culture. Here are some common scams you need to watch out for when visiting Japan!
Fake Monk or Beggar Scam
It may be cool to spot monks out in the wild in urban areas or even temple grounds, but be wary in case anyone in monk’s robes starts asking you for money or donations. These beggars can also come in the form of old or pregnant women. While these may be humble and genuine requests, they can also be malicious in nature.
The person asking you for donations may not always be alone in trying to scam you, as they often have an accomplice in the shadows waiting to see where you stash your wallet.
Once you take it out to give it to the beggar, their accomplice will swoop in and snatch your wallet while you aren’t looking.
The Speak and Show
Often coming in the form of excited Japanese students or young adults, these people will approach you if they overhear your group talking in fluent English. They will claim to want to befriend and practice English with your group at a trendy cafe or restaurant, only to flee and leave you with a huge bill you need to foot. Talk about dine and dash!
Model Scouting Scam
Traveling to Shibuya alone or at night? This is one of the most common scams in the area. ‘Recruiters’ will approach you offering a modeling job or search, and victims will meet them in a private place expecting to be assessed for modeling. Instead, these tourists can fall victim to sexual harassment, abuse, or even taped for adult content against their will.
Japan may be one of the safest places in the world, but make no mistake! You still need to be careful about who you talk to!
Japan Travel Blog – Visiting Japan Can Be a Breeze
We hope that you enjoyed reading this brief guide to visiting Japan this 2023. There are multiple ways to improve your trip and arrange the best plans for you and your traveling companions, and reading this guide is the perfect start. Make your trip even easier and more stress-free by reading Sugoii Japan’s other articles, so you can plan an itinerary that suits your interests, schedule, and budget.