Welcome to Japan, where ancient traditions and futuristic innovations harmoniously converge, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of culture and charm. Experience the ethereal beauty of cherry blossoms during spring, painting landscapes in hues of pink. Marvel at the iconic Mount Fuji, standing tall and majestic, inviting adventurers to scale its awe-inspiring heights. Indulge in a culinary odyssey, from meticulously crafted sushi to savory bowls of ramen, each bite a sensory delight.
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Discover Timeless Traditions
Step back in time as you traverse the ancient alleyways of Kyoto, where elegant geishas gracefully glide past historic temples. Uncover the secrets of Japan’s feudal past in Nara, the enchanting city of friendly deer and ancient treasures. Marvel at the splendor of Himeji Castle, an immaculate architectural masterpiece that stands tall amidst the changing tides of time.
Unravel Modern Charms
Experience the pulsating energy of Tokyo, a futuristic metropolis that never sleeps. Witness the neon-lit skyline from the iconic Tokyo Tower, or stroll through bustling streets like Shibuya, where fashion trends are born. For a taste of pop culture, Akihabara is a playground of anime and manga enthusiasts.
Lose Yourself to Nature
Get lost in the serenity of Japan’s natural beauty. Wander through the iconic cherry blossoms in full bloom during spring, painting landscapes in hues of pink. Traverse the mystical bamboo forests of Arashiyama, where tranquility wraps around every swaying stalk. Be awestruck by the breathtaking Mount Fuji, an iconic symbol of Japan’s majestic allure.
Journey Through Culinary Delights
Prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure like no other. Delight in the artistry of sushi, meticulously crafted to perfection. Savor the umami flavors of ramen in hidden alleyways, and indulge in the delicate flavors of traditional kaiseki dining. Don’t miss the chance to partake in a traditional tea ceremony, an elegant dance of grace and mindfulness.
Join the Festivities
Celebrate like a local by joining vibrant festivals that are an integral part of Japan’s cultural fabric. Witness the dazzling spectacle of Gion Matsuri in Kyoto or feel the exhilaration of Hanami during cherry blossom season. Be amazed by the thunderous taiko drums during the awe-inspiring Gion Festival.
Hospitality Like Nowhere Else
Experience the renowned Japanese hospitality, where warm smiles and gracious gestures will make you feel at home. Embrace the cultural nuances and etiquettes that symbolize the essence of respect in Japanese society.
An Adventure for Everyone
For the outdoor enthusiasts, Japan offers a plethora of adventures. Dive into crystal-clear waters to encounter marine wonders while snorkeling in Okinawa. Strap on your hiking boots to conquer the rugged beauty of the Japanese Alps. For skiing enthusiasts, Hokkaido’s powder snow is a true paradise.
Japan is renowned for its culinary innovation and unique dishes. While the Western World is familiar with many popular dishes like ramen and sushi, a visit to Japan is an opportunity to try something truly unique.
Okonomiyaki: Often referred to as “Japanese pancakes” or “savory pancakes,” okonomiyaki is a customizable delight. It typically consists of a batter made from flour, grated yam, eggs, shredded cabbage, and a variety of ingredients like pork, seafood, or cheese. It’s cooked on a griddle and topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes.
Takoyaki: These are delicious octopus-filled savory balls, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Takoyaki batter is poured into a special spherical griddle, with diced octopus and other ingredients, and then flipped until golden brown. They’re often served with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and seaweed.
Fugu (Blowfish): Fugu is a delicacy, but it’s also potentially deadly if not prepared correctly. Trained chefs meticulously remove the toxic parts of the blowfish, leaving behind the safe, delicious flesh. Fugu can be served in various ways, including sashimi-style slices that are nearly translucent.
Basashi: This dish hails from Kumamoto Prefecture and is essentially raw horse meat, thinly sliced and served as sashimi. It’s often dipped in soy sauce with garlic and wasabi. While it might sound unusual to some, it’s considered a delicacy in certain regions of Japan.
Natto: Natto is fermented soybeans and is known for its strong flavor and distinctive, sticky texture. It’s often eaten for breakfast and is typically served with soy sauce, mustard, and sometimes raw egg. Natto is an acquired taste, and some people find its pungent aroma and slimy texture challenging, but it’s a unique and nutritious dish.
These natural sites in Japan offer a glimpse of the country’s diverse and captivating landscapes, from majestic mountains and serene forests to unique geological formations and remarkable wildlife.
Mount Fuji: This iconic, snow-capped volcano is Japan’s highest peak and a symbol of the nation. Its near-perfect cone shape and the surrounding Five Lakes region make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for hikers and photographers.
Jigokudani Monkey Park: Located in Nagano Prefecture, this park is famous for its Japanese macaques, commonly known as snow monkeys. These monkeys are known to relax in natural hot springs during the winter months, creating a unique and endearing sight.
Shirakami Sanchi: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Japan, this area is home to one of the last remaining virgin beech tree forests in East Asia. It offers pristine wilderness, hiking trails, and a chance to connect with nature.
Akiyoshido Cave: Located in Yamaguchi Prefecture, this cave is Japan’s largest and one of the largest limestone caves in Asia. Visitors can explore its vast underground chambers, tunnels, and unique rock formations.
Nikko National Park: Located in Tochigi Prefecture, this national park is known for its lush forests, serene lakes, and beautiful waterfalls. It’s home to the awe-inspiring Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is particularly stunning during the autumn foliage season.
Japan is a country rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty, and historical significance with each region offering unique charm and attractions.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome): This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a symbol of peace and a stark reminder of the devastating atomic bombing during World War II. The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima stands as a powerful testament to the city’s resilience and commitment to a nuclear-free world.
Todai-ji Temple, Nara: Home to the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), this historic Buddhist temple in Nara houses one of the world’s largest bronze statues of Buddha. The temple complex itself is an architectural marvel and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto: One of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks, the Golden Pavilion is a Zen Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf. Its reflective pond and beautiful gardens make it a serene and visually striking attraction.
Himeji Castle: Often called the White Heron Castle due to its striking white appearance, Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s most magnificent and well-preserved feudal-era castles. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a prime example of Japanese castle architecture.
Koyasan (Mount Koya): A sacred mountain in Wakayama Prefecture, Koyasan is the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. It’s home to numerous temples, serene forests, and a unique cemetery called Okunoin, where thousands of lanterns illuminate the path to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism.
Japan is a country of diverse cities, each offering its own unique blend of history, culture, and modernity.
Tokyo: As Japan’s capital and largest city, Tokyo has always been a top tourist destination. It offers a diverse range of attractions, from historic temples and vibrant markets to modern skyscrapers and shopping districts like Shibuya and Harajuku.
Kyoto: Known for its well-preserved historic sites, Kyoto is a cultural treasure trove with numerous temples, shrines, and traditional tea houses. It’s especially popular during cherry blossom season and the autumn foliage season.
Osaka: Osaka is famous for its dynamic food scene, bustling streets, and vibrant nightlife. Tourists flock to popular districts like Dotonbori for street food and entertainment, as well as to attractions like Osaka Castle.
Hiroshima: Hiroshima attracts visitors for its historical significance and message of peace. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, including the Atomic Bomb Dome, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum are major draws.
Sapporo: The capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is renowned for its winter sports, the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, and its delicious cuisine, including Sapporo beer and Hokkaido seafood.
Japan allows for visa-free entry for 68 countries including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Please visit The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for a list of eligible countries.
Visa free entry is granted for 90 for all countries except for Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, and United Arab Emirates. Additional restrictions may apply to your area, please see the details outlines on the MOFA of Japan webpage above.
In addition to visa-free entry, Japan also offers working holiday opportunities for overseas travelers from 26 nations who wish to live in Japan short-term while working at least part-time. This opportunity is not available to the United States (sorry fellow Americans). Please visit MOFA’s page on Working Holiday Program for more information.
Japan has a variable climate due to it’s size and location, with the eastern side largely experiencing hot summers and cold winters while the west experiences even hotter summers with more moderate winter months. The region around the Sea of Japan, Hokkaido, and mountainous regions experience heavy snowfall during the winter. Okinawa and Amami are sub-tropic with warmer weather year-round with mild winters.
Japan is subject to natural disasters including Tsunamis, Earthquakes, and Monsoons.
Japan has a diverse landscape with 4 main islands and over 3500 small islands making up the Archipelago Nation. 80% of the country is comprised of mountains, with a multitude of active volcanoes including iconic Mt. Fuji (藤山 Fujiyama). The sea is never far away in Japan, given the elongated structure of the main island, no one lives much farther than 110Km from the surrounding waters. Due to the volcanic activity on the islands, hot springs are common and heavily utilized in Japan for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Japan is home to more than 90,000 wildlife species, including primates (like the Japanese Macaque), Bears, and many more. It is also home to many insect species and is famous for creatures like Giant Hornets, Rhinoceros Beetles, and Cicadas.
Japanese food is known for being healthy, but this isn’t always true: Like with most of the world, it really depends on where you go. Street foods, like Dango (団子), Takoyaki (蛸焼), and Taiyaki (鯛焼き) are easy and convenient, but far from healthy options. Similarly, ramen () is a heavy dish with many oils and starchy noodles. While these foods are great for the occasional quick bite, sustaining yourself on these Western-known staples will not result in the healthy lifestyle you may desire.
Traditional Japanese meals are traditionally quite balanced and typically consist of a small bowl of rice, a protein, soup, and vegetables. Common breakfast is salted salmon with miso soup and pickled vegetables. Rice, soybeans ,and seafood are common staples in Japanese cuisine. Consumption of beef and chicken are largely a western influence, but are still widely available. Eggs are commonly used and may be consumed raw in Japan. Fermentation is also a common practice, with dished like Fermented soybeans (納豆 Natto) serving as a controversially popular traditional Japanese dish. If you are vegetarian or vegan, be wary that many broths contain fish and meat products.
Common Allergens include Shellfish, seafood, soybeans, eggs, and dairy.
Eating and drinking while moving is generally frowned upon in Japan. Similarly, if you are a smoker, it is proper etiquette to stop and take a break to smoke rather than walking while smoking. Eating on public transportation is also widely prohibited, with the exception of long-haul trips where boxed lunches (弁当 Bento) are commonly sold before trips.
Japan has very few public trash receptacles, especially in public walking areas that are managed by the city. It is expected that you will carry your trash with you until you are able to find a place to throw it away. Convenience stores (コンビニ Konbini) are great for this! If you find public waste disposal, they are often broken down into various categories. These are to separate recycling, please make sure you are sorting your trash properly when throwing it away. Not all bathrooms will have bathroom tissue, so many carry a small pack with them in their pocket or handbag. You can find them in most convenience stores, and they are also commonly handed out in department stores as promotional materials.
Japan is known for being extremely punctual, especially when it comes to public transportation. Expect trains to arrive on time, typically down to the second, and expect an apology if they are not.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Japanese toilets: Advanced technology with various buttons. Everywhere you go, they work a little different. But if you are in a more traditional area, you may encounter something else: Squat toilets. They may seem intimidating, but they just take getting used to.
Japan does not have a large tipping culture. In fact, if you try to tip in a restaurant, you will most likely be chased down by the service staff to let you know you left change. Not only does it lead to confusion, but some may find it insulting as it makes employers feel you think they are not being paid enough and makes employees feel like you think they need handouts. There are a few times when tipping is acceptable, but most of the time it’s better to not tip.
While you may encounter the occasional boisterous youth, it is common practice to speak at a conservative tempo. On public transportation it is especially important to keep your voice down, as many don’t talk at all on the trains. You will gather a lot of unwanted attention by being the loud foreigner.
Tokyo – Typically the first city peope think of when they hear Japan, Tokyo is Japan’s haven for international tourists. With it’s modern city vibe, endless attractions, department stores, and dining experiences, and several iconic landmarks, Tokyo is not one to be missed.
Osaka – Osaka may not be as well known as Tokyo, it has plenty to offer. As part of the Kansai region, Osaka is known for having a more relaxed atmosphere with friendlier people. With less of a tourist population and a more laid-back populous, many people may be more eager to try speaking English with you. it is a great place for food and night life.
Kyoto – If it is history you are looking for, Kyoto should be at the top of your list. The heart of Japan’s history and one of its many former capitol cities, Kyoto is filled with temples, castles, classic alleys, and delicious food. For a more traditional experience, this is the place to be.
Hiroshima – Known mostly for the iconic bombing from World War II, Hiroshima is a place for WWI history buffs to visit. It serves as a dark reminder of the events, Japan’s role during that time, and the Consequences of modern warfare.
Sapporo – Known for their beer, there is plenty more that this northern city has to offer. Sapporo and the greater Hokkaido are have plenty of signature dishes including local ramen recipes and an array of seafood. Try visit during the winter, and try to catch the Snow festival, where you will see some pretty impressive snow and ice sculptures.
Okinawa – If you want to vacation like a local, visit Okinawa. This is Japan’s top beach destination and is part of a larger island prefecture which is comprised of more than 150 islands. It is also a huge American military hub, which means there is more American influence here than most of Japan if you are looking for something a bit more familiar.