Welcome to the Land of the Rising Sun

Japan is known for many things. From its iconic Mt. Fuji to pop culture, technology, and their propensity for doing things just a little bit differently, Japan has certainly put itself on the map as a modern city worthy of a visit or several. It is a culture rich in history with a great deal of festivals and traditions that represent the beauty of this unique country. Whether you are looking to visit the real-word inspirations for your favorite anime or for a deep dive into the language and culture that can be found nowhere else in the world, Japan is sure to captivate your senses and leave you wanting more. 

Travel

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. 

COVID-19 Information

As of October 11, 2022: Visa Free entry has been reinstated. The quarantine period and restrictions on the use of public transportation have been lifted, but the government urges visitors to continue to use caution. Those who present evidence of vaccination (3 doses) are no longer required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result: Unvaccinated travelers will still be required to provide a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure. Please refer to MOFA’s page on  COVID-19 Restrictions for more information. 

The mask mandate in Japan has largely been lifted, but it is advised to still wear a mask when near the elderly or in hospitals where disease is likely to spread as well as when proper social distancing is unable to be followed. I is advised that visitors bring a mask with them on their travels. 

 

Things to Do

Here are a few recommended places to visit while travelling in Japan. Please note that this a very incomplete list, and there is plenty more that Japan has to offer than I could fit on here. for more complete lists, Check out the Lonely Planet Japan Guides: Lonely Planet Japan (17th Edition)Lonely Planet Tokyo (13th Edition)Pocket (8th Ed.)Lonely Planet Kyoto (7th ed.)Pocket Kyoto & Osaka (3rd Ed.).

Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare (Umami) - Nihonbashi, Tokyo

Ain Soph (Vegan) - Ginza, Tokyo

Hagiso (Cafe) - Yanaka, Tokyo

Kappo Yoshiba (Japanese, Sushi) - Yokoami, Tokyo

Nagi (Ramen) - Kabukicho, Tokyo

Kozue (Japanese) - Shinjuku, Tokyo

Matsukiya (Hotpot) - Shibuya, Tokyo

Matsubara-an (Soba) - Kamakura, Kanagawa

Sarashina (Tanuki Soba) - Kiyomachi, Gifu

Kyoya (Shokudo) - Kyomachi, Takayama

Itaru Honten (Izakaya) - Kakinokibatake, Kanazawa

Saryo Suisen (Sweets) - Takatsujicho, Kyoto

Roan Kikunoi (Kaiseki) - Shimogyo, Kyoto

Kagizen Yoshifusa (Teahouse) - Kitagawa, Kyoto

Endo Sushi (Sushi) - Fukushima, Osaka

Wanaka Honten (Takoyaki) - Minami, Osaka

Imai Honten (Kitsune Udon) - Dotonburi, Osaka

Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma Honten (Kushikatsu) - Tennoji, Osaka

Modernark (Vegan/Vegetarian) - Kitanagasa, Kobe

Kob Plaisir (Wagyu) - Shimoyamate, Kobe

Hiraso (Japanese, Local) - Imamikado, Nara

Okonomi-mura (Okonomiyaki) - Shintenchi, Hiroshima

Gengo Chaya (Cafe, Local) - Aoba, Sendai

Robata (Mongolian) - Zao Onsen, Yamagata

Menya Saimi (Ramen) - Toyohira, Sapporo

Kouhihausu (Soup Curry) - Chuo, Sapporo

Daruma (Mongolian) - Chuo, Sapporo

Yunagi (Okinawan)- Naha, Okinawa

Takeshita-dori (Street) - Harajuku, Tokyo 

Shibuya Center-gai (Street) - Shibuya, Tokyo

Toyosu Market (Fish Market) - Toyosu, Tokyo 

KITTE (Shopping Complex) - Chiyoda, Tokyo

Mitsukoshi (Department Store) - Multiple Locations, original in Nihonbashi, Tokyo

Ginza Six (Shopping Complex) - Ginza, Tokyo 

Tokyo Mid-Town (Shopping Complex) - Minato, Tokyo  

Ameya- yokocho (Street) - Ueno, Tokyo 

Isetan (Department Store) - Shinjuku, Tokyo

La Foret (Department Store) - Harajuku, Tokyo

Don Quijote (Department Store) - Multiple Locations, Mega Donki in Shibuya, Tokyo

Komehyo (Department Store) - Osu, Nagoya

Nishiki Market - Nakagyo, Kyoto

Kitano Tenman-gu (Shrine, Flea Market) - Kamigyo, Kyoto

Amerika-Mura (Area) - Shinsaibashi, Osaka 

Canal City (Shopping Center) - Sumiyoshi, Fukuoka 

TeNQ (Science Museum) - Koraku, Tokyo

Ueno Zoo - Ueno, Tokyo 

Tokyo Skytree (Tower) - Sumida, Tokyo

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation - Aomi, Tokyo

Tokyo Disney  (Theme Park) - Urayasu, Chiba

Tokyo Joypolis (VR and Amusement Park) - Minato, Tokyo

Spa LaQua (Spa, Onsen) - Bunkyo, Tokyo 

Ele Tokyo (Club) - Minato, Tokyo 

Ben Fiddich (Cocktail Bar) - Shinjuku, Tokyo

Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience (teahouse, Cocktail Bar) - Aoyama, Tokyo

Karaoke Rainbow - Shibuya, Tokyo

Jicoo The Floating Bar - Minato, Tokyo

Robot Restuarant - Shinjuku, Tokyo

Fuji-Q Highland (Amusement Park) - Fuji-Yoshida

Kirin Beer Yokohama Factory - Tsurumi, Yokohama

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology and Toyota Exhibition Hall - Nagoya

Umeda Sky Building - Kita, Osaka

Shin-Sekai (District) - Tennoji, Osaka

Universal Studios Japan - Konohana, Osaka

Spa World (Onsen Amusement Park) - Naniwa, Osaka

Sone (Jazz Club) - Nakayamate, Kobe 

Mazda Museum - Aki, Hiroshima 

Kamotsuru (Brewery) - Saijo

Sapporo Beer Museum - Higashi, Sapporo

Space Science and Technology Museum - Kukinaga, Tanegashima

Mori Art Museum - Roppongi Hills, Tokyo

Suntory Art Museum - Minato, Tokyo

Kanda Myojin (Shrine) - Chiyoda, Tokyo

Tokyo National Museum (Art) - Ueno, Tokyo

 Nezu-jinja (Shrine) - Bunkyo, Tokyo

Ueno Tosho-gu (Shrine) - Ueno, Tokyo 

Senso-ji (Temple)  - Asakusa, Tokyo

Ghibli Museum (Pop-Culture) - Mitaka, Tokyo

Meiji-jingu (Temple) - Shibuya, Tokyo

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art - Shibuya, Tokyo

Kabukiza (Kabuki Theatre) - Ginza, Tokyo

National Theatre (Traditional Theatre) - Chiyoda, Tokyo

Cup Noodle Museum - Naka-Ku, Yokohama

Hase-dera (Temple) - Hase, Kamakura

Okada Museum of Art - Kawakidani

Tosho-gu (Shrine) - Nikko

Taiyuin-byo (Shrine) - Nikko

Inuyama-jo (Castle) - Inuyama

Matsumoto-ko (Castle) - Matsumoto

Tofuku-ji (Temple) - Hagashiyama, Kyoto

Higashi Hongan-ji (Temple) - Shimogyo, Kyoto

Kyoto International Manga Museum - Nakagyo, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera (Temple) - Hagashiyama, Kyoto

Gion (Geisha District) - Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple) - Sakyo, Kyoto

Nanzen-ji (Temple) - Sakyo, Kyoto

Heian Jingu (Shrine) - Sakyo, Kyoto

Shimogamo-jinja (Shrine) - Shimogamo, Kyoto

Liberty Osaka (Human Right Museum) - Naniwa, Osaka 

Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum - Ikeda, Osaka 

Todai-ji (Temple) - Daibutsuden, Nara 

Oku-no-in (Temple) - Kyoya-San

Ishinomori Mangattan Museum - Nakase, Ishinomaki

 

Roppongi Hills (Park)  - Roppongi, Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen (Park) - Shinjuku, Tokyo

Megurogawa (Canal) - Tokyo

Mt. Fuji - Outside Tokyo

Aokigahara (forest) - Sai-Ko

Owakudani (Volcanic Site) - Kanagawa 

Dogashima Marine (Water Tour) - Dogashima

Joren-no-taki (Waterfall) - Tugashima, Shujen-ji

Kegan-no-taki (Waterfall) Chugushi, Chuzen-ji 

Gyokusen Inmaru Garden  - Honda-machi, Kanazawa

Happo-One Ski Resort - Hakuba

Eikan-do (Park) - Higashiyama, Kyoto

Tetsugaku no Michi (park) - Higashiyama, Kyoto

Kyoto Botanical Gardens - Sakyo, Kyoto

Arashiyama Monkey Park - Arashiyama, Kyoto

Nunobiki Falls - Kobe

Nachi-no-taki (Waterfall) - Kumano

Sanzen-in (Temple, Garden) - Ohara

Tottori-Sakyu (Sand Dunes) - Tottori

Daisen (Volcano) - Dainen-Oki National Park

Dewa Sanzen (mountains) -Tohoku

Sapporo Teine (Snow Sports) - Sapporo outskirts

Niseko Adventure Centre (Outdoor Activity Center) - Niseko

Sounkyo (Gorge) - Hokkaido

Nagata Inaka-hama (Beach) - Yakushima

Amuse Museum (Faolk Museum) - Asakusa, Tokyo

Edo-Tokyo Museum - Sumida, Tokyo

Sai-Ko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba (Traditional Village) - Sai-Ko

NYK Hikawa Maru (Ship, Museum) - Naka-ku, Yokohama

Nikko-Tosho-gu Museum - Nikko

Meiji-mura (Museum) - Uchiyama, Inuyama

Gifu City History Museum - Omiya-cho, Gifu

Hida Folk Village - Takayama

Fukui Dinosaur Museum - Katsuyama, Toyama

Togakushi Folk Museum & Ninja House - Togakushi 

Kyoto Railway Museum - Shimogyo, Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace - Kamigyo, Kyoto

Osaka-jo (Castle) - Chuo, Osaka

Osaka Museum of History - Chuo, Osaka

Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park - Merkien Park, Kobe

Kobe City Museum - Kyomachi, Kobe

Himeji-jo (Castle) - Honmachi, Himeji

Nara National Museum (Art and History) - Borioji, Nara 

Takamatsuzuka-kofun (Tomb) - Asuka

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - Nakaku, Hiroshima 

Atomic Bomb Dome - Otemachi, Hiroshima 

Buke Yashiki (Samurai House) - Kitahori, Matsue

Iwami Ginzan (Mine) - Near Izumo 

Sannai Maruyama (Archaeological Museum) - Aomori

Iimoriyama (Memorial) - Aizu-Wakamatsu 

Hokkaido Museum - Atsubetsu, Hokkaido

Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall, Atomic Bomb Museum, and Peace Park - Urakami, Nagasaki 

Things to consider

Climate

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. 

Geography

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.  

Diet

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.

 

Cultural Differences

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. In more toilet news, 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. 

 

 

Must-See Cities

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.