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How to Plan a Trip to Japan: Frequently Asked Questions

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Zen garden at the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Japan

Garden at the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Japan

A trip to Japan is an opportunity to immerse yourself in its culture and cinematic regions, with these answers to common questions helping you to do so.

With snowfall on Mount Fuji, imperial palaces flanked by landscaped gardens, and temples honoring ancient Japanese architecture, Japan shares natural wonders and is culturally inspiring. By exploring this guide, you will learn more about what the country is known for and what to expect when you visit.

Whether you want to discover the best time to visit or find out what food to try, here are the most important travel questions answered and additional tips.

Overview

  1. Can I travel to Japan?
  2. When is the best time to visit Japan?
  3. Should I visit Japan to see the cherry blossoms?
  4. How many days should I spend in Japan?
  5. What are the most popular destinations in Japan?
  6. What are the best islands to visit in Japan?
  7. What should I do on my trip to Japan?
  8. Should I watch Sumo wrestling in Japan?
  9. What are the best festivals in Japan?
  10. What are some significant cultural traditions in Japan?
  11. How do I travel around Japan?
  12. Is Japan a good destination for families?
  13. Is Japan suitable for senior travelers?
  14. Is Japan suitable for couples or honeymooners?
  15. What food should I try in Japan?
  16. What is a Japanese izakaya and should I visit one?
  17. What is a Japanese ryokan and should I stay at one?
  18. Is Japan expensive?
  19. Is Japan safe to visit?
  20. What language do they speak in Japan?
  21. What vaccinations do I need to travel to Japan?
  22. Which airports should I plan for?
  23. Do I need a visa for Japan?
  24. What currency does Japan use?
  25. How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to Japan?
  26. Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Can I travel to Japan?

Japan is open to American travelers.

The Japanese government may put entry restrictions in place between the time you start planning and when you depart. However, your Zicasso travel specialist can provide you with the latest information before you go.

Beyond Japan, most countries are open to travelers, with Asia popular among US vacationers. You can explore more destination options in our guide on Where Americans Can Travel Right Now.

Learn more: Plan Your Trip to Japan

When is the best time to visit Japan?

The best time to visit Japan is during March and April or October and November. The cherry blossom season falls between March and April, and October and November feature the red leaves of Kyoto’s fall, particularly beautiful times of the year to visit.

The second half of May begins to warm up for the summer season, bringing pleasant weather and crowds. But the temperatures rise further in June, contributing to tsuyu, the rainy season. Therefore, we recommend skipping summer in favor of spring and fall, with winter, January through March, another excellent option for visiting hot springs and the Japanese Alps.

Between spring, fall, and winter you can find a time suitable for your vacation, whether you wish to visit cosmopolitan cities, ski resorts, or islands.

Learn more: Best Time to Visit Japan

Should I visit Japan to see the cherry blossoms?

Japan's cherry blossom season, typically in March and April, is reason alone to visit Japan. The bright sakura flowers veil cities like Kyoto and prefectures near Mount Yoshino in blush-pink hues. You can admire the colorful scenes while enjoying great weather, despite the season being one of the country’s busiest, on our Japan Cherry Blossom Tours.

Learn more: 4 Tips for Your Cherry Blossom Trip to Japan in 2023

How many days should I spend in Japan?

You should spend 10 to 14 days in Japan, with enough time to explore Tokyo city, visit the cultural districts of Kyoto, and several villages in the countryside.

Trips to Japan in excess of a week and up to two provide time to embrace the cultural atmosphere, delve into the cuisine, discover landmarks like the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine, and enjoy several days at leisure. You could also spend your 10-day vacation in the Japanese Alps or 14 days exploring most of southern Japan.

Six- and seven-day trips are possible if you visit one or two destinations only, such as Tokyo and Kyoto. In contrast, trips longer than 14 days provide the time to see more of Japan, with the possibility of visiting other Asian countries as well.

Learn more: 10 Day Japan Itineraries14 Day Japan Itineraries

What are the most popular destinations in Japan?

From the imperial palaces and neon-lit streets of Akihabara in Tokyo to Kyoto’s Geisha district and Okinawa’s far-flung beaches, here is a list of the most popular destinations in which to see iconic landmarks and experience local culture:

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Hiroshima
  • Kanazawa
  • Takayama
  • Hakone
  • Osaka
  • Nara
  • Hokkaido
  • Okinawa

To learn more about top destinations in Japan, visit our guide on the 5 Best Places to Visit in Japan. We delve into the spiritual experiences you can have in Kyoto, highlight the breadth of history in Hiroshima, and more.

What are the best islands to visit in Japan?

Mainland Japan is an island itself, but the country boasts smaller islands to explore. The following list highlights the best ones to visit:

  • Izu Ōshima
  • Okinawa Island
  • Ishigaki Island
  • Okinoshima
  • Yoronjima
  • Enoshima

While a trip to Japan typically takes you to Tokyo, Kyoto, and other mainland regions, the pristine beaches, jungle-clad hills, and cultural towns of these islands make them worthy additions to your trip.

What should I do on my trip to Japan?

Discover the country’s history at ancient shrines and temples, spend time in local markets tucking into Japanese dishes and sipping sake, or stroll beneath sakura blossoms. Here is a list of the top things to do:

  • Visit the iconic Sensō-ji and Gōtoku-ji temples, and Meiji Shrine, on a cultural tour of Tokyo’s landmarks
  • Discover Japanese art forms on tours of the Tokyo National Museum, Studio Ghibli Museum, at a calligraphy class, and during a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
  • Photograph Japan during cherry blossom season
  • Delight in a night of regional cuisine on culinary tours with a Maiko or Geisha
  • Trace historic Japanese art styles in the Kyoto National Museum and walk between the iconic orange arches of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine
  • Visit Shukkeien, the oldest Japanese garden in Hiroshima, and learn about historical Hiroshima at the 17-century Fukuyama Castle
  • Savor time spent in the wine-growing regions of Yamanashi, sip sake, or taste Japanese whisky on tastings of the country’s famous beverages
  • Explore Mount Takao, the mountain outside Tokyo with gorgeous views of Mount Fuji
  • Wander the trails inside Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park to waterfalls, panoramic viewpoints, and rural prefectures
  • Visit a wasabi and tea farm for spectacular views of nature, while savoring authentic Japanese cuisine

To find more inspiration for your trip, visit our Top 10 Things to Do in Japan, where we discuss how you can experience the wonder of historical Japan, indulge in the country’s cuisine, and more.

Should I watch Sumo wrestling in Japan?

Japan’s national sport, Sumo wrestling, is a must-see spectacle that is as entertaining as it is educational about Japanese culture dating back to the Shinto period.

Sumo tournaments occur in stadiums in cities like Tokyo, most notably the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall. During a match, wrestlers aim to remove their opponent from a circle within the dohyō, the ceremonious platform where the wrestling takes place.

As a guest, you can watch and learn about the customs and traditional proceedings.

What are the best festivals in Japan?

Japanese Matsuri, or festivals, are lively and colorful, and if you visit at the right time, you can join in on the fun of the following iconic Matsuri:

  • Yuki Matsuri (held at the beginning of February) - The Sapporo Snow Festival, a vibrant display of snow and ice statues
  • Gion Matsuri (held over July) - Kyoto’s famous cultural celebration, where elaborate float processions take over the streets
  • Kanda Matsuri (held in mid-May) - Tokyo’s festival at the Kanda Myojin Shrine, where floats, portable shrines, and traditionally-dressed participants flock the streets

What are some significant cultural traditions in Japan?

There are many fascinating cultural traditions in Japan, be they traditional Japanese tea ceremonies or wearing kimonos. Here are several important ones to be aware of or consider for your trip:

  • Formalities are held in high regard in Japan and most locals will bow to one another when greeting
  • Flower arranging, known as Ikebana, is a centuries-old religious art form
  • The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is steeped in Zen Buddhism and an important cultural art form
  • Japanese locals visit shrines during the New Year celebrations for good luck
  • Obon is a customary Buddhist event whereby locals float lanterns across waterways
  • Omiyage, translating to souvenirs, is a gift-giving tradition whereby one gives food to another
  • Locals proclaim kanpai, or cheers, and toast their glasses before drinking in Japan

How do I travel around Japan?

Japan's modern transportation offers easy ways to get around the country, and planes, trains, private transfers, and boats are among the best ways to travel.

You will arrive in Japan by plane. It is then possible to fly from one corner of the country to another. In cities, trains and subways are some of the most popular travel methods. The metro, for example, is an excellent option for tours of Tokyo city, trams navigate the city streets, and Japan’s high-speed bullet trains, shinkansen, can get you from one city to another in a flash.

You can also take boats to Japanese islands off the mainland and rent a car to tour cities and islands at your leisure.

Learn more: The Best Ways to Travel Around Japan

Is Japan a good destination for families?

Learn to be a ninja at ninja training classes, roll your own sushi with your children, or build snowmen in Niseko on a trip to Japan, an excellent destination for the entire family.

From Tokyo’s bright electronic billboards that guide you to bustling arcades to Kyoto’s calligraphy masters who can teach you and your kids the art of shūji, the activities for families with young children or teenagers are endless.

You can grab a bento lunch box on your way to colorful temples and watch Japanese macaques bathe in the hot springs of alpine regions on your family adventure.

Is Japan suitable for senior travelers?

With modern skyrise hotels, a timeless cultural heritage, and cinematic places to explore, Japan is an excellent destination for senior travelers. The country is safe and the locals are friendly, encouraging senior travelers to immerse themselves in Japanese history.

You can visit temples and shrines that showcase century-old Japanese architecture and learn about wabi-sabi, Japan’s ancient design, and life philosophy. You can dine privately with a master sushi chef or take your taste buds on a tour of Japan’s prestigious whisky distilleries. On a senior trip in Japan, you can also seek adventure in the alps or stroll through the Aokigahara forest.

You can enjoy first-class service at your ryokan, savor the decadent flavors of authentic ramen, and embrace a slower-paced tour on trips to Tokyo, Kyoto, and beyond on our Japan Tours for Seniors.

Is Japan suitable for couples or honeymooners?

Snapshot honeymoon photos beneath blush-pink cherry blossoms, dine at a restaurant in the clouds overlooking Tokyo, or cuddle up next to a fire in the Japanese Alps as you embrace the romance of Japan.

It is a breeze to find passion and intimacy. You can spend the evening with a glass of wine in a steamy private onsen bath, let your tea steep as you learn about the traditional ceremonies from a tea master, or visit a love shrine.

With an indulgent culinary culture and charming accommodations, a couple's getaway or honeymoon in Japan is alluring, and you can find inspiration in our Japan Tours for Couples and Japan Honeymoon Packages.

What food should I try in Japan?

Japanese cuisine has found its way to all corners of the world, yet there is no better place to slurp a bowl of ramen or sink your teeth into a sushi platter than in Japan. Below, you will find a list of the top foods to try on your trip:

  • Sushi
  • Ramen, noodles in broth topped with egg, meat, and greens
  • Tempura prawns, breaded and deep-fried prawns
  • Yakitori, barbecue chicken
  • Bento, a packed lunch of assorted Japanese cuisine
  • Edamame, soybeans dressed in salt
  • Fugu, pufferfish
  • Gyoza, moon-shaped dumplings filled with meat and spices
  • Tonkatsu, breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet
  • Natto, soybeans fermented with bacillus subtilis

The best ways to enjoy these dishes and iconic Japanese cuisine are on culinary tours of the cities or at cooking classes. For example, you can roll sushi with master sushi chefs, follow the aromas of yakitori sizzling in markets, and visit Michelin-starred restaurants or family homes for kaiseki, a traditional multi-course dinner.

What is a Japanese izakaya and should I visit one?

Izakaya refers to a Japanese bar where locals and tourists mingle with a glass of Japanese beer or a shot glass of sake. An izakaya is where many find themselves after work to catch up with friends and enjoy kanpai, a drink with a small platter of Japanese cuisine similar to tapas, or kaiseki, a multi-course meal. You should visit an izakaya for a taste of Japanese nightlife in Tokyo, Kyoto, or another major city at least once.

What is a Japanese ryokan and should I stay at one?

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn with tatami-matted rooms, an onsen, hot spring, bath, and public areas where locals and tourists can mingle. The ryokan is the best example of authentic Japanese accommodation and you should spend a night or two in a luxurious ryokan on your trip. You can experience the local culture at these ryokans and enjoy panoramic views of accommodations surrounded by forest or overlooking alpine slopes.

Is Japan expensive?

A trip to Japan may be more costly than in other parts of Asia, but the country is not as expensive as you may have thought. Japan has experiences for all types of budgets and you can choose where to allocate yours based on what you would like to see and do.

You could stay in five-star hotels in Tokyo or luxurious ryokans in Japanese forests, enjoy exquisite sushi at Michelin-starred restaurants, and relax in the comforts of private transfers on city tours. Or you could embrace budget-friendly local experiences. For example, you could experience Japanese Matsuri, free festivals, allocate a budget for tours of landmarks and museums, and indulge in Japan’s street food scene.

Is Japan safe to visit?

Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world.

Locals are very respectful and tourists are welcome to enjoy Japanese culture. You can walk down the street late at night without fear. Travelers have reported losing their phones, only to have them returned. However, as with any international trip, we recommend being vigilant in crowded areas.

Generally, we recommend avoiding bar strips in cities like Tokyo unless you visit them with your guide. We also suggest you respect Japanese traditions, such as bowing when you greet someone and taking off your shoe when you enter someone’s home or an area with a designated place to put them.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons are often concerns for travelers in Japan. Minor earthquakes can occur across the chain of islands, but the country’s secure architecture makes it a very safe destination if an earthquake were to occur. During heavy typhoons, trains and airports may close, but this usually does not occur for longer than 48 hours.

When hiking and exploring Japan’s great outdoors, be mindful of snakes, bears, and other dangerous creatures lurking in the forest greenery. On ski trips to the Japanese Alps, enjoy the designated routes and follow guidance from your ski instructor.

What language do they speak in Japan?

Japan’s official language is Japanese.

Japanese is the most widely spoken language, with several dialects in different parts of the country and rural areas. That said, English is popular and you should be able to speak with locals, guides, and concierges in English on your trip. When visiting areas where English is not spoken, your guide can help translate for you.

What vaccinations do I need to travel to Japan?

There is a concise list of vaccinations required or recommended for trips to Japan and you can find more information about these in the CDC Japan Vaccination Information guide. Your Zicasso travel specialist can also provide insight regarding Japanese vaccinations.

Before receiving yours, consult your doctor or travel nurse to confirm requirements and recommendations based on where in Japan you will travel.

Which airports should I plan for?

The best airport to fly in and out of when visiting Japan is Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND). The majority of flights from North America and continental Europe will arrive in Tokyo, but the best airport for your departure flight is Kyoto’s Kansai International Airport (KIX).

For most travelers, the most convenient airports are this listed below:

  • Haneda Airport (HND), Tokyo
  • Kansai International Airport (KIX), Kyoto
  • Narita International Airport (NRT), Narita

Do I need a visa for Japan?

You will need a visa to travel to Japan, valid for three months.

Your Zicasso travel specialist can provide further visa information when you plan your trip, such as changes to requirements and how to obtain one.

What currency does Japan use?

The official currency of Japan is the Japanese yen (¥).

Most modern establishments, like restaurants and hotels in metropolitan areas like Tokyo, accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. However, you should still carry Japanese yen. It is especially important to have yen if you plan to visit rural areas or villages that may not have electronic payment systems.

How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to Japan?

There are many ways to experience Japan and our Japan Tours & Vacations offer ideas you can use to plan your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist.

The collection features a range of itineraries with different types of experiences. For example, you could enjoy an immersive family tour, discover the hidden treasures of Tokyo and Kyoto, or use these ideas to create something new.

You can share additional information with our Travel Care team by completing a Trip Request with an idea of where you want to go, how you want to experience Japan, how long you want to visit, and more.

Our Travel Care team will then match you with top Japan travel specialists who can help you start planning your vacation.

Learn more: How to Plan Your Zicasso Trip in 4 Easy StepsHow to Plan Your Zicasso Trip Budget in 3 Easy Steps

Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Women wearing traditional Japanese yukata at Daigo-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan

Daigo-ji in Kyoto, Japan

In Japan, the past flows effortlessly into the present and the future emerges. With elegance and grace, the country can take you from the foothills of Mount Fuji to the bridges of Kyoto, the cuisine of Osaka to futuristic Tokyo. For itinerary ideas that include these iconic experiences, browse our Japan Tours & Vacations.

With a rich cultural heritage and many breathtaking places to explore, you can learn more about Japan and the best experiences to have there in our Japan Travel Guide.

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