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Japan Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Japan in 2022

Welcome to Japan

Unique and culturally rich Japan is a wonderful mix of diversity, modernity, old-world charm, and oriental allure. Japan promises breathtaking sites and adventures, from the bright colors and bustling streets of Tokyo to the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and diverse cuisine.

If that hasn’t convinced you yet, then maybe the impressive temples, castles, or the “onsen” hot springs will. In this ultimate Japan travel guide, we will share everything you need to know and see to truly enjoy everything Japan offers.

COVID-19 Restrictions in Japan

Document Checklist for Japan

  • Visa Application Form

  • Your passport

  • Passport-size picture

  • Flight itinerary

  • Daily itinerary

  • Proof of accommodation

  • Proof of financial solvency

  • Letter of invitation

  • Proof of travel purpose

  • Certificate of Eligibility (COE) (when applicable)

  • Health Declaration

Essential Japan Travel Information

  • Currency - Japanese yen (¥). $1 is equivalent to approx. ¥146.82

  • Daily budget for one person - A daily budget of around USD 90 to USD 150 for a mid-range trip

  • Languages - Official language is Japanese. Less than 30 percent of Japanese people speak English

  • Socket type - Types A and B, 100V supply voltage and 50/60Hz

  • Time zone - Japan Standard Time JST: GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) + 09:00

  • Top 3 cities to visit - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Mount Fuji, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Visa Information for Japan

Currently, numerous different types of visas are offered to foreign nationals planning to travel to Japan. Citizens of most countries require an appropriate visa to enter the country, as per Japanese foreign affairs regulations.

These visas can be obtained through your nearest Japanese embassy, or if you are from Canada or the US, by applying online for a Japan e-Visa.

The Japanese visas options you can obtain are:

Japan Tourist Visa

Local authorities require all tourists wanting to visit Japan to obtain a tourist visa before entering the country. The Japan tourist visa is a short-term stay visa, with which visitors can enjoy sightseeing, visit friends, or attend conferences or courses.

The single-entry visa allows tourists to stay for up to 30 days. However, the tourist visa is valid for up to 90 days. Visitors can also apply for a double-entry visa, which allows two short trips in 6 months.

Please note that Japanese law does not allow travelers to engage in paid work while visiting Japan on a tourist visa.

Japan Tourist eVisa

Launched in August 2022 by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Japan Tourist eVisa is part of the Japanese government’s plan to draw 60 million foreign visitors per year to the country by 2030.

The e-Visa is a single-entry document that permits a stay of up to 90 days and it’s currently only available to Canadians and US citizens. It may be expanded to other countries later on.

The e-visa aims to help citizens of these countries avoid visits to their nearest embassy or consulate and simplify the visa application process. Travelers must present a digital copy of the visa to local authorities on entry into Japan.

Working visa

Working visas are long-stay visas that can be used for any work that requires high-level professional knowledge or skills. People who want to work as waiters, construction workers, salespeople, etc., may not apply for a working visa.

Non-working visa

Non-working visas allow holders to work for the period decided by the immigration office and are considered short-term visas. These visas come with restrictions, such as the rule that work done while on a non-working visa cannot exceed a set number of authorized hours per week.

Family-related visas

Finally, the last visa type you can use to visit Japan are family-related visas. These are short-stay visas with no restrictions when it comes to employment. However, to obtain this type of visa, you need to be:

  • The spouse or child of a Japanese national

  • Long-term foreign residents

  • Permanent foreign residents

  • The spouse or child of a permanent foreign resident

Typical Costs and Budget for Japan

Once you have your visa, the next step is to budget for the trip. We’ve done our research and have created an average daily budget for stays in major cities in Japan. Here is the approximate amount to budget per day:

  • Daily spending per person - $115

  • Meals - $25

  • Transport - $30 (depending on whether or not you will be traveling between cities)

  • Hotel - Hotel or hostel for one person: $50. A standard double occupancy room: $95

  • Activities - $10

Other expenses you may encounter include alcoholic beverages, as Japan has a renowned drinking culture.

For a complete vacation, most people spend an average of $800 for one week per person and, consequently, $1600 for two weeks in Japan per person.

Transport and Ways to Travel around Japan

Japan is known for its reliable and safe public transportation system; however, it can be expensive. As an international tourist, applying for the Japan Rail Pass or “JR Pass” is highly recommended.

The JR pass allows you to use the different modes of transportation from the Japan Rail Group, including the shinkansen or “bullet train”, regular trains, buses, and ferries, at a much more affordable rate. If you decide the Japan Rail Pass is not for you, perhaps you’d prefer the IC card, which gives you access to all trains, subways, and buses in major Japanese cities.

Aside from rail and bus travel, there is always the option of taking a taxi. However, they are not as popular as public transport, as they are significantly more expensive. Lastly, for those planning to island hop in Japan, domestic flights will not break the bank.

Safety in Japan

Rated among the safest countries in the world, the number of thefts in Japan is very low. However, there have been some incidents of petty theft, like pickpockets at popular tourist attractions or at bars and nightclubs. Here are some tips from Japanese authorities to help ensure your safety during your trip:

  • Take precautions against credit card fraud.

  • Stay alert and take precautions when enjoying nightlife to avoid drink spiking and illegal drugs

  • If you need help, find the nearest kōban (small local police boxes found all over Japan).

  • If your credit cards, airline tickets, or passports are stolen, immediately contact the issuers to arrange replacements.

  • To have your passport reissued or to receive an insurance payment due to theft, loss, traffic, or other incidents, obtain a police report as soon as possible.

  • Save the contact information of your nearest embassy for emergencies such as natural disasters or medical evacuation.

  • Save these helpful phone numbers:

    • Emergency services number: 110
    • The Metropolitan Police: 03-3501-0110
    • Tokyo English Life Line (TELL): 03-5774-0992
    • JNTO Tourist Information Center: 03-3201-3331
  • Sign up for travel insurance with adequate coverage before your departure.

  • Due to rising cases of international child abduction and general safety concerns, never leave a minor unsupervised in foreign countries.

  • It is also recommended to enquire about foreign language-speaking staff who understand your native tongue at your hotel so that there is someone you can speak to should there be an emergency during your stay.

Natural Disasters in Japan

All visitors must be aware that Japan is a seismically active country with frequent earthquakes, typhoons, and other natural disasters. Some earthquakes can lead to tsunamis.

In the event of a disaster during your travel, local authorities will guide you on what to do. Sometimes an alarm may sound before an earthquake or other natural disaster. The Japanese government also pushes safety alerts to users via several apps, including the Japan National Tourism Organization app, which includes the option of English notifications.

The Japan National Tourism Organization app is also great for learning safety tips and discovering new tourist and cultural attractions.

During check-in at your hotel, familiarize yourself with the evacuation protocols and routes, as fires are the second most dangerous disaster to occur after earthquakes. We also advise keeping your phone charged, and if you are by the coast when a large earthquake strikes, head for higher ground as soon as possible.

Weather in Japan

Spring (March to April) and autumn (October to November) are the best times to visit Japan, as the days are sunny and dry; not to mention spring in this country is known for the cherry blossom (sakura) season, while autumn boasts the stunning ‘Koyo’ or autumn leaf viewing.

During the summer, the cities can be stiflingly hot and humid, and there is heavy rainfall as well in June and July across Japan, with Hokkaidō being an exception. In the south, however, summer is a great time to enjoy the beaches as the sea level is high and the weather is warm. Similarly, skiers and snowboarders will love Japan’s mountain regions during winter due to the thick snow on the peaks.

Popular Cities and Towns in Japan

1. Tokyo: The capital of Japan attracts millions of tourists a year with its incredible museum, shopping options, and lively atmosphere. We advise everyone to visit the Tokyo Tower, Golden Gai, Shibuya Crossing, and museums like the Mori Art Museum, Japan Olympic Museum, and NHL Museum of Broadcasting.

2. Osaka: Another large city in Japan, Osaka is a port city with a unique character. While it’s a commercial hub during the day, it is known for its incredible street food and bar scene at night. That doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer attraction-wise, quite the contrary, in fact. Visitors should tour Osaka Castle and one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, Sumiyoshi Taisha.

3. Kyoto: While Tokyo is the current capital, Kyoto once held the honor, and it is still one of Japan’s most traditional cities. From classic Japanese dark wood houses to multiple Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kyoto is perfect for those craving a traditional and culture-rich experience. While in Kyoto, you must visit the Golden Pavilion, the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama, and the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine.

4. Hiroshima: Probably one of the most famed cities in Japan, Hiroshima made history after US troops dropped an atomic bomb that devastated the city in 1945. Visitors can pay respects to the victims of the tragedy at one of the many memorial attractions in the city, including Peace Memorial Park.

5. Nagoya: Known more as a manufacturing and shipping hub than a tourist destination, Nagoya is the capital of Aichi Prefecture. However, don’t let the working nature of the city deceive you, there are tons of incredible sites and places to see in the city. From the Toyota Exhibition Hall to Nagoya Castle, this working city has something for everyone. While you’re there, try to catch a one-off event like the Nagoya Sumo Tournament or the World Cosplay Summit.

Must Do and See in Japan

  1. Soak in an onsen: One of the most classic and memorable experiences you can have in Japan is a soak in a steaming hot onsen (hot spring bath), which can be indoor or outdoor. There are many options, from simple to luxurious, and while most tend to be shared spaces, you can reserve a private bath at some ryokans.

  2. Watch a Kabuki performance: This traditional Japanese theater that dates back to the Edo period includes drama, dance, and music performed by all-male performers wearing elaborate makeup. The best place to see a Kabuki performance is the Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza, Tokyo, which also offers English captions. However, you can find performances in most major cities.

  3. Take a cooking class: Japan is the ultimate foodie destination. What better way to explore its culinary offerings than by learning to cook them? There’s a wide variety of cooking classes available, to learn to make from sushi and ramen, to tempura and regional dishes like Osaka’s okonomiyaki.

  4. Learn the Art of the Tea Ceremony: You can’t simply drink tea in Japan; the entire process is a well-honed art form. A traditional tea ceremony is an art form that plays a vital role in Japanese culture. One of the best places to learn the art of the tea ceremony is in Kyoto at the Golden Temple.

  5. Hanami under the cherry blossoms: The Japanese custom of viewing the sakura (cherry blossoms) trees as they bloom for a few weeks in spring is a once in a lifetime experience. Picnic under the trees with a bento box from a department or convenience store. Don’t forget to try sakura-themed snacks like mochi, kitkats, and beer.

Typical Japanese Food to Try

  1. Sushi is probably one of the most famous foods from Japan, so everyone should definitely try the original versions. Eating sushi in Japan is a completely different experience from the rest of the world, and you can find it everywhere, from convenience stores to fine dining restaurants. If you’re up for splurging, we recommend Sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.

  2. Nagashi somen is a truly unique dish to Japan. Somen noodles are dropped from above into bamboo pipes with flowing fresh spring water. The noodles flow down in the water to customers who sit next to the bamboo pipes and use their chopsticks to grab them as they flow past them. They then dip the noodles they catch into a bowl of cold tsuketsuyu before eating them. We recommend trying the dish at the restaurant that reportedly created it: Chiho no Ie, which is next to the famous Takachiho Gorge. However, you can find nagashi somen in many locations across Japan.

  3. Bento boxes are another must-try food item in Japan. These Japanese lunch boxes contain various small dishes that make a balanced and flavorful meal. You can find them all over Japan, including convenience and department stores. However, many recommend the ones you find at train stations (where they are called ekiben and use local ingredients).

  4. *Okonomiyaki** is a classic Japanese dish that is most popular in Osaka and Hiroshima. These thick savory pancakes are filled with cabbage and other ingredients; in fact, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki contains noodles. They make a delicious yet inexpensive meal.

  5. Takoyaki is another delicious treat from Osaka. This street food item is made by cooking batter in ball shapes on an iron plate and stuffing them with octopus. If you’re looking for a halal or vegetarian-friendly restaurant, try Takoyaki at Matsuri, where you can make your own takoyaki.

Vaccine Information for Japan

The CDC recommends that all travelers visiting Japan check the required vaccines and medicines list with their doctor at least a month before their trip. You should be up to date on all routine vaccines (and have a valid vaccination certificate as proof) before every trip abroad. Some of the vaccines you may need for Japan include:

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Polio
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Shingles
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • COVID-19
  • Rabies

Please note, all visitors to Japan will be required to fill out the Japan Health Declaration, which you can apply for through us, regardless of your vaccination status. Travelers who do not have the COVID-19 vaccine must present a PCR test with a negative result. However, there are no quarantine measures or movement restrictions in place. Travelers are encouraged to keep an eye on local media for changes to these regulations.

The World’s Longest-Running Company Was from Japan

It is reported that the longest-running company in history was from Japan. Construction company Kongō Gumi operated for over 1,400 years. They opened in 578 AD and only closed in 2006. The company, founded by an immigrant from Baekje, built a Buddhist temple in Osaka that still stands today called Shitennō-ji and assisted in the construction of the Osaka Castle in the 16th century.

It was passed down for 50 generations before financial troubles in 2006 saw the company liquidate. It became a subsidiary of the Takamatsu Construction Group and continues to specialize in Buddhist temple buildings.

Fun Facts about Japan

  • Japan is made up of a string of islands, making it the largest East Asian island nation and the fourth largest island country in the world. The country's biggest islands are Honshu (considered mainland Japan), Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Osaka.
  • Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy. According to statistics, in 2019, there were 2.31 million Japanese people over 90. From that number, more than 71,000 of the people surveyed were over 100!
  • Shibuya crossing is one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world and has been featured in multiple movies, including "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" and "Lost in Translation."
  • Japan has over 5 million vending machines throughout the country, and you can buy anything from cup noodles and fresh fruit to desserts and hot meals.
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