Top Tips for Travelling in Japan

On the hunt for expert tips for a vacation in Japan? Youve come to the right place.
On the hunt for expert tips for a vacation in Japan? You've come to the right place. | Jezael Melgoza / Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

It’s one of the most thrilling destinations in the world but, for western travellers, Japan is also one of the most culturally exotic. There is so much to explore, and a few local differences to get used to, so here are our need-to-know tips. Essential reading before going on your first trip to Japan.

Plan your itinerary

Sounds obvious, right? Well, there are some destinations you can visit without putting too much thought in. Plenty of people rock up to their Greek island of choice and have a swell time with limited planning. Doing so in Japan is a recipe for disaster. This country is far larger than many realise, so figuring out which regions you want to explore and how you’re going to get from A to B is crucial. Not to mention that, unlike Southeast Asian backpacker destinations, Japan is a pricier place, so you’ll need to have a solid idea of budget ahead of flying out. This is where Culture Trip comes in with our expertly curated Japan by Train trip – 12 pre-planned days that cover a large section of the nation, from its major cities to its most famous natural bounties. Activities, accommodation and train travel all sorted from minute one, meaning you know exactly how much the trip will cost – you just need to save some money behind for street food snacks and souvenir shopping!

No trip to Japan is complete without riding the Shinkansen (bullet train)

Learn basic Japanese phrases

A lot of English speaking travellers get to dine out on the fact their mother tongue is so widely spoken the world over. East Asia is another world completely and, although there are many well-educated locals who speak good English, you should expect more than a few encounters where your first language isn’t enough. Learning basic phrases well will massively improve your trip both from a practical perspective and an experiential one. Respect, of people and of local customs, is valued highly here, so a few earnest attempts at the language will go a long way. Plus, Japanese is one of the most richly expressive languages in the world, so what a great excuse to get learning!

Knowing how to read a sign or two will make navigating Japan’s neon-lit streets a lot easier

Go beyond major cities

Japan has one of the most diverse natural landscapes on the planet, spanning from the snowy northern island of Hokkaido to the tropical Pacific Islands far south. There are white-capped mountains and fiery volcanoes, gorgeous lakes and luscious bamboo forests, beaches, islands and so much more. Major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are not to be missed but coming here and only seeing neon-lit skyscrapers marks a missed opportunity. Not only are the rural areas easy on the eye, but the lesser-known villages, towns and smaller cities that occupy these regions are brimming with their own sense of culture and identity, often providing a taste of older, more traditional Japan.

This country is full of beautiful, otherworldly natural landscapes

Embrace local cuisine

Food plays a huge role in the story of Japanese culture, so diving head first into this country’s rich culinary tradition is an absolute must if you want to experience the real Japan. We’re not just talking sushi and ramen either, must-try regional specialties include tempura, okonomiyaki, yakitori and so much more. From street food to traditional dining establishment and high-end modern restaurants, the food here is endlessly exciting. Our Japan by Train trip places a huge emphasis on cuisine, including dinners at authentic restaurants, market visits, sake-tasting sessions and a sushi-rolling class.

Get hands on with Japanese cuisine when you book a trip with us

Observe local customs and respect sacred sites

Society in Japan places great value in dignity and respect, so any traveller visiting here should always bare that in mind. Try not to be too loud or overbearing on public transport, be prepared to take your shoes off in certain places and get used to basic daily customs like bowing in respect. This is especially relevant when visiting sacred sites like temples and shrines. Respect the culture you’re getting the chance to experience and you’ll quickly find yourself falling in love with the charm of such a rich variety of unique customs and quirky bits of etiquette.

Shinto Shrines are incredibly sacred in Japanese culture

Use public transport

Forget domestic flights or long road trips, Japan might be a vast nation but it also boasts one of the world’s best public transport networks. High-speed bullet trains and great regional connections allow you to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. That’s why our Travel Experts decided our trip to Japan simply had to be a Rail Trip. Whether you want to hop from city-to-city or go on rural day trips from Tokyo, your first port of call should always be public transport. The Japan Rail Pass even makes it easy from a budgeting point of view, so you can plan ahead and save big.

Comfortable, high-tech and super fast – and the views aren’t bad either!

Travel with Culture Trip!

We might be a little bit bias, but booking a spot on our 12-day Japan Rail Trip is the perfect way to get a nourishing bite of Japanese culture. Our Travel Experts have utilised the country’s incredible train networks to curate an extensive itinerary across the nation, covering major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, as well as rural delights like Lake Ashi, Miyajima Island and Arashiyama bamboo forest. On the ground our Local Insiders offer you a depth of knowledge and guidance that solo travel simply can’t match, whether it’s deeply meaningful cultural insight or simply a top tip on karaoke bars.

You’ll visit must-see sights and hidden gems, dive deep into Japanese cuisine by trying okonomiyaki and learning to roll sushi, as well as experiencing the full range of Japanese accommodations, from a pampering spa hotel to a traditional ryokan inn. You’ll experience the new and the old, having sacred spiritual experiences and taking part in fun outdoor activities. You’ll get a grasp of local language, customs and cultural cornerstones, from trendy urban neighbourhoods to rural folk villages. You’ll even get to bond over it all with a group of like-minded travellers.

Accommodation, domestic travel and all pre-planned activities will be booked in advance for you (with plenty of free time along the way), safe in the knowledge that your itinerary has been carefully planned out by seasoned travel pros. Know where you stand with your budget, save some Yen behind for shopping sprees and sake sessions, and join a group of friendly Culture Trippers eager to explore the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sold? Book your spot today on our 12-day Japan by Train adventure.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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