Many people consider travel to Japan an absolute must. Japan’s unique culture, dazzling festivals, natural features and rich history make it a destination for many different genres of travelers.
Japan is a nation of islands and has been dubbed the “Land of the Rising Sun”. This stratovolcanic archipelago is made up of four major islands. Honshu is the largest island and is the most visited. Hokkaido is to the north of Honshu. Shikoku is along the southern coast of Hokkaido. Kyushu is next to the southern tip of Hokkaido.
Start Here : The Seven Wonders of Japan
Currency: The official currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen. Cash is the preferred payment method.
Official Language: The national language in Japan is Japanese, also known as Nihongo. Some signs in Tokyo will be in both Japanese and English.
WiFi Availability: There is a high availability of WiFi connection in Japan with an increasing rate of free WiFi hotspots. The Japanese government also launched a new program that allows foreign tourists to get free use of WiFi for 14 days or up to 336 hours by simply presenting your passport at the airport or any tourist information center. In exchange for your passport, you can obtain a free WiFi card.
Airports: The Haneda Airport and Narita International Airport (both in Tokyo) are two of the busiest airports in Japan. Other notable airports include Fukuoka Airport and Osaka International Airport. You can take flights via any of these airports for travel to Japan.
Visa Required? All US citizens do not need a visa in order to travel to Japan but a stay of 90 consecutive days is the maximum. There are 67 countries whose citizens do not need a visa prior to travel to Japan for varied amounts of time. This list can be found here.
Driving: Japanese use the left side of the road when driving.
International Driver’s License Accepted? Foreign visitors to Japan can use their international driving permit in Japan, but only for a maximum of one year even though the validity is longer.
Crime: The crime rate in Japan is low. In fact, police reports have claimed that it has steadily fallen for over a decade. The authorities in Japan solve a large amount of the crimes in their country. Ownership of handguns is prohibited.
Electrical Adapters: The electrical outlets in Japan are at 100 volts. Hence, it is different from North American and Central European outlets.
Architectural, Cultural and Historical Sites in Japan
Due to their isolationist history, Japan had limited influence from the outside world. It developed thriving castle towns and cities, and some of their buildings date back hundreds of years.
The Temples and Shrines of Japan: Part 1, Kyoto – My impressions when I visited Japan’s temples in Kyoto.
The Shrines and Temples of Japan: Part 2, Horyuji and Nara – While off the beaten track, they had some of the coolest sites in Japan
The Shrines and Temples of Japan : Part 3, Nikko All about my visits to the temples in Nikko
Kyoto’s Katsura Rikyu villa – This site tops many experts lists of the World’s finest wooden structures. Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with gardens that is now located in Kyoto’s western suburbs.
Horyu-ji or Horyu Temple – A Buddhist temple found Ikaruga and is the oldest temple in Japan. Once one of the Seven Great Temples, this temple holds some of Japan’s most priceless treasures.
Himeji-ji or Himeji Castle – A fine surviving example of 17th century castle architecture in Japan, this castle was recently renovated. The white exterior has given it the nickname “White Egret Castle.”
Sensoji or Asakusa Kannon Temple – Tokyo’s most visited temple. Dating back to 1649, the front of the temple houses an incense cauldron. Rubbing the smoke into your skin through your clothing is said to give you good health.
Kinkaku-ji Temple or the Golden Pavilion – The gold leaf exterior shimmers in the reflecting pool below. The original building dates back to the 1300’s.
Peace Memorial Park – Dedicated to all the victims of the atomic bomb, the park holds a Flame of Peace which will burn until all the world’s atomic bombs have been destroyed.
Japan – Mecca for Sushi Lovers – Sushi is far and away my favorite food. So I couldn’t really go to Japan and not indulge in sushi. There were several things I had to know: is sushi better in Japan? how do they eat sushi in Japan? (fingers or chopstick?)
Sushi – Named after the ball of vinegared rice that is the base of the small bite, sushi is most often rice topped by raw seafood. Tuna and shrimp are favorites, but it can also be served with egg omelet and cucumber.
Sashimi – Sliced raw fish alone and without rice
Tempura – A deep fried food, often fish, coated with flour. It can also be deep fried vegetables or shrimp.
Kaiseki Ryori – A traditional, and complicated, multi-course meal. It would be called haute cuisine in the west.
Tonkatsu – A deep-fried pork cutlet rolled in breadcrumbs.
Shabu-shabu – Thin slices of beef held with chopsticks and swished in a pot of boiling water, then dipped in sauce.
Soba, Udon, and Raman – Types of Japanese noodles either served in a broth or dipped in sauce. There are tons of variations.
Quick Facts About Japan:
- Did you know that late night dancing is considered illegal in Japan?
- Japanese trains are the world’s most punctual trains. They do not get delayed by more than 18 seconds.
- Japan has the world’s lowest birth rate. In fact, there are over 50,000 people who are over 100 years of age
- The country is visited by approximately 1,500 earthquakes annually
More Information from My Time in Japan
- Man In A Can: My Stay At A Japanese Capsule Hotel
- Going Off the Rails on a Shinkansen
- Video – Yakushima, Japan
- Domo Arigato Mister Momofuku – or thoughts on Instant Noodles
- Adventures in Pooping, Vol. 1: Land of the Rising Bun
- Finally in Osaka
- Random Thoughts on Japan
- Travel to Japan Pinterest Board
Other Travel to Japan Resources
- Japan Rail Pass, Is It Worth It
- Japan Photo Essay – contains many food pictures as well as street scenes in Japan
- 9 Best Things to do in Kyoto
- Best Things To Do in Japan
- Tokyo with Kids: The Ultimate Guide to Japan Family Travel
- Fantasy Meet Reality: An Afternoon at a Japanese Maid Cafe