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JAPAN FAST FACTS
Currency: Japanese Yen
Drives On: Left
Phone Code: +81
National Day: February 11
Internet Domain: .jp
Electrical Outlets: Type A
Japanese World Heritage Sites: 21
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
History of Japan
The earliest traces of human settlement in Japan dates back to the prehistoric times. Over the period of its history, Japan has undergone a wide range of periods that represent the key points of events. In the 300 BC, also known as the Jomon period, this is the earliest record of history in Japan at a time when the locals were hunters, gatherers, and fishers. A few years after that came the Yayoi period, which saw the introduction of rice agriculture in Japan. It was also during this time when a social hierarchy was formed and it was quickly adopted in Japan.
In the Asuka period, or around year 538 to 710, Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Meanwhile, the promulgation of Prince Shotoku’s Constitution took place around this point in Japan’s history. Soon after the Taika reform happened, the Fijiwara era had begun too. Nara was established as the first capital of Japan in the year 710. But by 784, the capital was moved to Nagaoka. Over the years, the capital of Japan was changed often before it was finalized in Tokyo.
There are many highlight events and key points in Japan’s history, such as the following:
- 1542: Introduction of firearms and Christianity to Japan by the Portuguese.
- 1592: The Japanese unsuccessfully invaded Korea.
- 1792: The Russians were unsuccessful in their attempt to establish trade relations with Japan.
- 1872: The first railway line was built to connect Tokyo with Yokohama.
- 1914: Japan took part in WWI with allied forces.
- 1941: The start of the pacific War.
- 1945: Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs were dropped in two major cities in Japan.
- 1956: Japan became an official member of UN.
Japan Travel Basics
Connectivity: There is 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.
International 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 to 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.
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.
Rail Travel: The rail system in Japan epitomizes the future of train travel. Hence, it is one of the best ways to get around when you travel to Japan. It has one of the best train networks in the world, if not the best.
Car Travel: You can find many companies that offer car rental in Japan. It is a good way to explore Japan on your own. With an efficient road system, you will find it easy to drive and navigate the streets of Japan.
Electrical Adapters: The electrical outlets in Japan are at 100 volts. Hence, it is different from North American and Central European outlets.
Travel to Japan: Attractions
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. To make the most of your experience, you need to check out one or all of the attractions that are listed below:
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.
You cannot travel to Japan without trying out the authentic Japanese cuisine. This cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It is exotic, fresh, and full of flavor. It is no wonder Japanese cuisine is loved by many, even non-Japanese. When dining out in Japan, here are some of the most notable dishes that you need to sample along the way:
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 Ramen: There are different types of Japanese noodles either served in a broth or dipped in sauce. There are tons of variations.
Okonomiyaki: This is Japanese’version of a pancake, which is a savory type of pancake. It is made with flour, eggs, cabbage, and other types of meat that is cooked on a grill.
Yakitori: This is a skewered dish in Japan that is typically cooked with chicken meat. Once the meat is skewered on a bamboo or metal stick, it is cooked over charcoal fire.
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
Books on Japan Travel
- Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide). This guide on Japan is delivered by the authority when it comes to travel guides. Get to the heart of Japan and begin your journey now!
- Etiquette Guide to Japan: Know the Rules that Make the Difference!. Before you travel to Japan, make sure you have learned the in’s and out’s of its culture. This guide will show you a detailed look at the common etiquette that you will encounter in Japan and what you can do about them.
- Frommer’s EasyGuide to Tokyo, Kyoto and Western Honshu. This guide is your handy companion on your travel to Japan, specifically to the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. This easy guide is also designed to fit into your pocket and purse so you can bring it with you on-the-go.
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Japan. This handy guide is what you need to get to know Japan before you arrive. You will be more confident to explore and see the sights and sounds using this guide.
- Japan by Rail. The rail network in Japan is one of the best, if not the best in the world. This travel guide is going to provide you with a detailed overview on how to make the most of this rail system so you can explore Japan.
Japan Travel Podcasts and Youtube Channel
- Japan travel | Indie Travel Podcast
- Best Travel Podcasts If You’re Travelling to Japan – Days to Come
- The Ultimate Guide To Budget Travel In Japan – Zero To Travel
- Podcast – Japan Travel Podcast | Listen via Stitcher Radio On Demand
- Travel to Tokyo – A One Week Itinerary (Podcast)
- Reasons to Love Japan – Episode 36 of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast
- Top 10 Cities To Visit In Japan on Your First Trip
- Tokyo Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia
- Kyoto Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia
- Introducing Japan | Lonely Planet
- A 1 minute Guide to Japan | Rough Guides
Photos of Japan
Japan Online Resources
- 2 Days Okinawa Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Tokyo
- Travel to Japan Pinterest Board
- Japan Rail Pass, Is It Worth It
- The Best Day Trips From Osaka
- 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