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Exploring Japan

Travel essentials

To make sure you enjoy your trip to Japan to the fullest, please read the following information.

Passport and Visas

To travel to Japan, your passport must be valid for 6 months upon entering the country and you must have a return ticket. EU and UK passport holders will automatically receive a 90-day visa free of charge when they arrive in Japan. Other nationalities should check with their national Japanese embassy before booking.


We advise you to make a travel appointment with your local medical team a few months prior travelling for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

You do not require any mandatory vaccinations to travel to Japan although some are recommended. We recommend consulting the Japan section in NHS Fit Travel as these have much more specific information.

In general, hygiene standards are high in Japan and street food and drinks, as well as tap water, are safe to consume.


We strongly recommend that you take out a policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues. Please visit our page on travel insurance for further information. It is a good idea to photocopy and scan all relevant documents – passport, travel insurance policy, etc. – and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you, separate from the originals, and digital versions on your smartphone


The electricity currents used throughout Japan are 100V. Japan uses two flat pin plugs, therefore you will need a regular type A adaptor.

Departure fee

Japan has a recently introduced a departure fee of 1,000 JPY(about £7) for both Japanese and foreigners when leaving the country. This tax will be included in your flight tickets so you do not have to worry about queueing for this at the airport.

Time difference: GMT +9


Lighter clothing in the summer is recommended, but jackets are necessary if you plan to explore the Alpine regions. If you are visiting in the spring then bring some warmer clothes as the temperatures drop considerably at night. As a general rule, Japanese locals are always meticulously dressed and you are often expected to do the same. While Japan is less strict when it comes to dress codes than other Asian countries, when visiting temples it is always polite to dress conservatively and with covered shoulders. Easy to slip on/slip off shoes are more practical when visiting temples, or staying in ryokans, as you will be asked to remove your shoes when you enter.

While being there. Laws and Customs:


Touching is considered impolite and hand shaking is not common in the Japanese culture. Simply bowing your head is the safest way to greet people and show gratitude.


There isn’t a tipping culture in Japan because providing good service is considered an understood part of one’s job and is reflected in the price. However, tipping is not “rude” as some guidebooks suggest and in certain situations tips will be welcomed (see below). Do remember that it is bad manners to hand over tipping money directly, and it should always be done discreetly by, for example, leaving the tip in an envelope.

A general guide to tipping in common situations:

  • Restaurants: Tipping is not expected nor welcomed in restaurants. A service charge is already included in the prices.
  • Taxis: Taxi drivers do not expect tips. Private car drivers will welcome tips, but remember to hand them over discreetly. For a full day, we would suggest about 2,000 JPY (approx. £14).
  • Guides: If your guide was exceptional, you might want to reward him or her. The amount is at your discretion, but we would recommend between 2,000 and 5,000 JPY for a full day. Small gifts from your city are also welcomed instead of money.
  • Geisha shows: If you have the luck to attend a private evening with a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha), tips are greatly appreciated especially by maiko who do not receive a salary. Appropriate tips for maiko/geisha are 3,000 – 5,000 JPY or even a 10,000 JPY note. These should always be passed on discreetly in an envelope at the end of the evening. If, however, you are participating in a shared dinner with geisha entertainment, tips aren’t necessary.

Please remember that haggling on prices is an uncommon practice in Japan at any establishment and it is even considered impolite.

Change of shoes

When entering a ryokan or an establishment with tatami mats, you will be asked to take off your shoes and wear slippers provided. During your travels in Japan, at places such as ryokan and Izakaya (Japanese gastropubs), you may notice that there are slippers provided especially for use in the bathroom. When you enter the bathroom, leave your “non-bathroom” slippers outside and switch to the bathroom slippers.

Etiquette (dos and don’ts)

Dos in Japan

• Do bow when greeting someone. Bowing is the customary greeting in Japan, but handshaking is becoming more common especially in business contexts with Westerners. Bowing is a very important custom as it can express many meanings, including respect, gratitude, apology, etc.

• Do learn a few common Japanese phrases before you travel as English is not widely spoken.

• Do pack a few little gifts such as a little souvenir from your home town. It is considered rude to visit a Japanese home without bringing a gift.

• Give and receive gifts with both hands, and do not open a wrapped gift until later.

• Do wash yourself thoroughly before using public baths. The use of public baths is an integral part of daily life in Japan. However, the communal bath is for soaking and you should be clean before you join fellow bathers. All communal baths have an area with small stools, brushes and soaps to wash before you enter the main bathing area.

Don’ts in Japan

• Don’t be overtly affectionate in public. Japanese people do not show affection in public – kissing and hugging in the street are not common scenes and even a pat on the back is considered impolite.

• Don’t enter a Japanese home with your shoes on. It is customary to remove shoes at the door. There will most likely be a pair of slippers set aside for guests.

• If you see a geisha, be respectful when taking pictures. Note that taking pictures of geishas and maiko was recently banned in the communities private streets and homes due to the bad behaviour of some tourists.

• Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking up out of a bowl of rice or any other dish. This positioning is associated with Buddhist funerals in Japan. When you are not using your chopsticks, place them neatly on the small chopstick rest provided.

• Don’t pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks. The only acceptable time to pass something between two people using chopsticks is at a funeral. After a cremation, the remaining bones of the deceased are picked up by a relative with special chopsticks and passed to chopsticks held by another relative who then places the bones into the urn.

• Don’t start drinking until everyone at the table is served and glasses are raised to make a toast. The Japanese drinking salute is “Kampai!”

• The use of public baths forms an integral part of daily life in Japan. The communal bath is for soaking and you should be clean before you join fellow bathers in the communal water. A small stool with brushes and cleaning materials is provided.

• Don’t use your phone or talk loudly on the train.

In the medieval times Tokyo was known as Edo, a small castle town which became Japan´s political center and a few centuries later, Edo grew into one of the world´s most populous cities . Nowadays, Tokyo is one of the world’s most cutting-edge capitals, offering a huge offer of entertainment, dinning, shopping, and culture to visitors.

Tokyo is city of contrasts where you can find the most modern technology, neon-lit landscape and towering skyscrapers but also excellent museums, sprawling parklands, sacred and ancient shrines and temples, and lovingly tended traditional gardens and green spaces in the middle of the city center.

Despite its mania for anime pop culture, fashion, digital trends and discernable consumption, the city embraces an ancient heritage evident in the temples and shrines scattered amongst the vast skyrise.

Almost all travelers to Japan will go through Tokyo and it is definitely worth spending a few nights in this fascinating city. Whilst it is not easy to find boutique hotels in Tokyo, we have put an extra effort into finding the best places to stay for all budgets and tastes.
Kyoto was for more than thousand years the imperial capital of Japan and nowadays is known as the cultural city of the country. With 2,000 religious buildings, including 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens etc it is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan and has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Go back in time to Japan’s mysterious past where echoes of the court nobility resonate at the Imperial Palace and the search for contemplation in the zen gardens, explore the city’s narrow alleyways where tea houses thrive and kimono-clad geisha hurry from elegant function to function.
Hiroshima is notorious for its destruction when the first Atomic Bomb was dropped over the city during the Second World War which obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometre radius. From this absolute annihilation, Hiroshima emerged, phoenix-like, and become a beacon of hope and peace for the rest of mankind.

Many destroyed monuments of the city’s historical heritage had been reconstructed, such as the Shukkeien Garden and the Hiroshima Castle. The city centre boasts a large recreational area named Peace Memorial Park, reflecting the aspirations of this reborn city. Besides excellent museums, Hiroshima is also the most popular gateway for trips to nearby Miyajima, a nearby island considered to be one of Japan’s most scenic spots.
Kanazawa was an important city during the Edo period and became a town with a great cultural scene rivalling with Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). Nowadays, the samurai and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in good condition and you can walk in these streets and imagine how life was in the ancient Japan.

The city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums and its great castle. But Kanazawa´s unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens”, and often considered the most beautiful of them all.
Full of temples, shrines, festivals, rivers and bridges, this beautiful mountain town Takayama has been called “little Kyoto” and has preserved the ancient atmosphere of the Edo era until now. This area is well known not just for its natural environment and preserved culture but also for its delicious food and sake breweries. Local dishes including Hida beef and Hoba miso are highly recommended. More
Hakone is a lovely mountainous town less than hundred miles south of Tokyo on the foothills of Mt Fuji. Traditional inns aka Ryokans and pleasantly relaxing hot springs “Onsen” are the staple attraction in Hakone, with Mt Fuji being its crown jewel. Beautiful Hakone is a natural nature wonderland, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and has about everything a vacationer could wish for. A great destination for hiking, with marvellous views at every turn and plenty of hot springs to soothe any aching muscles after a days of exploring. Besides the towering mountains, lakes and views of Mount Fuji, it is also blessed with interesting historical sites, temples and Shinto Shrines. More
Osaka is the historical commercial capital of Japan and Japan’s second largest metropolis which has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for centuries.

Nowadays Osaka, is one of Japan’s most vibrant cities, known for its lively people, large aquarium, underground shopping arcade, Universal Studios amusement park… and specially famous for its local spectacular cuisine. Its nickname “Tenka no Daidokoro” (the nation’s kitchen) inspired us to create some foodie tours for you to experience the real taste of Osaka.
This picturesque village, famous for its traditional Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukkuri translates as ‘Praying Hands’, as the farmhouses steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer and are designed to withstand the heavy snows which fall in the region.
Miyajima Island. A small sacred island located in the Island Sea, it has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times.

Here you will find perhaps the most photographed site in Japan: The Floating Torii Gate. Designated as one of Japan’s ‘Most Beautiful Views’, the shrine it belongs to dates back to the 6th century. The harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill, and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nikko had been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries before Toshogu was built in the 1600s, and Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails.

Kamakura is a beautiful historical town located one hour away from Tokyo by public transport. Home to a collection of beautiful temples, shrines and impressive large buddhist statues.

Kawagoe is a delightful city west of Tokyo, usually called “Little Edo” because it still preserves the atmosphere of the ancient Tokyo (Edo is the old name of the capital).
The old storehouse merchant houses are lined up, and the Toki-no-kane (Bell Tower)
rings to tell the time. Take a stroll through the town in a kimono and
you'll feel as if you've travelled back in time to ancient Edo. In Kawagoe, you can
experience the traditional and pure Japan which you can't see in Tokyo.
Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most iconic images, instantly recognisable for its snowcapped symmetric beauty. Still an active volcano to this day, at 3766 meters it is the country’s highest mountain. More

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