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  • January 17, 2018
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Japan Travel Essentials

Travel tips for when you book your next trip to Japan, the country that truly has it all!

Airports

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Narita International Airport (Tokyo)

Narita Airport is located 60 km to the east of central Tokyo. Airport fees are included in the flight fares to all overseas destinations if departing from Narita Airport.

Haneda Airport, Formally Tokyo International Airport (Tokyo)

Haneda Airport is located 15 km from central Tokyo. As Japan's largest domestic hub airport, Haneda Airport serves almost all domestic flights but also serves many international flights.

Kansai International Airport (Osaka)

Kansai International Airport is located in southeast Osaka Bay, 5 km off the coast and about 60 km. from JR Shin-Osaka Station. Airport fees are included in the flight fares to all overseas destinations if departing from Kansai Airport.

Central Japan International Airport (Nagoya)

Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) is on a man-made island located 35 km to the south of Nagoya City. Airport fees (2500 yen) are included in the flight fares to all overseas destinations if departing from Central Japan International Airport. For the domestic flight, arriving and departing passengers are also required to pay airport fees (300 yen, included in the flight fares).

Local Airports

Some local airports in Japan handle domestic and international flights. If you want to go for skiing in Hokkaido during winter or visit resorts in Okinawa during summer, a direct flight is more convenient. Most international flights to local airports are from Asian cities.

Clothing

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Winter (December - February)

Clothing: overcoats, sweaters, etc.

Spring (March - May)

Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.

Summer (June - August)

Clothing: light clothes (cardigans and other similar kinds are handy, since indoors are mostly air-conditioned.)

Autumn (September - November)

Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.

Currency

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Currency and Money Exchange

There is no limit on the amount of any currency that may be brought into or taken out of Japan. However, if you transport (any currencies, checks, securities or other monies) exceeding 1,000,000 yen worth in Japanese currency into or out of the country then you must complete a customs declaration.

The unit of Japanese currency is yen. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen and bank notes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen.

You can buy yen at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money exchangers. At the international airports, currency exchange counters are usually open during normal office hours. The exchange rate fluctuates daily depending on the money market.

Travelers Checks and Credit Cards

Travelers Checks are accepted by leading banks, hotels, ryokan (Japanese inns) and stores in major cities.

International credit cards such as American Express, VISA, Diners Club and MasterCard are also acceptable at these major establishments. However, credit card transactions are not always convenient outside big cities so obtaining cash beforehand is recommended when you travel to the countryside.

ATMs

Foreign credit and cash cards can be used at Post Office and Seven Bank ATMs throughout Japan.

There are over 26,000 Post Office ATMs in Japan and post offices which provide this service display stickers indicating which cards are accepted. Cards from the Cirrus, PLUS, Maestro and Visa Electron networks can be used. Accepted credit cards include VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club.

Language

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There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many Japanese are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education.

Even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still certainly enjoy Japan. But if you know a few everyday Japanese phrases then it will make your trip even more memorable. A few words make a big difference.

Medical

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Drinking Water

Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Japan. Mineral water including major imported brands can be easily obtained from super markets, convenience stores and other similar places.

Hospitals

Medical systems and facilities in Japan are well established so that you can expect to receive a high standard medical treatment, should you have a problem with your health during your stay.

Tipping

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Tipping is not required in Japan for service in places like hotels, taxis, restaurants, and beauty salons. Fees for service are already included in the bill. It is ok to assume that tipping is not necessary at all when in Japan.

Transportation

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Railway

The railway system in Japan has a high reputation for punctuality and safety.

Tickets for short distances are available from ticket machines that are installed at each train station whereas tickets for long distances and reservations are dealt with at ticket offices at major stations.

To use the train, first purchase a ticket at a vending machine or ticket window. After buying the ticket, you can proceed through the ticket gate. Insert the ticket into the slot, walk through the gate and pick up the ticket on the other side. If you insert an invalid ticket, the gate will close and an alarm will sound. Please keep the ticket since it must be returned at your destination. Most stations display station names in both Japanese and alphabet lettering on platform signboards. The name of the station is in large letters in the center of the sign; names of adjacent stations appear below or to either side.

For a visitor, JR's Japan Rail Pass offers excellent value and convenience. The Rail Pass is available only to sightseeing visitors and must be bought outside of Japan. It gives the bearer unlimited travel on JR lines and affiliated buses and ferries.

Bus

Highway bus / Local buses

Bus service is available in all cities, but can sometimes be a bit difficult for non-Japanese speaking visitors to use. JR operates long-distance buses between Tokyo and other major cities (JR Bus Network). Though travel takes longer, sometimes due to heavy traffic, fares are cheaper than Shinkansen train fares. Other bus companies provide bus travel between major cities as well. Benefits of Night Buses include money saving on a night's accommodation, good riding comfort and economical travel even in daytime on routes good for sightseeing.

Highway bus Highway buses run mainly on expressways. There are many bus services linking cities to cities or cities to tourist spots. Traveling by a highway bus is generally less expensive than by an airplane or the railway. Highway buses are also called long distance buses or overnight buses (they run at night).

The arrival and departure schedules might be delayed due to traffic congestion or accidents, etc.

Taxi

Taxis are widely available and can usually deliver customers to addresses written in Japanese or on business cards. If the red light in the lower left corner of the windshield is lit, then the cab is free and it can be flagged down. Be careful when approaching a taxi's left rear door: it is opened and closed automatically from within by the driver.

Car Rental

Car Rental services are available in most large and medium-sized cities as well as at airports and major train station, with international driver's licenses recognized.

Visa Info

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Any foreign visitor who wishes to enter Japan must have a passport, which will remain valid during the period of stay.

Nationals of many countries are eligible to enter Japan without a visa unless the purpose of the visit is to reside in Japan, to obtain employment or to otherwise engage in remunerative activities.

Weather

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Winter (December - February)

The temperature rarely drops below 0°C in the plains along the Pacific coast during wintertime. It is also quite dry and very often sunny. Central Japan and Northern Japan are highly reputed regions for winter sports. Southern Japan is comparatively mild and pleasant in winter.

Spring (March - May)

The plum blossom is a good sign that the cold winter will soon end and spring is just around the corner, followed by the cherry blossom at its best in the Tokyo area between the end of March and the beginning of April to bring this beautiful season to a climax. Splendid views of mountains, fields and gardens all blanketed in gentle pink abound in this season. 

Summer (June - August)

The Japanese summer begins in June with a three to four week rainy season. This is an important time for farmers to plant rice. It becomes seriously hot and humid from July onward and many Japanese enjoy bathing in the sea and relaxing at cool resorts in mountainous areas. Summer is when many interesting festivals and other events are held all over the country. 

Autumn (September - November)

Autumn always brings such freshness with a light breeze and cool temperature after the hot and humid summer. All forests are dyed in glorious autumn colors. Chrysanthemums create beautiful displays with their abundance of flowers to enchant visitors to parks and gardens. Autumn is also the season for many exhibitions, music concerts and sports tournaments in Japan.