COUNTRY GUIDE

Japan

Travellers to Japan invariably notice the cultural fixation on perfection that pervades there. It saturates everything from sushi and transportation all the way to the symmetry of Mt. Fuji and the timelessness of Kyoto. Travelling in Japan is a powerfully evocative experience beckoning visitors to imagine a world without flaws.

Airlines

International:
See below under Arrival in Japan.

Domestic:
Several airlines currently operate domestic routes in Japan. These include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Peach Aviation, Solaseed Air, Air Do, StarFlyer, Skymark Airlines, Jetstar Japan, and Spring Airlines Japan. With the exception of JAL and ANA, all of the airlines listed above are low-cost carriers (LCCs). Several smaller, regional airlines also operate domestic passenger services.

All of the previously mentioned airlines have fleets consisting of Boeing and Airbus planes.

Airport Tax

Since January 2019, a departure tax has been levied on all international flights departing from Japan. Known as the International Tourist Tax, this tax is already included in the price of all international airplane and cruise tickets, and no additional payment is required upon your departure from Japan.

Arrival in Japan

BY AIR
Japan’s two major airlines are Japan Airlines (JAL), and All Nippon Airways (ANA), which fly both domestic and international routes.

Consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on flights to Japan. Discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals. Major airlines flying to Japan include: Air France, Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, British Airways and many more.

BY LAND AND SEA
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands and shares no land borders with any other country. Islands within the archipelago can be reached by air, ferry, train, or by car.

International ferries and cruise ships sail to Japan from Russia, South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Arrival Formalities

Tourists from visa-exempt countries can obtain a temporary 90-day visitor’s visa on arrival in Japan.

Visitors from non-visa-exempt countries must obtain a visa from their local Japan diplomatic mission before arriving in Japan.

The government of Japan is planning to introduce an electronic visa system by April 2020 to simplify the process of obtaining a visa to
enter the country.

In the event that you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival please proceed to the visa counter and read the visa section below. If you do not need a visa on arrival, you should proceed direct to the immigration counter.

ATMs

Withdrawing cash with your international bank card in any of the Japanese banks is not usually possible. You can withdraw cash at a Japan Post ATM, 7-Eleven, or FamilyMart convenience store ATM, all of of which accept international VISA/MasterCard/AMEX/JCB cards and have the option for other languages, including English, on the interface. Convenience stores can be found all over Japan, even in rural areas, and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Clothing

The dress code in Japan is casual.

A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season (June). Evenings outside of the summer (June – September) can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Woolly hats, scarves, and gloves may also be necessary depending on the region.

Shoes must be removed before entering ryokan, traditional restaurants, private homes, and any rooms with tatami mats. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without laces and which can easily be taken off.

Credit Cards

Japan has generally been a cash-only society and although this is slowly changing, in most traditional establishments, shops and restaurants, card payments are not possible. Check with the cashier before making any purchases.

Most credit cards are accepted in Japan. VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted. JCB and AMERICAN EXPRESS are also accepted in some outlets.

Do

Beyond the neon technological image of Japan lies an ancient, devout culture, stepped in history and tradition, a culture which EXO knows intimately and presents to you here in our range of in depth private tours of Japan. Whatever you interests and travel needs, our local travel consultants are ready to tailor your perfect Japan tour.

2 Days / 1 Night
Hakone and Mt Fuji

Sunrise From Fuji’s Summit

  • Travel to Fuji 5 Lakes Area
  • Hike with English-speaking guide
  • Overnight on Mt. Fuji
  • Witness sunrise from Mt. Fuji
  • Explore Mt. Fuji’s crater
3 Days / 2 Nights
Hiroshima and West

Okayama’s Hidden Treasures

  • Explore Okayama Castle
  • Visit ancient Achi Shrine
  • Discover Kurashiki’s heritage
  • Wander through Korakuen Garden
  • Admire art at Ohara Museum
15 Days / 14 Nights
Central Japan and the Alps

Western Japan Multi-Activity Adventure

  • Discover ancient routes of Nakasendo Walk
  • Explore UNESCO town of Kyoto on bicycle
  • Learn about iconic art & architecture of Naoshima
  • Trek up Mount Aso with stunning views of the region
  • Visit the famous Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine of Yakushima Island

Electricity

Japan uses 100V which is different from most other regions of the world (Central Europe is 230V). Japanese electrical plugs are the same as North American plugs with two pins.

It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor when travelling to Japan.

Generally, international electrical equipment such as chargers will work, but things like hair dryers may not work or may get damaged due to the voltage difference.

Entertainment

There are plenty of entertainment options in Japan and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A typical form of entertainment in Japan is karaoke, with many establishments all over the country remaining open 24 hours.

A variety of restaurants operate in Japan, with everything from Japanese, Asian, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.

Food

The cuisine of Japan goes beyond sushi and raw fish and the quality is widely appreciated. Other typical Japanese dishes you can expect to try include tempura, yakitori, donburi, ramen, udon and soba.

Many Japanese dishes include dashi (fish stock) so it is important for vegetarian guests to check for this.

In Japan the presentation of food is very important particularly with traditional kaiseki, which is served in ryokan (traditional inns). For those who stay in Buddhist temple lodging (shukubo) the food served is vegetarian cuisine.

Health

Whilst no vaccinations are compulsory for travel to Japan, there may be some that are recommended. We therefore suggest that prospective travellers refer to their own government’s Foreign Travel Advice website, and to seek the expert opinion of a qualified medical practitioner in their home country prior to travel.

There is no risk of malaria or yellow fever in Japan and there are no certificate requirements for those heading to Japan arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. Healthcare in Japan is of a high quality but medication and drugs are expensive, so it’s recommended to take any prescription drugs you need with you. However, please be aware that it is prohibited to take certain medicines into Japan without obtaining specific documentation (such as Codeine or any narcotics).
If you have any other prescription medicines that you need to take into Japan, you should bring a copy of the relevant prescriptions. You should also keep the original packaging and not transfer the medication into travel pill boxes or something similar.

Hours of Business

Offices are open Monday to Friday from 09:00-17:00 and are usually closed on weekends.

Department stores and shops are usually open between 10:00 and 20:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.

Internet

Hotels in Japan have wireless broadband access in the rooms or public areas, including some traditional ryokan.

Japan has an exceptional amount of cafés and restaurants offering free WiFi. WiFi is also available at the convenience stores, the major train stations and subways in Tokyo.

For Self Guided days, pocket WiFi is recommended and can be arranged by EXO.

Language

The national language of Japan is Japanese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people do speak basic English, particularly in restaurants and in the train stations. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English.

Signs in Japan are written in Japanese and roman characters, and in some major train stations also Chinese and Korean.

Announcements are made in English on the bullet trains and subways in the cities so it is possible to travel around without reading Japanese unless travelling in remote areas.

Money

The currency in Japan is Japanese Yen (JPY). Hotels, shops and restaurants will only accept Japanese Yen for payment. In the major
cities there are some currency exchange offices that operate long hours near places frequented by tourists, and most hotels will have currency exchange machines at reasonable rates.

Current exchange rate (March 2020) approx. 1 USD = 108 JPY; 1 Euro = 120 JPY.

Bills are available in the following denominations: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen. Although 2,000 yen bills can be used anywhere, they are hardly in circulation and are rarely seen. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen so change can build up quickly.

Post Mail

Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites, and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks.

A postcard can be sent from Japan to anywhere in the world for a flat rate of 70 yen.

Public Holidays

1 January
Fri
New Year's Day in Japan
11 January
Mon
Coming of Age Day
11 February
Thu
National Foundation Day
23 February
Tue
Emperor's Birthday
20 March
Sat
Spring Equinox
29 April
Thu
Golden Week Holiday
29 April
Thu
Showa Day
3 May
Mon
Constitution Memorial Day
4 May
Tue
Green Day
5 May
Wed
Children's Day
22 July
Thu
Sea Day
23 July
Fri
Sports Day
8 August
Sun
Mountain Day
13 August
Fri
Obon Holiday
20 September
Mon
Respect for the Aged Day
23 September
Thu
Autumn Equinox Day
3 November
Wed
Culture Day
23 November
Tue
Labour Thanksgiving Day
30 December
Thu
Year End Holiday

Reading List

  • Culture Shock! Japan. A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette Japan’s unique customs and code of etiquette are the glue that bind this harmonious society together – Culture Shock! Japan give’s a useful insight into what to do (and not to do) in Japan.
  • Japan – A Modern History – James L McLain – Catch up on Japan’s last 400 years as they went from an insular, feudal empire ruled by a Shogun to a modern country with the world’s third largest economy.
  • Dogs and Demons – Alex Kerr – An inside look on Japan and a surprising assessment of the failures and successes of modern Japan.
  • Musashi – Eiji Yoshikawa – This epic novel about Japan’s most famous samurai charts Musashi’s rise from young swordsman to reluctant hero to warrior pilgrim. Don’t miss.
  • Naomi – Junichiro Tanizaki – Set in the early 20th century, this comical tale gives a fascinating insight into traditional Japan’s first encounters with Western influence and modernization.

Religion

The two main religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. It is common for Japanese people to practice both religions simultaneously.

Although religion does not play a major part in most Japanese people’s lives, there are many events and festivals with religious
backgrounds such as New Year and Obon.

Safety

Japan is a very safe country to visit and the crime rate is low. As a global rule, never leave your valuables unattended and always
maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags.

It is quite common in Japan that if you lose an item it will be left where it was so you can find it again, or if it is a valuable item it will be handed to shop staff, a koban (police box), or a lost property office if in a public space such as a metro or train station. This cannot be
guaranteed however, so it is always best to exercise caution and look after your belongings.

Although unlikely, there is always a possibility of petty crime during your time in Japan, and you can receive help at a local koban (police box).

See

Go beyond Japan’s popular tourist spots and enjoy an authentic experience of the country on one of our best day trips in Japan. Enjoy dinner in the presence of an apprentice geisha, practice Japanese drumming, or cycle rice paddies and rural villages. Browse our selection and find experiences that best suit your travel needs.

Hiroshima
Evening

Hiroshima Gourmet Walk

  • Discover Hiroshima’s food scene in this unique tour
  • Enjoy the ambience of the city and see how the locals spend their evenings
  • Sample delicious food and drinks in one of the most retro shopping arcades
Japan
Evening

Flavours of Osaka Food Tour

  • Enjoy the lively Osaka nightlife while sampling some of the best dishes the city has to offer
  • Venture on a sybaritic escapade with a charismatic, food-loving guide
  • Experience the heart and soul of the city, which is deeply connected to its food culture
Hiroshima
Half Day

Hiroshima by Bike

  • Explore the modern city of Hiroshima in this one-of-a-kind bike tour
  • Retrace the city’s atomic bomb heritage by visiting monuments dating back to 1945
  • Experience the rebirth of Hiroshima and its transformation into a vibrant city

Shopping

Shopping in Japan ranges from 100 yen shops to high-end fashion boutiques and department stores, with many stalls selling the latest electronics and fashion brands.

Typical Japanese souvenirs are things like green tea (matcha), folding fans, kimono/yukata, kitchen knives and ceramics.

Fans of kawaii culture, anime, and manga will find all sorts of merchandise in various stores around Japan.

Stay

It’s not hard to be impressed by Japan. Efficient cities, gorgeous natural wonders, delicious cuisine, polite and inquisitive locals; it’s no surprise this country is becoming a great favorite among many travelers to Asia. To make your stay comfortable during your trip, we’ve curated a list of best hotels in Japan, well known for their good reputation and loved by our clients.

Okayama

Hotel Granvia Okayama

Osaka

The St. Regis Osaka

Hiroshima and West

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima

Telephone

If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad.

Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas.

With a SIM-free phone, you can purchase a prepaid SIM at the airport or any electronics store and use a local number.

Time

Japan Standard Time is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, expressed as GMT +9. Japan does not follow Daylight Saving Time.

Tipping

There is no tipping culture in Japan. If you try to give tips to restaurant servers, taxi drivers, or guides they will not accept it and in some cases it can be interpreted as rude.

Service in Japanese culture is very important, so you pay exactly the amount requested and nothing else is expected from you or the staff.

Transportation

The best way to travel around Japan is using the fantastic train system with bullet trains, express trains, and local trains all around the main island of Honshu. There are fewer options for the other islands but it is still possible to get between cities.

Driving is also possible in Japan by obtaining an international license and renting a car. This is recommended more for remote
areas where it can be difficult to travel by public transport.

Travel Checks

Traveller’s Cheques are not accepted in Japan for direct payment. They will need to be cashed at a bank or exchange service if you have them and rates are rarely favourable.

NOTE: Not every bank branch or service can make the exchange for you and they can be difficult to change outside of major cities.

WATER

Tap water in Japan is safe to drink but will be different to the tap water you are used to, so you may wish to use bottled water instead. You can find bottled water in all vending machines in Japan which are all over the country and also in most hotels.

For environmental reasons, to reduce usage of single-use plastic, you may wish to bring your own reusable water bottle or flask and use a free app like MyMizu to find your nearest public location to get free water refills. Around 200,000 refill stations are logged globally.

Weather

Japan experiences a wide variation in weather depending on the season. To avoid extremes in either direction, head there during autumn (September through December) or spring (March through May). Japan’s seasons do, however, offer incentives to travellers, such as cherry blossoms in spring and snow in winter.

REGION
1 Jan
2 Feb
3 Mar
4 Apr
5 May
6 Jun
7 Jul
8 Aug
9 Sep
10 Oct
11 Nov
12 Dec
HOKKAIDO
TOHOKU & THE
JAPANESE ALPS
GOLDEN ROUTE &
SOUTH-WEST
JAPAN (TOKYO,
KYOTO, HIROSHIMA,
KYUSHU &
SHIKOKU)
OKINAWA

Pleasant Weather, No Rain

High Heat and Humidity

Tropical Climate, Possible Intermittent Rain

Tropical Climate, High Chances of Rain

Possible Risk of Typhoons and Storms

Cool to Cold Temperature (At Night)