All you need to know about Japan!

Before we left for Japan, dozens of questions were going through my mind. What would the country be like, what should I pack and how would public transportation be? I wrote down all these questions and I will answer them in this blog.

Is Japan worth a visit?

Absolutely! Japan is one of the most fascinating countries I have ever visited. The culture here is so completely different from that in Europe, sometimes it feels like you are entering a completely different world. The people are incredibly hospitable, the food is very special and the nature beautiful. We travelled through Japan for almost three weeks and saw a lot, but definitely not enough of the country. I am sure we will go back again one day!

Where is Japan?

Japan consists of different islands spread over a length of 2790 kilometres. The country is located in Asia and is surrounded by water. In the west, it borders on the Japanese Sea, in the east on the Pacific Ocean, in the north on the Sea of Ochotsk and in the south on the East China Sea. Neighbouring countries are (when you cross the water) North and South Korea and Russia.

Click here for a detailed itinerary for 20 days in Japan.

Japan itinerary

How far is the flight to Japan?

From the Netherlands, you fly directly to Japan in 13 hours. However, most flights to Japan have a stopover, which means it will take longer. It took us 18 hours to get to Japan and flew to Tokyo Narita Airport. Other major airports for international flights are Tokyo Hanada Airport, Osaka Kansai Airport and Fukuoka Airport.

Tip: are you travelling on a budget or are you flying from Asia to Japan? Then consider flying at Fukuoka Airport. Flights to Fukuoka seem to be much cheaper!

What is the climate in Japan?

Because Japan is spread over such a big area, you have different climates in Japan. There are tropical islands in the south, where it is always nice and warm. In the north, there is a continental climate with mountains where you can go skiing. The rest of Japan has a temperate maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters. The majority of Japan has four seasons, the same as those in Europe. However, the summer is longer in Japan, which runs from mid-May to the end of September.

In what period are you travelling to Japan?

You can visit Japan all year round. Keep in mind the hot summers and the hurricane season that runs from July to November. The chance of encountering a hurricane is especially big in August, September and October. Furthermore, the period you travel to Japan strongly depends on the activities that you want to undertake in Japan. If you are coming here to ski, then it is best to go between December and March. If you visit Japan to see the blooming cherry trees, the months of April and May are suitable. If you prefer to experience the Indian Summer, go from mid-October to the end of November.

Peak season

Most tourists in Japan are Japanese themselves. The Japanese love the blooming cherry trees, making April and May busy months. The same applies to Indian Summer. The busiest periods are also during Japanese holidays, which include:

  • The first week of May – Golden week
  • Mid-August – around the O-Bon festival
  • Around the turn of the year – New Year

What is the time difference with Japan?

All of Japan is in the same time zone. Japan is on GMT+9, and is seven hours ahead of the Netherlands during summertime, and even eight hours during winter time.

What’s in your suitcase to Japan?

That depends entirely on the reason for your visit and the season. Fashion is important, especially in the capital cities.

It can also be useful to bring a raincoat and shoes that you can walk long distances on. We made some beautiful hikes through the Japanese Alps. In addition, we walked tens of kilometres in a day in the cities.

Keep in mind small hotel rooms, so a large suitcase is not always practical. We travelled with backpacks. Also, don’t forget to bring a world plug to Japan.

Wondering what was in our backpack during our trip through Japan? You can find my packing list here!

Which plug do you use in Japan?

Type A and B plugs are available in Japan. The mains voltage in Japan is only 100V (for instance in the Netherlands this is 230V), this means that your equipment will be charged more slowly.

Tip: for a few euros we bought extra change-over plugs from the big Japanese chain BIC Camera because our world plug didn’t turn out to be for the whole wide world.

What is the food like in Japan?

For the one person, Japanse food is delicious, for the other a little less. We expected to eat a lot of fish and sushi in advance, but that was not the case. Sushi is often eaten on special occasions. People also eat a lot of ramen and meat in Japan. Unfortunately I, don’t like Umami, the fifth basic taste, something that is part of many Japanese dishes. In addition, I don’t eat meat, so sometimes finding food was a bit of a challenge for me. Eventually, I ate a lot of Onigirazu, a kind of sushi sandwich that you could buy for less than 1€ in every 7/11 shop. Overall we often bought food at the 7/11 shop which is very cheap.

Tip: you can buy a kind of packed lunch in 7/11 or other budget stores and at stations. For five to nine euros you get a complete meal with all kinds of small dishes and snacks.

There are also many small bakeries in Japan. Here they sell delicious sweet rolls. We often bought our lunch here, which we then ate in a park or on the way.

Tip: are you travelling on a budget? Then go to the supermarket at the end of the day. Then the sushi meals are considerably discounted because they can no longer be sold the next day!

Do people speak English well in Japan?

No, they speak little English. Especially the slightly older Japanese find it scary to speak English, young people generally like to practice their English with you. Most signs and signage is both in English and Japanese, so handy!

What is the Internet like in Japan? Does one have 4G?

Internet, like so many other things, is different in Japan than in Europe. People often work here with a kind of portable WiFi boxes (Wireless pocket WiFi) which gives you a daily limit. You often get such a WiFi box at your hotel/hostel. For us this was very convenient, so we were connected everywhere without having to switch on our own mobile network.

In almost all of Japan, there is 4G. However, this is on a different bandwidth than in the rest of the world. Long and complicated story short: in remote areas you have 4G but with a very weak signal. We noticed this in Wakayama, where we made a three-day pilgrimage. We had little or no reach here in many places.

Is Japan expensive?

We found Japan not too bad. The country is known as a pricey country and it is absolutely not comparable with countries in Southeast Asia. Yet we could easily stay on budget and many things were not that expensive as we expected.

Here you can read exactly how much money we spend in Japan!

Which currency do you have in Japan? You use the Japanese Yen. At the time of writing (May 2019), one euro equals 124.64 JPY ¥.

Here you will find five handy budget tips for Japan.

Japan Railway

How do you travel around Japan?

Travelling around Japan is very easy but sometimes requires some preparation. We often travelled by public transport. In Tokyo the metro, outside Tokyo, the train. On this website, you can plan your trip in advance and see which type of public transport you can use. We also rented a car for a day. There are also domestic flights, but these are generally quite expensive.

Is driving a car different in Japan?

Apart from driving on the left side of the road, driving is just like in Europe. Generally speaking, the Japanese drive a lot calmer, traffic rules are always respected. Furthermore, it is funny that most cars are also Japanese. They often look like funny boxes on wheels.

What is public transportation like in Japan?

I have never been to a place where public transport is as well organized as in Japan. Everything runs on time. The trains, buses and subways are also spotless. The only drawback to travelling with public transport is that it can be quite expensive. The buses are not so bad, but if you travel by train, be prepared for high prices. A big advantage of some trains is that you can travel super fast with them. Especially with the bullet train, you travel hundreds of kilometres per hour.

If you stay in Japan for a few weeks and you plan to travel a lot, consider purchasing a Japan Railway Pass (JR Pass). This can be very beneficial!

Here you can read everything about the JR Pass, how you can purchase it, how much it costs and on which routes you can use it.

Is Japan safe?

I have been to a few countries where I have felt as safe as in Japan. Everything is well organized, there are rules for everything that people adhere to and nothing is left to chance. I can imagine that this has a downside for the Japanese themselves: there is little room for spontaneity. But as a tourist, it is nice that everything is arranged so well.

In addition, the Japanese are the nicest people I have ever met. They are extremely respectful, genuine and are always there to help you. While hiking, cars stopped several times to ask if we needed help, perhaps we were lost, or could be offered a lift. Incredible people, the Japanese!

Do you have a question about Japan that is not listed here? Let me know and I’ll always try to answer them!

Click here to view all my articles on Japan.

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