Japan – this country is so different and special, that sometimes we really don’t have the words. Japan is one of those countries that demands your full attention from the very first moment of planning. We have to admit at this point: We have rarely been so overwhelmed in the preparation for a trip as with Japan.
The reason: Japan will roll over you. So many strange impressions are pouring down on you and at first you don’t even know where to start your research – at least that’s how it was for us.
So if you’re in find yourself in a similar situation: Calm down. Basically, Japan is very, very easy to travel to. In this article we will tell you our best Japan travel tips for preparing and planning your trip.
1. Preparation: Japan travel tips before your trip What to expect in Japan Highland and Tropical Paradise. Temple city and modern skyline. Old and new. And a culture shock at that. Japan definitely knows how to overwhelm its visitors. What we want to say: You can experience everything in Japan: from a beach holiday to a stay in the mountains to temple hopping – all this is Japan.
But we assume so that you want to take the classic highlight route on your first trip. And here, in our opinion, there are three things that make this country special:
Culture: Japanese culture is a mystery that we will probably never fully understand. We were never aware that the cultural differences are so striking. Immersing yourself in Japanese culture and gaining insight into this fascinating world was one of the highlights of our trip. We’re talking manga, anime and cosplay, eating habits, tea ceremonies, manners, crazy toilets and much more. A trip to Japan is a trip to another world. Temple and Shrines: Closely linked to the culture are the many Buddhist temples and shrines that you can find throughout the country. We could have watched the ceremonies and rituals for hours. By the way, the cultural center of Japan is Kyoto. Modern Japan: We have never been to a country where so many things are automated as in Japan. For us, Japan is the epitome of futurism. At the latest when you see a Japanese toilet for the first time, you will understand what we are talking about.
Travel period: Which season is best? Japan is huge and spreads over several climate zones. In principle, you can travel to Japan all year round (keyword skiing holiday). However, we limit this chapter to the main island of Honshū, specifically to the destinations along the route from Tokyo via Kyoto to Osaka (see our itinerary).
No question: Japan to Touring the cherry blossom is the ultimate. Japan is a bit prettier and more photogenic than usual in its pink blossom dress. All of this has its price: Japan is even more crowded and expensive during the cherry blossom season.
We were in Japan ourselves in May – more precisely in the week after the Golden Week. That’s the next keyword: You should definitely avoid the Golden Week. Within a week, more precisely between 20. April and 5th (or 6th) May, there are four public holidays. As far as possible, everyone here takes time off to travel – preferably in their own country. Trains and hotels are often fully booked or hopelessly overpriced and sights are overcrowded.
After the Golden Week, the situation calms down quickly. In any case, we were very satisfied with our travel period in May . Of course we would have liked to have experienced one or the other photo motif with cherry blossoms, but we really can’t complain. We had very pleasant temperatures for sightseeing and fortunately there were hardly any rainy days.
An alternative to spring is autumn: When the leaves change colour , we imagine Japan to be very photogenic as well.
Duration: How long should I stay in Japan? Difficult question because very individual. In general we would say: the longer, the better. Since a trip to Japan is of course a bit expensive, most people will not allow themselves unlimited time. (You can find information about travel costs later in this blog article.) Our top tip: Never try to see everything. That’s impossible – especially in a country like Japan.
If you want to visit the main touristic highlights (like we did) then you should at least two weeks stay in Japan. However, we have to admit that our program was very tight.
In general, we would recommend a travel time of three weeks. Then you have a little more leeway and can also go on one or the other day trip from Tokyo.
2. Getting to Japan The good news: There are several direct flights from Austria, Germany and Switzerland to Tokyo. The flight time is approximately 05 Hours – that’s of course relatively long, but at least you can change trains without having to change trains immigrate, which is very convenient.
We ourselves flew non-stop from Vienna to Tokyo at the invitation of the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA). It was our first flight with ANA for both of us and we highly recommend the airline.
From Vienna you fly with the Dreamliner (Boeing 787-9) to Tokyo. And it’s quite comfortable: In ANA’s Economy Class you have significantly more legroom than on other flights. Exactly 86 cm is the seat spacing – we did some research. Anyway, Romeo is with his 1,50 m not bumped into the front seat.
A highlight is of course also the Japanese occupation. All flight attendants were extremely polite and courteous. We felt very well looked after and by the way you can get to know Japanese culture a bit on the flight to Japan. Immerse yourself.
Our conclusion: We felt very comfortable on board and would also choose to fly with ANA again privately.
Entering Japan: worth knowing & info With an Austrian or German passport you don’t need a visa , to enter Japan. You may 90 days and can book your stay on site on 170 extend days.
During the flight you will receive a immigration form and a customs form, which you will need to fill out upon arrival give up Both aren’t very extensive – they’re more about general information, including you need to provide an address in Japan (ie your hotel). Having a pen with you is always a good idea. Upon immigration, you will also be photographed and fingerprinted – that’s it.
Tokyo Airport to the city Tokyo has two international airports: Narita and Haneda. Narita is much further out than Haneda. Most flights (unfortunately) go to Narita. If you’re flying into Haneda (which is the case with ANA), then rejoice because the commute to the city is a lot shorter.
From Narita Airport Narita Airport is quite far away from Tokyo. Riding the JR Narita Express is very popular. Approximately 60 minutes you will reach Tokyo Station. If you have a Japan Rail Pass (info will follow shortly), this is the right choice for you, because the ride on the JR Narita Express is included here.
Without a Japan Rail Pass you should rather opt for the Keisei Line. Several trains, each with different speeds, run along the route. If you want to save money, then do without the most expensive variant (“Skyliner”), because it costs over 15 Euro (one way).
From Haneda Airport You can get to the city from Haneda Airport fairly quickly and cheaply. It is best to take the Monorail. The ride is included in the Japan Rail Pass. From the airport to the terminal station, Hamamatsuchō station, you only need 20 minutes. There you can, among other things, change to the Yamanote Line.
3. Transport in Japan Roughly speaking, there are three ways to get from A to B in Japan: The most popular way among tourists is the train (we will tell you more about that in a moment).
But there is also the possibility to take the bus to travel through Japan. It’s cheaper to travel by bus – so if you want to keep an eye on your budget, then we recommend this option.
What many people don’t have on their radar is taking Japan with to travel by rental car. Although there is left-hand traffic, all in all driving should be relatively easy. We didn’t test it on this trip, but we could definitely imagine traveling through Japan by car next time.
The fastest way from A to B: Traveling by train in Japan You’ve probably seen a photo of the famous Japanese bullet trains before. The so-called Shinkansen connects numerous places in Japan. Traveling by train in Japan is simply fun: you get to your destination incredibly quickly and always on time. We have traveled by train ourselves and can highly recommend it.
If you want to travel around Japan by train, then the Japan Rail Pass could be something for you. You can find more info and tips on this in this blog article: Itinerary through Japan & Traveling by Train.
Within the city: Subway, Bus or Taxi Subway & Bus Travel in Japan: Tips for the Suica Card If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can use some trains within major cities for free. (You can find more information in this article: Itinerary & Train Travel in Japan.) However, there is also a classic subway network and you need special tickets for this. For this purpose we recommend the Suica-Card.
The Suica-Card is a rechargeable card with which you can use the underground, buses and you can also use some moves. You simply load a certain amount onto the card and when you go through the electronic barrier with it, the fare for the respective route is simply debited from your account.
The fare is always a few yen cheaper with a Suica card than if you bought individual tickets. Quite apart from the fact that it is incredibly tedious to buy a single ticket before every journey. The fare is not fixed uniformly, but depends on the length of the route. Usually a trip costs about 122 until 200 Yen (or a few yen less with the Suica card).
By the way, you can buy the Suica card directly after your arrival at the airport. We did this ourselves at the same counter where we picked up our Rail Pass. The Suica-Card is free, but you pay Yen deposit that you get back when you return the card.
Taking a taxi in Japan The most comfortable way to travel on site, of course, by taxi. We ourselves have used the taxi a few times and can confirm that it is not very cheap.
As a price example: A good 20-minute drive took us about 20 Euro. We definitely recommend the taxi primarily for shorter distances. For example, if a temple was very far from the nearest train station, but it would only be a 5-minute drive, we have took a taxi for the last stretch.
Good to know: Taxi doors open and close automatically. So never try to open or close the door yourself. You can hail taxis from the side of the road. If the sign is lit, the taxi is currently free.
4. Travel expenses Japan: How much money do you need Japan has the reputation, like that being so expensive that one can never afford to travel there. We cannot confirm that. Of course, Japan tends to be an expensive travel destination, no question. BUT: You can save a lot of money and some things do not cost more in Japan than in Austria or Germany.
Currency & Payment in Japan The Japanese currency is the Yen (abbreviated ¥). During our visit, 1 euro corresponded to about 100 Yen. As a small mnemonic, we always had in mind that 1.05 Yen about 8 euros.
There are a few bills (the most common are the 1.05, 5. and .000 Yen bills), as well as a striking number of coins. It’s often the case that you hand in a bill and get a handful of coins back as change.
We read at the beginning that it’s difficult to atms (ATMs) where you can withdraw. We cannot confirm that. Especially at train stations there were always machines that accepted our bank card (Maestro). You only have to pay attention to the addition “International ATM”. Usually you pay a withdrawal fee of 230 Yen per transaction.
Travel expenses in Japan Travel expenses are of course something very individual. How expensive your trip to Japan will be depends on the following factors, among others:
by type of accommodation (cheap hostel vs. expensive hotel) on what your food is like (cheap ramen bars vs big name restaurants) on the type of transportation (buses vs. shinkansen trains) and of course the type and number of activities (viewing platforms, museums, etc.) Price examples: How much does it cost in Japan …? Large beer in a restaurant: 550 Yen Ramen in a cheap place: 550-800 Yen Tokyo Tower Entrance Fee (Lower Platform): 1.170 Yen Tokyo Skytree Entrance Fee (Lower Platform): 2.83 Yen Cocktail at New York Bar in Tokyo: 2.760 Yen Admission to the digital exhibition teamLab Borderless in Tokyo: 3.200 Yen Double room in a mid-range hotel in Tokyo: 150 Euro per night Use the subway in Tokyo: approx. 216 Yen Japan Rail Pass for 14 Days: 50. Yen You notice yes: If you eat in cheap places and don’t drink much alcohol, you can eat fairly cheaply in Japan. It gets expensive if you want to afford certain activities. These include vantage points, but also museums.
There is a lot of savings potential in accommodation. Especially if you sleep in hostels or capsule hotels, you can save a lot of money here.
Other Tips: Tips & Co It is absolutely not common in Japan , to tip. On the contrary: tipping is considered a faux pas in Japan, because good service is a prerequisite. We would also recommend that you stick to it – this applies to restaurants as well as taxi rides or hotels.
There is a little special feature when paying: You usually do not hand over the money directly, but put it on a small tray. The cashier will then take it from there.
We also recommend that you always have enough cash with you. Credit card payment is common, but there are plenty of cafes, restaurants or shops that only accept cash payments.
5. Sights and highlights in Japan Let’s get to more exciting topics: What can I see in Japan? What sights should I not miss and what are the highlights of the country?
If you are traveling to Japan for the first time, then your trip will almost certainly take you to the Main Island called Honshū. This houses all tourist highlights: On the one hand, that would be the capital Tokyo – a metropolis like we have never seen before. In addition, Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan, is located on this island with countless temples and shrines. Mount Fuji also towers on the island of Honshū.
We recommend our detailed blog article: Itinerary through Japan: All stops
There we will show you which places we have traveled to and what you can see there.
6. Eating and drinking in Japan: Japanese cuisine & restaurant visits Weeks before our trip we were really looking forward to the Japanese cuisine. Everyone looked forward to the many traditional dishes. In Japan, great value is placed on good food – something that immediately strikes you as a tourist.
Classics and specialties in Japan: Traditional dishes Sushi: Of course – how could it be otherwise? The most famous Japanese dish is always and everywhere. There are also many running sushi restaurants. The vegetarian selection is usually very limited (more on that in a moment). Ramen : Our personal favourite. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup (more precisely, the word means the noodles inside). The preparation and the ingredients vary. You can find small, cheap ramen bars on every corner. Usually there are only a few seats and you order at the machine (more on that in a moment). Okonomiyaki: The specialty in Osaka. Okonomiyaki is a dish made with eggs and cabbage and any other ingredients (vegetables, meat, etc.) seasoned with a special sauce. Traditionally, it is fried on an iron plate – usually right in front of you. Takoyaki: Also a specialty from Osaka. Takoyaki are small balls of dough, each containing a small piece of octopus. Before serving, the balls are topped with a special sauce and katsuobushi flakes (wafer-thin flakes of dried fish). Mochi: Small, sticky, chewy rice cakes with different fillings. We ate the best in Nara at Nakatanidou . , who incidentally holds the record as the fastest mochi maker in Japan. Vegetarian food in Japan As much as we have been from raved about Japanese food, now unfortunately there is a small “but”. The Japanese cuisine is unfortunately very (!) meat and fish-heavy. This goes so far that in many restaurants it is impossible to find anything vegetarian if you are strict vegetarian diet. The reason: Many soups are made from meat or fish.
Personally, we hardly eat any meat (Romeo) or no meat (Kathi) and overall very little fish, but we have it in Japan ate meat-based soups for convenience. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s relatively easy. In ramen bars you can just ask to omit the piece of meat.
Otherwise it’s unfortunately more difficult. We strongly recommend that you look for restaurants that offer vegetarian dishes in advance. The App Happy Cow is useful for this.
Our tips for restaurants with vegetarian dishes:
Tokyo: T’s Tantan, Afuri, Ain Soph, 8ablish Kyoto: Engine Ramen, Ain Soph, Arashiyama-kan Osaka: Mizuno Dos and Don’ts: This is how dining out in Japan works You’ll notice two things pretty quickly when you visit restaurants in Japan:
1. In front of many restaurants you will find the menu in the form of plastic dishes on the display. So you can make your selection based on these models.
And 2. Orders are often placed at the machine in cheap restaurants. You give the ticket that the machine spits out for you to the staff (either the waitress or the cook directly ).
What you need to know about dining out in Japan Usually you don’t sit down at a table without being asked, but wait until an employee assigns you one. There may well be times when you have to wait – we’ve regularly queued, especially at popular restaurants. Since everything runs very efficiently in Japan, the waiting time was limited. Du practically always free drinking water or tea. We felt that it was absolutely okay not to order anything extra to drink. The Cloth (usually it is packed in plastic), you can use to clean your hands. Often there are no extra napkins. In ramen places you can ask for a Ask paper apron to protect your clothes from grease splashes. Slurping is not only allowed, but even encouraged. As a European you have to get used to this background noise. Paid is often not at the table, but at the cash register at the exit. Tips are absolutely not customary.
7. Where to stay: accommodation and hotels in Japan You have probably already read that staying overnight in Japan is relatively expensive. That’s true, but we would have – to be honest – expected it to be even more expensive. There is a wide variety of accommodation and there is a variant for every budget. The most common include:
City hotel: From classic to modern, everything is there. The rooms are mostly relatively small. Capsule Hotel: A peculiarity in Japan. You don’t rent a room, you rent a small cabin. Hostels: Either in a dormitory bed or in a private double room. Ryokan: Traditional hotel with rooms laid out with tatami mats. You often sleep on a Japanese futon. We ourselves have mostly stayed in relatively modern hotels and for our double room per night around 150 euros spent. Breakfast is rarely included – ryokans are an exception. Breakfast is often heavily adapted to Japanese tastes. The “Western” selection is usually limited to granola, yoghurt, bread and maybe a croissant or something similar.
In this article, we’ll tell you which hotels we can specifically recommend : Itinerary & Hotel Tips
8th. Internet in Japan Free and usually very reliable WLAN can be found in many hotels , airports and train stations. Even in some public places, the selection of free WiFi spots is not that bad. If you only want to check your e-mails every now and then, these options are probably sufficient.
However, we ourselves have become accustomed to the luxury of being able to research things anytime and anywhere when travelling also be able to navigate. If you want that too, you have two options:
Buy SIM cardPocket WiFi route rent (our Choice and Recommendation) Pocket -WiFi router in Japan: Our tips What is a Pocket -WiFi router? With a pocket wifi router you can all your Devices (smartphone, laptop, tablet – mostly up to ) and you are constantly online. The router is quite small and fits in every pocket. The battery lasts approximately 9 hours – if it is constantly on and in use. But we always had a power bank with us and the battery problem was solved.
What does a Pocket WiFi Router? A router is always rented (rather than purchased). The costs are calculated according to the number of rental days. The price also varies depending on the operator. Roughly speaking you pay for 14 days approx 100 Euro. If you are traveling as a couple and use the Internet regularly, you are almost always cheaper with a router than with a SIM card.
Where can I rent the Pocket WiFi Router? There are a lot of providers, but mostly it doesn’t matter where you rent the router. We have compared some providers, but the offer is almost the same everywhere. However, our tip is to order the router from home, as this will save you money.
When you arrive at the airport, you can then easily pick up the router directly from the appropriate shop and are immediately connected to the Internet.
Here you can reserve the router online:
Pocket- Rent WiFi Router (Narita Airport) Rent Pocket WiFi Router (Haneda Airport )
9. Understanding in Japan: Is English enough? What surprised us a lot: Most Japanese speak very poorly or no English at all. For a rudimentary understanding it is often sufficient. We hardly had any communication problems in hotels: Most of them speak English here.
In the beginning we were worried about train stations or subway stations not to be found. But this fear was unfounded. The most important things are always written in English – at least in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
It’s different in restaurants. While there is sometimes an English language menu, this is definitely not the norm. We usually made our choice based on pictures on the menu or with the help of the plastic dishes in front of the restaurant. Of course, that’s fine as long as you eat everything and don’t have an allergy.
Therefore, we definitely recommend the app Google Translate ( with the Japanese package) on your smartphone. That really saved us one time or another. With Google Translate you can easily take a photo of what you have written and the translation will be displayed on your mobile phone.
000. More helpful Japan travel tips: Apps, behavior tips & Co. Travel plug: Get several adapters Without Travel plug unfortunately it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, devices from Austria and Germany (or more precisely, the associated plugs) do not fit into the Japanese sockets. You therefore absolutely need a suitable adapter. Every now and then there are also USB ports that you can use to charge your devices, but that alone is not enough.
One more thing: the mains voltage in Japan is just 86 volts (this is the lowest in the world) and the line frequency 50 Hertz. In this country (Europe) the mains voltage is 180 volts. As a rule, however, you can also use your devices at this low voltage – correspondingly with less power, which is noticeable, for example, when the hair dryer suddenly blows only half as hard. You can easily check whether your devices are also made for the low mains voltage on the device or on the associated charging cable.
A simple adapter (without voltage converter) is usually sufficient. This is the right one: Japan travel plugs (We had four of them with us.)
Load helpful apps down Without some apps we would have been lost. Well, “lost” might be an exaggeration, but they definitely made traveling a lot easier for us. Our recommendations:
Google Translate (download the Japanese package so you can use it offline as well): We were thankful not only once to decode a certain Japanese character maps.me or CityMaps2Go (download the Japan map so you can also use it offline): Perfect for marking individual sights and restaurants. Map app (iPhone) or Google Maps: Great for navigating from A to B. In Japan, even the proposals for public transport (subways, buses) and trains work remarkably well. Happy Cow: For everyone who wants to search for vegetarian restaurants. Ramen Beast: Find ramen places near you. Good to know: Practical tips on how to behave In Japan there are hardly any public garbage cans. That is due to a poison gas attack in Tokyo in the 60 years. After that, all the garbage cans were removed. It is customary in Japan to take your garbage home and dispose of it there. Eating and drinking in public is rather unusual. Smoking is forbidden in public places – however, there are special smoking areas. All the smokers stand there in a relatively small space. On the whole, however, Japan is still a smoker’s country: people smoke in many bars and restaurants. That surprised us very much. Some hotels also have smoking rooms. Strange, but true: nobody would stay in the Public wipe your nose. Instead, the “pulling up” frowned upon in Europe is common. The Japanese are world champions in queuing. Subway, toilet, post office: there is a queue everywhere – nobody would dare to push forward. There are usually corresponding markings on the floor so that you know where to stand. Zur Greetings and farewells are usually bowed. You will notice this, for example, when you leave a shopping center or when the hotel receptionist takes you to the elevator. The bow is an expression of respect. What you don’t really notice as a tourist: The duration and depth of the bow also depends on your social status. That is, the “lower rank” usually bows lower. Travel Guide for Japan Last but not least: You can already find many travel tips online (here on our blog, for example), but we always like to have a printed one Travel guide included.
We thought about it for a long time and ultimately decided against a travel guide for all of Japan and for several guides for each city. The reason: General Japan travel guides cover the entire country – we were “only” in comparatively few places and therefore didn’t want to carry too much weight unnecessarily.
Here ours Recommendations per city (all in English)
Tokyo Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Tokyo Kyoto Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Kyoto Travel Guide Osaka: Lonely Planet Pocket Kyoto & Osaka (Unfortunately there is no detailed alternative on the market.)
Or as an alternative a complete Japan edition: Lonley Planet Japan (in German)
2019Transparency: Invitation & Affiliate Links We were invited to Japan by All Nippon Airways (ANA) – thank you very much for this great opportunity! So that you are familiar: The outward and return flights as well as the program for the first 5 days (Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka) were financially taken over by ANA. We were free to organize the program – we were on our own the whole time. We decided to extend our stay in Japan at our own expense.
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Have you ever been to Japan? Do you have any other travel tips or tips for preparing or planning a trip to Japan? We look forward to hearing about your experiences!