When is the best time to travel to Japan?
Cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times for people to travel to Japan, which means the major tourist destinations can be very busy. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, a good time of year to travel is mid to late May, when the weather is usually warm and sunny, or October, when the autumn leaves are just beginning to arrive, colouring Japan’s mountain-scapes in scenes of red, orange and yellow.
June in Japan is rainy season, and July and August can be very hot and humid in certain areas of Japan. During the winter months, many parts of Japan (particularly in the north) are covered in a heavy blanket of snow, making it a fantastic destination for winter sports, or hot spring fans! However, Japan is an incredibly long, diverse set of islands, so there will always be a location to suit your tastes, regardless of the time of year you choose to travel.
Is it difficult to travel in Japan if you don’t speak Japanese?
One common misconception is that Japan is a difficult country to travel around due to language barriers, but this is not in fact the case!
Signs in English are prevalent, particularly in tourist destinations, and train announcements are commonly made in English as well as Japanese.
Most Japanese people will have studied English to some degree throughout their lives, and although they can be shy, will be more than willing to help out when asked. Japanese people are famously hospitable, and you’ll probably find that you can get by very easily with a mixture of hand gestures and simple sentences if you speak slowly and clearly. Writing down the name of your hotel or other important information will help you. If you have time time, it also never hurts to learn a few of the local phrases, such as hello, please and thank you, to let your appreciation be known.
What are the options for vegetarians and vegans in Japan?
While it’s relatively easy to avoid meat dishes in Japan, which is great for vegetarians and vegans, 'dashi', a fish stock, is commonly used in soups and salad dressings. When telling people you are a vegetarian or vegan, it may be better to explain you cannot eat meat NOR fish products.
Tofu restaurants, vegetable sushi & tempura, shojin ryouri (traditional Buddhist cuisine found at temple stays in places like Mt Koya) and mushroom based ramen noodle soups are some of the dishes you may enjoy whilst in Japan. Convenience stores such as 7/11 sell egg sandwiches and vegetable onigiri (rice balls), which make a nice picnic lunch for those on the move.
Are credit cards accepted in Japan?
Japan is largely a cash based society, so you can expect to pay in cash at most restaurants. Carrying large amounts of cash is commonplace; something the level of safety in Japan allows.
When you want to withdraw money, you can use your debit or credit card at cash machines inside 7/11 convenience stores, which are located all over Japan, even in the countryside. Japanese banks and other convenience stores do not widely accept withdrawals using overseas cards.
What should I bring with me to Japan?
Japanese plug sockets are different to UK sockets, so please remember to take an adaptor with you. The voltage in Japan is lower, so your electronics may take longer to charge (or indeed, your hair straighteners longer to warm up!) Japanese toothpaste as provided by your hotel or ryokan may taste different to the toothpaste you are used to at home, so if you are sensitive to new tastes then do take care and bring your own. If there’s something you’ve forgotten, Japanese ‘100 yen’ stores are a very good place to purchase replacement items, as whilst the price may be low, the quality of goods is very high.
How can I begin planning a trip to Japan?
Many visitors to Japan purchase a JR rail pass to cover their domestic travel costs. You can use www.hyperdia.com to check train times and journey length for the destinations you are interested in visiting. However, for tips and ideas you can speak to JNTO London office and ask for our recommendations, visit our itineraries page, or speak to travel reps at tour operators based in the UK.
What are flight times to Japan? How much does it cost to fly?
It takes between 11 and 13 hours to fly to Japan directly from destinations in the UK, which is roughly the same time as London – Bangkok, or London – Hong Kong. There are several airlines which offer direct flights from the UK: BA, Japan Airlines and ANA. Flight prices for direct flights in recent months have been as little as 600gbp.
Indirect flights with companies such as as KLM, Air France and Finnair can be almost as short time-wise (around 14 hours), and prices can be as low as 439gbp. KLM is currently running a fantastic flight sale for UK – Tokyo and UK – Osaka flights, so if you're thinking about booking a holiday to Japan, don't miss out on their amazingly low fares!
How can I stay connected whilst in Japan?
Having a Wi-Fi connection in Japan can make life much simpler, whether you need to find your hotel on an online map, look up a nearby restaurant on a search engine, or let friends and family back home know that you arrived safely.
You can purchase pocket Wi-Fi dongles online and have them arrive at the airport or your hotel, so that you can connect to the internet immediately after starting your Japan journey. A similar sim card rental service is also available. Prices are inexpensive, for example £32 for a sim card for 15 days, or £43 for seven days’ pocket Wi-Fi rental.