Japan at a glance
Capital City : Tokyo
People : Japanese
Currency: Japanese Yen
Time Zone: UTC +9 Hrs
International Dialing Code : +81
Passport and visa
If you are a citizen of one of the over 50 countries with which Japan has a “general visa exemption arrangement”, you need only a valid passport to enter Japan as a “temporary visitor”. The list of countries eligible for visa exemption are listed here.
Otherwise, you need to obtain a visa before entering the country. Temporary visitors from most countries are allowed to stay for up to 90 days. All foreign tourists in Japan are required to carry their passports at all times.
USA citizens: http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7108b.html
UK citizens: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/japan/entry-requirements
AUS citizens: http://australia.or.jp/en/visa/
The Japanese currency is the Yen. Notes come in 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen (very rare), 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen denominations. Coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen denominations.
Cash is still the preferred payment method, especially when it involves small amounts. However, there is an increased acceptance of credit and debit cards, especially in big cities. Most hotels accept payment by credit cards nowadays, as do most department stores, mid to high-end restaurants, outlet malls and large retail shops.
Phones & Internet service
There are various ways to stay connected to the internet while travelling in Japan. A majority of hotels in Japan offer free internet in their guest rooms.
Both paid and free wireless (Wi-Fi) hotspots are available in Japan. Laptops and mobile devices can connect to publicly accessible hotspots found around airports, train stations, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Those who wish to use their own mobile phones or tablets to directly access the internet in Japan can get rental or prepaid SIM cards that allow for unlimited internet access via the cellular phone network.
When to visit Japan
The Japanese are proud of their four seasons (and an astonishing number of them are firmly convinced that the phenomenon is unique to Japan), but travellers with a flexible schedule should aim for spring or autumn.
Spring is one of the best times of year to be in Japan. The temperatures are warm but not hot, there’s not too much rain, and March-April brings the justly famous cherry blossoms (sakura) and is a time of revelry and festivals for Japanese people.
Summer starts with a dreary rainy season in June and turns into a steambath in July-August, with extreme humidity and the temperatures as high as 35C.
Autumn, starting in September, is also an excellent time to be in Japan. Temperatures and humidity become more tolerable, fair days are common and fall colors can be just as impressive as cherry blossoms. However, in early autumn typhoons often hit the southern parts of Japan and bring everything to a standstill.
Winter is a good time to go skiing or hot-spring hopping, but as some buildings lack central heating, it’s often cold indoors. There is usually heavy snow in Hokkaido and northeast Japan due to the cold wind blasts from Siberia.
The following is a list of all Public Holidays in Japan. For these dates most businesses will be closed and conditions of travel may be affected.
New Year’s Day : Jan 1
Coming of Age Day : 2nd Monday of Jan
Foundation Day : Feb 11
Vernal Equinox Day : Mar 20 or 21
Showa Day : April 29
Constitution Memorial Day : May 3
Greenery Day : May 4
Children’s Day : May 5
Marine Day : 3rd Monday of July
Mountain Day : August 11
Respect for the Aged Day : 3rd Monday of Sep
Autumnal Equinox Day : Sep 22 or 23
Health and Sports Day : 2nd Monday of Oct
Culture Day : Nov 3
Labour Thanksgiving Day : Nov 23
The Emperor’s Birthday : Dec 23
Top places to visit in Japan
Japan’s bustling capital is a perfect combination of ultramodern and traditional Japanese culture. Tokyo has everything to offer: from high-tech skyscrapers, hidden shrines, and a vibrant food scene, to the weird and wonderful fashion world of Shibuya and Harajuku. Tokyo is the typical gateway into Japan and is home to the Buffalo Tours Office. It also has easy access to Hakone, Kamakura and Nikko for day trips.
All the most iconic sites of Japan are in Kyoto and should have pride of place on all itineraries. With over 3,000 temples and shrines, and beautifully preserved entertainment districts, it is a fantastic introduction to Japan’s traditional Geisha and Samurai culture. Many people come to Kyoto and dress in traditional kimono/yukata, and it is the best place to take part in a Tea Ceremony. Kyoto is well placed to visit Osaka, Kanazawa and Takayama.
Takayama is an old town in the Japanese Alps with a very distinct culture and dramatic scenery. The distinct architecture of Shirakawago town is an easy day trip from Takayama and is beautiful in any season, including winter. The best way to get there is from Tokyo then onwards to Kyoto or Kanazawa
Nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’, Kanazawa offers the same rich cultural heritage but on a smaller scale. It is one of the best places to learn about traditional Geisha, Samurai and Zen cultures, with many original districts still thriving. A new Shinkansen rail line has opened recently, linking Kanazawa directly with Tokyo.
Delve into the past with some of Japan’s best museums and race into the future on the loud, bright and modern streets of Osaka. This unassuming city has a lot to offer including, Shogun era castles, Universal Studios and some of the best food in Japan. It is only 30 minutes to Kyoto by train and also the gateway to Koyasan.
The city of Hiroshima is, sadly, most famous for the moment it became the first city targeted with an atomic bomb. Today you can pay your respects and learn more at the fantastic Peace memorial Park and Museum. Hiroshima is also the gateway to the idyllic Miyajima island and its floating Tori Gate. These destinations make a perfect overnight trip from Osaka.
Top things to do in Japan
Discover ancient Japan
From Kyoto’s well-preserved entertainment districts, to the Samurai neighbourhood of Kanazawa and walking with a Sumo Wrestler in Tokyo, understanding the Japan of old is a vital part of travel in the region. As well as the unique sub-cultures of the Geisha, Sumo and Samurai, learn about the Edo period and zen and Buddhist philosophies too.
Watch a Sumo practice
Delve into the Sumo world with a visit to a Sumo Stable to observe their daily practice. Learn about how the Stable acts as a training ground and shared living space for communities of wrestlers and observe their serous practice up close and personal. This intimate experience with Japan’s national sport is an unforgettable experience.
Live the Geisha Experience
Explore the Gion Geisha district of Kyoto in the most local way you can, in a traditional kimono! Be fitted and styled before embarking on your walk around the Gion District, learning about how the Geisha live. The pictures you take on this tour will be unforgettable. Buffalo Tours offer this experience in Kyoto , as well as Tokyo.
Take part in a tea ceremony
From Yasaka Shrine next to Gion make your way through the preserved Higashiyama Temple District. Take part in a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional home before visiting a neighboring Zen temple garden with original tea houses.