Resources

  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/japan) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.
  • Japan National Tourism Organization (www.jnto.go.jp) Official tourist site with planning tools and events calendar.
  • HyperDia (www.hyperdia.com) Comprehensive train schedules and fares.
  • Japan Meteorological Agency Tropical Cyclone Page (www.jma.go.jp/en/typh) Up-to-date weather satellite images (good for checking on typhoons).
  • Bento (http://bento.com) English-language restaurant guide for major cities in Japan.
  • Tokyo Cheapo (https://tokyocheapo.com) Budget saving tips for Tokyo and travel in Japan.

Top Tips

  • If you want to cover a lot of ground, get a Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited use of the extensive, fast and efficient Japan Rail system; if your itinerary focuses on a limited area, look into regional rail passes, which are cheaper.
  • Stay at least one night in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and visit at least one onsen (hot spring bath).
  • Splurge at lunch. Many restaurants offer midday meals that cost half (or less!) of what you'd find at dinner, often for a meal that is not significantly smaller or lower in quality.
  • Rent a pocket wi-fi device. Japan has free wi-fi networks in spots but these can be frustratingly clunky. Having constant internet access means you can rely on navigation apps to help you get around.
  • Learn a couple of basic Japanese phrases. The locals will love you for trying.

What to Take

  • Slip-on shoes, as you’ll be taking off your shoes a lot.
  • Any medications you might want, as finding local equivalents may be challenging.
  • As little as possible! Hotel rooms are small and trains can get crowded. You can buy most things you'll need.

What to Wear

Dressing in layers is ideal as weather can fluctuate by the day (or when you step off a hot street into an air-conditioned cafe). Keep in mind that you may be taking your shoes off and sitting on the floor, so you might want to pack socks even during sandal season (and second-guess that short skirt).

Casual clothes are fine in the cities, but you’ll feel out of place if you’re dressed as if heading to the gym. Some high-end restaurants and bars do have a dress code, but this usually just means no sleeveless shirts or sandals on men.

There are no dress requirements for entering traditional Japanese religious sites such as Buddhist temples or Shintō shrines.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Purchase a Japan Rail Pass.
  • Get an international licence if you plan to rent a car.
  • Book tickets online for sumo or national theatre performances (to score good seats) and for Tokyo's Ghibli Museum, if you plan to visit.
  • Check online for local events that might be appealing (or might make finding accommodation tricky).