Japan – the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’ In this fascinating country, you will find a mix of ancient traditions, polite rituals and sacred temples in calm and gentle surroundings nestled in and amongst one of the world’s most crowded, hectic, technologically advanced nations full of skyscrapers and high speed communications.
Located in the Pacific Ocean off the Asian mainland, Japan is composed of 5 main islands where the majority of the population live, but comprises some 6,500! Famous for its earthquakes and tsunamis, the country leads the lights in modern architecture and design, often drawing from the country’s thousands of years of history.
The bustling capital city, Tokyo, needs no introduction! Nor do some of the country’s most iconic sights and attractions and most travellers can instantly bring to mind a number of associations – the bullet trains, Mount Fuji, the pagodas, the cherry blossoms, the geishas, the hordes, the neon signs, the cartoons, the karaoke bars, the sushi train restaurants…. But there is much more to see and discover during your time in Japan!
Your passport should be valid for the duration of your proposed period of stay. It is advisable to have at least 1 blank page in your passport. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
U.S., Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and most European citizens may enter Japan for up to 90 days for tourist purposes without a visa. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. Further information can be found here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/short/novisa.html
All foreign nationals are required to provide fingerprint scans and to be photographed at the port of entry.
Please note, Japan enforces strict regulations on bringing medication, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics into the country. Certain drugs are not permitted, and authorisation may be required for others. Please check the section on Medication below for further information.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Tokyo, including those for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. There are also a number of consulates located in Osaka and other cities around the country. However, embassies for other countries,are located in Beijing or other Asian cities, offering coverage to Japan. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
Japan has very strict regulations on bringing certain medications into the country. Please see the section below on medication for more details.
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Japan Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Japan has very strict rules about bringing prescription drugs, medication, medical devices and cosmetics into the country, especially narcotics and psychotropic drugs. Even some common cold remedies are not permitted, so it is always worth checking which medications are permitted prior to travelling.
Regulations permit you to take into Japan without obtaining prior permission up to one month's supply of a prescribed drug and two months of an over the counter drug. However, if your medication is prescribed, we strongly advise that you take either a copy of the prescription or a letter from the doctor stating that the medication has been prescribed to you, and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor. It is also advisable to take the medication in its original packaging.
If you are taking more than the maximum quantities allowed, and/or if you have injectable medicines and need take needles, you will have to apply for an import certificate, known as a Yakkan Shoumei.
Please note that there are a few exceptions to the above rule
- Any medication containing pseudoephedrine (i.e. Sudafed) is not permitted as this is a banned substance in Japan under the anti-stimulant laws.
- If the medication contains a narcotic, like codeine or morphine, you will need to obtain a different certificate regardless of the quantity being taken into Japan.
We advise contacting the Japanese Embassy in your country for the latest information on the application forms and how to apply, if needed: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/01.html
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travellers, but please consult your doctor before travelling for the latest immunisation information as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations before you arrive. There may be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Feel free to include a smart-casual outfit for dinner if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code. The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and a layerable jumper/sweater & scarf for the evenings as it can be quite cool. There are no regulations with regards to modest clothing or covering up in Japan, aside from dressing appropriately when visiting temples or other religious sites. It is best to ensure your shoes are comfortable, but easy to get on and off as shoes are not permitted in shrines, temples or traditional restaurants.
Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
Japan is a very clean country. However, it is common not to find soap available in washrooms after using the bathroom. Therefore, we suggest carrying hand sanitizer with you.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is included where this service is offered by the hotel. The majority of the hotels/accommodation that we use offer this service.
Laundry service is available in most hotels on the tour. Its advisable to do laundry where you are staying for 2 nights to give the hotels time to get your cleaned laundry back to you before you depart.
The main language of Japan is Japanese. English is spoken across the country, especially by the younger generation.
The time zone in Japan is GMT+9, 9 hours ahead of London GMT.
The weather in Japan varies greatly, given its large size and varying geography. The country has 4 distinct seasons and is a year-round destination. The best time to visit Japan are during the sunny and dry months of spring March- April or autumn October-November. The weather during these periods in Tokyo is an average of 13°C/55°F during the afternoon, but dropping to just 5°C/44°F during the morning and evening. In the summer months, it can become hot and humid in the cities, and the more remote areas experience a lot of rainfall. In the winters, the mountains experience a lot of snow and temperatures can drop.
In Japan, the standard voltage is 100V and the frequency is 50/60Hz. You will need a Type A plug adapter (US/North American style), and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Japan has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Please note, only 3G and 4G phones will work in Japan, not GSM phones as there’s no GSM network. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Japan with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Japan is the Yen ¥ (JPY). Despite it being one of the most technically advanced nations in the world, Japan is still a cash-based society. As denominations from 1 yen to 500 yen (about $5) are coins, we highly recommend bringing a coin purse with you.
Many places that you might expect to take credit card normally, even McDonald’s, do not! Most stores simply aren’t equipped to take cards and on the rare occasions they do, will usually have a sign out front indicating this. Only international banks such as HSBC, or ATMs found at 7-Elevens or Post Offices will accept foreign cards and these often close at 9pm. However, ATMs in convenience stores and some shopping centres are available 24 hours a day. Even at ATMs or places that accept cards, you may have difficulty using credit and debit cards issued outside Japan. Cirrus, Maestro, Link and Delta cash cards are not widely accepted. Please check with your bank before travelling and take sufficient alternative sources of money for the duration of your stay.
Japan can be quite expensive, with prices for even day to day items high. However, it is not as prohibitively expensive as people may think and is comparable with some of the more expensive European countries. Nevertheless, please make sure you budget for high spending.
• Bank Opening
Banks in Japan are usually open 9am – 3pm Monday to Friday.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Firstly, you cannot talk about Japanese food without mentioning sushi – one of Japan's most famous exports. Rice is equally central to Japanese cuisine – in fact, the word for 'rice' and for 'meal' are the same: gohan. Being an island nation, fresh fish is often om the menus. But given the size and varying nature of the country and its many islands, the local dishes can vary considerably. Other famous dishes you will want to try including miso soup, pickled vegetables and of course, sake, the rice wine. There are however many rites and rituals involved in dining in Japan, as with most other parts of their culture, and your local guide will be able to tell you all about these to avoid offending your hosts.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Japan is generally of excellent quality. Unless otherwise advised, you can drink the local tap water. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Japan offers lots for visitors to buy. Tokyo is one of the world’s fashion capitals, even if to outsiders, Japanese attire can seem quirky. You will of course find a host of modern gadgets and gizmos to purchase, as well as cartoon items a plenty. Traditional gifts, carvings and rice paper sketches can also be readily found.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 10am – 8pm Monday–Sunday, though may vary locally.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in Japan offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels in Japan are low. However, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. While it is generally safe to walk round at night, please exercise caution and watch out when purchasing drinks in bars. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
As is well known, throughout Japan there is a continuous risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. In the event of these happening, please follow the advice of local authorities. Latest warnings and advisories are published on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.
Smoking is still commonplace in Japan and despite attempts to ban it, the powerful lobbies have restricted attempts to bring nationwide bans into place. Smoking is prohibited in a number of public areas in Tokyo and technically on public transport, though few authorities can implement fines for breaches and smoking in public remains common.
Shinto is the largest religion in Japan, practiced by nearly 80% of the population, and some 100,000 temples around the country, yet most people will not openly identify with the religion.
Japan offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! Please remember to be courteous when taking photos at temples or religious sites.
ARRIVAL IN JAPAN
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information pertaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in other Asian countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019