Explore Japan

Explore Japan
An interesting fact about Japan that most people don’t realize is that it consists of 6,852 islands! The four main islands, with the highest populations, are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Their total population is 126 million with 30 million living in the Tokyo area. That’s a lot of people!
Okinawa Beaches

Places to Visit in Japan

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Kanagawa
  • Osaka
  • Okinawa
  • Nagoya
  • Chiba
  • Hyogo

Unique Things to See and Do in Japan

  • See the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo
  • Visit a Ryokan (Japanese style inns) in Kyoto
  • Enjoy the Tokyo Disney Resort in Chiba
  • Stroll the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima
  • Try snorkeling and diving in Okinawa (Tropical islands in the south)
  • Hike Mt. Fuji
  • See the giant Buddha at Todaiji Temple, Nara

Japanese Cuisine

Sushi, rice, and Teriyaki are the first things that come to mind, but there is so much more. Each city in Japan has its own regional dishes and they take great pride in the process of cooking. In some cases, the food would be aptly called art. The Japanese culture focuses on the details, precision, and quality, which usually means in the higher end restaurants you’re served very elaborate meals adorned with hand sculpted vegetables. There is so much to offer in Japan when it comes to food, so we have provided a quick snapshot of some of the traditional dishes from a couple of regions. But don’t let this list fool you, there’s so much more to be had.

Northern Japan – Hokkaido Region
Ishikari nabe, a popular dish in the north. It is a hotpot stew/soup that combines salmon or local fresh caught fish, potatoes, seaweed and vegetables served in a miso broth. This is a great dish for the cold weather days. The northern region is known for their seafood especially for salmon, scallops, sea urchins, and surf clams- due to the colder water temperatures.

Tokyo – Kanto Region
Soba Noodles – Tokyo long history of Noodle restaurants. 1.6mm. Freshness makes all the world of difference, and it can take a lifetime to learn the art of Soba noodle making. When in Tokyo this must. The soba noodles are served separately from the sauce, where you take some noodles and dip it into the sauce and then suck them back with lots of lip smacking!

Kyoto – Kinki Region
Shojin Ryori - is the dish of the Buddhist monks, which means it’s vegetarian but appetizing. It is almost always served with tofu or Tofu Ryori. In some places, you will see it as Yudofu, which is soft tofu served with vegetables in a simmering broth.

Did you know…?

That Japan’s largest Buddha statue measures in at 15 meters tall!

Todaiji, Japan

Did you ALSO know…?

There are four different writing systems in Japan; Romaji, Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji.

Japanese Lanterns

Travel Tips before you go!

Tip #1
With technology being at the forefront our daily lives, particularly with smart phones and being constantly connected (internet). having wifi service while travelling can be a godsend. So the main travel tip we have is to rent a wireless router rather than trying to get local calling service for your phone.

  • Allows multiple devices, iPads/tablets, smart phones, etc.
  • You can access local calling through Skype
  • Book flights and tickets while on the fly
  • And most importantly have access to Japanese writing via your phone- great for giving instructions when you can’t speak the language

Tip #2
Discount Domestic Flights
Get an Airpass! You must book outside of Japan to qualify for foreigner rated ones, particularly with Star Alliance Japan Airpass. This pass will give you up to 5 domestic flights for ~100US each. This offer is only for foreigners!

Tip #3
Download Hypedia. Finding your way around train schedules is confusing. If you have iPhone or iPad, download the app Hyperdia to find out the current times and schedules of trains throughout Japan. This app is a lifesaver.

Tip #4
Download an app for translating, like the Google Translate app. These apps are not a 100% accurate but they are good enough for letting the cab driver know where you want to go, or finding the nearest toilet.

Getting around Japan

By Airplane
Once in Japan, travelling around by plane can sometimes be a cheaper option than taking the bullet train. In recent years, the Japanese government deregulated the airline industry allowing more competition with for flights and thus reducing prices. Here are some quick basics:

  • There are 2 major airline groups, JAL and ANA.
  • Purchase an Airpass before arriving in Japan. Discounts on domestic flights are offered to tourists only.
  • Here are a few names in the budget airline group: Skylark Airlines, Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan, Vanilla Air, Spring Airlines Japan, Air Do, and Starflyer (rated in for comfort), Solaseed Air. Each airline has different routes and destinations. Be sure to ask about luggage restrictions, snacks on board, and hidden fees with some companies!
  • Don’t travel during the holidays or at least avoid peak flying times. The crowds are big and the fares are often higher. The main holidays are New Years, Golden Week, spring vacation, and summer vacation.

By Train
Most travel in Japan is done by train, which is quick and  relatively easy. The most difficult part about train travel is reading the schedules! However, in most major cities destination signs are bilingual in English and this includes the stop announcements on the trains too, but that’s about it. Hence, we recommended downloading the Hyperdia app (See the tips). Shinkansen or Bullet Trains are an exciting adventure. They can reach speeds up to 320km/hr and the ride is so smooth you’ll barely feel that you are moving. They are also incredibly punctual, so arrive early or you’ll miss it. Here are some of the basics:

  • There are 6 main lines: Tokaido-Sanyo Line, Tohoku Line, Akita Line, Yamagata Line, Joetsu Line, Nagano Line,  and the Kyushu line.
    Bullet Train, Japan

    Bullet Train, Japan

  • There are 3 types of service: 1) Kodama, which stops at all stations, 2) Hikari, which stops at only the main stations, and 3) Nozomi, which is direct, the fastest, and requires an additional fee.
  • There is very little time to get on and off the trains, so when your stop is announced make your way to the door for a quick exit.
  • Get a rail pass prior to arriving in Japan, and get it validated while at the airport. Depending on the pass you get some bus services and ferry services will be included.

By Bus
Traveling by bus is a slightly cheaper option than train service. The buses are typical coach style and they offer nighttime schedules for between major city centres. Typically, the bus centers are close to train stations too. You can purchase tickets at either the bus station,  convenience stores, or online. Overnight buses or longer routes typically require seat reservations, but you can still purchase tickets the same day if there is still space. Buses allow 2 pieces of luggage and small carry-on bags, like purses etc. Small bags can be stored in overhead racks while some buses offer larger storage in the undercarriage. Two companies to check out are Willer Express and JR Buses.

Best time of year to travel to Japan

The easiest time for most travellers to see Japan is in the spring months, when the temperature is cooler and the humidity is less. Japan’s national holiday of Golden week is one of the busiest times of the year for traveling- occurring April 29th – May 6th. If you plan on going there then, expect huge crowds, long lines, and higher prices. Plus you’ll need to book everything in advance. During that week there are 4 national holidays, Showa Day, Constitutional Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day.

Weather in Japan

Japan overall is fairly temperate climate, but the temperature ranges and climate vary between six distinct regions, Hokkaido, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Ryukyu Islands. They also experience all four seasons, summer, winter, fall, and spring. In the northern part of the country, Hokkaido, they experience snow fall winters that are cold, and the summers can be quite warm. If you easily affected by weather and would prefer more temperate times, plan in the shoulder seasons when the humidity is lower, but it’s still warm enough for t-shirt days.

During the summer months, June to August, expect the rainy season to hit and to feel hot from the humidity. For travelers that are not accustomed  to humidity, this can be a shock. Great time for merino wool clothing that breaths! The average temperature range is from 21-34C.

Spring time is the most common time for people travel, as the weather is much cooler, with light breezes. Plus it’s a great time to see all the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Spring months are from March to May with an average temperature range of 10-24CCherry Blossoms, Tokyo

Autumn in Japan is from September to November, with temperatures declining from a high of 32 C in some parts down to a low of 8 C. Another note is that typhoon season hits for a couple of days in September, where the winds and rains are strong. The main areas for Typhoons are Okinawa, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Once the storms pass through the weather is typically sunny, clear, and beautiful.

Winter months in the south are quite nice with an average daytime high of 19 C, but in the northern parts there could be snow with a daily high of 1 C, and the night time temperature can drop as low -8 C. The good part about travelling in the winter is that is usually sunny and dry, but the days are shorter.

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