Japan Travel Guide: 6 Must-Visit Places
Prepare your itinerary wisely!
Why travel to Japan? The better question is: why not? People visit the Land of the Rising Sun to take in the sights, culture, and history. For gamers, anime and manga enthusiasts, and those interested in unique fashion subcultures, the country is essentially a haven.
If you plan to travel outside the country this year and Japan happens to be on your list, let the Japan travel guide ahead help you map out your adventure. Ikimashou!
6 Destinations in Japan You Shouldn’t Miss
The capital city Tokyo—once called Edo—is a prime tourist destination in Japan and this goes without saying. The metropolitan area is a hub of entertainment, food, culture, and shopping. But if you want to see the cherry blossom festival in March or April, Ueno Park should be one of your stops during this period.
Head to Ginza, Shinjuku, and Odaiba for shopping. Include Sensoji Temple, Meiji Jingu, and the Open Air Architectural Museum in your itinerary for historical sightseeing. Of course, games, anime, or manga enthusiasts should definitely not miss out on Akihabara. When you get hungry, too, your best bet is to visit Ise Sueyoshi, Sometarō, and the Tsukiji Market.
Subways and trains are the best way to get around Tokyo. To do this, you can purchase a prepaid Pasmo or Suica card at Haneda or Narita Airports.
Kyoto is another one of the must-visit places in Japan if what you’re after is soaking up culture and history.
The district of Gion, featured in the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha, is one of Japan’s most famous geisha districts. Here, you can watch performers as they play music and dance in some of the teahouses.
A further look into this location, you can find Fushima-Inari Shrine: one of Kyoto’s most striking sites, with hundreds of torii gates lining the way to the shrine. You can climb to the summit and offer prayers throughout your journey. There is also the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, perfect for a light and nice walk that can leave you with a lasting impression of the city.
The national Japanese tourism site mentions several events in Kyoto per season: cherry blossom viewing in the spring, the Gion Festival in the summer, harvest moon festivals in autumn, and Kabuki performances in winter.
To get around, note that Kyoto has subways and trains, but you can rent bicycles to explore the city.
Hiroshima is famously known as one of the cities destroyed in WW2. With the Japanese working to rebuild it, Hiroshima is now a safe and well-sought-out tourist destination.
When in the city, check out Hiroshima Castle, a five-story keep with a museum dedicated to the history of the fortress and its reconstruction. Another prominent spot is Peace Memorial Park, once Hiroshima’s commercial and political hub. This is now a park honoring the victims of the war.
Another striking sight here is the small island of Miyajima, where you can find the Itsukushima Shrine and its giant torii gate that seems to sit on the water during high tide.
And how do you navigate this tourist destination? Well, Hiroshima is home to Japan’s largest tram network, so this is your most convenient option. You can ride Hiroshima’s loop buses, too.
Hokkaido is a haven for those who enjoy the outdoors. The island is home to several parks, hot springs, and ski resorts. Additionally, its central city, Sapporo, is famous for its beer, ramen, and snow festival.
If you are interested in learning about the rich local history, you can visit the native Ainu people in Lake Akan. Here, you can also purchase crafts, watch performances, and see the Living Memorial Hall, where they display traditional clothes and everyday items. Travel here in July to see the lavender fields in full bloom and sample some cheese and wine in Furano.
Like other places in Japan, you can take the rail network, bus, and ferry to get around Hokkaido. Rental cars are also available. If you happen to have extra money on you, you can take even internal flights around the island.
The island of Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost prefecture, known for its beaches and coastlines. Okinawa is also where Karate was born, along with many dyeing and weaving techniques.
Naha is Okinawa’s largest city and home to its only rail system. This is where you can visit the Kokusaidori shopping district and the Naminoue-gu Shrine of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Head to the Motobu Peninsula for the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium to see more ocean life up close, including over 680 marine species. You can also watch outdoor dolphin shows for free. In the summer, visit Ishigaki for diving, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Aside from taxis, buses, and ferries, Okinawa has rental cars and bicycles for tourists. You can also island-hop around the prefecture through internal flights.
Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area Osaka boasts lively nightlife and entertainment. But, it also has attractions that showcase its history, with several festivals yearly.
Osaka is home to Universal Studios Japan. For history buffs, there’s the Osaka Castle, Hozenji Temple, and the Mozu Tombs. Meanwhile, the Bunraku Theater hosts various puppet plays in Japanese. Then, there’s also the food haven of Dotonbori that you should turn your attention to (the perfect nightcap open 24 hours).
Osaka is a few hours away from Tokyo via the Shinkansen, or bullet train, which is the fastest and most convenient way to get there. Taxis and buses are also available in the area, though expensive.
Things to Keep In Mind When Traveling to Japan
Enjoy the culture, food, and history of Japan, and make the most out of your trip by keeping these tips in mind:
Learn basic Japanese
Many Japanese locals do not speak English. So, brush up on some basic Japanese words and phrases to overcome the language barrier, especially when asking for directions.
Observe customs and basic etiquette
Japanese people are polite and patient, with several customs and etiquette rules tied to their culture. When visiting Japan for the first time, learn about local traditions. For instance, it is a no-no to stick your chopsticks straight down your rice bowl as it emulates a practice done at funerals.
While Japan is technologically advanced, public Wi-Fi may not always be available. International charges for calls and texts may be a bit expensive (though thankfully Globe offers fixed-rate roaming to help you stay connected to loved ones back home). You can check out various roaming postpaid and prepaid promos to fit your telecom needs for a hassle-free vacation.
Do not tip
Tipping culture is nonexistent in Japan. Japanese culture promotes taking pride in one’s work, so employees always give their 100% without asking for anything in return.
Cover your tattoos
Tattoos are still mostly taboo in Japan due to their association with the Yakuza. Many may find it rude or offensive if you walk around with your tattoos exposed. Therefore, cover them when in public, especially when you find yourself in a public onsen.
Take a Leap From the Stage of Kiyomizu
“Take a leap from the stage of Kiyomizu” is a Japanese proverb that means “take the plunge.” So, if you’ve always wanted to travel abroad, get that Japanese visa and visit the Land of the Rising Sun! With several prefectures and islands to explore, you will never run out of reasons to enjoy all that Japan has to offer.
Stay connected to your family and friends when you head out of the country. You can check out the Globe services perfect for international travel. Read more Globe roaming tips and get ready to plan your next trip today.