Congratulations! You're about to embark on one of the greatest experiences of your life.
While the idea of heading to Japan no doubt excites, you probably have some questions about how you're actually going to do all of this. Are we right? Perhaps you're not sure where to start?
Well, that's exactly why we created this page. We've been based in Japan since 2009 and want to point you in the right direction and help you plan your trip of a lifetime.
We'll keep adding more resources to this page. If you have a question not covered here, please feel free to add it in the comments and we'll continue to expand upon these resources.
Table of Contents
Welcome to Japan 101
When's the best time to visit Japan?
This really depends on the weather you prefer and what you'd like to see and do.
In our opinion, the most pleasant seasons for travel to Japan weather-wise are spring and autumn/fall. Spring is an extremely popular time to visit because it is when the beautiful sakura or cherry blossoms come into season. Autumn is also extremely pretty and is a wonderful time to enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities.
The winter can be very cold and you'll definitely want to bring appropriate clothing to stay warm. It is, however, the perfect time to visit if you enjoy winter sports. Hokkaido in Northern Japan is a popular spot for skiers and snowboarders seeking its perfect powder snow. Japan's famous ‘Snow Festival' is also held in Hokkaido for a week in early February each year.
While it is cold, there's no reason you can't tick off all the usual tourist spots on your visit. Just pay attention to the New Year, one of the biggest holidays for the Japanese, over which period some tourist attractions and smaller stores may close. Something not a lot of people know is that Japan goes all out on its winter lights displays – called ‘winter illuminations'. You can find them across the country and they make the perfect date spot and are enjoyable for those travelling with children too.
Summer is hot and humid with August generally being the hottest month. Expect temperatures in the mid to high thirties (that's around 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit for our North American friends) with 70-90% humidity. And it's really the humidity that is the most uncomfortable part. If visiting in summer, you should factor in more break times and mix up your indoor and outdoor activities, trying to avoid being in direct sunlight for too long during the hottest parts of the day. Basically, pace yourself and remember to stay super hydrated and you'll be fine.
Despite being hot, summer is one of our favourite times of year because of all the summer festivals. There are dance festivals, music festivals and fireworks. And the fireworks displays here are really something. I don't know about where you're from, but in Australia, fireworks displays are relatively short. In Japan, you can expect 1-2 hours of non-stop oohs and ahhs.
Weather patterns to be aware of:
Rainy season – Generally in June, but can also extend into July.
Typhoon season – Generally around September. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean it's blowing a gale for the entire month. If one comes through, it generally passes completely within a couple days, with the worst of it over a 24 hour period. You should note though that typhoons can and do cause delays and cancellations of trains. It's best to avoid any long journeys on these days.
Other things you might want to consider timing your visit for:
There are six sumo tournaments in a year.
They happen in Tokyo in January, May and September; in Osaka in March; in Aichi in July; and in Fukuoka in November.
Where should I visit?
This section is currently being updated.
What can I expect when I visit Japan?
While everyone's experiences will be different, here are eight things that we hear most often cited as different than what many first-time visitors expected when they travelled in Japan.
Things to see and do
More guides coming soon!
Visit an onsen (hot springs)
FAQs About Using Japanese Onsen (Hot springs) – If you have a tattoo, please be sure to read this.
Stay at a ryokan
Stay in a capsule hotel
Go flower viewing (cherry blossoms plus much more)
Visit Mt. Fuji
Experience Japanese Festivals
Do something wild
Discounted rail travel
Ever wondered why the Japanese are obsessed with Rock, Paper, Scissors?
Do you know your blood type? What does your blood type say about your personality in Japan?
The Japanese date system
The Japanese take on cultivating independence