The country of Japan lies at the intersection of modern cutting-edge technology, evolving pop culture and thousands of years of tradition. Whether you're a foodie, history buff, techie, nature lover or all of the above, the four main islands of the Land of the Rising Sun have something to offer everyone—and often leaves a lasting impact on those who make the journey.
Historically, Japanese culture, language and religion are greatly influenced by neighboring China. But over thousands of years, Japan has created its own customs, traditions and culture, setting itself apart as a wholly unique nation and a prime destination for tourists across the globe.
- Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)
- Must-See Landmark: Fushimi Inari-taisha, a Shinto Shrine in Kyoto
- Must-Try Food: Tonkotsu Ramen and Sashimi
- Most Common Language: Japanese
- Emergency Services Telephone Number: 119
Travel Insurance Plans for Japan
With a wide range of plans on the market, it may be difficult to select a plan. To find the plan that's best for you, first assess the condition of your health then take a look at your travel plans. From there, you can compare plans side by side with our compare tool. For travelers with pre-existing conditions, senior travelers and those looking for more complete coverage, a comprehensive plan is the best option. If you are looking for basic coverage at an affordable price, a limited plan may be the way to go.
Visas and Documentation
Japan allows visitors from a select 68 countries, including the United States, to enter the country visa-free for periods of 90 days or less. It is always required, however, to have a valid passport to enter the country. Read this article to see if you need a visa to visit Japan.
Weather and What to Pack
The weather in Japan varies greatly by season, so be sure to check the forecast prior to your trip. In general, summers are very hot and humid, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Typhoons, the Northwest Pacific's equivalent of a hurricane, also occur during summer and into autumn, so be sure to come prepared for wet and windy weather if traveling during this time.
Japanese winters are cold, with temperatures regularly getting down to freezing between November and April. Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka commonly get a dusting of snow each winter, but the northern regions regularly get multiple feet of snow, so be sure to pack winter clothes if you plan to visit in winter.
You wont need a power adaptor if you are coming from North America, but voltage can vary, so be aware of that. If you are coming from pretty much anywhere else, you'll need to pack an adaptor. Lastly, always be sure to pack a well broken-in pair of walking shoes, as you'll be doing a lot of walking around the city, and to and from public transportation.
Common Words and Phrases in Japanese
- Yes: Hai [Hi]
- No: Iie [Ee-yay]
- Please: O-negai shimasu [Oh-neg-eye she-mahss]
- Thank You: Arigatō [Ah-ree-gah-toe]
- Cheers: Kanpai [Kahm-pie]
- Hello:Konnichiwa [Co-nee-chee-wah]
- Goodbye: Sayonara [Sigh-o-na-ra]
Etiquette and Cultural Norms
The Japanese culture is built upon a foundation of respect, so be sure to thoroughly research Japanese etiquette before you arrive to avoid offending anyone. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Bowing is used widely and can convey a greeting, gratitude or even an apology
- Eating and drinking while walking or while riding transportation is considered rude
- Always take off your shoes when entering a home
- Tipping at restaurants and bars is not customary in Japan
- Slurping your noodles is good manners and shows that you are enjoying the meal
- Tokyo: A massive metropolis full of life and lights, the city of Tokyo is home to more than 13 million people and has a way of enchanting all who visit. From high-end shopping in Ginza and quirky fashion in Harajuku to Akihabara arcades and Shinjuku nightlife, each neighborhood provides a wildly different experience.
- Kyoto: The old capital, Kyoto, is where old world meets new. Discover your spiritual side at the many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples throughout the city, take a hike through the bamboo forest and be sure to try some gyoza and Kyoto's famous tofu dishes.
- Osaka: The second-largest metropolitan area after Tokyo, Osaka has many cultural attractions to offer. Check out Osaka castle, the history and art museums and the many options for food markets and nightlife.
- Sapporo: Known worldwide for the beer named after the city, Sapporo is the capital the northern island of Hokkaido. Winter is an opportune time to visit Sapporo to participate in winter sports and attend the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Be sure to warm up afterwards with some ramen and a cup of matcha green tea.
Health & Safety Tips
Japan is regarded as one of the safest countries for both residents and tourists, with low crime rates and safe streets. No country is perfect, however, and you should be sure to exercise caution in crowds and protect your belongings at all times. When possible, avoid traveling with all of your cash and credit cards on you at once and keep an eye on your phone, camera and other electronic items.
Scams are some of the most common crimes seen in Japan, so keep your guard up and be careful when giving your credit card as payment or if someone offers to take a photo of you on your phone. Bar scams are also a common occurrence in Japan and mostly target tourists.
People may try to befriend you and lure you into a bar or restaurant, before racking up a massive bill and skipping out, leaving you responsible to pay for everything. Lastly, watch your drink at all times in bars and clubs as spiking drinks for the purpose of theft is becoming more common.
Necessary Vaccinations & Other Health Notes
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the following vaccinations for Japan: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.
Some prescription medications that are common in the United States are illegal in Japan, even if you have a valid prescription. Be sure to do your research to make sure you are not packing prohibited substances into the country and remember to declare any and all medications to customs upon arrival.
Travel insurance is recommended as Japan has expensive medical care and is considering enacting a mandatory travel insurance rule for tourists.