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Japan Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

British Airways, Japan Airlines, ANA and Virgin Atlantic all offer direct flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo, the Japanese capital. Indirect flights are available from most major UK airports to Tokyo and other Japanese cities including Osaka and Nagoya with flights connecting in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Hong Kong and other main Asian cities.

Flight times from UK

Flight times from the UK to Japan range from 12 to 14 hours for direct flights. Connecting flights with stopovers can take considerably longer.

Time zone

Japan is +9 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

UK citizens do not require a visa before arrival in Japan as long as the visit lasts less than 90 days and does not include periods of paid work. Those wishing to stay longer will need to obtain a visa prior to travel.

Do's and don'ts

Japanese culture is complex and often confusing for foreign visitors to get to grips with However, it is well worth diving in to and the locals will appreciate any effort you make.

Remember to bow in almost any social situation, from saying hello to taking leave and saying thank you. Bow with hands at the sides and with a deep nod of the head. Japanese people are, on the whole, very polite so while they might not outright chastise tourists for forgetting to bow, you can be sure they will respect you more if you do!

Japanese matted flooring does not work well with muddy shoes – most people will expect you to take shoes off in their private housing, in traditional ryokan hotels and even in some public areas like restaurants and temples.

When drinking from a shared bottle, usually rice wine or sake, pour for others and wait for someone to pour for you as pouring for yourself is considered impolite.

The Japanese people value privacy and are generally reserved in public so noisy phone calls or shouting is frowned upon.

Money

The currency of Japan is the Yen. Yen comes in notes or coins, in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 denominations for coins and 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 notes. Japan has been making efforts to move away from cash as a system but in rural areas or traditional places they may not accept credit or debit cards. Currency exchange in Japan is easy and reliable ATM machines are found throughout the country.

Tipping

Tipping is not a custom in Japan and if you leave a tip do not be surprised to see someone run out after to return your money or refuse with a polite bow. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Japanese cuisine has a long tradition and is renowned the world over – since 2001 Japan has had the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world. Japanese food usually centres on rice, noodles, fish and vegetables with many kinds of broths and soups. Japan is also famous for its excellent sushi bars which have since been exported in various forms around the world. The Japanese love to drink green tea which is consumed in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. A widely consumed alcoholic beverage is a rice wine called sake, beer is also common and Japanese whisky has become more popular, and respected, in recent years.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Japan has a wide range of public holidays each year, many of them related to specific activities or in celebration of a particular demographic. Examples include ‘Coming of Age Day’ on the second Monday of January, Respect for the Aged Day’ on the third Monday in September and ‘The Emperor’s Birthday’ on the 23rd September. Local festivals and celebrations, called matsuri, occur all over the country throughout the year and are often associated with particular shrines or towns. At these events entertainment, markets and food and drink stalls are popular including traditional events like sumo wrestling.

Shopping

Shopping in Japanese cities is a hectic and busy experience but one you will not forget. You will find crowded streets and a huge variation of shops from high end fashion stores to teenage manga comic book emporiums and everything in between – all splashed with bright neon lights. Tokyo is world renowned for its street-wear and style scene, so for the latest fashions head to the districts of Harajuku and Shibuya. In contrast for the latest technology, Ginza is the place to visit. Outside major cities, shopping is more traditional, with many markets and locally made goods.

Suggested reading

A recommended book is ‘Gateway to Japan’, published by Kodansha, although there are many other detailed guides available, including ‘The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Japan’, by a westerner who has lived in Tokyo for over 50 years. Good works of fiction about Japan include anything by Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell's ‘Number9dream’ and ‘Who is Mr Satoshi?’ by Jonathan Lee.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Japan the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Japan Holiday Ideas

Japan Holiday Review

Our whole holiday ran smoothly, each day perfectly organised.  At our first hotel the Sunroute Plaza in Tokyo, we found the room to be small with no wardrobe or storage, however the staff were very friendly and the breakfast tasty.  Our day with our Guide, Mutsuko was invaluable.  She was a lovely lady, who gave us the confidence to navigate the vast railway system.  The highlights of our day were the beautiful gardens at the Imperial Palace and visiting Asakusa.

On to Kanazawa, our favourite place, the gardens of Kenroken, although popular were very tranquil and peaceful. We had a lovely day visiting the places as advised on 'Our Perfect Day'.  

Shirakawago was a picture postcard village.  Takayama was certainly an experience, typical Japanese, where our shoes were left in lockers and we went around the hotel in bare or stocking feet.  We even had Japanese clothing to wear around the hotel if you were brave enough to use it.

Our hotel in Kyoto was right in the heart of the station, but you would never have known.  Again we had an excellent Guide in Reiko. We had an energetic day visiting the Bamboo forest, and climbing the mountain to feed the monkeys at Arashiyama, as well as Nijo-jo Castle and the Golden Temple.

We really enjoyed our Tea Ceremony, it was a wonderful experience. All  in all we have had the most amazing holiday. From travelling on the most extraordinary trains, to staying in lovely hotels and experiencing the wonderful hospitality of the Japanese people. We could not believe how clean everywhere was.  No litter, no graffiti and no smoking in the street,  We were impressed by the smartness of all levels of the workers.

So again 'Arigato gozaimasu'  to all concerned for making this a truly remarkable and memorable holiday.

P & R - Japan - July 2018

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