Boutique Japan Travel Tips & Resources

Planning or thinking about a trip to Japan?

We’ve put together these Japan travel tips and resources to help inspire and educate you about traveling to Japan.

Panoramic view of Shinjuku skyline in Tokyo Japan

The view over Shinjuku, Tokyo

This is for you if you’ve just started the planning process, or even if you have your trip planned and are looking for some extra Japan travel tips.

Our tips and resources below include information on:

  • Japan’s best and most unique destinations
  • General (and practical) tips for traveling to Japan
  • Japanese food and culinary travel in Japan
  • Japan’s best luxury and boutique hotels and ryokans
  • Sample Japan trip itineraries
Mount Fuji Fuji Five Lakes Lake Saiko Japan

Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san) as seen from the Fuji Five Lakes area

Why we’re giving away this information for free

As we write on our About Us page, we actively limit the number of trips we work on at any given time, to be able to give each trip the personal love and attention it deserves.

Since this means we can’t devote our time to every single traveler who reaches out to us, this is our way of sharing our knowledge in the hopes of helping as many people visiting Japan as possible.

Kaiseki japanese food ryokan kurashiki

Elegant kaiseki cuisine at a luxurious ryokan

If our information helps you, please come let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

For even more Japan travel information, make sure to check out our list of the best Japan trip planning resources online.

Japan’s best & most unique destinations

Perhaps the most exciting (and challenging) part of planning a trip to Japan is deciding where to go.

With so many remarkable places, you may need to visit more than once!

Map of Japan

So many amazing places to visit

Japan’s Best Destinations: Tokyo, Kyoto & Beyond: Japan has so many amazing destinations to choose from, and with so much information on the Internet, narrowing down your ideal destinations can seem daunting (whether it’s your first time, or a return visit). To help you navigate the possibilities and decide where to visit, we’ve put together our very own guide to Japan’s best destinations.

25 Places in Japan to Add to your Bucket List: Our specialty is helping travelers who believe that travel is about unique, memorable experiences – not just sightseeing or checking items off a list. But if you’re planning a trip to Japan, consider including at least a handful of the 25 remarkable places and experiences featured here.

What to Do if You Have One Day in Tokyo: Tokyo is one of the world’s largest and most exciting cities. In a city with so much to offer, there is no way you will have time to see, do, eat and drink everything on your wish list. But don’t lose hope! Because with even just one well-planned day in the city, you can get beneath the surface and experience Tokyo like few tourists ever will.

What to Do if You Have Three Days in Kyoto: One of the most culturally rich cities in the world, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, and is what many travelers picture when envisioning Japan. But with so much to offer, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. No matter how long you stay, you’ll never see all of the city’s gems, but this plan will give you a great perspective if you only have three days in Kyoto.

Places We Love: Naoshima: Naoshima is a tiny island in Japan’s Inland Sea that has become one of the world’s most unique destinations for art lovers and travelers seeking one-of-a-kind experiences.

Places We Love: Onomichi U2: One of Japan’s newest design destinations is the charming coastal town of Onomichi, home to various innovative projects including Onomichi U2, Hotel Cycle, Minato no Yado, and the Onomichi Denim Project.

Places We Love: Kanazawa: Kanazawa, a charming city located on the Japan Sea coast, is famous for its well-preserved historical districts, Kenrokuen Garden, its fresh and delicious seafood, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

Higashi Chaya geisha teahouse district Kanazawa Japan

Kanazawa’s well-preserved geisha district

Japan’s 5 Best Places Most Travelers Miss: Most travelers to Japan tend to focus on Tokyo and Kyoto, which are both amazing cities. But if you want to get off the beaten path, here are our picks for the 5 best places in Japan that most travelers miss.

Japan & Travel Experts Share Their Favorite Places in Japan: We asked our favorite Japan experts, and travelers with a unique perspective on Japan, “If you could be anywhere in Japan right now, where would it be – and why?” They shared some amazing insights to provide you with inspiration on unique places to visit when you travel to Japan.

Places We Love: Osaka: Osaka is a cosmopolitan city near the ancient capital, Kyoto, best known for its dynamic food and drinking culture, and famously outgoing people.

japanese food takoyaki octopus balls osaka japan

Takoyaki, one of many reasons to visit Osaka

Where to Go if You Have 5 Days in Japan: Our answer to the question, “If I only had 5 days to spend in Japan, where would you suggest going to truly get the flavor of the country (without killing myself by trying to go everywhere to see everything)?

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo, Kyoto & Kanazawa: Cherry blossom season takes place throughout all of Japan. See our favorite hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa.

Places We Love: Mount Koya: The small mountaintop Buddhist community of Mount Koya is one of Japan’s most magical destinations, and the perfect place to spend a night at a Buddhist temple in shukubo temple lodgings.

Mount Koya Okunoin Cemetery Koya-san Japan

Peaceful Mount Koya (Photo Credit: alq666 via Compfight cc )

Tokyo’s Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Neighborhoods: As with London, New York, and other great cities, Tokyo is packed with great neighborhoods – and things are always changing. Here we tell you about three of our favorite Tokyo neighborhoods.

Places We Love: Hakone: Hakone is a beautiful national park area located just outside Tokyo. It’s most famous as an onsen (hot springs) destination, and on clear days offers stunning views of Mount Fuji.

Places We Love: Gokayama & Shirakawago: Japan has no shortage of charming mountain villages, and one of the best places to experience traditional rural Japan is deep in the Japanese Alps. If you are traveling to the historic city of Kanazawa or the traditional town of Takayama, consider venturing deeper into the Alps with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama.

Japan’s Best Art Destinations: Tokyo is packed with some of the world’s top museums and galleries, but further afield in Japan are even more fantastic art hubs. From art islands to immaculate gardens, these are some of Japan’s best art destinations — and four biennales and triennales not to be missed.

Miho Museum Tunnel

Miho Museum

Best Day Hikes Near Tokyo: Tokyo has an incredible amount to offer with its plethora of neon lights, restaurants, and entertainment. But after several days in the metropolis, the crowds and commute between one neighborhood to the next can leave you craving the outdoors. Thankfully, a number of mountain ranges and national parks are within easy reach, so it’s surprisingly easy to balance your trip with some quiet time in nature.

General (and practical) tips for traveling to Japan

When to visit? Do you need the Japan Rail Pass? Is Japan expensive?

Here are our answers to the most common questions we get about visiting Japan!

japanese yen 10000 yen bill

10,000 yen goes further than you may think

Is Japan Expensive?: Japan is probably not as expensive as you think, but this is a persistent myth about Japan. To give you a better idea of how much things really cost in Japan we put together this list of real-world examples to help you budget for your trip.

Essential Japanese Words & Phrases for Travelers to Japan: If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you might be wondering about the Japanese language barrier. In this guide we show you why you have less reason to worry than you may think, and prepare you with some essential Japanese for your trip!

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Japan?: Japan is a year-round destination, but in case your dates are flexible we put this guide together to help you navigate Japan’s seasons.

Cherry blossoms in spring at Nakabashi Bridge in Takayama Japan

Cherry blossoms at Takayama’s Nakabashi bridge, over the Miyagawa River

Best Japan Travel Guidebooks: Despite the fact that more and more travelers are turning to apps and the Internet for travel information, travel guidebooks can be a great resource. Here we introduce you to some of our favorite Japan guidebooks.

Wi-Fi & Mobile in Japan: Japan is an incredibly modern country, but when it comes to the availability of free Wi-Fi staying connected is much more difficult than most travelers imagine. Here is a simple guide to staying connected while traveling around Japan.

Japan Travel Tips: Packing for Japan: Pack light, bring shoes that slip on and off easily, use the luggage-forwarding system, and more tips to help you pack for a trip to Japan!

packing style boutique japan

The only thing missing is pocket Wi-Fi

Japanese Etiquette 101: Many travelers worry about accidentally offending Japanese people by saying or doing the wrong thing. We hope these simple etiquette tips help you get more out of your trip to Japan – and impress Japanese people along the way!

Cash, Credit Cards & ATMs in Japan: Japan can be quite old fashioned when it comes to money – for example, credit cards aren’t always accepted and ATMs can be hard to find – so to help make sure you’re prepared here are our top tips for dealing with money when traveling to Japan.

Should You Get the Japan Rail Pass?: The Japan Rail Pass is an amazing way to get around Japan, but most people don’t realize that it’s not always the best option. See the pros and cons of the JR Pass to help you figure out whether or not it will be your best bet.

shinkansen bullet train Mount Fuji Japan

The shinkansen (bullet train) passing Mount Fuji

Best Japan Guidebooks for an In-Depth Experience: A general Japan guidebook can be great if you’re looking for general information on Japan travel. But if you’re looking for more specialized, in-depth information, most guidebooks won’t cut it. That’s why we love these specialty Japan guidebooks.

Is Japan Good for Families?: Even though Japan is an amazing family destination, most families overlook it in favor of more “touristy” places. See what makes this an ideal family destination, and our list of why kids love Japan.

Sumo Tournaments in Japan: Sumo is both an exhilarating sporting event and a fascinating cultural experience. Find out when and where sumo takes place, how to buy tickets, and even where to sit!

sumo tournament match japan

A sumo tournament (Photo credit: davidgsteadman via Compfight cc)

Guide to Tipping in Japan: While there are a few exceptions, there’s basically no tipping in Japan. Find out when (and when not to) tip.

Travel Insurance Basics: As ardent believers in the benefits of travel insurance, we wrote this basic guide to the ins and outs of travel insurance.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Japan in Winter: As long as you don’t mind the cold, winter is one of the best times of year to visit Japan. See our five favorite reasons to visit Japan in winter.

Snow monkeys in onsen in winter Jigokudani Nagano Japan

Nagano’s famous snow monkeys

Japanese Onsen: One of the highlights of traveling around Japan is a relaxing stay at a Japanese onsen (hot springs) resort. Hot springs are common in many countries, but what makes Japan unique is the onsen culture, which blends an appreciation of nature with a sophisticated philosophy. In this guide we delve into onsen – the different types, the best times and places to go, and the all-important onsen etiquette.

Top 9 Myths About Japan Travel: Most visitors to Japan are surprised to find out that these common myths about visiting Japan are grossly exaggerated, or simply not true!

Guide to Tokyo Nightlife: An Introduction: In our introduction to Tokyo nightlife, we introduce you to Tokyo’s best nightlife districts, including Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, and more!

Japanese food & culinary travel in Japan

If Japanese food is one of the main reasons you’re excited to visit Japan, you’re in good company.

For even more on culinary travel in Japan make sure to check out our Food page.

hakata ramen fukuoka kyushu japan

Ramen in Fukuoka (Hakata)

Foodie Honeymoons in Japan: Over the past couple of years, we’ve had the pleasure of helping an increasing number of wonderful culinary travelers from around the world plan mouthwatering foodie honeymoons throughout Japan. Japan wasn’t always popular with honeymooners, but now culinary travelers are making it one of the world’s top Foodie Honeymoon destinations.

Eating and Drinking at a Japanese Izakaya: Japan offers an amazing variety of culinary experiences, but there’s nothing like eating and drinking at an izakaya. Going to an izakaya (a Japanese-style gastropub) is a quintessential, must-do Japanese experience, and one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in local Japanese culture.

Guide to Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market: Tsukiji is one of the most exciting markets in the world, whether you arrive early in the morning for the tuna auctions, or later for a look around and sushi breakfast. See our quick guide to visiting Tsukiji.

Tokyo’s Best Sushi Shops: Tokyo is full of great sushi shops and in this article we introduce five of the city’s very best sushi-ya.

Ramen in Japan: If you’re visiting Japan and planning to eat some ramen — or or simply want to learn more about noodles, broth and ramen etiquette — we hope this article and interview help your next bowl of ramen taste that much better!

What You Need to Know About Japanese Whisky: While Japan is best known for sake worldwide, it also has a killer whisky industry that’s lauded by spirit connoisseurs. Japanese whisky has dramatically gained in popularity in recent years, making this the perfect time to plan a whisky tasting trip to Japan.

Japanese Foods You Should Try: Japan has become a major culinary destination thanks to its variety of incredible cuisine both high and “low.” As it becomes increasingly known for more than just sushi and ramen, we put together this list of foods you should try while in Japan.

tsukiji fish market tokyo japan

Tsukiji Fish Market

Sushi Myths & Misconceptions: Our list of some of the top myths and misconceptions about sushi in Japan.

Sushi Etiquette Tips & Taboos: If you are planning to eat sushi when you visit Japan, make sure to learn these essential sushi etiquette tips and taboos first! While much of this is common sense, some may come as a surprise to you – even if you’re a frequent sushi diner.

Sake 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Sake: A trip to Japan would not be complete without a little sake tasting. But unless you’re an avid sake drinker it can be hard to know where to begin, so we wrote this beginner’s guide to sake!

sake tasting izakaya tokyo japan

Sake tasting at an izakaya in Tokyo

Shochu 101: Is shochu “Japanese vodka”? Many non-Japanese have never heard of shochu, a distilled liquor made that can be made from sweet potato, barley, rice and other ingredients. Learn more about this delicious spirit, which could not be more unlike sake.

All About Tea In Japan: Japan is a tea lover’s paradise. Learn about different kinds of tea in Japan, where to drink tea in Tokyo and Kyoto, and more!

Specialty Coffee In Japan: Best known for tea, Japan is also becoming a coffee lover’s destination. We spoke with Tokyo Coffee’s Eric Tessier about third wave coffee in Japan.

Traveling to Japan with Dietary Requirements: Is visiting Japan with strict dietary needs possible? Key tips for travelers who eat gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and halal diets.

Japan’s best luxury & boutique hotels & ryokans

One of the highlights of visiting Japan is the chance to stay in one-of-a-kind accommodations, including gorgeous hotels and impeccable traditional ryokan (inns).

room with private onsen at luxury ryokan Gora Kadan in Hakone Japan

Private onsen (hot springs) at Gora Kadan, a luxurious ryokan in Hakone

Ryokans in Japan: A Virtual Tour: Take our virtual ryokan tour to see what makes staying at a traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) so wonderful and unique.

Japan’s Best Hotels & Ryokans: A selection of our favorite luxury and boutique hotels and ryokans in Tokyo, Kyoto, and throughout Japan.

Best Luxury Ryokans for a Short Japan Trip: There is nothing more relaxing than a short escape into the Japanese countryside, but if you only have 1 or 2 nights to spare, which region of Japan should you visit – and what are some of the best, most authentic ryokans?

Aman Tokyo resort guest room japan

Luxurious room with a view at Aman Tokyo Resort

Sample Japan trip itineraries

If you’re looking for inspiration but don’t quite know where to begin, our sample itineraries are the perfect place to start.

Luxury Japan: Art, Culture & Cuisine (11 Days): Featuring once-in-a-lifetime experiences and some of Japan’s best hotels and ryokans, this is a luxurious itinerary based around art, culture and incredible cuisine.

Japan Essentials: Tokyo, Kyoto & Hakone (8 Days): A classic itinerary featuring Tokyo, the ancient capital Kyoto, and Hakone National Park.

HOSHINOYA Kyoto ryokan boat ride Japan

Slow pace of life at HOSHINOYA Kyoto

Luxury Ryokans & the Japanese Countryside (13 Days): For those seeking to get off the beaten path, this itinerary includes stunning locations, unique cultural experiences and cuisine, and some of the country’s best hotels and ryokans.

Japan Cities, Mountains & Art (12 Days): The perfect combination of cities, landscapes and culture, including Tokyo, Kyoto, the Japanese Alps and the art island Naoshima.

Bamboo forest in Sagano Arashiyama district Kyoto Japan

Arashiyama’s bamboo forest, Kyoto

We hope these tips and resources help you get the most out of your trip to Japan!

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About Andres Zuleta

Andres is the founder of Boutique Japan.

Unlike a lot of travel companies, we don't work from a cubicle!

In 2005, I first moved from New York City to Tokyo to study Japanese, and living in Tokyo changed my life, leading me to want to dedicate my life to helping others really experience Japan, the way I have been able to do so!