Sometimes travelers get a little overwhelmed about planning a trip to Japan. It can seem a bit complicated at times, especially if it’s your first time.

The good news is that traveling to Japan is a lot easier than most people think. The great news is that Japan is one of the most travel-friendly countries in the world.

ryoanji zen temple rock garden kyoto japan
Rock garden at Ryoanji Zen Temple, Kyoto

The questions and answers below don’t cover everything about traveling to Japan, of course. That would take pages.

What we have tried to do is include answers to some of the most common questions travelers ask us. There are many other topics and we frequently add relevant questions and answers to this page.

When is the best time of year to visit Japan?

The easy answer is that you should take advantage of any chance to visit, since each of Japan’s seasons is great in its own way! For example:

  • In winter, you’ll find amazing skiing & snowboarding, seafood and onsen (hot springs)
  • In summer, there are festivals and great beaches
  • In fall, Japan is famous for its brilliant foliage and pleasant temperatures
  • In spring, if you’re lucky you’ll catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom

For more details read When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Japan?

How much do things cost in Japan?

Japan is probably not as expensive as you think, but this is a really common myth about Japan.

While it may be more expensive than places like China and Thailand, it’s generally cheaper than places like Singapore, the UK, Australia, and Scandinavia.

And one of the great things about Japan is that you can tailor your experience to your budget.

For more details read Is Japan Expensive?

What are Japan’s best hotels & ryokans?

Japan has so many great luxury and boutique hotels that trying to compile a “short” list is challenging.

But we have managed to compile a comprehensive list of our favorite boutique and luxury hotels and ryokans (traditional inns) in Tokyo, Kyoto and beyond. We love all of these properties for different reasons, and hope you find some new favorites in this list.

For more details read Japan’s Best Hotels & Ryokans. You can also enjoy some video highlights:

What is it like to stay at a ryokan?

Staying at a ryokan – a traditional Japanese-style inn – is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture.

But for non-Japanese, there can be many surprises when staying at a ryokan, because it’s very different from staying at a hotel.

These are some of the key differences between ryokans and hotels:

  • Your minimalistic tatami mat room
  • Trading in your shoes & “regular” clothes for yukata – a Japanese-style robe – and slippers
  • Onsen hot springs, and Japanese bathing culture & etiquette
  • Your multi-course kaiseki dinner & traditional Japanese breakfast
  • Traditional Japanese futon bedding

For more details take our virtual ryokan tour (see the video below), or read Ryokans in Japan: A Virtual Tour.

What Japanese foods should I 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), it’s beginning to rival other famous culinary meccas like France and Italy.

To keep the list from getting too long, we’ve purposely excluded “famous” foods like sushi, ramen and tempura – but you should still definitely try them in Japan!

For more details read Japanese Foods You Should Try.

What are the best destinations in Japan that aren’t ‘touristy,’ and most people know nothing about?

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, we have some ideas to inspire you depending on your interests. The highlights include a lot of nature, cuisine and more.

For more details read The 5 Best Places In Japan That Most Travelers Miss.

Can you teach me some basic Japanese etiquette?

Japanese people are extremely polite and welcoming, but many travelers to Japan worry about accidentally offending them by saying or doing the wrong thing.

The main thing you want to keep in mind is that Japanese people don’t expect you, as a traveler, to know all of their customs.

As long as you act kindly and with respect, you’ll fit right in – even if you do make an etiquette mistake (or two) once in a while!

That being said, making a little effort can go a long way, and Japanese people are extremely appreciative when travelers make the effort to learn their customs.

For more details read Japanese Etiquette 101.

What Japanese words & phrases should I learn for my trip?

If you’re traveling to Japan, it’s great to learn some key words and phrases in Japanese. But don’t worry, you can also get by in Japan with English!

Many people worry about the language barrier, thinking it will make getting around in Japan difficult. Fortunately, this is not the case and most travelers are pleasantly surprised by how easy travel in Japan is.

So even if you forget all of the words and phrases we teach you, you’ll find that getting around in Japan is surprisingly easy.

You’ll be saying thank you a lot, so it’s the perfect place to begin. The word for thank you in Japanese is arigatou gozaimasu.

For more details read Top 5 Japanese Words & Phrases for Travel.

Can you recommend some great things to do in Japan?

Japan offers so many, and such a wide variety of, things to do that it’s almost impossible to narrow things down.

We’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite things to do, and recommend, at our Japan experiences page.

If you prefer an even more narrowed-down list, check out our list of The Top 5 Things to Do in Japan. Even doing one or two of these top 5 will ensure you have a special trip!

Should I 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.

Depending on your Japan itinerary, the JR Pass could save you a fair amount of money and be fantastically convenient. On the other hand, in some cases the Rail Pass is actually more expensive – and less convenient.

For more details read Should You Get The Japan Rail Pass?

Is Japan good for families?

Even though Japan is an amazing family destination, it’s still relatively off the beaten path when it comes to family travelers.

Most families overlook Japan in favor of more “touristy” places, because most people aren’t yet aware that Japan is the perfect family destination in so many ways.

In our experience, we have found that most parents are looking for a combination of fun, relaxation, and unique experiences when planning a family vacation.

For more details read Is Japan Good For Families?

What should I pack (and what about Wi-Fi, train times, dietary restrictions, the time difference, passports, visas, etc.)?

Not to worry! We make sure all of our clients are completely prepared – this is simply part of our service.

We provide copious amounts of information to each of our travelers after booking, but if you have a burning question that will affect whether or not you can take the trip at all, please let us know and we will be happy to help.

When & where can I see the cherry blossoms?

The hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season begins as early as late January in subtropical Okinawa, and as late as May in the northern island of Hokkaido. But for most of Japan, peak cherry blossom season takes place in March and April.

Hanami takes place throughout all of Japan, which means there are a huge number of amazing places to enjoy this cherished pastime – and everyone has their own opinion as to which is “the best.”

Read more about the cherry blossom season in Japan.

Where should I go if I have 5 days in Japan?

Japan may look relatively small on the map, but in fact it’s surprisingly large – larger than Italy, for example – and you could easily spend months here and never come close to seeing everything.

If you love cities, definitely start in Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the world’s great cities, and you could spend all 5 days here and barely scratch the surface. For a 5-day trip, we’d keep traveling around to a minimum, but to complement Tokyo I’d suggest the nearby mountain areas of Hakone or Nikko.

Another idea, if you’re more interested in history and Old Japan, is to fly directly into Osaka and focus your trip around the ancient capital Kyoto.

For more details read Where To Go If You Have 5 Days In Japan.

Tokyo vs. Kyoto: Which is better on a Saturday night?

The truth is that both cities have nightlife – so either would be fun on a Saturday night – but ultimately there’s no comparison: Tokyo is the hands-down winner.

While both Tokyo and Kyoto are large cities, Tokyo is much, much larger. And when it comes to going out on a Saturday night, Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world, let alone Japan.

For more details read Tokyo Vs. Kyoto Nightlife.

What are some of Tokyo’s coolest neighborhoods?

As with London, New York, and other great cities, Tokyo is packed with great neighborhoods – and things are always changing. And of course everyone has their own opinion about what Tokyo’s best neighborhoods are.

But actually this is an easy one: three of the best neighborhoods in Tokyo are Shimokitazawa, Naka-Meguro, and Ebisu.

While none of these areas are totally off the beaten path, they’re all great places to spend time. And while they’re not actually hidden, most travelers still miss out on them.

For more details read Tokyo’s Best Neighborhoods.

Where can I try good sake?

Finding good sake in Japan is extremely easy: it’s everywhere. You’ll find it at izakayas (Japanese-style gastropubs), sake bars and elsewhere.

Even though they’re completely different beverages, if you’re interested in sake you may also be interested in shochu, which is Japan’s most famous distilled liquor.

For more details about sake read Sake 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Sake, and for more details about shochu read Shochu 101: An Introduction To Shochu.

Can you tell me more about visiting Tsukiji Market?

We get more questions about Tsukiji than almost any other place in Tokyo, so we’ve put together an easy guide to planning your visit to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market.

Anything else I should know?

Yes! If you’ve never been to Japan before, you are going to love it. We are passionate about Japan – it’s an amazing country – and we design all of our trips to make our travelers fall in love with Japan, too. You can see what some of them have said about how much they love Japan.