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Everything You Need to Know Before Travelling to Japan!

By Yann, published on 29/06/2019 We Love Prof > Languages > Japanese > A Beginner’s Guide to the Land of the Rising Sun

“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” -Japanese Proverb

Taking a trip to Japan is a brilliant way to learn the Japanese language without taking lessons at a school or institute.

Japan has been a popular tourist destination for decades; however, in the past years, many Europeans and other international visitors have toured the land of the rising sun making it one of the world’s most visited countries with over 31 million tourists recorded in 2018.

The number of tourists flocking to Japan shows no sign of slowing down in future years, especially with the 2020 Summer Olympics being hosted in Tokyo. 

Japanese cuisine, culture, and traditions have fascinated individuals from all walks of life. Therefore, to effectively guide tourists venturing off to the land of the rising sun, Superprof has created a guide providing information about how and where to travel in Japan.

How to Travel to Japan?

Japan is currently one of the most fashionable destinations in the world for Europeans and North Americans. Talking to coworkers about the adventures you had in the land of the samurai is bound to impress even the saddest.

Although Japan is a land of extravagant and once in a lifetime escapades, it is very pricey. 

However, it is important to state whether you are paying for a vacation to Japan or have decided to move, you have to prepare your trip adequately, and a certain amount of paperwork is required; you can’t escape bureaucracy!

Nevertheless, before thinking about the visas you may need in the future, the first thing to do is book your flight to one of Japan’s largest cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, or Nagoya.

Purchasing a flight off the internet has never been so smooth with online resources such as Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak, and CheapOair. At Superprof, we highly recommended using Skyscanner since users can compare flight prices from distinct companies and search an entire month to find the cheapest date available.

Also, it is important to state that taking direct flights from the UK to Japan is quite costly; therefore, stopping over in another major Asian city such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Beijing, or Shanghai is necessary to ensure a cheaper plane ticket.

Thinking about spending less on the plane fare is very wise since lodging will take a lot of your money while visiting Japan. 

For a short stay of 90 days, many Europeans, UK citizens included, are exempt from applying for a visa before arriving on Japanese soil. Therefore, Brits can enjoy the beautiful country and all it has to offer without completing various forms of immigration paperwork beforehand.

However, in many cases, after a short stay in Japan, many individuals find reasons to go back, such as work, study, or marry a Japanese native. In these situations, UK residents need to apply for an appropriate visa at the Japanese Embassy in London.

The following visas are necessary for an extended period and cover a wide variety of reasons:

  • Work permit,
  • Student visa,
  • Internship visa,
  • Family reunification visa,
  • Visa for spouses and family members of Japanese natives,
  • Rotary Club visa,
  • Volunteer visa,
  • Working Holiday visa.

The previously listed visas are only a few of the possible immigration documents available for expatriates. Also, it is essential to state that when applying for a visa, the certificate of eligibility must be submitted to prove entry into Japanese territory for non-fraudulent reasons.

An immigration document that deserves specific recognition is the Working Holiday Visa: it allows youths from the ages of 18-30 to travel and to work in Japan for a period of up to one year. However, an extension can be applied for to stay longer in Japanese territory.

The Working Holiday visa allows youngsters to experience an adventure abroad, learn a new language, and acquire information about a new culture. 

Japanese Cities: Ten of the Largest Metropolises in the Land of the Rising Sun!

Kyoto's magnificence Visiting the city of Kyoto is a must when travelling to Japan; a perfect blend of modernity and ancient tradition. (Source: pixabay)

I’m going to Japan! The airline ticket has been bought, the certificate of eligibility and visa are in hand, and lodging has been found in an affordable yet comfortable hostel for the first night after the plane lands in one of Japan’s largest cities such as Tokyo or Osaka.

The first thing that a European or North American citizen will notice is how distinct Japan is from Western civilisation; a complete change of scenery from rainy London is guaranteed! 

The population of Japan of approximately 127 million inhabitants is spread across four islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku. Japan’s total area is 377,962 km², which is a bit larger than the UK, and remains one of the safest countries in the world.

More than a dozen Japanese cities boast more than a million inhabitants, and the following are Japan’s megacities:

  • Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama: 42.8 million inhabitants (the most populated city in the world),
  • Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe: 20 million inhabitants,
  • Nagoya: 10 million inhabitants,
  • Fukuoka-Kitakyushu: 2.5 million people,
  • Sapporo: 2 million residents,
  • Hiroshima: 1.2 million inhabitants,
  • Sendai: 1 million people,
  • Shizuoka: 716,000 residents,
  • Saitama: 1.2 million inhabitants,
  • Niigata: 808,000 people.

As we previously stated, the capital of Japan, Tokyo, is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. Tokyo is famous for being dizzying, breathtaking, and impressive. Taking a tour of unique neighbourhoods such as Shibuya, Akihabara, and Asakusa are worth the time.

Mount Fuji cannot be missed on a trip through Japan since it is an iconic symbol of Japanese culture and is seen on all postcards. 

Another important touristic location to see when visiting Japan is Kyoto since it completely embodies the most memorable aspects of Japanese tradition, customs, and culture.

Kyoto to be likened to an open-air museum that never closes or loses its charm.

It is essential to state that speaking a little bit of Japanese is necessary when travelling off the beaten path and visiting places that are not as touristy as Tokyo, Mount Fuji, or Kyoto. Good news is that Japanese classes can be attended at an affordable rate for those who are staying longer than only a couple of weeks.

However, the land of the rising sun does not always boast a happy ending for some.

How’s that? 

Japan is widely known by many worldwide for its seismic risk factor. For example, we all recently remember hearing news reports about the earthquake that hit the Japanese regions of Sendai and Fukushima on March 11, 2011, with a 9.0 magnitude. The deadly quake was not all since the tsunami that later hit killed over 18,000; a tragic story indeed!

A Brief History of Japan: the Great Japanese Emperors

What better way to visit a country than to previously study its history? What about Japanese history? Who ruled the land of the rising sun before it became the way it is today? What were the regimes of Japan that built its present cultural and economic powers?

Knowing the details of the times, eras, and dates of a distinct Japanese emperor’s reign can be quite fascinating, especially when wanting to enrich your general culture of Japan before going leaving.

History of the Japanese Archipelago

Since 1947, Japan is a constitutional monarchy divided into three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. It is the Cabinet of Japan that actually runs the government and not recently named emperor Naruhito; he has only an honorary title.

Technically the emperor of Japan is the head of the state, the symbol of the Japanese government, and the leader of the Shinto religion. 

The cabinet, responsible for leading the nation’s policy, is composed of the ministers of state and the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who was elected on December 24, 2014.

Nevertheless, let’s take a little time to focus on ancient history. According to history, the first emperor and legendary founder of Japan was Jimnu who reigned from 660-585 BC. Jimnu’s successors were the following based on historical records:

  • Suizei: 581-549 BC,
  • Annei: 549-511 BC,
    Itoku: 510 -477 BC,
    Kosho: 475 -393 BC,
    Koan: 392-291 BC,
    Korei: 290 -215 BC,
    Kogen: 214-158 BC,
    Kaika: 157 -98 BC,
    Sujin: 97 -30 BC,
    Suinin: 29 BC-70 AD,
    Keiko: 71 – 130 AD,
    Seimu: 131 – 191 AD,
    Chuai: 192-200 AD.

The previously mentioned emperors are believed to have existed and reigned, but there are not enough resources to successfully prove their existence. Nevertheless, the group of emperors that we can be sure of date back to the third century of our modern era with the first being Ojin (201-310).

Japanese antiquity spread from 400 to 1198 during the feudal period, and sixty-five distinct emperors succeeded each other during this ancient period, and 32 emperors shared the throne from 1198 to 1611. Many Shoguns were used during this period.

What is a shogun? 

A shogun was a general who was also acting as emperor and leader of Japan. 

The pre-modern era is known by many as the Edo period, which saw 16 emperors rule and lasted from 1611 to the restoration of Meiji in 1868. Emperor Meiji reigned until 1912 and became the first emperor of the Empire of Japan.

Emperors had complete control of government and military until 1947. Therefore, for over 1700 proven years, emperors had absolute power over the Japanese empire!

The current emperor, Naruhito, started to reign earlier this year on the 1st of May after his father abdicated due to illness and old age.

What are the Most Significant Japanese Monuments?

the sites of Japan Itsukushima’s floating torii gate is a must see when travelling through Japan. (Source: pixabay)

Among the many things to see in Japan, there are many sites and tourist destinations that must not be missed.

The following are essential Japanese sites and monuments to visit while in Japan:

  • Tokyo’s Imperial Palace,
  • The Tokyo Skytree (highest tower in the world),
  • Tokyo’s Government Buildings or National Diet,
  • Senso-Ji in Tokyo,
  • Kyoto’s Golden Pavillion,
  • Kyoto’s ancient Imperial Palace,
  • Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto,
  • Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima,
  • Osaka Castle,
  • Himeji Castle.

The previously mentioned points of interest are noteworthy and extremely special. However, it is essential to say that not everything can be visited on a short trip to Japan. Time is needed to travel between places and truly appreciate Japan’s cultural treasures.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to go and visit Mount Fuji, which is an easy day trip from the capital. 

We could also mention taking some time to visit the Shrine of Itsukushima, the famous torii floating on the water that was built in 1168 and can be seen from Hiroshima Bay. Nagoya Castle is also worth mentioning since it was built from 1610 to 1619 and remains one of Japan’s most visited monuments.

Spending at least five days in Kyoto is necessary to discover additional UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Kiyomizu-Dera and Daigo-Ji.

Planning a Realistic Budget When Visiting Japan

Japan is an extremely touristic country that recently hit over 30 million visitors in 2018. It is also an expensive country; therefore, a budget needs to be made before arriving on Japanese soil to determine if you have enough quid to travel to the land of the rising sun.

The following is a sample budget for UK-based world travellers:

  • Airline ticket from the UK to Japan: £400-1000.
  • Bed at a hostel in a shared dormitory: £15-25.
  • Airbnb space: £25-75.
  • Private room at a hotel: £80-250 or more depending on the quality and location.
  • Night in a Ryokan: £180.
  • Street food: £3-5 for the basic stuff.
  • Teppanyaki restaurants: £40 or more.
  • Public transportation: £7 or more depending on how far you travel.
  • Grutto Museum Pass while in Tokyo: £15.

The previously mentioned expenditures are only an example of what can be spent on; some prefer to go shopping while others prefer cultural activities or dining.

Nevertheless, count on bringing between £1,000-2,000 per week to spend on a trip to Japan.

How Long Should a Trip to Japan Last?

If you’re planning to visit Japan next year to be a spectator at the 2020 Summer Olympics, you will not be alone; over 40 million international visitors are expected!

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to carefully manage your time and figure out how much time you wish to spend in the land of the rising sun. The following is a suggested itinerary of how many days should be consumed in specific Japanese regions:

  • Tokyo: five days,
  • Kyoto: five days,
  • Osaka: two days,
  • Hiroshima: one day.

It is essential to state that a week in Japan is a bit short to visit the must-see places and enjoy the country without running around and spending too much time in public transportation. Also, visitors must bear in mind the time difference between the UK and Japan to plan a few days after your trip to rest and recuperate before going back to work.

Most experienced travellers would tell you that two weeks in Japan are highly recommended to appreciate all of the Japanese culture and natural wonders thoroughly. Also, if you have the budget and time, a month should be spent in Japan; you will be the envy of all your coworkers!

When is the Best Time to Visit Japan?

an iconic Japanese figure Almost all experienced travellers would agree that visiting Japan in the spring is the best time since the streets are filled with cherry blossoms. (Source: pixabay)

The best time to visit Japan depends on what you prefer to do and see. Since Japan is a rather large country, there are two different climates: the tropical south of the island and the temperate north.

Many experienced travellers will tell you that spring is the best time to visit Japan since the weather is consistently mild and days are sunny. 

Cherry blossoms season, from March to May, attracts people from all over the world; an iconic part of Japanese culture that should not be missed! 

However, since spring is the best time to visit Japan, it is also the most crowded period; do not expect to be observing Japanese gardens alone. Many Japanese natives are also on holiday during springtime making it quite challenging to find comfortable accommodation. To avoid the Golden Week and other spring holidays that prove to be quite annoying, it is better to choose the beginning of April or the start of June.

Also, it may be tempting to want to spend Christmas or New Year’s in Japan, but during this time the Japanese are reuniting with their families, and the trains are jampacked!

Are you ready for your trip to Japan? We believe that we have provided sufficient information to enjoy the journey of a lifetime!

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