About Traveling in Japan:
- 1. Is it safe to visit Japan?
- 2. Can you help me plan my trip to Japan?
- 3. Do I need to know Japanese?
- 4. What’s the best time for visiting?
- 5. Should I purchase the Japan Rail Pass?
- 6. How much money does a trip to Japan cost?
- 7. What’s a good souvenir to buy?
About Life in Japan:
- 1. How can I live in Japan?
- 2. How can I get a job in Japan?
- 3. How do Japanese treat foreigners?
- 4. What are the good and bad things about living in Japan?
About Japanese Culture:
- 1. Do Japanese people celebrate Christmas?
- 2. What do Japanese do on New Year’s Eve?
- 3. What to do in a Japanese temple / shrine?
About Traveling in Japan:
1. Is it safe to visit Japan?
Japan is still one of the safest countries in the world in terms of crime. It’s true that Japan gets a lot of earthquakes, has several active volcanoes and there’s also the typhoon season. There are even a few dangerous insects and animals. However, all of that is not unique to Japan and could await you in other countries as well!
As far as earthquakes go, only a few regions in Japan are very prone to them. Furthermore most of them are not very strong quakes.
If you’re concerned about radiation, then please check radiation maps. Even in Tokyo it’s not bad at all and much less in regions farther away from Fukushima.
You can read a detailed article for further information here: “Is it safe to travel to Japan?”
2. Can you help me plan my trip to Japan?
Sure! I hope I’m already helping you with my blog!
However, keep in mind that it’s your trip and only you know what you’re interested in the most and what kind of journey you’d like to have!
Some people love exploring shrines and temples, others love Japanese history and go for all the wonderful Japanese castles. Big cities such as Tokyo, Fukuoka or Osaka are also of interest for many. You can go shopping and experience the big city life of Japan.
That being said, I can’t plan the complete trip for you. It’s YOUR trip after all, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.
If it’s your first trip to Japan it’s probably better to stick to the popular foreign tourists spots such as Tokyo, Kyoto or Hiroshima.
Coming to Japan for the x time, however, can be tough sometimes. What if you’ve seen pretty much everything your great travel guidebook recommended? Well, then I hope that my blog can give you some inspiration, because I love exploring things away from the beaten paths! I’m sure that you’ll find at least a few things you’ve never heard of before! Or did you know about Tashirojima (Cat Island), Okunoshima (Rabbit Island), Mt. Osore (the gateway to hell), Gunkanjima (the ghost island that recently was featured in a James Bond movie) or the Kanamara Matsuri (aka The Phallus Festival)? And those are just a few examples!
Especially for first-time visitors I recommend getting a guidebook. There are several good ones out there for Tokyo, Kyoto or all of Japan. Here’s a small selection that I like:
3. Do I need to know Japanese?
No, not really. Just think about how many tourists come to Japan without knowing any Japanese!
Don’t expect that Japanese people will understand or speak English well. Most of them unfortunately don’t!
So it will be more convenient if you can speak a little bit of Japanese and I also recommend that you take a phrase book with you. However, especially the popular tourist spots all have a lot of information in English and people are used to foreign tourists there.
4. What’s the best time for visiting?
Japan has something to offer in every season, so it really depends on your preferences! Spring and autumn are best for the mild climate and the colorful scenery. In spring you’ll be able to see plum blossoms (梅, ume) and cherry blossoms (桜, sakura) and in autumn the breathtaking colored leaves!
Summer is extremely hot and humid and there will be a lot of insects, but it’s also the festival season where you can see people in yukata, fireworks as well as traditional taiko and dance performances! Some of my personal highlights are the Gujo Odori (Gujo-Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture) and the Nebuta and Neputa festivals in Aomori Prefecture. Summer is also the best season if you want to visit Okinawa and go diving, snorkeling, surfing or swimming there!
Also, only in summer you can climb Mt. Fuji (July – August).
Japan’s winter can be mild or extremely cold depending on where you go. While it rarely snows in Tokyo and some parts of Kansai, there will be a lot of snow in Chubu (e.g. Niigata Prefecture), some parts of Tohoku and of course in Hokkaido!
Several things can only be done or seen in winter such as the popular Snow Festival of Sapporo. The snow monkeys of Nagano are also best visited in winter! Enjoying Japanese hot springs (onsen) is most comfortable in the cold winter months.
Times you might want to avoid are peak travel seasons such as the Golden Week (in early May) when everything is crowded and expensive. Weatherwise you should try to avoid rainy season (for most parts of Japan: late June / early July) and typhoon season (mostly in September).
5. Should I purchase the Japan Rail Pass?
This is a question that cannot be answered easily! It depends on your itinerary! Please refer to this article for more details.
When used correctly, it can be a great money saver, but not for everyone! Please use “Hyperdia” to check train times and prices to calculate if the pass is worth it!
Don’t forget that you cannot use the Nozomi or Mizuho Shinkansen with the Rail Pass! Also private railways and non-JR buses are not included.
If you decide not to use the Japan Rail Pass, then you might want to consider the Seishun 18 Kippu instead. It’s a great way to travel cheap, using mainly local trains.
6. How much money does a trip to Japan cost?
That’s very difficult to answer as it depends on various things! Where you stay, what means of transportation you use and what you eat will greatly influence the amount of money you have to spend. I’m trying to give good advice where people can save money here on my blog, but it all depends on you in the end.
Some seasons are cheaper than others. If you choose to visit a lot of attractions that charge an admission fee it can get expensive easily.
A single room in a standard business hotel is usually around 4000-5000yen per night. You can get meals for around 400 yen. Entrance admissions are usually around 300-1000 yen. Transportation will hugely differ, so better check in order to know how much to bring!
A rough estimate is that you’ll need 10.000yen per day. You can also see how much I spent on a 3 weeks trip (also using the Japan Rail Pass) here for reference.
7. What’s a good souvenir to buy?
Once you’re in Japan, you won’t have any issues finding good souvenirs. All tourist spots, even the less-known ones, have small souvenir stands or shops. While Japanese people love to buy food as a souvenir, you’ll also find several other items that are typical for Japan or the region you are visiting. To name just one example, the red cow of Aizu called Akabeko, you’ll find in Fukushima.
Standard Japanese souvenirs include fans, dolls, Maneki Neko, Daruma, chopsticks, origami, pottery or typical beauty items such as hairpins and mirrors. Postcards of the region you visited are also a great memory, but my personal favorite is the temple / shrine seal book!
About life in Japan:
1. How can I live in Japan?
If you don’t have Japanese citizenship you’ll need a proper visa in order to stay in Japan. Visa requirements depend on your nationality and what you plan to do in Japan. You can come here on a working holiday visa (*not for all nationalities), as a student, to work or with a spouse visa. There are a lot of possibilities, but please keep in mind that Japan is NOT an immigration country. Requirements are very strict. Or, in other words, Japan won’t let just anybody in!
You can read all about visas in Japan here.
Please also refer to my blog post “Dreaming of a life in Japan – The Reality” for more information.
2. How can I get a job in Japan?
Being fluent in Japanese certainly helps. Just think about it! Why should they hire a foreigner who can’t speak the language well and doesn’t know about the cultural situation when they could hire a Japanese person to do the exact same job?
That’s why a lot of foreigners come to Japan working as an English teacher. For this position you don’t need any Japanese skills (but I recommend you study Japanese).
All you need is a BA/BS degree in any field and a passport of a country that has English as an official language. This is more of a visa than a job requirement! I’m a non-native speaker of English and yet I’ve been working as an English teacher in Japan for many years. However, it wasn’t easy to obtain the work visa. You might want to read all about how I made it to Japan.
There are other jobs for foreigners as well. Engineers, journalists, models or translators are common. Some Western male foreigners work as wedding priests. Others have found ways to earn money as a voice actor, successful blogger or Youtuber. You can also read about what others do in Japan for a living in the “My Japanese Life” series.
What you need to do is to check the visa requirements and then look for a job. Good job sites are:
3. How do Japanese treat foreigners?
That’s a very complicated topic if you ask me. I guess you could write a book about it.
In fact, people have written books about it such as “Hi! My Name Is Loco and I Am A Racist” to name just one.
I also write about my life as a German Alien in Japan on a regular basis here on my blog, so you might want to check that out as well.
The term “foreigner” is broad. Japanese people certainly won’t treat Asian foreigners in the same way they treat Western foreigners, for example.
Most tourists usually only have good experience with Japanese people. They are polite and helpful. People like me who’ve lived here for a longer time will probably tell you something else. Generally it’s not too bad how foreigners are treated here compared to many other countries in the world!
4. What are the good and bad things about living in Japan?
Just like in any other country in the world there are good and bad things about life in Japan. However, what you consider as good and bad might differ from my opinion. I can only tell you from my point of view what I like about life in Japan and what I hate! Here’s just a few to give you a rough idea:
- fast, clean and reliable trains
- best customer service ever
- general safety (as a female I’m not afraid to walk around alone at night)
- delicious and healthy food
- beautiful seasons and sceneries
- medical system and health care
- natural disasters (earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, radiation)
- the feeling of always being the outsider
- NHK TV fees (* if somebody knocks on your door and wants to know if you have a TV always say no or pay lots of money)
- the garbage system
About Japanese Culture:
1. Do Japanese people celebrate Christmas?
Yes, they do. Well, kind of. It’s not a national holiday, but there’s Santa and there are presents! Japanese don’t send Christmas cards. Instead they send New Year Cards (so-called “nengajo”) at the end of the year.
2. What do Japanese do on New Year’s Eve?
New Year’s Eve in Japan is called “Omisoka” and is celebrated together with the family. It’s completely different from our Western celebration. Many people go to bed before midnight and you’ll hear temple bells everywhere. The next day, New Year’s Day, is considered to be the most important holiday in Japan!
3. What to do in a Japanese temple / shrine?
Most Japanese people go there for praying, but there’s so much more you can do! Very popular are fortune-telling paper strips (omikuji) or wooden wishing plaques (ema). Some people (including me) buy lucky-charms. What I like doing the most is collecting seals for my temple / shrine seal book!