One of the world’s most fascinating yet confounding countries, Japan, ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, is like nothing you would have experienced before – a journey here will never fail to intrigue.
Consisting of several thousand islands, of which Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu are the four largest, Japan is well spread, varied and diverse.
Split into a number of regions, each is different to the next and will provide many things to see, experiences to be had and flavours to taste.
Japan’s appetite for futuristic technology leads the world, yet its ties to ceremony and ancient ritual, ground it firmly in the past. In Tokyo, the contrast between old and new is very noticeable.
From traditional gardens surrounding ancient temples to the ultra-modern malls, extensive rail network and the new areas popular with anime and dress up themed cafes.
If Tokyo is Japan’s wild child, then Kyoto is the wise cultured grandfather. It is home to some of the finest art, crafts, culture and architecture in Japan. Appreciate the long history of this majestic country with the many varied temples and shrines.
Japan has everything to keep both seasoned travellers and first time visitors in absolute awe – be it hiking Mt.Fuji or wandering through a heritage trail in a towering castle, admiring the cherry blossom trees in bloom, meandering tranquil alleyways filled with Yakitori bars, dining in one of the many Michelin stared restaurants to staying in futuristic capsule hotels, ramen dispensing vending machines, transport that operates to the second and auto-opening toilet seats!
A safe country to explore where the locals are polite and welcoming, Japan surprises, delights and ultimately wins over everyone that spends time here.
When you are planning your trip, there are some key points to be aware of.
The best mode of transport around Japan is by rail, it’s fast, convenient and easy to use. High speed and safety are features of the Japan railway network where 300km/h Shinkansen (bullet trains) connect Tokyo with Japan’s major cities at intervals of approximately 15 minutes. The long-distance trains provide convenient access to all parts of Japan.
Rail travel in Japan is clean, very efficient and is the best way to travel between cities. Train service schedules operate on time, therefore you cannot be late if you have a specific train booked. Whilst the thought of train travel sounds daunting at first, as soon as you have done it once, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
There are no facilities to check-in any luggage on Japan trains. On the long-distance trains including bullet trains, there is a luggage space at one end of each carriage and there is some room at your feet as well as a small overhead space, therefore is highly advisable to travel light. The alternative option which also works well is a door-to-door luggage delivery service that is used by locals and tourists alike and is fast, secure and cheap. Known as “Takkyubin or Takuhaibin”, it is a means of transporting luggage from city to city and is available via your hotel concierge, many convenience stores and direct from various companies. Your luggage will be collected from your hotel and delivered to your next destination, next day or even same-day.
If you are only making a few trips from city to city, Active Asia can book individual sectors for you, otherwise a Japan Rail Pass is available which cannot be purchased in Japan. This pass is true value for money and gives you either 7, 14 or 21 days of continuous travel.
Whilst there are a wide choice of hotels throughout Japan, we recommend being located close to a railway station for first time travellers to Japan. Stays near stations offer you both convenience of getting around but some are also home to larger department stores, local shops and a wide range of eateries.
The closer you are to the bigger railway stations will reflect in your hotel pricing, but the difference makes it much easier for you when travelling around and eating out.
Sightseeing tours in Japan start from a central pick-up point and end at another point, usually somewhere central where guests may continue exploring or shopping at their leisure.
On select tours, pick-ups are included from select hotels. Active Asia will endeavour to offer you these hotels, however if a hotel does not include pick-up, then you will be given a central point to be at in time for the start of the tour. Full details will be given to you on meeting location, however ensure you allow yourself plenty of time to arrive early at the departure point. If you are late, the tour will depart without you and no refund will be given.
Please ensure you collect a hotel ‘address card’ from the concierge when you arrive at your hotel, as this will assist you to return to your hotel at the conclusion of a sightseeing tour or if you are out self-exploring.
Whilst the Japanese people are extremely friendly, courteous and helpful, many do not speak much English even though English is widely taught in higher education. Therefore learning a few welcoming phrases will be warmly welcomed.