This year has been so good since I was able to start my own blog to share my endless stories. Lately, I’ve been receiving tons of inquiry on how to travel around Japan and this December I will share you tips on how to do it! This post might be too long but surely it will be helpful on your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. 🎌✈️
I listed all topics that are frequently asked and I ended up with 15 points for you to know before going to Japan, JaFUN! 😂 I promise to update this post as necessary. 👍
1. Travel off peak and you’ll save a lot. Plan your trip by starting to choose from the four seasons in Japan.
(1) New Year Holidays (end of December to January)
(2) “Golden Week” Holidays (End of April til first week of May & adjacent weekends)
(3) “Bon” Festival Season (weeks centering on August 15)
Winter (December – February)
Prepare to layer clothes during this season because the temperature can drop below zero degrees. It’s time to enjoy winter sports and hit the hot springs. Don’t forget to bring your overcoats, sweater, scarves and gloves.
Spring (March – May)
It also known as the “Sakura/Cherry Blossom Season”. A good sign that spring is just around the corner and most of the places are covered in pink. People enjoyed eating at park and drinking their local beers under the full bloom trees. Bring your lightweight jackets, sweaters, turtle necks.
Summer (June – August)
Summer in Japan is seriously hot and humid wherein temperature can be 40° C. People are visiting the beach and attending festivities from different cities. It is also the perfect season to climb up some mountains including Japan’s tallest, Mount Fuji.
Related Article: My Birthday Climb on Mount Fuji (2015)
Visitors from tropical country can wear their usual clothes such as pants, shorts, sleeveless tops and shirts. Please expect rainy days most specially during the beginning of the season.
By the way, summer in Sapporo and Sendai is around 20° – 23°. 😊
Autumn (September – November)
After the scorching hot season, autumn will embrace you with light breeze and invigorating temperature. Most of the mountains are colored with autumn colors (orange, light yellow, red orange).
Related Article: Serenity in Mount Haruna (Gunma, 2015)
It’s also the ideal weather to walk at the parks and shrines, visit exhibits and watch sports tournaments. Simply bring your light jackets, sweaters, just like the clothes listed for Spring.
If you are already decided which month to visit Japan, let’s now talk about how to get a visa. Yes, Japan still requires VISA apart from the other 67 countries.
“Japan has agreements with 67 countries that exempt these citizens from having to apply for a visa to enter Japan. Nationals of all other countries require a visa.” (JNTO)
67 Countries for Visa Exemptions (as of December, 2014)
Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Canada, USA, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Suriname, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, Lesotho, Mauritius, Tunisia, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
For more information about exemption of visa, please click here.
For other nationalities not stated above, check these websites of Japanese Embassies, Consulates and Permanent Missions, click here.
Since I am writing this for my Filipino friends, no need to visit the embassy because it is a MUST to apply your tourist visa thru accredited agencies.
For List of Accredited Agencies, click here.
For more important details about visa application, click here.
As of April 2015, here is the updated list of Consular Fees:
Single Entry Visa 1,200 pesos (may vary in other agency)
– period of stay must not exceed 15 days
Multiple Entry Visa 2,450 pesos
– considered as temporary visitor that can stay in Japan for 15 – 30 days; validity is up to 5 years.
Transit Visa 300 pesos
– a visa allowing its holder to pass through a country only, not applicable for long stay
For more details on the condition for issuance of these visas, please click here.
For complete list of consular fees, click here.
3. Entry and Exit
Japan has numerous airports that you can choose from as your entry and/or exit points. In this way you can save time from going back and forth to the same city.
(1) Haneda Airport busiest airport in Japan that handles most domestic flights and less international flights. It is also closer to the city than Narita Airport.
(2) Tokyo’s Narita Airport mostly handles majority of international flights. It is located in Chiba, 60 kilometers outside of Tokyo.
(3) Osaka’s Kansai International Airport is one of Japan’s most important airports. Just like Narita, they have huge hubs that can serve domestic and international flights.
(4) Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport is Japan’s fourth most important airport that handles domestic and international flights form the former Nagoya’s Komaki Airport.
(5) Fukuoka Airport handles domestic flights but they also have few international flights such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore.
(6) New Chitose Airport is the main airport of Sapporo and considered as one of the busiest. Mainly domestic flights and few international routes.
(7) Kobe Airport offers domestic flights only. The nearest international airport is Osaka’s Kansai Airport.
(8) Okinawa’s Naha Airport served as an international airport that caters to 11 cities (Hong Kong, Korea, China, Taiwan).
Listed above are the main airports in Japan, so you can plan where to begin and end your trip, or simply visit one city at a time.
For example, you can book a flight to Osaka then exit via Tokyo or vice versa. In that case, you don’t need to go back to Osaka for your return flight. ✈️
I would love to share budget airlines within Japan, however I am still researching about it and how it works for tourists. I’ll update this post as necessary. ✈️
4. Airline Ticket
In some cases, this will be the most expensive part of the trip. Personally, I haven’t tried budget airlines going to Japan because of ‘trust issues‘. I know it’s cheaper but I am more comfortable on big planes and usually I have check in baggages. Plus, it is my mother’s sole decision when it comes to this part of traveling.
Since traveling is a booming activity for the present generation, it is very economical to search for the cheapest airfare so you can put most of your money allocation in enjoying the country’s sightseeings.
List of Budget Airlines that has flights to Japan:
Simply wait for promos that is usually held every holidays and/or payday. They sell it for as low as 3,000 pesos ($65 per way).
Best Tip I can suggest is to BOOK EARLY.
Some tourists, book their own tickets as early as 6 months prior their trip to save bucks. And mind you, it is helpful!
Keep in mind…
To apply for the visa a month before the trip because single entry visa is only valid within 3 months from the date of approval.
5. Japan Rail Pass
As I said, traveling around Japan is not expensive as you think due to the release of Japan Rail Pass.
This is the sign that you can see at the train stations all over Japan. A group of privately owned companies that provide railway service to mass consumers in Japan. I am telling you that they are timely and efficient. If you will avail this pass, you can travel around Japan using shinkansen bullet train, non bullet trains and buses.
“JAPAN RAIL PASS
is a special fare ticket that is available only to travelers/tourist visiting Japan for sightseeing.”
* Please be reminded that Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased in Japan.
You have to buy it from an authorized sales agent/office before going to Japan.
(a) A foreign tourist/visitor under the entry status of “Temporary Visitor” as seen on your passport. Upon entry in Japan, presenting your stamp will allow you to use the rail pass.
(b) If you are a Japanese National living outside of Japan who meets the following conditions:
a. who has permanent residence in that country
Person meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ Right of permanent residence
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
b. who is married to a non-Japanese residing in a country other than Japan
Persons meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ That they are married to a foreign national
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
・ That their spouse (a foreign national) is living outside Japan
If applicant failed to provide these papers, issuance of pass maybe denied.
Two Types of JAPAN RAIL PASS
(a) Green (for superior-class Green cars)
Each of these types is available at a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day Pass.
JR Pass Fees
(As of September 2015)
7 Days ¥38,880 / P15,080 / $320 ¥19,440 / P7,540 / $160
14 Days ¥62,950 / P24,415 / $517 ¥31,470 / P12,205 / $258
21 Days ¥81,870 / P31,750 / $670 ¥59,350 / P23,078 / $489
7 Days ¥29,110 / P11,320 / $240 ¥14,550 / P5,657 / $120
14 Days ¥46,390 / P18,038 / $380 ¥23,190 / P9,017 / $190
21 Days ¥59,350 / P23,070 / $488 ¥29,670 / P11,537 / $244
The actual cost in local currency is calculated based on the Banker’s Selling Rate (BSR), etc.at the time the Exchange Order is issued. Please note that the purchase exchange rate may differ from the exchange rate in effect when you actually visit Japan.
* Children who are age 6 through 11 as of the date on which the exchange order is issued are eligible for child PASS prices.
* Prices are subject to change. The applicable price is the price valid on the date when an Exchange Order is issued.
The validity period of a Japan Rail Pass is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days period, beginning on the date of its first used.
Once a starting date has been assigned to the pass, it cannot be changed.
For scope, terms and conditions of Japan Rail Pass, please click here.
For steps in buying pass, turning exchange order and making reservation, please click here.
These information are also available at http://www.japanrailpass.net.com, I just saved you from clicking another link. I also converted prices into US Dollars and Philippine Peso. You just have to check the rates again since it varies every day. 😊
6. Transportation around Japan
Aside from traveling around Japan using the JR Pass, you can also take advantage of their major highway buses like Willer Express. Book your tickets early and one thing is for sure, it’s CHEAPER as low as ¥1,700 – ¥2,000.
Related Article: Going Around Japan via Willer Express
For more details about Willer Express, click here.
If you are not availing the Japan Rail Pass:
(a) Look for one day or two day subway passes (check their package offers too)
Related Article: Solo Backpacking in Osaka
Related Article: One Day in Kyoto
* List of Train/Bus Pass *
Tokyo Metro Pass Click Here
Osaka Subway Pass (Available at the Major Stations in Osaka)
¥800 / weekdays ¥600 / weekends
Kyoto Subway Pass (Available at the Major Stations in Kyoto)
Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass ¥500
Kyoto Sightseeing (City buses, Subways and most buses run by the Kyoto Bus company )
One-day pass: ¥1,200 (Children ¥600)
Two-day pass: ¥2,000 (Children ¥1,000)
Kyoto City Subway One-Day Pass Adult¥600 / Children ¥300
One/Two Day Passes are Highly Recommended ★ if you are only staying in one or two nearby cities.
(b) Get a re-loadable Suica Card
Using the trains in Japan can be a little confusing and I would recommend you to get train station maps at the major train stations so you can figure out how to get around the city stations.
They also have the JR East Info smartphone application in English! (mostly includes Tokyo train timetable)
For more details, please click here.
Download the app here.
You can also use HyperDia App in checking timetable of the railway and the aviation of Japan.
For more details, please click here. (Highly Recommended! ★)
I did not recommend any use of cab/taxi because it is EXPENSIVE.
Aside from the airfare ticket, accommodation in Japan can be a little painful. If you are traveling with family and group of friends, hotels can be the best option without compromising your safety and comfort. However, there are options available wherein you can save money and stay on a limited space.
Cheap Hotels (These sites has budget/package deals for Japan)
- Tokyo Capsule Hotels (Site Here)
- Shinjuku Capsule Hotels [Capsule + Spa/Sauna] (Site Here)
- Sakura Hotel & Hostel [Single / Double / Dormitory] (Site Here)
- Osaka Capsule Hotels (Site Here)
- Capsule Kyoto Ryokan (Site Here)
- Ryokan Kyoto (Site Here)
- Kyoto Ryokan Shimizu (Site Here)
When I visited Osaka last October, I tried using airbnb for the first time and it was way cheaper than hotels. I got an entire loft for three days for ¥8000 / P3,120 / $66. I can’t have room service or housekeeper during my stay but I can definitely manage my expenditures during the trip. I can also cook my own food and do my laundry!
You can choose from whole apartment, shared room or private room.
To look for airbnb hosts, click here. (Highly Recommended! ★)
Will you still travel without Wi-Fi? Nah, it’s everyone’s way of communicating and sharing photos online is something we look forward to in every trips. It is also necessary when we get lost unintentionally.
Please be reminded that you don’t need to buy a new phone compatible in Japan because free WiFi is just around the corner. Mainly at the train stations.
Tokyo Free WiFi, please click here.
Osaka Free WiFi, please click here.
Kyoto Free WiFi, please click here.
Hokkaido Free WiFi, please click here.
Some cities has data limit but I think it’s better than nothing. 😄📶
Most overwhelming part of the trip is planning your itinerary. There’s so much you wanted to do but you have limited time and money. Let’s prioritize what we really want to experience in Japan without hurting our wallet/savings.
What are the activities can you try in Japan?
- Open air bath (hot spring)
- Yakiniku Festival in Hokkaido (February)
- Illumination in Tokyo
- Sapporo Snow Festival
- Winter Sports (skiing, ice skating and sledding)
* List of ski and snowboards resorts in Japan, click here.
- Celebrate tons of festivals (Hina Matsuri), White Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Children’s Day
- Strawberry Season means strawberry picking!
- Spring Matsuri / Spring Festival
- Watch Kabuki Performance
- Visit flower parks to see sakura and ume
* List of Cherry Blossom Spots, click here.
- Attend tons of Matsuri and wear yukata (cotton kimono)
- Beer Gardens
- Bargain Finds for Winter
- Best view at the observatory deck of Tokyo Tower & Sky Tree
- Best and only season to climb Mount Fuji
Related Article: My Birthday Climb on Mount Fuji (2015)
- Witness autumn foliage in Tokyo / Gunma / Kyoto
- Harvest and eat chestnuts “kuri”
- Go camping
- Visit Mount Takao (mountain near Tokyo)
- Taste their warm sweet potato!
- Visit museums, read at the park (weather is definitely cool)
- Shopping (Summer clothes are marked down!)
10. List of Japan’s Theme Parks
Prices of these theme parks might be pricey but it’s all worth it! You can spend the whole day here with your family or friends, and be like a kid again!
(a) Sanrio Puroland (Site Here)
Weekdays Adult ¥3,300 Child ¥2,500
Holidays Adult ¥3,800 Child ¥2,700
* Kids under 2 years old are free of entrance.
(b) Tokyo Disney Land (Site Here)
1 Day Passport
Adult ¥6,900 / P2,650 / $57
Child ¥4,500 / P1,745 / $37
(c) Tokyo Disney Sea
Ticket prices are the same for Tokyo Disneyland Park and Tokyo Disney Sea Park. 😄
(d) Fuji-Q (Site Here)
It is actually near Mount Fuji. 🗻
Entrance / Admission Only Adult ¥1,400 Child ¥800
Entrance & Free Pass Ticket (1Day)
Adult ¥5,200/ P2,040 / $43
Students ¥4,700 / P1,843 / $39
Child ¥3,800 / P1,491 / $32
Universal Studios Japan (Site Here)
1 Day Pass (w/ tax)
Adult (12 and up) ¥7,200 / P2,796 / $60
Child (4-11) ¥4,980 / P1,934 / $41
Seniors (65 and up) ¥6,470 / P2,513 / $54
They also have cheaper tickets varying from 7, 5 and 3 must see attractions. Tickets for limited number of attractions is called Universal Express Pass.
There are numerous theme parks in Japan and I am still trying to explore some of their attractions. One at a time, maybe. 😊 For now, these are the famous theme parks that people, even Japanese residents, go to every season.
Warning: Always jam-packed.
11. FREE Things To Do (according to cities that I’ve been to)
Again, traveling around Japan is not as expensive as you think. You can add these activities in your list because these places are definitely for FREE! Plus it will give you the real Japanese vibe. As you can see, you can experience Japan’s culture at no cost. 👌
Balance your itinerary with these free places. 📝
- Meiji Shrine
- Harajuku Lane (Takeshita Street)
- Sensō-ji (famous Buddhist temple)
- Shibuya Scramble
- Pay a visit to the most loyal dog, Hachiko
- Imperial Palace in Tokyo
- Visit Parks (Yoyogi, Shinjuku)
- Odaiba (Largest Gundam, Rainbow Bridge)
- Otaku Haven in Akihabara
- Attend a Matsuri Festival
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
- Tsukiji Fish Market (You have to fall in line as early as 5 AM because they will only allow 120 tourists/day. (PS. It is closed to tourists since December 1, 2015 until January 17, 2016 – BUSIEST Time of the Year.)
- Namba District (Shopping)
- Stroll at Dōtonbori
- Take a picture w/ Glico Man
- Asahi Beer Factory (free beer you just have to book your tour)
- Sumiyoshi Taisha (oldest shrine in Japan)
- Tenmangu Shrine
- Tenjin Festival (July)
- Osaka Castle Park (going inside the castle requires admission fee)
- Explore the elegance of Kyoto Station
- Fushimi Inari
- Higashiyama District
- Yasaka Pagoda
- Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest
- Gion District
- See a real Geisha
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
12. Food and Drinks
It’s not Japan without trying their famous cuisine! To experience the Japanese dining culture, try to eat at their specialized restaurants like Izakaya (pubs) and yatai (food stalls). Most of the restaurants in Japan specialized just one type of food. 🍴
(a) Ramen (varies from different cities) ¥400-800 per bowl
(b) Gyōza (dumplings) ¥300 – ¥500 / 5-6 pieces
(c) Fresh Sushi ¥120 per plate / 2 pieces
For a unique experience, try Kappa-Sushi.
(d) Yakiniku (grill it the way you want it) ¥500 – ¥2,500
(e) Takoyaki ¥300 – ¥700 (6-8 pieces)
(f) Meal Set ¥600 – ¥1000
(g) Mochi ¥100 – ¥150
(h) Drinks ¥80 – ¥160
Vending machines are almost available in every corner! It’s a little bit pricey tho, price ranges from ¥110 – ¥160. But if you are eager to save, I suggest you to visit big grocery stores like Yaoko, Homes’, Aeon, Maruetsu and Seiyu. Drinks are sold as low as ¥70 – ¥150 (500ml – 1L).
Almost every week, we visit the grocery stores to buy our food so definitely I can share you an updated price of products.
- Mineral Water ¥90-180 (500ml, 1L)
- Coffee (to go / can) ¥130-180 (300ml)
- Milk ¥150-180 (300ml, 1L)
- Beer ¥90-200 (300ml, 500ml)
- Sports Drink ¥100-250 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
- Sodas ¥80-160 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
- Fruit Juice ¥80-200 (250ml, 500ml, 1L)
- Biscuits ¥80-300
- Bread ¥70-180
- Chips ¥70-180
- Chocolates (bars) ¥60-300
- Chocolates (packs of 12) ¥150-300
Bento (Meal Set) ¥200-600
Best Tip Grocery items are mark down at NIGHT! Grab some bread and drinks for your breakfast/snack. 🙂
13. Convenient Stores
If I will define Japan’s convenient store in one word it would be A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It’s like a mini grocery store that has everything you need. Open 24 hours to make people’s lives convenient. They have variety of drinks including beer & wine, bento meals, fresh salad, rice balls, fried snacks, doughnuts, fruits, ice cream, chocolates, cookies, chips, supplies, books, magazines, make up, chargers, prepaid gaming cards, prepaid credit cards, toiletries and some stores has MUJI apparels. They also have ATM, fax machines, photocopying machine and clean restrooms.
What are the convenient stores “konbini” in Japan?
- 7 Eleven
- Family Mart
- Mini Stop
- New Days
Almost every touristy place has souvenir shops, you just have to check the prices carefully. Save when you can! 👌
Let me give you some suggestions.
(1) Don Quijote houses a lot of products from chocolates, clothing, gadgets, bags, apparels, shoes, appliances, make up, and many more. Prices are always marked down. They also give discounts for tourists by simply presenting your passport and visa. Some stores are also open for 24 hours so you can do something even at night! As of June 2015, they already have 260 shops throughout the country.
(2) Hyaku En Shoppu / Daiso has everything for only ¥100 plus tax. You can find dining wares, toys, craft items, school supplies, Hello Kitty stuffs and a lot more!
(3) Tokyo KitKat Chocolatory offers unique Kit Kat flavors that is only available in Japan! Some famous cities has their own specialty flavor too!
(4) Starbucks Tumblers & Mugs are available everywhere but if you are looking for the collectible items marked with the name of the city, Starbucks at the airport has it. It is also available in their respective cities.
* Each tumbler costs around ¥1,400 including tax.
(5) Buy & Send Postcards! They sell 10 cards for ¥350-500.
15. Lastly, you should be aware that tipping is not allowed in Japan without compromising the service.
I know it’s quite long and may looks boring with all the information, but hey this post is for everyone who would love to go to Japan someday. I also included useful links that you can read later on. For you to travel on a light budget, you should learn how to plan and prioritize.
Personally, I’m not recommending a travel full of things to do on a limited time.
It’s not fun at all and you will end up exhausted.
It might work for those who only want good pictures, but I will suggest you to go for the GOOD EXPERIENCE. Something that you will treasure in your wonderful journey in seeing the world because one day you will pick up a photograph and remember the story behind it. I wish it’s a remarkable story. Would you like to remember how tired you were on the entire trip? Tired in a sense that you forgot to enjoy while spending your hard earned money?
Think about it.
There are people who don’t need these and they are the spontaneous travelers. They like to be surprise of the things they will encounter. Such a provoking idea, however there are still people who are quite hesitant to travel around Japan because of the language. I also get worried at times when I travel around the city, but I would like you to know that people who works at the airport, train stations & famous tourist spots know how to speak business English. Just give it a try and they will try to help you the best way they can.
I therefore conclude that with thorough planning and preparation, you can surely save bucks in the Land of the Rising Sun. 👌 💰
Cheers to more adventures! 👣✈️🌏
PS. I don’t advertise any of these. I’m plainly sharing facts with you. 🙂