Japan is one of the most incredible countries in the world. Ask anybody who has visited, and we’re almost positive they will agree with us. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Japan, it will be one of the most wonderful and unique experiences of your life. There are some things you should know when planning a trip to Japan, though, and we’re going to tell you all about them in this post!

Compared to Western countries, Japan is very unique. Other than the obvious language barrier, traveling to such a unique country will naturally bring some difficulties. Nothing that is unbearable, and not even difficulties that will hinder your visit. But there are a few things to remember when visiting Japan, to make your experience as enjoyable and stress free as possible.

Tip: Download some Japan travel apps to help you along the way. With everything from transport and language to food and drink – theres an app to help you with almost everything!

We spent four weeks exploring Japan back in March 2017, which you can read about in our one month Japan itinerary post. We managed to explore six different cities across the country. We learned a lot during our visit, and decided to take that information and put it all into this best Japan travel guide!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for continuing to support Rhiannon Travels, and keeping it a free travel guide and resource for everyone to use!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Currency & Money in Japan

The currency used in Japan is Japanese Yen.

In comparison to the Australian and US Dollar, Japan’s currency is quite similar. By that we mean, if you were to purchase something for 100 yen, converting that back into AUD or USD works out to be pretty close. That being said, currencies are always changing, so be sure to check with a currency converter before your trip.


In most aspects, Japan is a very advanced country. But when it comes to the use of a credit or debit card, they’re still pretty far behind. Most restaurants and shops don’t accept card payment, and you’ll find that a lot of businesses are still very cash focussed. Here are some tips to help with understanding money in Japan:

Japan can be done on a budget

Some things in Japan can be quite expensive, especially if you prefer to splurge a little when it comes to food and attractions. But it is possible to travel across Japan on a budget. Check out this post for tons of great tips and a suggested itinerary for exploring Japan for one month for as little money as possible!

Always have some cash with you

Having cash at all times is super important, especially on your first day in Japan. It will come in handy when you’re trying to get from the airport to your hotel, plus for stocking up on snacks and small things you might not have planned for. Given that you’ll more than likely struggle when searching for places that accept card, it’s best to keep a good amount of cash with you throughout your visit.

Withdraw cash at Convenience Stores

The best place to withdraw cash throughout Japan is at one of the convenience stores across the country. Find a 7/11 or Family Mart, as they’re going to be your best bet. Don’t worry about finding one either, they’re absolutely everywhere!

Tip: Get yourself a travel wallet, to not only keep your cash, but also your passport and any tickets you need to keep handy.

Tipping is not required in Japan

One of the best things about Japan is that tipping is not required. In fact, it’s almost considered rude. So there is no need to tip anyone in restaurants, hotels or transport staff. Awesome, right? Another way to save a bit of extra money!

Climate and Weather in Japan

We visited Japan in March 2017, at the tail end of their winter and the beginning of spring. Spring in Japan is Cherry Blossom season, and if you decide to visit during March and April, you’ll be rewarded with a pretty beautiful sight. Although we weren’t lucky enough to see the blossoms falling, we did get to experience the start of Cherry Blossom season, and it was beautiful all the same.


Since we visited at the end of winter, it was still quite cold. We had a couple of freezing days, especially our day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Osaka. Here are some tips about japan’s weather and seasons year-round:

Cherry Blossom Season

Cherry Blossom season runs from March to May, and is the busiest time of year in Japan. Everything is more densely packed than normal, so be prepared for that! We were lucky enough to see the very beginning of Blossom season, however didn’t get to see the trees in full bloom. If you’re hoping to visit Japan during Cherry Blossom season, be sure to book as early as possible, as a lot of hotels will be fully booked if you leave it too late.

Seasons in Japan

If you’re traveling to Japan for the first time, you might not be sure what seasons fall at certain times of the year. Well, Japan is in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning they have the same seasons as countries like the United States and Canada. The seasons in Japan are roughly:

Summer: June to August
Autumn (Fall): September to November
Winter: December to February
Spring (Cherry Blossom Season): March to May

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Despite the crowds, we definitely recommend planning your trip to Japan during Cherry Blossom season. It’s absolutely beautiful and is guaranteed to blow you away. Be sure to book early, though, and prepare for large crowds everywhere you go – theme parks in particular!

That being said, although it will be busy I recommend planning your trip for spring, because it’s a beautiful experience. Be sure to book early and prepare for large crowds everywhere you go – theme parks in particular.

Japan is a very mountainous country

One of the things at the very top of our Japan bucket list, was to see snow. Lucky for us, Japan has a huge amount of beautiful mountains and countryside villages. On our way to Tokyo, we spent a couple of days in Nagano. During our time there, we took a day trip to the nearby, popular snow village of Hakuba.

If you’re hoping to experience Japan’s snow season, we highly recommend Hakuba. It was home to the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the Ski Jumping Stadium is still there today, giving guests the absolute best view in town for under 500 yen. 

A Day at Hakuba Japan Ski Resort | Rhiannon Travels

Japan’s vending machines change with the seasons

This is another quirky fact about Japan. The vending machines that you’ll find on almost every corner throughout the country, actually change with each season! During the colder months of the year (roughly November until March) you’ll find a larger selection of warm beverages like coffee and soup. During the warmer months, there will be a huge range of cold drinks to keep visitors hydrated!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Language in Japan

One of the first things we noticed when arriving in Japan, was that very few people speak English. This is obviously something we were prepared for. We knew that we were the ones visiting a different country, so we were the ones who should learn a couple of key phrases and be able to communicate clearly in some way.


It’s best to come prepared and have a few key phrases or words memorised, to make your visit as easy as possible for everyone involved. Here are some common phrases you should know before arriving in Japan:

Arigatou Gozaimas – Thank You
Konnichiwa  Hello
Sumimasen – Excuse Me
Ohayou Gozaimasu – Good Morning
Konbanwa – Good Evening
Hai – Yes

These are just a handful of the phrases you will use on a daily basis. From our experience, Japanese people are very patient and will do everything they can to help, regardless of your knowledge of Japanese. That being said, it’s simply good manners to practice some every day sentences or phrases to make situations easier!


Tip: If you’re worried about needing to know a few key phrases, or you want to expand your Japanese knowledge further than just saying thank you or hello, purchase a Japanese phrase book! Take it with you everywhere you go, and you’ll always have the perfect thing to say!

Transport in Japan

One of the best things about Japan is their impeccable public transport system. Although it might look confusing and overwhelming when you first arrive in Japan, the trains and buses are actually super easy to navigate. All train stations have directions and signage in both Japanese and English.


No matter where you need to go or which city you are heading to, it won’t be too difficult finding your way. Here are some tips for using Japan’s train system:

Use Google Maps

The ‘directions’ function in Google Maps will be your best friend. Type in your current location and where you are heading into Google Maps, and you’ll be given a list of the different train lines that will take you there. Find the corresponding platform in the station and hop on the correct train! It really is that simple.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’ve typed in your location and where you’re heading into Google Maps but you’re still a little confused, don’t worry. Japanese locals are some of the most friendly and helpful people in the world. If you’re ever stuck and need directions, don’t be afraid to speak up. Whether you ask a conductor on the train platform or somebody who is simply walking past, almost everyone will do their best to help.

We even had a few people voluntarily come up to us and offer their help, when they noticed we were struggling with directions on our first couple of days in Japan! Traveling to Japan for the first time doesn’t need to be scary – all you need to do is ask!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Purchase a Suica or Pasmo card

Purchase a Suica or Pasmo card the day you arrive, for ultimate ease and convenience when exploring Japan. Simply load some money onto your card (as much as you like), swipe it at the gate and walk on through. We bought a Suica card on our first day, which made traveling around the country super easy. Suica and Pasmo cards can also be used for purchases in some convenience stores.

Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass

If you plan to travel between cities across Japan, we highly recommend purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. These are only available for visitors to Japan who will be staying in the country for less than 90 days, and must be purchased online before arriving. The JR Pass will get you onto the Shinkansen Bullet Train and various JR train lines throughout Japan.


The Japan Rail Pass can be quite expensive, so you should first decide whether it’s worth purchasing. For example, if you are only spending time in Tokyo, you won’t need a JR Pass as you can simply use Tokyo’s train or Subway system. But if you’re planning to city-hop across the country, it’s definitely worth the investment. Find out whether the Japan Rail Pass is right for you, here!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Wifi & Sim Cards in Japan

We purchased a Pocket Wifi Device online before arriving in Japan. This turned out to be an absolute life saver, because it meant we had wifi wherever we went. We also had a spare battery and protective case to keep it all in. We definitely suggest purchasing a pocket wifi if you plan to spend a significant amount of time in Japan.


Another great option for data in Japan, is purchasing a local SIM card. Purchase one from the airport before heading out into the hustle and bustle of Japan. Make sure you have data, though, because you’ll need it for directions and using Google Maps.

Safety in Japan

Japan is definitely one of the safest countries we have ever visited. The entire month that we spent traveling around Japan was very smooth sailing, and we had no issues with crime or felt unsafe at any point. If you are planning a solo trip to Japan (in particular solo female travelers), you don’t need to worry too much.

That being said, as a general rule for travel, you should always remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. Japan is one of the safest countries in the world to visit, so as long as you keep your wits about you, there will rarely be any issues.


We traveled together, but even if I had traveled alone, I would have felt perfectly comfortable and safe walking the streets of Japan at night by myself. It’s an incredibly safe place – from our experience and what we’ve heard from other visitors to Japan – which is awesome!

Accommodation in Japan

We always stay in hotels when we travel, purely for personal preference. We like our privacy and are happy to budget a little bit extra for a comfortable and secure place to sleep. Just like everywhere else in the world, Japan has a few options when it comes to accomodation:

Hotels – Check out HotelsCombined for some awesome deals!
AirbnbAirbnb is a great option for families and groups of friends
Hostels – For budget travelers, hostels are the perfect option!
Capsule Hotels – For a totally unique and budget friendly option, capsule hotels are perfect! Read more about this awesome style of accomodation here!

The type of accomodation that you choose depends on your style, who you’re traveling with and your budget. There are a ton of options to suit everybody, whether you prefer a five star resort or a cheap budget friendly hostel. Do some research before booking, and always shop around!

What to wear in Japan

Japan is a weird and wonderful place to visit. If you’re into fashion, you’ll be in heaven winding through the streets of Tokyo, shopping up a storm. When it comes to the style in Japan, it seems that nothing is off limits. Harajuku for example, is one of the best districts in Tokyo to get a taste of Japanese fashion. There are an endless amount of unique stores, filled with everything from cat clothing to second hand bargains.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Tip for Females: From what I could tell, girls tend to show off their legs and cover up the top half of their body. During our month in Japan, we visited Disneyland, DisneySea and Universal Studios. A lot of Japanese girls were wearing shorts or skirts, despite the cold weather and I never once saw any cleavage. That’s something to keep in mind for you ladies traveling to Japan!

Food in Japan

If you love meat or seafood, you’ll feel right at home in Japan. Almost every major city is filled with dozens of Japanese and Western restaurants. There are a huge range of options available, across all budgets. If you’re like me (a picky eater who doesn’t eat much meat) don’t worry, you will still find plenty of delicious food.


Along with the plethora of Japanese restaurants selling ramen, sushi, yakitori and much more, there are also a lot of western food chains. I ate at McDonalds, Subway and KFC quite a bit, since I’m not really interested in experimenting with food. However, if you plan to sample Japan’s cuisine, you are in for a treat.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Things you should do in Japan

You’ll soon notice that Japan has quite a few quirky things you should keep in mind and be cautious of. Here are some things that you should do, during your time in Japan:

1. Do buy alcohol and snacks at Convenience Stores

As soon as you step into your very first Japanese convenience store, you’ll be hooked. These places literally have almost everything you would ever need at the last minute. From hot food and drinks to toiletries, newspapers and a huge range of delicious snacks. If you’re an alcohol drinker, Japanese convenience stores sell bottles of wine for under 500 yen, Scotch for under 2,000 yen and premixed drinks for 200 yen a pop.


If you’re craving a snack, visit your nearest convenience store. You’ll find a huge range from chips and chocolate to ice cream, cups of noodles and various hot foods. Convenience stores are one of the things we miss most about Japan!

2. Do slurp your noodles

If you visit a ramen restaurant or really anywhere that serves noodles, always slurp them! Of course this only seems to be acceptable in Japan, because everywhere else in the world frowns upon making so much noise while eating. Make the most of being able to slurp your food while you eat, without getting a ton of weird looks and stares.

3. Do try to be on time

The Japanese are very punctual people. As a whole, Japan runs very smoothly. The trains always arrive precisely on time, and if you have a meeting planned with somebody, we’re willing to bet money on the fact they’ll be there right on the dot. In this day and age, almost everyone has a phones with alarms and a clock, so use them and don’t be late!

4. Do take your shoes off when necessary

In some places, such as the fitting rooms in stores and temples or shrines, it’s expected that all visitors remove their shoes before entering. Generally there will be a sign asking people to take their shoes off. But if there isn’t, just have a look around to see what everyone else is doing.

5. Do appreciate Japan for it’s unique atmosphere

Whether you’re spending the day at one of Japan’s theme parks, hiking up one of the incredible mountains, or strolling through the winding road’s of Osaka’s Dotonbori. Japan will fascinate you in the best way possible. Be sure to appreciate every moment of your time in Japan, and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Things you should not do in Japan

Like anywhere in the world, there are some things you should not do when visiting Japan. Some of these are super quirky and some are pretty strange – in the best way, of course. There is a system in place for almost everything in Japan, which helps to make the country run as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the things that are frowned upon in Japan:

1. Don’t stand in the middle of an escalator

In all cities across Japan (except Osaka), it’s customary for people to stand on the left hand side, leaving the right side free for anyone who wants to walk up. Trust us when we say that this one is important, because escalators are absolutely everywhere in Japan.

2. Don’t tip

We mentioned this earlier, but tipping is considered rude in Japan. Japanese people put their heart and soul into everything they do, meaning that if somebody tips them for a job well done, it’s assumed the service was better than expected. You’ll be surprised at just how polite and friendly the Japanese locals are.

3. Don’t litter

One thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Japan, is the lack of rubbish bins in public. This especially inconvenient in busy shopping districts. Despite the lack of bins, the streets are immaculately clean (in most areas), so don’t be that person and leave your rubbish on the side of the road. Generally you’ll find bins outside of convenience stores and vending machines, so hold onto your rubbish until you can dispose of it correctly.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

4. Don’t eat while walking

I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of this one. I didn’t realise until the very end of our trip, that eating while walking in Japan is frowned upon. If you grab a quick snack while shopping, either sit down or stand out of the way while eating. I still feel ashamed about the number of times I scoffed down McDonalds fries while running for a train or window shopping. Sorry, Japan. I know for next time, though!

5. Don’t blow your nose in public

I’m also guilty of this one. We’re from Australia, where it is not frowned upon to blow your nose in public. But for some reason in Japan, it is! This is why you’ll hear anyone who is sick on trains, sniffing instead of blowing their nose. Just wait until you have some privacy, and sit in discomfort instead.

6. Don’t talk loudly on the phone in public

This mainly applies when traveling on trains. The first thing you’ll notice about catching trains in Japan, is that everyone is on their phones. Either texting, playing games or listening to music. But you will never hear a Japanese person peaking on their phone while on the train. It’s just common courtesy. The rest of the world doesn’t need to hear your conversation, so please keep it to yourself!

Things to see and do in Japan

There are a lot of incredible things to see and do in Japan. But unfortunately, whether you are spending one week or one year in Japan, you will never be able to see it all. The only way to make the most of your time in Japan, is to decide what you absolutely cannot leave without crossing off your Japan bucket list!


With that said, here are some of our favourite things to see and do throughout the six cities in Japan that we visited. These are obviously not all of the best attractions, they are just what we experienced personally, which we’ve even organised by city. You’re welcome. You can also read out super in depth one month Japan itinerary for a full recap of our four weeks in Japan!

Yokohama

There are a few fun and unique things to see and do in Yokohama, including: the Cup Noodle Museum, the Ramen Museum and the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel. We didn’t plan our time in Yokohama very well, so the Ferris Wheel was closed on our only full day in the city. But if you’re looking for a couple of fun and very Japanese things to do, don’t leave without checking out the Cup Noodle Museum and Ramen Museum.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Osaka

The second biggest city in Japan that we visited, was Osaka! We spent an entire week exploring lots of amazing places across the city, which you can read about in our 6 day Osaka itinerary. Some of the highlights from our time in Osaka were the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Osaka Castle, Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Dotonbori!

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Kyoto

We took two day trips to Kyoto during out six days in Osaka, and we’re so glad we did! Kyoto is one of Japan’s beautiful historic, country towns and there are a lot of relaxing places to spend an afternoon. The Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari Shrine were two of our favourite things to see.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Hiroshima

Hiroshima is my favourite city in Japan, at least out of the six that we visited. If you are only spending one day in Hiroshima, we highly recommend visiting Hiroshima Peace Museum and Memorial.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels

Tokyo

As I’m sure you’re already aware, Tokyo has an endless amount of things to see and do. There is something for everyone, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest what your interests are. Some of our favourite attractions in Tokyo were Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Akihabara, Shinjuku Batting Centre, FREE views of Tokyo at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observation deck and Disneyland and DisneySea.

Planning a Trip to Japan: The Best Japan Travel Guide | Rhiannon Travels


We hope this post has helped you learn how to plan a trip to Japan. Traveling to Japan for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’ve never visited such a unique and busy country before. But with our best Japan travel guide, it will be a lot easier!

Have you visited Japan before? What surprised you the most and what was your fondest memory of the wonderful country? Tell us in the comments below and don’t forget to share this with your friends! 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for continuing to support Rhiannon Travels, and keeping it a free travel guide and resource for everyone to use!