Overseas travel can sometimes be a little overwhelming.
Following are a number of handy hints to help prepare you for your Japan travel adventure.
PASSPORT & VISA
Any foreign visitors desiring to enter Japan must have a valid passport.
Australians who enter Japan as tourists may stay for up to ninety days as long as they hold an Australian passport which remains valid during their stay and do not receive any income while in Japan.
SEASONAL CLOTHING (Tokyo and vicinity)
Spring (Mar.-May): lightweight jackets and sweaters.
Summer (Jun.-Aug.): light clothing, short sleeves.
Autumn (Sep.-Nov.): same as spring.
Winter (Dec.-Feb.): coats, warm jackets and sweaters, thermals.
Good quality socks are recommended as shoes are customarily removed before entering many restaurants and all private homes.
Individual tipping is not common in Japan, since 10 to 15% service charge is added to the bill at leading hotels, ryokan and higher-class restaurants.
No tip is necessary unless you request some special services.
Historically Japan was very much a cash society with foreign tourists preparing large sums of yen cash before any holiday to Japan.
In recent years this has changed rapidly with International credit and debit cards issued by American Express, VISA, Diners Club, MasterCard and JCB readily accepted at a high percentage of restaurants and shops.
Cash is still a necessity for small local restaurants, vending machines and the purchase of local transport costs. Japan Rail now accept credit card as a form of payment for the purchase bullet train tickets as do most taxis.
Foreign issued credit, debit and cash cards can be used at the International ATM machines located in all Japanese Post Offices and 7Eleven convenience stores. These machines will also operate in English and conveniently dispense the local currency.
Manageable small to medium sized suitcases with wheels are recommended.
The Japanese transport system is not built to cater for large suitcases. There are no station porters and travellers are expected to be responsible for their own luggage.
Leading hotels in Tokyo and other big cities have two outlets of 110 and 220 volts but their sockets usually accept two prong plugs only.
Australian appliances need an adaptor which are available from duty free stores.
Not all hotels provide a hairdryer in their rooms but they are usually available on request.
FOOD & DRINK
Few first-time visitors to Japan are prepared for the variety and sumptuousness of the food on offer. Among the types of cooking found in Japan are: Sukiyaki, Tempura, Sushi, Shabu-shabu, Yakitori, Soba, Okonomiyaki.
There are also many fast food establishments serving hamburgers and fries.
Prices are very reasonable.
For non-Japanese speakers, some restaurants display plastic and wax replicas of their dishes in front windows, or provide a menu with colour photos.
Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Japan.
Dial 110 for the police
Dial 119 to report a fire or to call an ambulance.
No coins are needed on public phones for these calls.
Other useful telephone numbers are as follows:
AMDA International Medical Information Centre (for medical information and English-speaking doctors and hospitals):
Tokyo Tel.(03) 5285-8088
Kansai Tel.(06) 4395-0555
For Tourist information:
Tokyo: (03) 3201 3331
Kyoto: (075) 371-5649
Frequently Asked Questions
About our self-guided adventures
Trains and passes
When to travel
Travelling in Japan
Booking with us
ABOUT OUR SELF-GUIDED ADVENTURES
What is a self-guided tour?
We believe that the best way to enjoy Japan is by exploring it on your own, with the freedom to choose the day’s activities depending on how you feel at the time. JPT’s Self-Guided Adventures include all the components you need to travel Japan at your own pace. We include accommodation that is conveniently located close to major train stations, airport transfers, Japan Rail Passes, Pasmo train cards, half-day guided tours, maps, brochures and a comprehensive Suggested Itinerary to assist with your navigation.
What are some options we can add to our tour?
To add a truly Japanese experience for you, we can arrange:
- A stay in a traditional ryokan including a beautiful Japanese dinner and breakfast
- Tickets to see the Ghibli Museum, the famous museum popular amongst fans of Japanese animation
- Tickets to see the Robot Show in Shinjuku
- Tickets to a sumo match, baseball or soccer
Can you provide a detailed day-to-day itinerary for us?
When we receive your deposit, we begin preparing a comprehensive ‘suggested itinerary’ for you. It includes details on how to spend your time in each city, how to get from point A to point B, using which trains and how long it will take to get there. We also suggest specific trains for you where appropriate, such as for getting to the airport in time for your flight.
Can we include a climb of Mt. Fuji in our itinerary?
Mt. Fuji is best seen from afar. Why spend a day and a half ascending the mostly barren mountain and sharing cramped accommodation when you could enjoy the spectacular views of Mt. Fuji from numerous locations and spend the time left over visiting other exciting places in Japan.
Is breakfast included?
Generally we do not include breakfast. This is because your hotels in the city are surrounded by a number of affordable breakfast options, from cafés to convenience stores. This allows you to enjoy a variety of different breakfasts during your stay. If your preference was for the hotel’s breakfast buffet, simply pay for that on the spot. Breakfast is included for stays in Takayama and the resort town of Hakone.
What standard is the accommodation you use?
We usually use hotels of 3.5 – 4 stars. They are all clean, comfortable and conveniently located.
We are interested in staying in some traditional accommodation. Can you arrange that?
Yes.Staying in a traditional ryokan is a great experience to add to your Japan holiday. We recommend including a ryokan stay in Takayama, as the traditional atmosphere of the town compliments the Japanese-style accommodation perfectly.Otherwise, Miyajima Island is another beautiful place to include a ryokan stay.
Can I stay in 5-star accommodation?
Much of the 5-star accommodation is situated far from major train stations.We believe that you will get a lot more enjoyment out of your holiday with a well-located hotel, eliminating unnecessary train changes. That’s why we select hotels which are conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from train stations that will give you the best access to all the major sightseeing as well as the best inter-city access.
We want to stay in another part of Tokyo. Why should we stay in Shinagawa?
We recommend Shinagawa for your Tokyo stay because Shinagawa Station gives you access to the bullet trains, the airport trains (both Narita and Haneda) and the Yamanote Loop Line which circumnavigates the city.
Further to this, the hotels that we use in Shinagawa are pick-up points for your tours, and also have regular services on the Limousine Bus to and from the airport.
Can we book double rooms?
We will book you double rooms when they are available.
Culturally, the Japanese do not share a bed, and as such, twin rooms are more prevalent throughout Japan than double rooms.
Can we book family rooms?
There are very few western-style rooms that can accommodate more than 3 people. We will usually book 2 x twin/triple rooms or a Japanese-style room.
Do the hotels have wifi?
Most hotels will have wifi in guestrooms, or at least, wifi will be available in the lobby of the hotel.
There are also many free wifi spots in public places around Japan so you can stay connected.
TRAINS AND PASSES
What is the difference between the Japan Rail Pass and the Pasmo Card?
The Japan Rail Pass is a pass that allows you to ride the bullet trains (except Nozomi and Mizuho) and Japan Rail lines for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive calendar days.
The Pasmo Card is a travel card (similar to Myki, Opal, Go, Metrocard and SmartRider cards) that comes preloaded with 1,500yen worth of credit. It can be topped up with extra credit at any time. It can be used on subways and other private lines in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka for the duration of your trip. It can also be used to board Japan Rail trains, so you can use it when your Japan Rail Pass is not valid.
How do we book the trains?
Once you exchange your Japan Rail Pass, you can make reservations at any time. You can do this at Japan Rail ticket offices in major train stations, but we recommend you reserve all your journeys when you exchange your Japan Rail Pass. This not only saves you time, but knowing which train and which carriage you will be on in advance makes for smooth travelling. Also, during peak periods, your preferred train might book out, so it is often a good idea to make your reservations early.
Can I make train reservations before I leave for Japan? Can you make the reservations for me?
Unfortunately, train reservations can only be made once in Japan. They also need to be made in person at a Japan Rail ticket office with your Japan Rail Pass.
What if we miss our reserved train?
Simply go to a ticket office and book the next available train. There are no penalty fees for missing a train. However it is common courtesy to visit a ticket office and cancel if you know prior that you won’t be travelling.
There are no booking, re-booking or cancellation charges, so if there is a change in your plans, please be sure to update with the Japan Rail ticket office.
Do we have to make train reservations?
Most bullet trains have non-reserved seating, so without reservations you can simply board the non-reserved carriages.
The some bullet trains, as well as the Narita Express and Haruka airport trains require advanced reservation.
What is the Hakone Free Pass? Is it free?
While the pass itself is not free, it allows the holder unlimited, free rides on all the local transport in the Hakone area including the trains, buses, cable car, ropeway and cruise ship across Lake Ashi. It also offers great discounts at a number of museums and attractions in the area.
Can you include the Hakone Free Pass in my package?
The Hakone Free Pass can only be purchased in Japan.
The Hakone Free Pass comes in a number of types based on the length of pass and entry point in to Hakone. For our itineraries, we recommend the 3 Day Hakone Free Pass from Odawara Station which costs JPY4,500/adult.
How often do the trains run?
Bullet trains run regularly between 6am and 10pm.
Local trains run approximately every 10-20 minutes, and up to every three minutes during peak hour!
Is there room on the train for our luggage?
Bullet trains have overhead racks which can hold a medium-sized suitcase. If you have a large suitcase, ask for the seats at the end of the carriage – there is space between the last seat and the back wall of the carriage for a large suitcase.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
When is the best time to visit Japan?
Cherry blossom season (late March to mid-April) and the autumn season (peaking in November) are very beautiful and popular times to visit Japan. May is also a lovely time to visit as the weather is mild and the vegetation lush, however the first week of May (Golden Week) should be avoided.
When is the best time to see the cherry blossoms?
Late March to mid-April. The best viewing time for cherry blossoms varies from city to city, but with our Cherry Blossom Tours travelling down the island of Honshu, you are bound to encounter some beautiful blossoms at their finest.
When are the major holidays in Japan?
- Golden Week (Apr 29 – first week of May)
- Obon (mid-August)
- Silver Week (Sep 21 – 23)
- New Year’s period (Dec 30 – Jan 4)
We would like to spend Christmas in Tokyo, but will there be something to do?
The Japanese do not observe Christmas, except from a commercial point of view. So you find that while the city is decked with Christmas decorations, it is rare for shops or attractions to close for Christmas.
You may need to make dinner reservations for Christmas Eve and Christmas, though, as many Japanese couples choose these nights for a romantic dinner.
Will everything be shut for New Year’s?
Generally only small businesses will close for the New Year’s period. Many shops will remain open on certain days during this period but will be crowded with shoppers trying to get the New Year’s bargains.
Your dining options may be limited over New Year’s, but still a number of chain restaurants and fast food restaurants will remain open.
Temples and shrines will not close as many Japanese make their first temple visit for the year in the first few days of January to pray for good fortune in the New Year.
Some museums and attractions etc. will close for a portion of the New Year’s holiday.
TRAVELLING IN JAPAN
We don’t speak any Japanese. Can we travel Japan on our own?
Of course. When making your way around on Japan’s highly efficient rail system, you will notice that train stations have plenty of English signage and bullet trains, airport trains, and many of the major lines also have English announcements. At the ticket office, making seat reservations is simple and smooth as ticketing staff assist foreign travellers with reservations every day.
Ordering food at restaurants is also a breeze – most menus have pictures and many restaurants have food displays out the front.
Do I need a visa to visit Japan?
Australian passport holders do not require a visa. For other passport holders, we encourage you to enquire with your nearest Japanese Embassy/Consulate about your visa requirements.
I have special dietary requirements. Will I still be able to enjoy Japanese food?
Sometimes we might add to your package a traditional ryokan stay which includes a beautifully prepared Japanese meal. If you have special dietary needs we can contact the ryokan directly to advise them of your dietary requirements.
For when you are out and exploring all the culinary delights of Japan, we can prepare a document for you to carry which you can show to restaurant service staff to communicate your needs.
Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?
It is very practical travelling Japan with a suitcase. All major train stations have elevator and escalator access to the platforms, and trains are equipped with overhead racks suitable for medium-sized suitcases. There is also space between the last seat and the back wall of each bullet train carriage for a large suitcase.
Luggage can also be sent between hotels for an even more comfortable travel. The overnight service (conditions apply) costs approximately $20/large suitcase and can be arranged at your hotel.
What is the best way to carry money in Japan?
We recommend you buy some yen initially to take with you. Once in Japan, you can use your Australian bank card to withdraw cash from ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores and post offices. The 7-Eleven convenience stores are found widely throughout Japan (mostly close to train stations) and are open 24/7.
Visa and MasterCard are also widely accepted across Japan, in most major shops, restaurants and department stores.
How much spending money should we take?
Japan is an affordable country to visit and can cater for all budgets.
Your day-to-day extra costs might include:
- Local subway/bus journeys (150 – 350 JPY per journey)
- Entry to temples/shrines and castles (300 – 500 JPY)
- Bottle of water (150 JPY)
- Meals (breakfast 500 – 800 JPY; lunch 800 – 1,500 JPY; dinner 1,500 – 2,000 JPY)
Can I store my luggage at the hotel?
Yes, you can leave your luggage with the hotel’s bell captain both prior to check-in and after check-out, while you continue your sightseeing.
BOOKING WITH US
Can we come in to see you?
Certainly! Please feel free to visit us at our office 9:00 - 5:30 (Monday to Friday), to talk about your Japan travel plans.
Suite 509 (Level 5)
530 Little Collins Street (between King St and Williams St)
How can I pay?
We accept payments by electronic funds transfer or by credit card.
How do I book?
All we need to know is your dates of travel and the passport names of each traveller, and we can begin holding accommodation to put together your package.
We want to go during the cherry blossom season. How soon should we book?
The cherry blossom season is a beautiful and very popular time to visit Japan. The Japanese also enjoy travelling during cherry blossom season so accommodations can book out quickly. If a particular hotel becomes unavailable, we will try to book a suitable alternative that will allow you to still enjoy the tour. Bookings for the cherry blossom season open from mid-October. You should try to book as early as possible.
Can we feel safe booking with you?