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Brittany Banks Product Manager, Asia 1 month ago

5 Tips for Making the Most of a Trip to Japan

  • Shibuya Crossing at nighttime

Japan has increasingly become one of the most popular destinations on the planet, but that doesn’t mean that every traveller knows exactly how to approach a vacation to this East Asian country. Well, you don’t have to worry. The travel experts at Goway have your back. Fresh off a recent trip to Japan, we’ve got five tips on planning a trip to Japan that should help you have as memorable a vacation as possible.

1. Travel like a local

Japan’s transit infrastructure is second-to-none. Trains run to the second and the extensive train network can take you everywhere around cities and countryside alike. In cities like Tokyo and Osaka, public transportation is the best way to get around. For example, Tokyo’s subway system is clean, efficient, and easy to navigate. You may be overwhelmed by the vast number of rail lines at first—how can there be so many overlapping colours on a map!—but once you get over initial fears and use the subway successfully, every subsequent trip will be a breeze. There’s also English signage everywhere in the big cities that’ll help you figure out the fare and where you ought to be going. If heading between cities, take advantage of the high-speed rail network to zip between Tokyo and Osaka in mere hours. A Japan Rail Pass is the best way to get great value for train transit across Japan. It allows unlimited trips on the JR network within a given time frame, whether 7 days, two weeks, or three weeks.

2. Eat more than sushi

Sushi is Japan’s most famous food, but that doesn’t mean it’s its only food. If you absolutely, positively don’t like raw fish (we may not quite believe that you don’t like sushi, but no bother), you’ll find a lot of other food to satisfy your cravings while travelling through Japan. For instance, if you have a shellfish allergy and have to avoid most kinds of seafood, you’ll find a lot of other delicious meals that will delight you with their incredible flavours, including ramen, udon, soba, tonkatsu, and all manner of grilled meats. Most every restaurant, from izakaya to modest train station stalls to traditional restaurants in Kyoto, will accommodate non-fish options (unless, of course, they’re a specialty sushi bar). If you like splurging on the best food there is to offer, indulge in some marbled wagyu beef, widely considered the best beef in the world. So even if sushi is definitely not your thing, you’ll find a lot to like about eating out in Japan.

3. Use portable Wi-Fi

Crowded Japanese street

You’ll make your life a whole lot easier if you book a portable Wi-Fi hub while travelling through Japan. Thing is, Wi-Fi is not all that common in Japan. It’s available on the bullet trains and in some hotel lobbies, but it’s rare in most public places. Most people use their phone data to connect to the Internet. If you want to stay connected—say, to post photos to Instagram as you explore the country, or to look for good restaurants nearby—a portable Wi-Fi hub will be a godsend. If you’re travelling with family or friends, you only need to book one and everyone can take advantage of the available Wi-Fi. You can even arrange to have it delivered to you on arrival, and then you need only return it at the end of your trip to the concierge of your final hotel. It’s as simple as can be.

4. Stay in a ryokan

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that’s the definitive style of accommodation in the country. Rooms in ryokan have tatami matted floors and futon bedding, which can make for a pretty unique experience for international travellers. Ryokan also offer onsen hot spring baths and traditional kaiseki (multi-course) meals, most of which are served in your room. So if you want to enjoy the quintessential Japanese experience, a ryokan is the place to stay. You’ll find ryokan all throughout the country, including in the big cities, but stay in one in one of the smaller towns or remote villages if you can arrange it. Ryokan in the countryside have natural outdoor baths and gorgeous surroundings, while most city ryokan only have indoor baths. If you’re worried about the thin futon bedding at a ryokan, you’ll be surprised by how comfortable it is. However, if you absolutely need a western-style bed, you can find some ryokan offering them. Just ask your travel professional to arrange it for you.

5. Visit all-year round

Autumn colours in Shinjuku

Japan is great at all times of year. Cherry blossom season from the end of March through early April is the most popular time of year to visit, with its gorgeous hanami season turning the entire country into a garden painting. But if you go to see the cherry blossoms, you’ll have to contend with the largest crowds. If you visit Japan outside cherry blossom season, you’ll find a lot to like and deal with smaller crowds. If you’re a fan of flowers and not just cherry blossoms, consider heading to Japan in May to see the wisteria flowers in bloom. If you love blue hydrangeas, go in June or July. Weather is perhaps the best in the fall, from October through November, when days are mild and the whole country is awash in bright red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also enjoy less-humid days, which means clearer skies, so if you want to spot Mt. Fuji from Tokyo, this is the time to go. Winter is great as well, especially in the Japanese Alps and on the northern island of Hokkaido, where winter sports are all the rage.

This article is sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organization.

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