JAPAN

JAPAN

JAPAN

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TOP ATTRACTIONS
PLEASE CLICK / HOVER ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Name: Tokyo Skytree
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 metres in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, displacing the Canton Tower, and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).

The tower is the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kantō region; the older Tokyo Tower no longer gives complete digital terrestrial television broadcasting coverage because it is surrounded by high-rise buildings. Skytree was completed on Leap Day, 29 February 2012, with the tower opening to the public on 22 May 2012.

There are observatories at 350 m (1,150 ft), with a capacity of up to 2000 people, and 450 m (1,480 ft), with a capacity of 900 people. The upper observatory features a spiral, glass-covered skywalk in which visitors ascend the last 5 meters to the highest point at the upper platform. A section of glass flooring gives visitors a direct downward view of the streets below.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Skytree
Name: Kinkaku-ji
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Kinkaku-ji, is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan, attracting a large number of visitors annually. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site, a National Special Landscape and is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites.

The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionji family by shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes.

During the Ōnin war (1467–1477), all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down. On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkaku-ji
Name: Mount Fuji
Location: Honshū, Japan
Mount Fuji located on Honshū, is the highest volcano in Japan at 3,776.24m, 2nd-highest peak of an island (volcanic) in Asia, and 7th-highest peak of an island in the world. It is a dormant stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707–1708. Mount Fuji lies about 100 km south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped for about 5 months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.

Mount Fuji is one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains" along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku. It is also a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and one of Japan's Historic Sites. According to UNESCO, Mount Fuji has "inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries". UNESCO recognizes 25 sites of cultural interest within the Mount Fuji locality. These 25 locations include the mountain and the Shinto shrine, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, as well as the Buddhist Taisekiji Head Temple founded in 1290, later immortalized by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Fuji
FLIGHT TIMES / MAJOR CITIES
PLEASE SEE BELOW MAJOR CITIES IN JAPAN / CLICK OR TOGGLE BELOW FOR FASTEST AVERAGE FLIGHT TIMES FROM USA.

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COUNTRY INFORMATION GUIDE
PLEASE SEE BELOW FACTS, USEFUL US GOVERNMENT TRAVEL LINKS AND BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES, FOR TRAVEL TO JAPAN.
FACTS:
Official Languages: Japanese
Currency: Japan Yen (JPY)
Time zone: JST (Japan Standard Time) (UTC+9)
Drives on the right
Calling code: +81
Local / up-to-date weather in Tokyo (and other regions): BBC global weather – click here
US GOVT TRAVEL LINKS:

For more useful information on safety & security, local laws / customs, health and more, please see the below official US travel.state.gov web link for Japan travel advice. NB: Entry requirements herein listed are for US nationals only, unless stated otherwise.

You can also find recommended information on vaccinations, malaria and other more detailed health considerations for travel to Japan, at the below official US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weblink.

BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES*:
Activities you may undertake on a business visa / as a business visitor:
PERMISSIBLE
ATTENDING MEETINGS / DISCUSSIONS: TBC
ATTENDING A CONFERENCE: TBC
RECEIVING TRAINING (CLASSROOM-BASED): TBC
NON-PERMISSIBLE
AUDIT WORK: TBC
PROVIDING TRAINING: TBC
PROJECT WORK: TBC
*This information does not constitute legal advice and is not an exhaustive list. For a full legal assessment on business visitor activities, please revert to your internal company legal team / counsel.
TRAVEL INFORMATION**
It is highly recommenced that you access the above official US travel.state.gov web link and read all safety & security information prior to making your travel arrangements / planning your trip.
PLEASE CLICK / TOGGLE BELOW FOR USEFUL TRAVEL INFORMATION TO JAPAN.

The Japanese currency is the Japanese yen, abbreviated ¥ (or JPY in foreign exchange contexts). The symbol 円 (pronounced en) is used in the Japanese language itself.

  • Coins: ¥1 (silver), ¥5 (gold with a center hole), ¥10 (copper), ¥50 (silver with a center hole), ¥100 (silver), and ¥500. There are two ¥500 coins, distinguishable by their color. (The new ones are gold, the old ones are silver).
  • Bills: ¥1,000 (blue), ¥2,000 (green), ¥5,000 (purple), and ¥10,000 (brown). ¥2,000 bills are rare. New designs for all the bills except ¥2,000 were introduced in November 2004, so there are now two versions in circulation. Most merchants will not object to receiving a ¥10,000 bill even for a small purchase.

Japan is fundamentally a cash society. The Japanese usually carry around large quantities of cash — it is quite safe to do so and is almost a necessity, especially in smaller towns and more isolated areas. Some machines, such as coin lockers, laundries and beach showers, only accept ¥100 coins, and some change machines may only accept ¥1,000 bills.

Although most stores and hotels serving foreign customers take credit cards, many businesses such as cafés, bars, grocery stores, and even smaller hotels and inns do not. Even businesses that do take cards often have a minimum charge as well as a surcharge, although this practice is disappearing. American Express and Discover are easier to use than Visa, MasterCard and UnionPay because of an agreement with the popular JCB card. Most merchants are only familiar with the JCB/AmEx agreement, but Discover will work if you can convince them to try.

There are two contactless payment systems in use throughout the country: FeliCa (used with Japan-specific cards/devices) and EMV (used with MasterCard PayPass/Visa PayWave cards and Apple Pay/Google Pay devices). Look for EMV terminals displaying the international contactless logo EMVCoContactlessIndicator.svg and say “NFC Pay” to the sales assistant for your contactless payment to be accepted.

iOS devices are now able to store a Suica card in Apple Pay for transport ticketing in major cities and store purchases. Once loaded, simply tap your iOS device to a Suica terminal/gate for your mobile payment/travel to be accepted. This feature is available on iPhone 8 and above and Apple Watch Series 3 and above. Most Android devices sold outside Japan cannot store a Suica card in Google Pay as they do not contain the FeliCa chip.

Almost any major bank in Japan will provide foreign currency exchange from US dollars (cash and traveller’s checks). Rates are basically the same whichever bank you choose (rates may be better or worse at private exchange counters). Having to wait 15-30 min, depending on how busy the branch gets, is not unusual. Other currencies accepted are euros, Swiss francs, British pounds, and Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand dollars. Singapore dollars are the most widely accepted Asian currency, followed by the Korean won, Chinese yuan, and Hong Kong dollars. Other Asian currencies are generally not accepted.

Exchange rates for US dollars and euros are typically very good (about 2% below the official rate). Exchange rates for other currencies are very poor (up to 15% below the official rate). Japanese post offices can also cash traveller’s checks or exchange cash for yen, at a slightly better rate than the banks. Traveller’s checks also have a better rate of exchange than cash. If you are exchanging amounts in excess of US$1,000 (whether cash or traveller’s checks), you will be required to provide identification that includes your name, address, and date of birth. Since passports usually do not show your address, bring along another form of ID such as a driver’s license that shows your address.

Japan has one of the world’s best transport systems, and getting around is usually a breeze, with the train being overwhelmingly the most popular option. Trains are rarely or never late, and are probably one of the cleanest transport systems on earth. Although travelling around Japan is expensive when compared to other Asian countries, there are a variety of passes that can be used to limit the damage.

For sorting through transport schedules and fares, HyperDia is an invaluable companion; it computes to-the-minute directions including connecting trains, as well as buses and planes. Jorudan is a similar service, but with fewer options for exploring alternate routes. Google Maps can give detailed train and bus directions including platform numbers, but it too has few options for filtering results, making it more useful while you’re there than for advanced planning. The paper version of these is the Daijikokuhyō (大時刻表), a phonebook-sized tome available for browsing in every train station and most hotels, but it’s a little challenging to use as the content is entirely in microscopic Japanese. A lighter version that just includes limited express, sleeper and bullet trains (shinkansen) is available from the Japan National Tourist Organization’s overseas offices. English timetables are available on the websites of JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central and JR Kyushu. Timetables for the Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen can also be viewed in English at Tabi-o-ji. Both HyperDia and Tabi-o-ji offer schedule searches that exclude Nozomi and Mizuho services, which will benefit holders of the Japan Rail Pass.

In Japanese cities, a place’s address is useful for mail, but it’s nearly useless for actually getting there. Most roads have no name; instead, street blocks are numbered, which are grouped into numbered districts (丁目 chōme), which are then grouped into neighborhoods and larger entities (towns, wards, cities, etc.). Addresses are written in order from largest to smallest; an example address written as 名駅4丁目5-6 or 名駅4-5-6 would be the neighborhood of Meieki (名駅), district 4, block 5, house 6. (Addresses are usually written in English as “Meieki 4-5-6”, or “4-5-6 Meieki”; the numbers connected by dashes stay in the same order as Japanese.) Additional numbers may be appended for the floor or room number. Numbering for districts, blocks, and houses is often not sequential; numbers are usually assigned as buildings are built, chronologically, or based on distance from the city center. Small signs near street corners display the ward/neighborhood and district in Japanese (such as 名駅4丁目, Meieki 4-chōme); they often include the block number, but sometimes not, in which case the signs are very unhelpful since a district could be a dozen or more blocks. A building’s entrance will usually show the block and house number (such as 5-6, sometimes written 5番6号), but not the district.

Most places are described in terms of the walking distance from the nearest train station, and relative to local landmarks. Business cards very often have little maps printed on the back to make navigation easier (at least if you can read Japanese). In addition, many train stations have maps of the local area that can help you find a destination if it is reasonably close to the station. Police boxes (交番 kōban) also have detailed maps of the area; going to a kōban to ask for directions is perfectly normal (it’s why they’re there), although the policemen usually don’t speak much English. Google Maps in Japan is very accurate, even showing the insides of buildings; however, it cannot be used offline (you must have an Internet connection), and it may occasionally misinterpret an address and lead you to the wrong location.

Smart cards:

One of the first things any visitor to Japan should do is pick up a public transport smart card (スマートカード sumāto kādo), also called an IC card (ICカード ai shī kādo) or jōsha kādo (乗車カード, “boarding card”). Using a smart card, fares are calculated automatically no matter how complicated your journey or how often you transfer; just tap on and tap off at both ends. In addition to public transport, smart cards are increasingly used for all sorts of electronic payments, so they can be used at vending machines, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, etc. Smart cards are also accepted in lieu of paper tickets for some bullet trains when journeys are purchased online in advance.

Different cards are available in each region (such as Suica and Pasmo in and around Tokyo, and ICOCA in Kansai), but the major ones are fully interchangeable, meaning you can pick up a card in any major city and use it in virtually the entire country, the main exceptions being Shikoku and Okinawa.

These cards can be purchased from any station ticket counter, including those in airports, and many vending machines for a base deposit of ¥500 plus the amount you wish to load. Cards can be topped up in the same places. The deposit and any remaining value can be refunded when you leave Japan – provided you leave via the same region you arrived and bought the card in. For example, a Pasmo card bought on arrival in Tokyo can be used and recharged in Kansai, but you will not be able to refund it there before flying out of Osaka airport. You can keep the card for your next visit as they stay valid for 10 years from the last transaction.

BY RAIL:

Japan offers one of the most efficient rail transportation systems in the world, the crowning jewel of which is the Shinkansen (新幹線), popularly known in English as the bullet train, the world’s first ever high-speed rail line. Japan’s railways can also be among the most complicated to navigate — Tokyo, for example, has thirteen subway lines, several private railways reaching the suburbs, and a circular route called the Yamanote Line holding everything in place.

A tourist who plans to travel a great deal around the country should consider investing in a Japan Rail Pass, which offers — with a few exceptions — unlimited travel on all Japan Railway (JR) services including bullet trains, limited express and regular commuter trains. Seat reservations can also be made for no charge by visiting a staffed JR ticket counter. Prices start at ¥29,110 for a regular adult pass covering 7 consecutive days of travel, with costs increasing for 14 and 21-day passes as well as for Green Car (first class) passes. By comparison, a round-trip between Tokyo and Osaka costs ¥27,240. Children 6–11 years of age can obtain a pass for half the price. Japan Rail Passes have no blackout dates, and are best purchased before arriving in Japan (you receive a voucher which is exchanged for a rail pass when you arrive). JR has begun experimental sales of these passes inside Japan, but at much higher prices.

There are also regional and local rail passes offered by the various JR companies (such as the JR East Rail Pass), as well as by the subway and private rail companies. Numerous discount tickets are also sold, such as the Seishun 18 Ticket.

For short distances, you can purchase a ticket from a vending machine. Stations will usually have a map above the ticket machines of the other stations along the line or within the vicinity, and the fare to each of those stations. If you are unsure, you can purchase the cheapest ticket at your origin station, and visit a fare adjustment machine at your destination station to pay the difference. In major cities or regions, you can also pay for your journey with a smart card and only have to worry about topping off your balance when you are low on funds.

Part of Japan’s efficiency in rail travel lies in its punctuality, and average delays for Japanese trains are typically measured in seconds. All services aim to run promptly on the posted timetable, so arrive early if you know your train’s departure time. If you are late by even a single minute, you will miss the train. If you are planning to stay out late, be sure to find out when the last train leaves the station nearest to you. Trains usually do not run during the late night hours, as that is when system maintenance is often carried out. Also be careful as the last train may not run all the way to the end of the line.

Luggage:

With the exception of airport lines, Japanese trains typically do not have much space for luggage, meaning it is unlikely that you would be able to find space for anything larger than a small suitcase. Fortunately, Japan has very convenient and inexpensive courier services (see § Courier services) which you can use to send your luggage to the next hotel you will be staying at. The downside is that your luggage will generally take at least a day to arrive at the destination, so you should bring a small day bag to take the clothes you need for at least the first night on the train with you. Your hotel concierge will usually be able to arrange this for you, so enquire with them before you check out.

BY PLANE:

Japan’s excellent Shinkansen network means that flying is usually more of a luxury than a necessity. That being said, flying remains the most practical mode of reaching Japan’s outlying islands, most notably for connections from the mainland to Hokkaido and/or Okinawa. Flying is also useful for getting around sparsely-populated Hokkaido, as the Shinkansen network there is limited.

Tokyo’s Narita Airport handles a few domestic flights, but most domestic flights leave from Haneda (HND IATA) to the south of the city. Similarly, while there are some domestic flights from Kansai International Airport, more use Itami (ITM IATA) to the north of Osaka, and Kobe’s airport also fields some flights. Narita–Haneda or Kansai–Itami is quite a trek, so allow at least three and preferably four hours to transfer. Chubu, on the other hand, has many domestic flights and was built from the ground up for easy interchange.

List prices for domestic flights are very expensive, but significant discounts are available if purchased in advance. Both of Japan’s largest carriers, Japan Airlines (JAL, 日本航空 Nihon Kōkū) and All Nippon Airways (ANA, 全日空 Zennikkū) offer special fares where international visitors can fly domestic segments anywhere in the country at reduced rates. The most common discount ticket is called the Japan Explorer Pass (JAL) or the Experience Japan Fare (ANA), which offer a limited number of economy fares for ¥5400, ¥7560 or ¥10800 depending on the route. The ¥10800 fare is a particularly good deal for travel to Hokkaido or the remote southern islands of Okinawa. Alternatively, the airlines offer a Welcome to Japan Fare (JAL) or Visit Japan Fare (ANA) where flights cost ¥13,000 each (plus tax) with a minimum of two trips required. Note that some blackout periods or other restrictions during peak travel seasons may apply. If you reserve on the airlines’ respective international websites, the offers for international travelers may be displayed as the cheapest ones… but if you try on the Japan website (in English and in yens) the regular discounts for a purchase in advance may be cheaper.

Low-cost carriers have begun to make an impact in Japan’s domestic air market. Among the newer start-ups are Jetstar Japan, Peach Aviation, Vanilla Air (formerly Air Asia Japan) and Fuji Dream Airlines. The veteran low-cost carriers include Skymark Airlines, StarFlyer and Air DO. Some of these airlines offer online bookings in English (Fuji Dream and StarFlyer do not). StarFlyer offers a discounted fare of ¥7,000-9,000 per flight to foreigners on select routes. Be careful, their most basic offers may not include a checked baggage (which is sold as an option), and if you reserve via a third-party web site you may not be able to purchase the option.

ANA, JAL, and their subsidiaries offer a special standby card, the Skymate Card, to young passengers (up to the age of 22). With the card, passengers can fly standby at half of the full published fare, which is usually less than the equivalent express train fare. The card can be obtained from any JAL or ANA ticket counter with a passport-sized photo and a one-time fee of ¥1000.

BY BOAT:

Given that Japan is an island nation, boats are a surprisingly uncommon means of transport, as all the major islands are linked together by bridges and tunnels. While there are some long-distance ferries linking Okinawa and Hokkaido to the mainland, the fares are usually higher than discounted airline tickets and pretty much the sole advantage is that you can take your car with you.

For some smaller islands, however, boats may well be the only practical option. Hovercrafts and jet ferries are fast but expensive, with prices varying between ¥2000-5000 for an hour-long trip. Slow cargo boats are more affordable, a rule of thumb being ¥1000 per hour in second class, but departures are infrequent. There are also some inexpensive and convenient short-distance intercity ferries such as the Aomori-Hakodate ferry.

These boats are typically divided into classes, where second class (2等 nitō) is just a giant expanse of tatami mat, first class (1等 ittō) gets you a comfy chair in large shared room and only special class (特等 tokutō) gets you a private cabin. Vending machines and simple restaurant fare are typically available on board, but on longer trips (particularly in second class) the primary means of entertainment is alcoholic — this can be fun if you’re invited in, but less so if you’re trying to sleep.

BY BUS:

Buses are plentiful in Japan, and over the last few decades they have evolved into a major mode of intercity transportation, especially for overnight travel. Fierce competition between buses, trains and airplanes have resulted in affordable prices. While a few buses offer fixed fares between two stops, many have adopted a dynamic pricing model, where fares are based on the time of day, whether it’s a daytime or overnight bus, the type of seating on the bus, and how far in advance the ticket is purchased.

Major operators of intercity, or highway buses (高速バス kōsoku basu; ハイウェイバス haiwei basu) include the JR Group and Willer Express. Regional transit operators (Seibu in Tokyo, Hankyu in Kansai, etc) also operate long-distance buses. Tickets for such buses can be purchased at the point of departure, or – with a command of some Japanese – at convenience stores or on the internet. A small but growing number of companies offer online reservations for bus routes in English and several other languages.

Willer Express, which operates around the country in its distinctive pink buses, offers online reservations for its buses in English, Korean and Chinese. In the past few years, they have also begun selling tickets for other bus operators as well. Willer Express’ major strong point for foreigners is the Japan Bus Pass, which offers discounted bus travel all across the Willer network. The more the pass is used, the more cost-effective it is; for example, a 3-day weekday bus pass costs ¥10000, and if all of the available trips on that pass are used, each trip costs around ¥1100. A separate national pass is the JBL Pass, which is more expensive but covers a larger network of buses.

Another use of highway buses is for travel to and from airports. In major cities, these buses are known as Limousine Buses (リムジンバス rimujin basu), and travel to major train stations and hotels. Buses also travel frequently to their own terminals in the city which are strategically located to aim for consistent, on-time trips – one such example is the Tokyo City Air Terminal, or T-CAT, in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.

Local buses (路線バス rosen basu) are the norm in big cities and small towns. Bus fares are either fixed (you pay once, when entering or exiting the bus) or distance-based (you board the rear of the bus, grab a numbered ticket, and match the number with the fare displayed on a board at the front of the bus when it’s time to get off). Many buses are starting to accept smartcards, making payment easier. Buses are indispensable in less-populated areas, as well as in cities such as Kyoto where there is not much local rail transit. The electronic board almost always includes a display and recorded voice announcements of the next stop — usually only in Japanese, although some cities (like Kyoto) make a welcome exception. However, if asked most drivers will be glad to tell you when you’ve reached your destination.

BY TAXI:

You will find taxis everywhere in Japan, not only in the city but also in the country. Taxis are clean and completely safe, though a bit expensive: starting fees are usually in the ¥640-710 range and the meter ticks up frantically after the first 2 km or so. But sometimes, they are the only way to get where you are going. Taxi meters are strictly regulated and clearly visible to the passenger. If you are not sure if you have enough money for the trip, your driver may be able to guess the approximate cost of a trip beforehand. Even if money is not a concern, if you get a cost estimate beforehand, some taxi drivers will stop the meter at the estimated price regardless of how much further the destination may be, which can save you money. Although it is quite nice when it happens, do not expect this treatment from every taxi driver. Taxi fares are also higher at night. Tipping is not customary and would most likely be refused.

In the city, you can hail a taxi just about anywhere, but outside train stations and other transfer points you should board at a taxi stand. (The taxi stand will usually either have a long line of patient passengers, or a long line of idle taxis.) If the destination is a well-known location, such as a hotel, train station, or public facility, the name alone should be enough. Even in the major cities, you are very unlikely to encounter a taxi driver who can speak English, so carrying a pamphlet or card of your hotel or destination with the address on it can be very helpful. Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names and addresses of places you want to visit in Japanese to show your taxi driver.

Calling for a taxi using a smartphone app is becoming available in many cities. These apps will provide the approximate fare to travel between two locations, although trips are still charged by the meter and can fluctuate depending on routing and traffic. Many taxi companies will add a fee for immediate phone or app hails; this booking charge is higher for taxis reserved in advance. In late 2019, some taxi companies will be permitted to start offering fixed-fare rides for smartphone hails in an effort to increase taxi usage by foreigners.

An interesting feature of Japanese taxis is that the driver controls the opening and closing of the rear left passenger door. Try to avoid the habit of closing your door when you board the taxi. Taxi drivers also have a reputation for speeding and aggressive driving, but there are very few accidents involving bad drivers.

All licensed taxis in Japan have green license plates. Unlicensed cabs will have standard white or yellow plates and should be avoided.

BY CAR:

Rental cars and driving in Japan are rare in or around the major cities, as public transport is generally excellent and gets you almost everywhere. In addition, the roads of major cities like Tokyo are plagued with massive traffic jams and parking is expensive and difficult to find, so driving there is more of a hindrance than anything else. However, many rural areas can really be explored with only your own transport, so driving should certainly not be dismissed out of hand, especially on the vast, sparsely populated island of Hokkaido. Often the most feasible option is to combine the two: take the train out to the countryside and then pick up a rental car at a station. JR’s Ekiren has outlets at most larger train stations and often has discounted train & car packages.

An international driver’s license (or Japanese license) will be required if you wish to rent a car or drive in Japan, and must be carried at all times. Driving is on the left. Using a cell phone while driving without a hands-free kit can result in fines of up to ¥50,000. Driving drunk is not tolerated at all. While the minimum for “driving drunk” is a breath (not blood) content of 0.15 mg/L (equivalent to 0.03% BAC), “driving under the influence” has no minimum, meaning police can charge you with even a whiff of alcohol. Penalties include fines up to ¥1 million, up to 5 years in jail, and immediate suspension or revocation of your license. Refusal to take a breathalyzer test also carries fines up to ¥500,000 and up to 3 months jail. Passengers can also be charged (for allowing the drunk person to drive), with similarly severe fines and jail time.

BY BIKE:

Japan has many great opportunities for bikers. Bike rentals can be found throughout the country, especially near popular routes. Some routes (like the Shimanami Kaido, which takes you from the mainland (Onomichi) to Imabari in Shikoku) have been set up specifically for bikers.

If you will be spending an extended period of time in Japan, you may want to consider purchasing a bike. If you choose to do this, be aware that you need to have it registered. If your bike does not have the proper sticker, your bike can be confiscated. It is important that any bike that is not a rental bike is registered under the rider’s name. If you are caught borrowing a bike registered under someone else’s name, it is considered stolen in Japan, and you will likely be taken to the police station. The police often check bikes, so avoid problems by obeying the law.

You should learn Japan’s somewhat extensive cycling laws, although not all of them are heavily enforced. Cycling drunk is illegal, with no blood alcohol limit, and you face fines of up to ¥1 million or up to 5 years in jail (the same as for driving!). Using your phone or listening to music are both illegal. Cycling on the sidewalk, even in big cities crowded with pedestrians, is normal. Helmets are required for children under 13, but neither children nor adults frequently wear helmets, not even police officers.

EAT:

Japanese cuisine, renowned for its emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, has taken the world by storm. The key ingredient of most meals is white rice, usually served steamed. Soybeans are a key source of protein and take many forms, notably the miso soup (味噌汁 miso shiru) served with many meals, but also tofu (豆腐 tōfu) bean curd and the ubiquitous soy sauce (醤油 shōyu). Seafood features heavily in Japanese cuisine, including creatures of the sea and many varieties of seaweed. A complete meal is always rounded out by some pickles (漬物 tsukemono).

One of the joys of getting out of Tokyo and travelling within Japan is to discover the local specialties. Every region within the country has a number of delightful dishes, based on locally available crops and fish. In Hokkaido try the fresh sashimi and crab. In Osaka don’t miss the okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) stuffed with green onions and the octopus balls (たこ焼き takoyaki).

The Michelin Guide is considered by many Western visitors to be the benchmark of good restaurants in Japan. But many top fine dining restaurants are not listed in it by choice. Tabelog is the go-to directory for Japanese people looking at restaurant reviews, but most of the reviews are posted in Japanese.

Etiquette:

Most Japanese food is eaten with chopsticks (箸 hashi). Eating with chopsticks is a surprisingly easy skill to pick up, although mastering them takes a while.

  • Never place or leave chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice; You can rest chopsticks across the edge of your bowl, plate or chopstick rest.
  • Never pass something from your chopsticks to another person’s chopsticks.
  • Licking the ends of your chopsticks is considered low-class.
  • Using chopsticks to move plates or bowls is rude.
  • Pointing at things with your chopsticks is rude. (Pointing at people in general is rude; with chopsticks, doubly so.)
  • Spearing food with your chopsticks is generally rude and should be used as only a last resort.

You shouldn’t “whittle” your disposable chopsticks after breaking them apart (which would imply you think they’re cheap), but for cleanliness it is good manners to put them back in their paper wrapper when you’re finished eating.

Most soups and broths, especially miso, are drunk directly out of the bowl after you’ve chopsticked out the larger bits, and it’s also normal to pick up a bowl of rice for easier eating. For main-dish soups like rāmen you will be given a spoon. Curry rice and fried rice are also eaten with spoons.

Many restaurants give you a hot towel (o-shibori) to wipe your hands with (not your face) as soon as you sit down.

Japanese never put soy sauce on a bowl of rice. Japanese don’t like to waste food (including soy sauce, so don’t pour more than you need), but it’s fine in most restaurants if you leave some food on your plates.

In all types of Japanese restaurants, staff generally ignore you until you ask for something. Say “sumimasen” (“excuse me”) and maybe raise your hand at a large restaurant. Restaurants will present you with the bill after the meal. Pay at the counter when leaving — do not leave payment on the table and walk out. Tipping is not customary in Japan, although many sit-down restaurants apply 10% service charges and 24-hour “family restaurants” usually have a 10% late-night surcharge.

Restaurants:

The number of restaurants (レストラン resutoran) in Japan is stupendous, and you will never run out of places to go. Japanese almost never invite guests to their homes, so socializing nearly always involves eating out. Eating out is generally cheaper than in Western countries, though still expensive by Asian standards, if you stick to a basic rice or noodles meal at a local joint. At the other end of the spectrum, fine dining can be very expensive indeed.

Menus will, for most establishments, be in Japanese only; however, many restaurants have models (many in exquisite detail) of their meals in their front window, and if you can’t read the menu it may be better to take the waiter or waitress outside and point at what you would like. There may be photographs of the food labeled with names and prices.

Many cheap chain eateries have vending machines where you buy a ticket and give it to the server. At many of these restaurants, you’ll have to be able to read Japanese or match the price from models or picture menus, along with some of the kana (characters) to the choices at the machine. Some other places have all-you-can-eat meals called tabehōdai (食べ放題), byuffe (ビュッフェ, “buffet”), or baikingu (バイキング “Viking”, because “smorgasbord” would be too hard to pronounce in Japanese).

All-around eateries:

Shokudō (食堂 “cafeteria” or “dining hall”) serve up simple, popular dishes and teishoku sets at affordable prices (¥500-1000). When in doubt, go for the daily special or kyō no teishoku (今日の定食), which nearly always consists of a main course, rice, soup and pickles. A staple of the shokudō is the donburi (丼), meaning a bowl of rice with a topping.

A closely related variant is the bentō-ya (弁当屋), which serves takeout boxes known as o-bentō (お弁当). While travelling on JR, don’t forget to sample the vast array of ekiben (駅弁) or “station bento”.

Department store basements are often huge spaces filled with expansive amounts of fresh food from throughout the country and local dishes. You can get bento boxes, take out food on a stick, bowls of soup, and often find samples of treats to try. You can also find restaurants in department stores, often on the top floors.

Fine dining:

Japan is considered by many to be one of the world’s centers of fine dining. Japan is tied with France for first place as the country with the most Michelin-star restaurants. Japanese fine dining is notoriously inaccessible to foreign visitors; online bookings are typically not an option, staff typically speak little to no English, and most fine dining establishments do not accept reservations from new customers without an introduction from one of their regular diners. In some cases, a concierge in your luxury hotel may be able to score you a reservation at one of these places provided you make the request well in advance.

Traditional Japanese inns (see § Ryokan) are a common way for travellers to enjoy a fine kaiseki meal. The elaborate meals featuring local seasonal ingredients are considered an essential part of a visit to a ryokan, and factor heavily into many people’s choice of inn.

Noodles:

Practically every town and hamlet in Japan boasts its own “famous” noodle (麺 men) dish.

There are two major noodle types native to Japan: thin buckwheat soba (そば) and thick wheat udon (うどん). Chinese egg noodles or rāmen (ラーメン) are also very popular but more expensive (¥500 and up) and typically include a slice of grilled pork and a variety of vegetables. Slurping your noodles is acceptable and even expected. According to the Japanese, it cools them down and makes them taste better. Any remaining broth can be drunk directly from the bowl.

Sushi and sashimi:

Perhaps Japan’s most famous culinary exports are sushi (寿司 or 鮨), usually raw fish over vinegared rice, and sashimi (刺身), plain raw fish. Most sushi restaurants keep a handy multilingual decoding key on hand or on the wall.

At the finest sushi restaurants, the chef puts a dab of fiery wasabi radish into the sushi, and glazes the fish with soy sauce for you. Thus, such sushi restaurants don’t have individual bowls of soy sauce or wasabi. Most restaurants, though, provide them at the table. (Turn nigiri sushi upside down before dipping, as the soy sauce is to flavor the fish, not to drown the rice.) Slices of pickled ginger (gari) refresh the palate.

When eating sushi, it’s perfectly acceptable to use your fingers. Good sushi is always made such that you can put the entire piece into your mouth at once.

Grilled and fried dishes:

The teppanyaki (鉄板焼き, confusingly known in the U.S. as “hibachi”) and self-grill yakiniku (焼肉, Japanese-style “Korean barbecue”) cooking methods, as well as the deep fried tempura (天ぷら) battered shrimp and vegetables originate here. Meat (especially beef) can be fiercely expensive, like the famous marbled Kobe beef, which can cost thousands per serving. Tempura has entered the Japanese fine dining repertoire, and there are numerous fine tempura omakase restaurants in which the chef deep-fries the dish in front of you and puts it directly on your plate to be eaten immediately.

Other uniquely Japanese foods include okonomiyaki (お好み焼き, “cook it how you like it”, a batter with cabbage, meat, seafood, and vegetable fillings of your choice, often self-cooked at your table) and yakitori (焼き鳥, grilled skewers of every chicken part imaginable).

Others:

Various types of hot pot (鍋 nabe), as well a number of stewed food items known as oden (おでん) are popular in Japan during the winter. You can often find pseudo-Western dishes, which were adapted from European and American cuisines, but often heavily Japanized. See the Japanese cuisine article for more details.

Beer gardens:

During the summer months when it’s not raining, many buildings and hotels have restaurants on their rooftops and serve dishes like fried chicken and french fries, as well as light snacks. The specialty is, of course, draft beer (生ビール nama-biiru). You can order large mugs of beer or pay a fixed price for an all-you-can-drink (飲み放題 nomihōdai) course lasting for a set period of time (usually up to 2 hours). Cocktails and other drinks are also often available as part of all-you-can-drink sets.

Fast food:

Japanese fast food restaurants offer decent quality at reasonable prices. Many chains offer interesting seasonal choices that are quite tasty. Fast food chains offer the range from classic Japanese food through to modern American junk food.

There are also a number of Japanese family restaurants (ファミレス famiresu or ファミリーレストラン famirii resutoran), serving a wide variety of dishes, including steak, pasta, Chinese style dishes, sandwiches, and other foods. Though their food is relatively uninteresting, these restaurants usually have illustrated menus, so travellers who cannot read Japanese can use the photos to choose and communicate their orders.

Convenience stores:

If you’re travelling on the cheap, Japan’s numerous convenience stores (コンビニ konbini) can be a great place to grab a bite to eat; they are everywhere and almost always open 24/7. Major chains include 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart. You can find instant noodles, sandwiches, meat buns, and some small prepared meals, which can be heated up in a microwave in the store. An excellent option for food on the go is onigiri (or omusubi), which is a large ball of rice stuffed with (say) fish or pickled plum and wrapped in seaweed, and usually cost ¥100-150 each (as of Mar 2019).

Supermarkets:

For those really on a budget, most supermarkets (sūpā) have a wide variety of ready-to-eat meals, bentos, sandwiches, snacks and the like, generally cheaper than convenience stores. Some supermarkets are open 24 hours a day.

One Japanese institution worth checking out is the depachika (デパ地下) or department store basement food court, featuring dozens of tiny specialist stalls dishing up local specialties ranging from exquisitely packed tea ceremony candies to fresh sushi and Chinese takeaway. They’re often a little upmarket pricewise.

Dietary restrictions:

Eating vegetarian:

Vegetarians (much less vegans) may have serious difficulty finding a meal that does not include animal products, particularly as the near-ubiquitous Japanese soup stock dashi is usually prepared with fish and often pops up in unexpected places like miso, rice crackers, curry, omelettes (including tamago sushi), instant noodles and pretty much anywhere salt would be used in Western cuisine. Soba and udon noodle soups virtually always use bonito-based katsuodashi, and typically the only vegetarian-safe item on the menu in a noodle shop is zarusoba, or plain cold noodles — but even for this the dipping sauce typically contains dashi.

A safe bet is to look for Buddhist cuisine (精進料理 shōjin ryōri), which is based on the cuisine eaten by Japanese Buddhist monks, and uses only the highest quality ingredients. As per Mahayana Buddhist tradition, it does not include dairy products, eggs or any other animals products. However, it is usually rather expensive.

An excellent option is the kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi shop. There are several kinds of rolled sushi available in these shops that do not include fish or other marine creatures. You may have to ask for the type of sushi you want and the sushi chef will prepare it for you.

Traditional Japanese cuisine contains an ample amount of protein through its great variety of soy products. In the prepared food sections of supermarkets and department store basements, you can also find many dishes including various types of beans, both sweet and savory.

Vegetarians may want to seek out Indian or Italian restaurants in larger cities.

DRINK:

The Japanese drink a lot: not only green tea in the office, at meetings and with meals, but also all types of alcoholic beverages in the evening with friends and colleagues. The drinking age is 20. However, ID verification is almost never requested at restaurants, bars, or convenience stores, so long as the purchaser does not appear obviously underage. The main exception is in the large clubs in Shibuya, Tokyo, which during busy times will ID everyone entering the club.

Drinking in public is legal in Japan, as is public intoxication. It’s especially common to drink at festivals and hanami. It’s also not unusual to have a small drinking party on the bullet trains.

Where to drink:

If you’re looking for an evening of food and drink in a relaxed traditional atmosphere, go to an izakaya (居酒屋, Japanese-style pub), easily identified by red lanterns with the character 酒 (“alcohol”) hanging out front. Many of them have an all-you-can-drink (飲み放題 nomihōdai) deals at about ¥1,000 for 90 minutes (on average), although you will be limited to certain types of drinks. Food is invariably good and reasonably priced.

A common Japanese institution is the snack (スナック sunakku). These are slightly dodgy operations where paid hostesses pour drinks, sing karaoke, massage egos (and sometimes a bit more) and charge upwards of ¥3,000/hour for the service. Tourists will probably feel out of place and many do not even admit non-Japanese patrons.

Dedicated gay bars are comparatively rare in Japan, but the districts of Shinjuku ni-chome in Tokyo and Doyama-cho in Osaka have busy gay scenes. Most gay/lesbian bars serve a small niche (muscular men, etc.) and will not permit those who do not fit the mold, including the opposite sex, to enter. While a few are Japanese only, foreigners are welcome at most bars.

Izakaya, bars and snacks typically have cover charges (カバーチャージ kabā chāji), usually around ¥500 but on rare occasions more, so ask if the place looks really swish. In izakayas this often takes the form of being served some little nibble (お通し otōshi) as you sit down, and no, you can’t refuse it and not pay. Some bars also charge a cover charge and an additional fee for any peanuts you’re served with your beer.

Karaoke parlors serve drinks and snacks. Orders are placed via a phone on the wall, by pressing a button to summon staff, or in high-tech ones using the karaoke machine’s tablet or remote control.

If you’re just looking for a jolt of caffeine, go to Starbucks or one of its Japanese competitors such as Doutor or Excelsior. But for a more calm and unique experience, the Japanese coffee shop, kissaten (喫茶店), has a long history. Most are one-of-a-kind affairs, and reflect the tastes of their clientele. A peculiar kind of kissaten is the jazz coffee shop; these moody joints for jazz buffs are strictly for quiet listening, and not for conversation.

Vending machines (自動販売機 jidōhanbaiki, or jihanki in slang) are omnipresent in Japan and serve up drinks 24 hours a day at the price of ¥120-150 a can/bottle. In addition to cans of soft drinks, tea and coffee, you can find vending machines that sell beer, sake and hard liquor. In winter, some machines will also dispense hot drinks — look for a red label with the writing あたたかい (atatakai) instead of the usual blue つめたい (tsumetai). Vending machines that sell alcoholic beverages are usually switched off at 23:00.

Beverages:

Sake is a fermented alcoholic beverage brewed from rice. The Japanese word sake (酒) can mean any kind of alcoholic drink, and in Japan the word nihonshu (日本酒) is used to refer to what Westerners call “sake”. Sake is around 15% alcohol, and contrary to popular belief, is usually not served hot, but often chilled; defaulting to room temperature is in most cases safe. Bottles and menus often show the nihonshu-do (日本酒度), a “sake level” that measures the sweetness or dryness of the brew, the average today being around +3 (slightly dry). When making a purchase, price is often a fair indicator of quality.

Shōchū (焼酎) is the big brother of sake, a stronger-tasting distilled type of alcohol. Traditional shōchū are most commonly made of rice, yam, or grain, but can be made of other materials like potatoes, too. Typically around 25% alcohol and often cheap at less than ¥1000 for a big 1L bottle, these can be served straight, on the rocks, or mixed with hot or cold water. Shōchū industrially made out of sugar is often used and served as a kind of cooler mixed with juice or soda known as a chū-hai, short for “shōchū highball”.

Umeshu (梅酒), inaccurately called “plum wine”, is prepared by soaking Japanese ume plums (actually a type of apricot) in white liquor so it absorbs the flavor, and the distinctive, penetrating nose of sour dark plum and sweet brown sugar is a hit with many visitors. Typically about 10-15% alcohol, it can be taken straight, on the rocks (ロック rokku) or mixed with soda (ソダ割り soda-wari).

Japanese whisky ([ジャパニーズ] ウイスキー [japanīzu] uisukī), although popular domestically for over 150 years, has recently come to international attention and won numerous awards. It can be had neat/straight (ストレート sutorēto) or on the rocks (オン・ザ・ロック on za rokku or simply ロック rokku), but it’s much more common to dilute it, the same as with shōchū. The most common preparation is a highball (ハイボール haibōru), 1 part whisky and 2 parts soda water over ice. Another common drink uses cold mineral water (水割り mizu-wari) in the same proportions, or in the winter, hot water (お湯割り o-yu-wari).

There are several large brands of Japanese beer (ビール biiru), including Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, and Suntory. Yebisu is also a popular beer brewed by Sapporo. In Japanese restaurants, beer is typically served in various sizes of bottles (瓶 bin), or draft (生 nama meaning “fresh”). Most Japanese beers are dry pilsners, with strengths averaging 5%, which pair well with Japanese food but are definitely light in flavor. Even the few dark beers like Asahi Super Dry Black are actually dark lagers, so despite their color they’re still not very full-bodied. Microbreweries are quickly picking up steam, and their kurafuto bia (クラフトビア “craft beer”) or ji-biiru (地ビール “local beer”) bring some welcome diversity to the market. You’ll likely have to hunt around to find them, though; besides brewpubs and good liquor stores like the widespread Yamaya (店舗 or やまや), another good place to look is department store basements.

Japanese wine is actually quite nice but costs about twice as much as comparable wine from other countries. Several varieties exist, and imported wine at various prices is available nationwide. Specialized stores and large department stores offer the most extensive offerings. Most wine, red and white, is served chilled and you may find it hard obtaining room-temperature (常温 jō-on) wine when dining out.

The most popular beverage by far is tea (お茶 o-cha), provided free of charge with almost every meal, hot in winter and cold in summer. There is a huge variety of tea in bottles and cans in convenience-store fridges and vending machines. Unless specified, tea is usually Japanese green tea; Western-style black tea is called kōcha (紅茶), and Chinese oolong tea (ウーロン茶 ūron cha) is also popular. Japanese teas are always drunk neat, without the use of any milk or sugar. However, Western-style milk tea can also be found in most of the American fast food chains.

Coffee (コーヒー kōhī) is quite popular in Japan. It’s usually brewed to the same strength as European coffee; weaker, watered down coffee is called American. Canned coffee (hot and cold) is a bit of a curiosity, and widely available in vending machines for about ¥120 per can. Most canned coffee is sweet, so look for brands with the English word “Black” or the kanji 無糖 (“no sugar”) if you want it unsweetened.

There are many uniquely Japanese soft drinks and trying random drinks from vending machines is one of the little traveller’s joys of Japan. Calpis (カルピス Karupisu) is a kind of yogurt-based soft drink that tastes better than it sounds. The famous Pocari Sweat (ポカリスエット Pokari Suetto) is a Gatorade-style isotonic drink. A more traditional Japanese soft drink is Ramune (ラムネ), nearly the same as Sprite or 7-Up but noteworthy for its unusual bottle, where one pushes down a marble into an open space below the spout instead of using a bottle opener.

American soft drink brands are widely available. The only choices for diet soda will be Diet Coke, Coke Zero, or Diet Pepsi. In Japan, the term “juice” (ジュース jūsu) is a catch-all term for any kind of soft drink — including even Coca-Cola and the like — so if it’s fruit squeezings you want, ask for kajū (果汁). Extremely few are 100% juice.

In addition to the usual youth hostels and business hotels, you can find several kinds of uniquely Japanese accommodation, ranging from rarefied ryokan inns to strictly functional capsule hotels and utterly over-the-top love hotels.

When reserving any Japanese accommodations, bear in mind that many smaller operations may hesitate to accept foreigners, fearing language difficulties or other cultural misunderstandings. This is to some extent institutionalized: large travel agency databases note the few hotels are prepared to handle foreigners, and they may tell you that all lodgings are booked if only these are full. Instead of calling up in English, you may find it better to get a Japanese acquaintance or local tourist office to make the booking for you. Alternatively, for cheap Internet rates, Rakuten’s English search tool is a valuable utility. Prices are almost always given per person, not per room. Otherwise, you may have a rather unpleasant shock when your party of five tries to check out.

When checking in to any type of accommodation, the hotel is required by law to make a copy of your passport unless you are a resident of Japan. It is a good idea, especially if you are travelling in groups, to present the clerk a photo copy of your passport to speed up check-in. Aside from this, remember that Japan is mostly a cash only country, and credit cards are usually not accepted in smaller forms of accommodation, including small business hotels. Bring enough cash to be able to pay in advance.

One thing to beware in wintertime: traditional Japanese houses are designed to be cool in summer, which all too often means that they are freezing cold inside in winter. Bulk up on clothing and make good use of the bathing facilities to stay warm; fortunately, futon bedding is usually quite warm and getting a good night’s sleep is rarely a problem.

While accommodation in Japan is expensive, you may find that you can comfortably use a lower standard of hotel than you would in other countries. Shared baths will usually be spotless, and theft is very unusual in Japan. Just don’t expect to sleep in late: check-out time is invariably 10:00, and any extensions to this will have to be paid for.

You may have difficulty finding rooms at the busiest holiday times, such as Golden Week at the beginning of May. However, many Japanese hotels and third-party booking sites do not accept online bookings more than 3 to 6 months in advance, so if it’s more than 3 months before your trip and you’re not finding anything available, either contact the hotel directly or try again later.

Sizes of Japanese rooms are often measured in jō (畳 or sometimes 帖), the number of tatami (straw floor) mats that would cover the floor, regardless of the room’s actual flooring material. Sizes vary by region, with 1 jō ranging from 1.445 to 1.824 m2, but a commonly used value is 1.652 m2 (17.8 sq ft). A typical room in a Japanese apartment is 6 jō (about 9.3 m2; 100 sq ft), big enough to sleep two people with their luggage spread out.

Hotels:

While Western-branded hotels (ホテル hoteru) are to be found all across Japan, it’s Japanese brands like that rule the roost. Some of the Japanese hotel chains include:

  • ANA IHG Hotels – the only Western-branded hotel chain with widespread Japanese presence, it operates Intercontinental Hotels, Crowne Plazas and Holiday Inns across Japan. Some ANA Hotels can be booked via IHG’s reservation system.
  • Okura Hotels & Resorts is a brand of upscale and luxury hotels. They also own the midscale chains Hotel Nikko and JAL Hotels.
  • Rihga Royal
  • Prince Hotels

Full-service five-star hotel can turn pampering into an artform, but tend to be rather bland and generic in appearance, despite steep prices starting from ¥20,000 per person (not per room). On the other hand, three- and four-star business hotels are relatively reasonably priced when compared to prices in major European or North American cities, and even two-star hotels provide impeccable cleaniness and features rarely found in the West in that price range.

However, there are several types of uniquely Japanese and far more affordable hotels:

Capsule hotels:

Capsule hotels (カプセルホテル kapuseru hoteru) are the ultimate in space-efficient sleeping: for a small fee (normally between ¥3000 and ¥4000), the guest rents a capsule, sized about 2 x 1 x 1m and stacked in two rows inside a hall containing tens if not hundreds of capsules. Capsule hotels are segregated by sex, and only a few cater to women.

On entry to a capsule hotel, take off your shoes, place them in a locker and put on a pair of slippers. You will often have to surrender your locker key at check-in to insure that you do not slip out without paying! On checking in you will be given a second locker for placing your belongings, as there is no space for them in the capsule and little security as most capsules have simply a curtain, not a door. Beware though if there is a curtain, since probing hands may enter it.

Many capsule hotels are attached to a spa of varying degrees of luxury and/or legitimacy, often so that entry to the spa costs perhaps ¥2000 but the capsule is only an additional ¥1000. The cheapest capsule hotels will require feeding in ¥100 coins even to get the shower to work. This being Japan, there are always vending machines on hand to dispense toothpaste, underwear and sundries.

Once you retire into your capsule, you will usually find a simple control panel for operating the lights, the alarm clock and the inevitable built-in TV. If you oversleep, you may be hit with another day’s charge.

In Tokyo’s Shinjuku and Shibuya districts the capsule hotels run at least ¥3500, but have excellent free massage chairs, saunas, public baths, disposable razors and shampoo, magazines, and coffee in the morning. Your capsule “door” is just a curtain that keeps light out. You will likely hear a steady stream of drunk and sleepy business men crawling into their capsules above and across from you before falling into a mild snore.

Love hotels:

Love hotel (ラブホテル rabu hoteru) is a a euphemism; a more accurate term would be “sex hotel”. They can be found in and near red light districts, but most are not in those areas. Many of them are often clustered around highway interchanges or main train stations. The entrance is usually quite discreet, and the exit is separated from the entrance (to avoid running into someone one might know). You rent a room by the night (listed as “Stay” or 宿泊 shukuhaku on the rate card, usually ¥6000-10,000), a couple of hours (“Rest” or 休憩 kyūkei, around ¥3000), or off hours (“No Time Service”), which are usually weekday afternoons. Service charges, peak hour surcharges, and taxes can push your bill up by 25%. Some will accept single guests, but most will not allow same-sex couples or obviously underaged guests.

They are generally clean, safe, and very private. Some have exotic themes: aquatics, sports, or Hello Kitty. As a traveller, rather than a typical client, you (usually) cannot check in, drop your bags, and go out exploring. Once you leave, that is it, so they are not as convenient as proper hotels. “Stay” rates also tend to start only after 22:00, and overstaying may incur hefty additional “Rest” charges. Many rooms have simple food and drinks in a refrigerator, and often have somewhat high charges. Before entering a love hotel, it would be wise to take some food and drinks with you. The rooms often feature amenities such as jacuzzis, wild theme decoration, costumes, karaoke machines, vibrating beds, sex toy vending machines, and in some cases, video games. Most often, all toiletries (including condoms) are included. Sometimes the rooms have a book that acts as a log, where people record their tales and adventures for posterity. Popular love hotels may be entirely booked up in the cities on weekends.

Why are they everywhere? Consider the housing shortage that plagued post-war Japan for years, and the way people still live in extended families. If you are 28 years old and still live at home, do you really want to bring your mate back to your folks’ house? If you are a married couple in a 40-square-metre (430 sq ft) apartment with two grade school children, do you really want to get down to it at home? Thus, there is the love hotel. They can be seedy, but mainly they are just practical and fulfil a social need.

Hidden cameras have been found in public and private spaces, including love hotels, planted by other guests or even occasionally the hotel management. Videos of these supposed tousatsu (hidden camera) are popular in adult video stores, although many such videos are staged.

Business hotels:

Business hotels (ビジネスホテル bijinesu hoteru) are usually around ¥10,000 per night and have a convenient location (often near major train stations) as their major selling point, but rooms are usually unbelievably cramped. On the upside, you’ll get a (tiny) en suite bathroom and, quite often, free Internet. Some major chains of cheaper business hotels include Tokyu Inn, known for its generously sized rooms, Sunroute Hotels and Toyoko Inn. The latter have a club card, which at ¥1500, can pay for itself on a single Sunday night.

Local business hotels, farther from major stations, can be significantly cheaper (double room from ¥5000/night) and can be found in the phone book (which also tells prices), but you will need a Japanese-speaking assistant to help, or better yet, pre-book online. For two or more, the price can often compete with youth hostels if you share a twin or double room. Full payment is often expected on check-in, and check-out times are early (usually 10AM) and non-negotiable unless you are willing to pay extra. At the very bottom end are dirt-cheap hotels in the labourers’ districts of the major cities, such as Kamagasaki in Osaka, or Senju in Tokyo, where prices start from as little as ¥1500 for a tiny three-mat room that literally has only enough room to sleep. Walls and futons can be thin as well.

Inns:

Ryokan:

Ryokan (旅館) are traditional Japanese inns, and a visit to one is the highlight of a trip to Japan for many. There are two types: the small traditional-style one with wooden buildings, long verandahs, and gardens, and the more modern high-rise sort that are like luxury hotels with fancy public baths.

Since some knowledge of Japanese mores and etiquette is required to visit one, many will hesitate to take non-Japanese guests (especially those who do not speak Japanese), but some cater specially to this group; sites like Japanese Guest Houses list such ryokan and will help you book. A night at a ryokan for one with two meals starts at about ¥8000 and goes up into the stratosphere. ¥50,000 a night per person is not uncommon for some of the posher ones, such as the famous Kagaya Wakura Onsen near Kanazawa.

Ryokan usually operate on a fairly strict schedule and you will be expected to arrive by 17:00. On entry, take off your shoes and put on the slippers you will wear inside the house. After checking in you will be led to your room, simply but elegantly decorated and covered in tatami matting. Be sure to take off your slippers before stepping on tatami. At this time, staff will ask your preferences for when to take dinner and breakfast, and any choices such as courses (such as a choice of Japanese or Western style breakfast) and drinks.

Before dinner you will be encouraged to take a bath — see Public baths in Japan for the full scoop. You will probably wish to change into your yukata robe before bathing and it’s a simple enough garment: just place the left lapel atop the right when closing it. (The other way, right-over-left, is a faux pas, as yukata are closed that way only for burial!) If the yukata provided are not big enough, simply ask the maid or the reception for tokudai (特大 “outsize”). If you’re chilly, you can add a haori, a traditional coat, which often has long hanging sleeves that serve as pockets.

Once you have bathed, dinner will be served, either in your own room or in a dining room. Ryokan typically serve kaiseki cuisine, traditional meals that consist of a dozen or more small dishes. Kaiseki is very elaborately prepared and presented from carefully chosen seasonal ingredients. There is usually a simmered dish and a grilled dish, which you cook individually, as well as obscure items that most Westerners aren’t usually familiar with; by all means ask if you are not sure how to eat a given item. Local ingredients and dishes are also showcased, sometimes replacing the kaiseki experience with oddities such as basashi (horse meat) or a meal cooked in an irori hearth. The food in a good ryokan is a substantial part of the experience (and the bill), and is an excellent way to try some high-class Japanese cuisine.

After you have finished you are free to head out into town; in hot spring towns it is perfectly normal to head out dressed only in yukata and geta clogs, although doing so as a foreigner may attract even more attention than usual. (Hint: wear underwear underneath.) Geta are typically available near the entrances, or available by request from the desk. These wooden clogs have two supports to elevate them from the ground (a necessity in ancient Japan with muddy roads), which gives them a distinctive clacking sound. It takes a minute to get used to walking in them, but they’re not very different from Western flip-flops. Many ryokan have curfews, so make sure that you get back on time.

When you return you will find that futon bedding has been rolled out for you on the tatami (a real Japanese futon is simply a mattress, not the low, flat bed often sold under the name in the West). While slightly harder than a Western bed, most people find sleeping on a futon very pleasant. Pillows may be remarkably hard, filled with buckwheat chaff.

Breakfast in the morning is more likely to be served communally in a dining hall at a fixed time, though the high-class places will again serve it in your room after the maid tidies away the bedding. Although a few ryokan offer a choice of a Western breakfast, usually a Japanese breakfast is the norm, meaning rice, miso soup and cold fish. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try the popular tamago kake gohan (卵かけご飯 “egg on rice”, a raw egg and seasoning which you stir into a bowl of hot rice) or the disliked-even-by-some-Japanese nattō (納豆 fermented soybeans, which you stir vigorously with chopsticks for a minute or two until they become extremely stringy and sticky, and then eat over rice).

High-end ryokan are one of the few places in Japan that accept tips, but the kokorozuke system is the reverse of the usual: around ¥3000 is placed in an envelope and handed to the maid bringing you to your room at the very beginning of your stay, not the end. While never expected (you’ll get great service anyway), the money serves both as a token of appreciation and an apology of sorts for any difficulty caused by special requests (e.g. food allergies) or your inability to speak Japanese.

A last word of warning: some establishments with the word “ryokan” in their name are not the luxurious variety at all but just minshuku in disguise. The price will tell you the type of lodging it is.

Minshuku:

Minshuku (民宿) are the budget version of ryokan, and similar in concept to a B&B. At these family-run houses, the overall experience is similar to ryokan but the food is simpler, dining is communal, bathrooms are shared, and guests are expected to lay out their own futon (although an exception is often made for foreigners). Consequently minshuku rates are lower, hovering around ¥5,000 to ¥10,000 with two meals (一泊二食 ippaku-nishoku). Cheaper yet is a stay with no meals (素泊まり sudomari), which can go as low as ¥3,000.

Minshuku are more often found in the countryside, where virtually every hamlet or island, no matter how small or obscure, will have one. The hardest part is often finding them, as they rarely advertise or show up in online booking engines, so asking the local tourist office is often the best way.

Pensions (ペンション penshon) are similar to minshuku but have Western-style rooms, just like their European namesake.

Kokuminshukusha:

Kokuminshukusha (国民宿舎), a mouthful that translates quite literally into “people’s lodges”, are government-run guest houses. They primarily provide subsidized holidays for government employees in remote scenic spots, but they are usually happy to accept paying guests. Both facilities and prices are usually more comparable to ryokan than minshuku standards; however, they are almost invariably large in size and can be rather impersonal. Popular ones need to be booked well in advance for peak seasons: sometimes almost a year in advance for New Year’s and the like.

Shukubō:

Shukubō (宿坊) are lodgings for pilgrims, usually located within a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. Again, the experience is broadly similar to a ryokan, but the food will be vegetarian and you may be offered a chance to participate in the temple’s activities. Some Zen temples offer meditation lessons and courses. Shukubo can be reluctant to accept foreign guests, but one place where that will not be a problem is the major Buddhist center of Mt. Koya near Osaka.

Hostels and camping:

Youth hostels:

Youth hostels (ユースホステル yūsu hosuteru, often just called yūsu or abbreviated “YH”) are another cheap option in Japan. Hostels can be found throughout the country, so they are popular among budget travellers, especially students. Hostels typically range in price from ¥2,000 to ¥4,000. It can become more expensive if you opt for dinner and breakfast and are not a Hostelling International (HI) member, in which case the price for a single night may be over ¥5000. For HI members, a simple stay can cost as little as ¥1500 depending on location and season. As elsewhere, some are concrete cell blocks run like reform schools, while others are wonderful cottages in scenic spots. There are even a number of temples that run hostels as a sideline. Do some groundwork before choosing where to go, the Japan Youth Hostel page is a good place to start. Many have curfews (and sometimes a lock-out period during the day when all guests must leave), and dorm rooms are often gender segregated.

Riders’ houses:

Riders’ houses (ライダーハウス raidā hausu) are super-budget dorms intended primarily for bikers, both motorized and pedal-powered. While anybody is generally welcome, these are generally located deep in the countryside and access by public transport is impractical or impossible. Generally run as a hobby, riders’ houses are very cheap (¥300/night is typical, free is not unheard of), but facilities are minimal; you’re expected to bring your own sleeping bag and there may not even be a kitchen or a bath. Long stays are also discouraged and some ban stays of more than one night. These are particularly common in Hokkaido, but can be found here and there around the country. The definitive directory is Hatinosu (Japanese only).

Private accommodations:

Guest houses:

There are a number of guest houses (ゲストハウス) in Japan. Sometimes this is just a synonym for “hostel”, but other guest houses are run from someone’s private home. Whereas a minshuku is a destination unto itself, guest houses are simply places to stay, and often have convenient locations in cities or nearby suburbs. They may have shared dormitory-style accommodations, and unlike a minshuku or B&B usually don’t offer meals. Most will have a curfew as well. Some cater to foreign visitors, although some Japanese language ability will be helpful for finding, booking, and staying at one.

Hospitality exchange:

Particularly in Japan’s dense cities, hospitality exchange through sites like AirBnB has become very popular. Many of the listings will be for mansions (マンション manshon), which in Japanese is a common marketing term that really means “condominium”. Mansions are typically in high-rise buildings with many amenities, unlike apartments (アパート apaato) which are usually inexpensive flats. Hospitality exchange can be a good way to find a great deal on premium lodging and experience what a typical home is like for many Japanese.

Japan is known for its upscale department stores (デパート depāto), the nicest of which feature beautiful interior architectural ornamentation and still employ uniformed women to operate the elevators while informing customers where to find items. Depāto typically have a food court and groceries in the basement, while the roof often has a garden (which doubles as a beer garden during the summer) and some affordable eateries.

Retail hours are surprisingly limited, typically 10:00-20:00, though most shops are open on weekends and public holidays except New Year, and close on one day a week. However, you will always find something you could need to buy at any time of day. Japan is crawling with 24/7 convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, Circle K, and Sunkus.

Many Westerners come to Japan in search of anime (animation), manga (comics), and video games. One of the best places to shop is Akihabara in Tokyo.

Battery-powered small electronics and still cameras made for sale in Japan will work anywhere in the world. There are no great bargains to be found, but the selection is unparalleled. However, if you are buying other electronics to take home, it’s best to shop at stores that specialize in “overseas” configurations, many of which can be found in Tokyo’s Akihabara. Japanese AC runs at 100 volts, so check devices’ ratings; if it’s not rated for 100–120 V, using it without a step-down transformer can be dangerous. Blank media is a great deal; Blu-ray optical media for video and data is much, much cheaper than anywhere else.

When it comes to casual fashion, Japan is hard to beat. Tokyo and Osaka in particular are home to many shopping districts, and there is an abundance of stores selling the latest fashion, particularly those catering to youths.

Japan’s main contribution to jewelry is the cultured pearl. The pearls are widely available — although there is little if any price difference to buying them outside Japan. For those who insist on getting their hands on the “authentic” stuff, Mikimoto’s flagship store is in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

Then of course there is kimono, the classic Japanese garment. While very expensive new, second-hand kimonos can be had at a fraction of the price, or you can opt for a much cheaper and easier to wear casual yukata robe. See purchasing a kimono for buying your own.

**All travel information has been sourced from wikivoyage. However like wikipedia, wikivoyage is an open platform editable by any member of the public. Therefore, although very useful, all above information IS INDICATIVE ONLY and must be verified prior to personal use. Moreover, if you wish to see more information please visit: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Japan
TOP ATTRACTIONS
PLEASE CLICK / HOVER ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Name: Tokyo Skytree
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 metres in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, displacing the Canton Tower, and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).

The tower is the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kantō region; the older Tokyo Tower no longer gives complete digital terrestrial television broadcasting coverage because it is surrounded by high-rise buildings. Skytree was completed on Leap Day, 29 February 2012, with the tower opening to the public on 22 May 2012.

There are observatories at 350 m (1,150 ft), with a capacity of up to 2000 people, and 450 m (1,480 ft), with a capacity of 900 people. The upper observatory features a spiral, glass-covered skywalk in which visitors ascend the last 5 meters to the highest point at the upper platform. A section of glass flooring gives visitors a direct downward view of the streets below.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Skytree
Name: Kinkaku-ji
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Kinkaku-ji, is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan, attracting a large number of visitors annually. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site, a National Special Landscape and is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites.

The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionji family by shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes.

During the Ōnin war (1467–1477), all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down. On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkaku-ji
Name: Mount Fuji
Location: Honshū, Japan
Mount Fuji located on Honshū, is the highest volcano in Japan at 3,776.24m, 2nd-highest peak of an island (volcanic) in Asia, and 7th-highest peak of an island in the world. It is a dormant stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707–1708. Mount Fuji lies about 100 km south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped for about 5 months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.

Mount Fuji is one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains" along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku. It is also a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and one of Japan's Historic Sites. According to UNESCO, Mount Fuji has "inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries". UNESCO recognizes 25 sites of cultural interest within the Mount Fuji locality. These 25 locations include the mountain and the Shinto shrine, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, as well as the Buddhist Taisekiji Head Temple founded in 1290, later immortalized by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Fuji
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...WHO ARE WE?

...WHO ARE WE?

…WHO ARE WE?
…WHO ARE WE?

My name is Manny and I would like to personally welcome you to Global Visas.

Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluable.

Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluableI have provided some of my own personal testimonials over my years in immigration below; working and leading on very large projects...

I have provided some of my own personal testimonials over my years in immigration below; working and leading on very large projects.

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We look forward to working with you and meeting all your expectations.

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