Japan Travel 101: Your First Trip in 2023

As with any trip abroad, your first visit to Japan will be filled with adventure, new experiences and interesting challenges. But from your first time sleeping on a futon to your first night bus ride to Osaka, there are a few things you need to be prepared for.

We’ve covered how to prepare for post-pandemic travel, but here we’ll go over some basics to keep in mind when planning your first trip to Japan.

1. Don’t just stay in Tokyo

This is Japan too! Yuzawa in Niigata to be exact. Photo: iStock/ lion95

On your first trip to Japan, you may be tempted to set your sights on Tokyo rather than explore further afield. But if you want to really understand what Japan is like, you have to cast a wide net!

One way to explore without venturing too far out of your comfort zone is to choose a city as your base and find some fun day trips in the area to experience more of the culture. For example, during your stay in Tokyo, you can travel to areas such as Nikko, Chichibu, Kamakura or Kawagoe in one day. These areas allow you to experience life outside the big cities.

You should also consider what kind of vacation you like in general. Many first-time visitors only think of Tokyo or Kyoto in Japan, but there are various regions to explore. Here is an overview of activities you can undertake in other areas:

  • Skiing and Snowsports: Hokkaido, Nagano, Niigata
  • Beaches: Okinawa, Kyushu, Chiba
  • Nature Trails: Most of Japan!
  • Traditions: Kyoto, Tochigi, Ishikawa
  • City life: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo

This also applies to seasons! Japan is beautiful not only during cherry blossom season, but also all year round. There are some particularly beautiful sights in autumn.

2. Think ahead about transportation options

Once you’ve decided where you’re going, you should think about how you’ll get there. Don’t assume how easy it is to get from A to B!

Deciding on your mode of transportation will depend on where you’re staying and your travel priorities. While you might think taxis are the easiest option, they can be expensive and not always easy to find outside of major cities.

  • this Shinkansen (bullet train) is the most expensive and most convenient transportation option. If you’re on a temporary tourist visa, buying a JR Rail Pass is the best way to keep costs down.
  • Buses and local trains are best for the budget-conscious traveler, but they tend to have the longest travel times, so plan accordingly.
  • Car rental is great for those traveling to less touristy areas, but costs can add up quickly, with tolls and petrol being key factors.
  • Taxis are expensive, but come in handy if you miss the last train and are not traveling outside the city limits.

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