Japan travel tips
Japan: how to get there, useful information and Tokyo
The island nation of Japan is in the Pacific Ocean and extends in a north-south direction off the coast of Russia and South Korea. The official and national language is Japanese, English as a foreign language is understood everywhere.
Non-stop flights to Japan are operated by many international airlines. Overall, Japan has four international airports: in Tokyo (NRT), Osaka (KIX), Fukuoka (FUK) and Nagoya (NGO). Convenient and regular domestic flights to many destinations such as Kobe (UKB), Sapporo (CTS) or Yokohama (YOK) are operated by Japan Airlines (JL) and All Nippon Airways (NH). There are also several inexpensive private airlines to choose from, such as Air Do (previously Hokkaido International Airlines (HD)) or Ibex Airlines (FW).
The prefecture of Tokyo, extending from the bay of Tokyo to the canton region is the location of Japan's capital city.. In Tokyo almost all sights are located within the circle of the JR Yamanote. Ginza is a famous shopping area with many galleries and shops, the Ueno Park offers visitors the best museums and art galleries in the country. Asakusa is located northeast of the city centre, and is the location of the Senso-ji, the largest Buddhist temple in Japan. Shinjuku is an area measuring 2 sq km and is a mecca for shopping and entertainment. Dense crowds, huge video screens, exclusive shopping arcades and casinos are characteristic of this district.
Japan's climate and geography
The landscape of this earthquake-prone country is dominated by mountains on all the islands, taking up about 73% of the total area of land. Alone in northern and central Japan, there are more than 500 mountains that are higher than 2,000 m (6000 ft). This means that even the mountain ranges have been cultivated over the centuries due to the lack of flat surface. The four main islands are Hokkaido in the north. The central and largest islands are Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu in the south. There are also more than 3,000 smaller islands, which are located mainly in the Seto Inland Sea.
The highest mountain in the country is 3,776 m (12,130 ft) high and is the volcano Fuji-San on the Honshu main island. It is the national symbol of Japan and is one of the 196 volcanoes in Japan, of which 28 are still active. The Fuji-San is also one of the most popular excursions and tourist destinations on Honshu, as it is relatively easy to climb due to its topography.
Because of the geographical length of Japan, the climatic conditions on the respective islands vary greatly. In the north, the island of Hokkaido has a temperate climate, with very little heavy rainfall, but large snow drifts in the winter. In the Sea of Japan there can also be heavy snowfall during the winter. Here, it can be rather cool in the summer compared to the Pacific side of the island. On the main island of Honshu on the other hand, the temperature fluctuations between day and night and between summer and winter are much greater. The catchment area of the landlocked sea of Seto is sheltered from the wind by the mountains and enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year. The Pacific region is determined by a very distinct continental climate with cold winters and hot dry summers and the Nansei Shoto Islands in the southwestern Pacific, have a pronounced sub-tropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. Characteristic here is the heavy rainfall during the rainy season and frequent typhoons, which have a devastating effect on parts of the area.
Japan: entry requirements and health
Vaccines against hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, diphtheria and tetanus are recommended. Long clothing should be worn as protection against mosquitoes and insect-borne, viral diseases as well as using a local insect repellent. Good medical care is available on all islands. Visitors are strongly advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers repatriation costs, as the cost of medical treatment is very high in Japan. Fruit and vegetables should be peeled or boiled to prevent infection and a small first aid kit should also be taken.
A valid passport as well as a return ticket are needed by British nationals wishing to visit Japan. Those visiting for less than 3 months do not require a visa. A one-time extension for a further 90 days can be requested from the Immigration Department. Travellers with children should bring a child's passport with a photo. Entry is also possible if the child is registered in the passport of an accompanying parent.
For more information on vaccinations and entry requirements as well as current security issues please consult the Foreign Office website.
Japan: highlights and tourist attractions
The hot springs near the Lakes of the Fuji-Hakone resort are a popular tourist destination. Also popular with climbers are the Japanese Alps on Honshu. Nagano is well worth a visit particularly in winter and was the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Not to be missed is Nara, one of the oldest cities in Japan and often referred to as the cradle of Japanese culture. Overall, Nara counts over 1 million visitors annually and is home to the famous Todai-Ji Temple, with the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. Nara Park is almost a fairy tale and is the location of the most temples and where several hundred deer wait to be fed. The most important and largest park is in Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido. This park includes several mountain ranges and is home to numerous volcanoes, scenic lakes and dense forests. The Boso peninsula is especially suited for bathing holidays on one of the many beaches of Shirahama, which can be easily reached from Tokyo.
Kyoto, with its hundreds of temples and gardens was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years and has not lost its charm to date. It is the cultural centre and will provide the westerner on the lookout for Japanese stereotypes with ample opportunities for taking snapshots.
Other large popular cities are Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kobe.