Essential Info - Japanspecialist
Here you'll find all the practical information you need to know ahead of your trip to Japan, ensuring that you're well prepared for the journey of a lifetime. Remember, you can contact our team at any time if the information you're looking for isn't listed below.
The national language of Japan is Japanese. There are differences in accent and dialect per region.
Japanese speak politely to each other and foreigners, but this is not expected from you. In general, people working in tourism speak English.
Announcements at airports and stations are usually made in Japanese as well as in English. Messages on (road) signs are displayed with both Japanese characters and the Roman alphabet.
Japan’s standard time zone is GMT+9. That means that all over the country (there are no different time zones within Japan) it is nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/CET). Japan does not use daylight savings time.
To use Wi-Fiin Japan, it is technically possible to use your own 3G/4G device, but the roaming charges can be high. It is, therefore, recommendable to use wireless hotspots. Especially in the major cities in Japan, many Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up everywhere.
It is advisable to rent a mobile Wi-Fi router on-site for a guaranteed Wi-Fi connection. These are available at the airports but also can be ordered easily online in advance.
Japan uses plugs that consist of two flat parallel prong pins.
So before you leave, don’t forget to bring a conversion plug or a transformer so you can charge your electronic devices in Japan.
The main voltage in Japan is uniformly 110V, and there are two types of frequencies in use: In the east of Japan they use 50 Hertz and, in the west, (including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka) 60 Hertz.
Electronic devices such as hair dryers (with double voltage), shavers and (travel) irons should therefore work everywhere in Japan. If not, a step-down transformer can be used to convert the voltage requirement.
Conversion plugs and transformers are relatively easy to find and purchase in Japan, especially in urban and tourist areas. Some international hotels have sockets with both 110 and 220 volts (European plug), so conversion plugs, transformers or adapters are not needed. If you need to charge your device on the go, you can also do this in the shinkansen (bullet train), and the latest models have outlets next to the window seats.
The national currency of Japan is the YEN and is indicated by the symbol ¥.
Coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen and 500 yen. Yen notes are 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen.
Cash is still commonly used. You can withdraw cash from ATMs at convenience stores (such as 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson). Do note that not all ATMs are open 24 hours, and sometimes ATMs in remote areas can run out of cash.
If you bring cash in your own currency, you can exchange it easily for Japanese yen when you arrive at an International Airport.
Please note that you may need to fill in a customs declaration form when entering or leaving Japan. This is required if you have more than one million yen in cash, travellers checks and other securities with you. Check the official website of the Japanese Customs Service for a current and comprehensive understanding of all necessary procedures.
Although Japan is a largely cash-based society, credit cards are accepted in most shops, restaurants and taxis, especially in major cities and in tourist spots. In addition to credit cards, most debit and prepaid cards of the major international brands are accepted throughout the country.
Of course, it is possible to get some cash from the ATM with your credit card from major banks such as Japan Post Bank and Seven Bank. Additional transaction costs may be incurred.
There are also public transport cards (e.g. SUICA and PASMO) which you can load with money and use to pay for things such as groceries.
When you pay in a café or restaurant, note that the "service charge" is already included in the final amount. It's not necessary to tip, there is no such tipping culture in Japan, and staff you try to tip may be offended by it.
There is one exception to tipping. For the service of a (private) guide, interpreter or equivalent profession from the West, where tipping is common, it is appreciated that a tip is given (although this is certainly not expected!). If you decide to tip someone, remember to put it in an envelope (you can buy these in a convenience store or a 100-yen store).
Due to the stretched out landscape of Japan, the country has many different climate zones. The weather varies enormously from region to region. Japan has four different seasons, which are noticeable all over the country. Every season in Japan has its charms, brought by the seasonal changes in temperature and weather.
If you are a traveller who wants to visit Japan for tourist purposes (not longer than 90 days) and if you are a citizen of one of the following countries, you can enter Japan without a visa; Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, and almost all European countries (please check which countries and if there are any restrictions). If not, you must apply for a visa in advance.
Please always check the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for more information.
Everyone who enters Japan must be in possession of the following documents:
• A valid passport that is valid during your stay
• A return flight ticket or a ticket to the next destination
• Required documents for your first destination within Japan
• Documents proving the purpose of the trip
These official rules apply to anyone visiting Japan with or without visa requirements. Always double-check these as they are subject to change.
Please note that these rules are only for vacation, business, transit, or short family visit purposes.
If you have another reason for your trip to Japan, such as work, study, sports, you're an artist or performer, or you want to stay longer than 90 days, you must apply for a visa. Work in Japan and/or participating in paid activities with a (short stay) visa is strictly prohibited.
Once you are photographed and fingerprinted at customs, you will receive a 'temporary visitor' stamp in your passport that gives you access (for a maximum of 90 days) in Japan.
A customs declaration is required. You are requested to submit this customs declaration before entering Japan and is needed for both accompanied and unaccompanied baggage at customs clearance.
Customs declaration forms are available on the plane, on the ship, or at the customs office before you go through customs. Make sure you are familiar with the current rules, all the necessary information and make sure you are aware of the limits so that you do not have to face surprises on the spot. Similar restrictions also apply to exports and imports. CITES and Japanese law both prohibit the international trade in ivory.
A departure tax of 1,000 yen is required for anyone (regardless of nationality) who leaves Japan.
Japan has one of the strictest drinking water quality standards in the world. The water from the Japanese tap can therefore be drunk without a problem.
In addition, Japan is a pioneer in water purification and is often a source of pride in many (mountain)regions because this clean and cool water often comes from the mountain peaks in the area.
In addition to the many vendor machines, all convenience stores always have all types and sizes of water bottles in stock and eateries often offer you free tap water.
To make your journey as stress-free as possible, several courier companies offer services so that you can travel "hands-free". These luggage delivery services can drop off your luggage at your hotel a day later, or sometimes even within the same day.
This service is not only limited to the delivery from one of the four major airports to your (first stay) hotel but is also easy to arrange this service between several (most of the larger) hotels. Ask at the reception about the possibilities and the staff will be happy to help you! Your luggage will be sent to the next destination, while you travel by train without any worries.
At most hotels, you can order this service in advance, but more convenience and supermarkets offer this service. Of course, the Japanese specialist can also help you with this service.
If you wish to store your luggage temporarily because you want to visit something for a short time and would rather not or cannot take the luggage with you, the many lockers ( given in different sizes) at the larger (train/metro) are a solution.
Storing luggage is relatively easy. Select the desired lockers and pay with coins (usually 100 yen coins). Depending on the size of the class, prices vary between 100 yen and 600 yen. There are even options that you can pre-pay with one of the IC-OV cards.
If you are in an emergency situation and you need serious, urgent help, call 110 for the police and 119 for fire or an ambulance.
Calling an emergency number is free of charge.
Japan has three important national "holiday weeks" and is the most important holiday period for locals.
The Japanese have holidays in the last week (December to the first week of January) during the "Golden week", which lasts a few days, usually around the end of April to May and during the "Obon" holiday, which takes place in mid-August.
Companies are often closed around New Year's Eve, and many Japanese people have time off during the Golden Week. During Obon many Japanese people return to their family homes.
In addition, other important holidays are;
- New Year's Holiday on January 1st
- Coming-of-Age Day on the 2nd Monday of January
- National Foundation Day on February 11th
- The Emperor's Birthday is on February 23rd
- Vernal Equinox Day on March 20th or March 21st
- Showa Day is on April 29th
- Constitution Memorial Day is on May 3rd
- Greenery Day on May 4th
- Children's Day on May 5th
- Maritime Day on the 3rd Monday of July
- Respect for the Aged Day on September 3rd
- Autumnal Equinox Day is on September 22nd or September 23rd
- Health and Sports Day on the 2nd Monday of October
- Culture Day on November 3rd
- Labor Thanksgiving Day November 23rd
Please be aware that on these holidays with closures and often overcrowded public transport. Therefore, plan your trip well and keep in mind that overnight accommodations are often fully booked very fast.
We also recommend booking early-stage transport tickets for domestic flights and reservations for (express) trains, shinkansen, (night) buses and other forms of long-distance transport.
There is nothing more fun than sending a postcard to the home front to show how beautiful it is in Japan and, of course, to inform you about all your Japanese adventures.
Postcards are available in inconvenience stores, souvenir shops and kiosks at the stations. Sometimes they also sell stamps. Otherwise, postcards and stamps are also for sale at the post office. Post offices (yubin-kyoku) are usually open between 7:00 AM-11: 00 PM and are indicated with the T-shaped logo and an additional horizontal border above it.
Mailboxes are easy to recognize due to the bright red colour of the boxes. They often have two slots; depending on the size, destination and type of mail, you choose the right slot. Mailboxes are often located at intersections, buildings and public fences. Or just easily deliver your mail at the reception from your hotel, and they will be happy to post it for you.