If you’ve always wanted to visit Japan, now is your chance. With airline routes reopening, we expect the country to return to travellers’ radars with a bang. Given that Japan will be a trending destination in 2023 and beyond, we asked one Trafalgar’s on-the-ground experts to share her tips on etiquette, what to eat, when to visit Japan, and for guidance on off-the-beaten-path destinations. Here are five essential tips and things to know before planning your travel to Japan, with the help of our Japanese expert Maiko.
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When is the best time to visit Japan and why?
It is popular to visit Japan in March or April for the beautiful cherry blossom season, however, I would recommend May (green season) and November (autumn season). At this time of year the weather and temperature is stable and comfortable to travel, plus it is less crowded compared to cherry blossom season. If you want to see beautiful Mt Fuji and take photos, between November and February is the best season as the winter air is very clear and you have a high possibility to see the mountain.Maiko
What etiquette or cultural traditions should travellers learn about before visiting Japan?
“Japan is an organised and clean country,” Maiko says.
She says people value order and punctuality. It means you can expect to wait patiently in queues, for trains and transport to leave on time, and for shops and museums to open or close to the minute.
Japanese people do not throw rubbish on the ground and will even take litter with them. During each World Cup there are always good news stories about how Japanese fans tidy up the stadium after themselves!
It is also considered strange to eat or drink while walking on the streets, or entering shops, temples and tourist attractions. Maiko says not to worry too much about brushing up on Japanese etiquette. Your Travel Director will give you great advice when you arrive.
GET INSPIRED BY: Splendours of Japan
What is your top tip to make travel in Japan easier for foreigners?
In Japan, cash is still king. This is especially true at small shops or resturants in rural areas. I would recommend you to bring some cash to buy snacks, coffee and gifts. In most big cities, restaurants, shops and hotels will accept credit card.
Another tip is to wear comfortable shoes with socks, as when visiting temples and traditional venues as you will be asked to take your shoes off.Maiko
What cities or destinations do you recommend first-time visitors to Japan?
The Golden Route, which includes Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, is well known and beautidul. It covers off these absolute “must-see” destinations. But I also recommend visiting more hidden and unknown places such as Kotohira and Shimanami (which you can see on Splendours of Japan).
And you should explore unique local experiences, such as Sumiyama pottery and Yamazoe tea farm villages, which you do on Classic Japan. They are not far from main cities, but it’s so special to meet friendly local hosts and discover the beautiful sea and forests in Japan’s regional areas.Maiko
GET INSPIRED BY: Classic Japan
What foods should people try when in Japan?
In Japan, we have plenty of delicious choices including traditional sushi, tempura, sukiyaki, yakitori skewers, okonomiyaki, soba and udon noodles. Then we have modern Japanese-western dishes called ‘Yoshoku’. These include omurice (tomato sauce and chicken rice topped with egg omelette), katsu curry (fried pork fillet on curry rice), naporitan (tomato based pasta) and ramen.
Japanese cusine includes lots of seafood from raw fish to grilled fish, steamed fish and fish-based noodle broths. If you have any fish allergy or problem, make sure you raise it in advance!Maiko
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Ready to visit Japan with Trafalgar in 2023? Let us know in the comments what you’re most excited to see…