Channel a zen attitude in a country where ancient traditions combine with an ultra-modern way of life. Japan, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, has majestic palaces, dense cities, and scenic mountains to explore. There really is no other culture like it; from skyscrapers, shopping and pop culture, to calm countryside and majestic temples, Japan will exceed your expectations.
Japan is most popular for travellers aged 16-24 years old, according to our survey. Based on our research, we can see that most people want to partake in a volunteer programme and delay starting school or a career – plus 15% of those who travel there on a gap year or work sabbatical learn the language.
Where to go
For city life: Tokyo – Japan’s chaotic capital blends a modern and traditional lifestyle
For culture: Northern Honshū – includes Kakunodate which is the samurai district, unchanged since 1620
For the coast: Yaeyama Islands – a dazzling archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa prefecture
For scenery: Hida Mountains – spectacular mountains that stretch through the Nagano, Toyama and Gifu prefectures
Seven of the best things to do
- Visit the ancient sites in Kyoto, including the Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizu-dera to see if you’ll have luck in finding love
- Head to Gion in Kyoto, the oldest and most prestigious Geisha district – you can even get dressed like an apprentice Geisha
- Go skiing in Niseko or Hokkaido
- Experience a traditional tea ceremony
- Visit Mt. Fuji – an active volcano
- Watch a live sumo-wrestling match
- Visit the Sagano Bamboo Forrest
Essentials: what you need to know
When is the best time to go?
Late spring (March to May) and late autumn (September to November) are generally the best times to visit as there is little rainfall, skies are clear, and temperatures mild.
Visa: needed if you are going for more than 90 days
Vaccines: Japanese Encephalitis
Currency: Yen ¥
Time zone: UTC +9:00
- Hello: Kon’nichiwa (kon-nee-chee-wah)
- Goodbye: Jaa ne (jah-neh)
It’s common to bow when greeting someone. Keep your back straight and bend at the waist with your eyes downwards. Don’t maintain eye contact. The longer and deeper the bow, the more respect is shown.
- Men bow with their arms straight, hands at their sides, with straight fingers.
- Women bow with their hands clasped in front of them.
- Food & beverage: none
- Taxi: none
- Salon services: none
- Note: Tips are not always accepted, but if you do decide to tip, be sure to place in an envelope and leave behind – do not directly offer to a person.
Five dishes we love:
- Sushi – rice topped or rolled with seafood and vegetables
- Shoyu Ramen – brown broth flavoured noodle soup with soy sauce
- Okonomiyaki – pan-fried batter and cabbage, with different toppings, such as cheese, wasabi, seafood
- Japanese cheesecake – fluffier than Western cheesecake
- Kit Kat – there are so many different flavours available, such as matcha-green tea, purple sweet potato, wasabi and cinnamon cookie
Ok, so how do I get there?
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