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Japan Travel Planning Roundup

17 October 2015

Prepping for your trip to Japan? We’ve done the research for you with our essential list of top sites for Japan travel planning and inspiration.

Japan is filled with surprises, from the 5th century to modern day. To go back in time, head to the old capital, Kyoto. Here you’ll find heritage sites that include temples, gardens and shrines: fascinating stuff.

Travellers rave about sakura season, otherwise known as the cherry blossom festival, which is most popular in Osaka, the Nara Prefecture and Hirosaki. Japan is also renowned for its skiing and snowboarding, and thousands of adventurers take to the slopes in the northern parts of the country between December and March each year. Don’t miss the ice sculptures around the resorts, too.

Foodies adore the freshness of Japan’s taste experiences. Sushi (via conveyor belt), miso soup, sashimi, tempura, noodles… or opt for an awesome teppanyaki experience.
Japan’s other surprises include the fact that you might just enjoy a sumo wrestling match, you might be better at karaoke than you first imagined, the electronic gadgets on offer will blow your mind, and the vending machines spurt out anything you can imagine (and some things you can’t).

Brush up on those chopstick skills, grab your camera, open your mind, and enjoy your time in the Land of the Rising Sun. To help you plan your trip we’ve scoured the internet for the best Japan travel tips.

ORIENTATION

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Japan lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. “.

Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of thousands of islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area.

Honshu, which literally means ‘Main Island’ or “Main Province” is the largest and most populous island of Japan. Here you’ll find TokyoYokohama and Kawasaki, and the southern coastal cities of Kyoto, Osaka, NagoyaKobe, and Hiroshima.

JAPAN AIRPORTS

Typically, Australian tourists enter Japan via Kansai International Airport near Osaka, or Narita International Airport near Tokyo. Check out Japan-Guide.com for Kansai and Narita info and public transport schedules.

GETTING THERE

Thanks to low cost carriers like Jetstar, getting to Japan from Australia is hassle-free and budget-friendly. Tokyo is but a casual 9h50 minute punt from Melbourne.
The flight options are plenty. Jetstar flies direct to Tokyo from Melbourne,Qantas flies Brisbane to Tokyo, while Qantas and Japan Airlines take care of the Sydney to Tokyo route.
For flights to Osaka, the cheapest option is to connect to Cairns for a direct 7h 10m flight with Jetstar to Kansai International Airport near Osaka.

JAPAN VISAS

The Aussie government’s Smartraveller site is our go-to for the really important stuff on all foreign travel, including Japan. On tourist visa rules for Australian’s visiting Japan on holiday, Smartraveller says:

Visas are not normally required for Australians entering Japan for tourism for visits of less than 90 days. Japan’s Visa Waiver Program is strictly enforced. Visitors may be refused entry if  unable to provide evidence of sufficient funds, an onward/return ticket or confirmed accommodation arrangements, or if immigration authorities believe the traveller intends to seek employment. If entry is denied, the decision cannot be appealed and travellers may be refused entry into Japan for up to five years.

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan.

Smartraveller advises that all foreign nationals, including permanent residents of Japan, are required to be photographed and have their fingerprints electronically scanned on arrival in Japan.

Also note that Japan has strict rules around the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law. This includes allergy and sinus medications, Vicks inhalers, and even some mild painkillers like those containing codeine. Customs officials may not be sympathetic if you claim ignorance.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Smartraveller notes that while Japan generally has a low rate of crime and that it’s generally safe to walk about at night and to travel on public transport, you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home. In particular look out for suspicious behaviour around bars and clubs, especially at night in Tokyo’s entertainment districts, like Roppongi and Kabuki-cho (near Shinjuku station):

You should be aware there have been report of bars and night clubs (particularly in Tokyo) targeting foreign citizens for overcharging, fraudulent credit card charges, drink spiking, illegal drugs and, in some cases, assault. Some venues use street touts to entice foreigners into their premises.

Also, reports of inappropriate touching or ‘chikan’ of female passengers on commuter trains are fairly common. The police advise that you shout at the perpetrator to attract attention and ask a fellow passenger to call the train staff.

HEALTH

If you need medical attention or find yourself needing hospitalisation the good news is that medical facilities in Japan are of a very high standard. The bad news? Medical treatment is expensive and you’ll be expected to pay for treatment up front. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of emergency medical treatment or medical evacuation.

If you need emergency medical help during your trip in Japan, dial 119 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your travel insurance company as soon as you can to discuss you treatment plan.

NATURAL DISASTER

Welcome to earthquake central! Perched neatly on the ‘Ring of Fire’  Japan is in a major earthquake zone and experiences hundreds of earthquakes a year – the vast majority being barely detectable tremors, thank goodness. Still, you should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake or tsunami as they are a distinct possibility right across Japan.

As if that’s not enough, tropical cyclones (typhoons), high tides, and active volcanoes are also on the menu. Japan’s typhoon season runs from June to December with most activity between July and September.

Because of Japan’s very real natural disaster risks, the Australian government advises visitors take particular care to prepare for an emergency:
You should have a basic emergency supply kit available at all times. Also, carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Radio stations in the Tokyo area that broadcast emergency information in English include the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and Inter FM (76.1FM).
Register your Japan travel details with Smartraveller to stay in the loop via their emergency email service.

LOCAL LAWS

Each country has its own laws and Japan is no exception. Smartraveller’s Japan advice reminds us that Australian visitors are subject to the local laws of Japan, including ones that appear harsh by our standards.

Police powers in Japan may be very different to Australia. Police have broad authority to stop, search, seize and detain. Police can stop you on the street, demand identification and search you and your possessions. Travellers visiting for less than 90 days are required to carry their passport at all times. Foreigners residing in Japan must always carry their residence card.

If you are arrested in Japan, you can be detained for up to 23 days without charge. Even if you consider that the alleged offence may be minor, you may be held for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings. It’s smart to research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. Here’s what to look out for in particular:
Possession of illegal drugs is a crime. You can be charged with possession if trace amounts are found in your bloodstream or urine. Do not use, carry or get involved with drugs. The minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol in Japan is 20.Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia. n some parts of Tokyo and other cities, smoking on the streets is prohibited. Those caught are liable for an on-the-spot fine. [/minti_listitem] [minti_listitem icon=”fa-exclamation-circle”]It is an offence to obstruct the duties of an official, for example by resisting arrest.

DRIVING IN JAPAN

Thinking about renting a car in Japan? The good news is that driving is on the left, as it is in Australia. Win! To drive in Japan, you must hold an International Driving Permit (IDP), a current Australia licence and insurance. An IDP is only valid for use in Japan for one year regardless of its date of expiry. See the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department website for details. You must carry your driving licence with you at all times. Harsh penalties are enforced for driving  without the correct documents.

THE BEST OF JAPAN

Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and experience the big hitters, right? For an awesome range of top Japan travel lists, we love Japan-Hotels.ws for their concise recommendations and inspiring photo galleries.

Here you’ll find the Top 10 Things To Do in Japan, Japan Shopping Guides, and  Tokyo and Osaka Night Life Guides among dozens of lists and guides on Japan’s best travel spots.

JAPAN PLUGS AND ADAPTORS

You’re probably travelling with an armload of devices, so keeping those gadgets charged will be a priority.Japan uses the same plug types – type A and B – as the U.S does. Unfortunately that means Aussie travellers will need to bring adaptors. Check it all out here.

You’ll need travel insurance before heading to Japan to ensure your dream island getaway stays as perfect as possible. Head here to check out our easy and budget-friendly Travel with Jane options.

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