The Japanese characters that make up Japan's name mean "source of the sun" and it is often called the "Land of the Rising Sun". Why? If you look at Japan from China, it appears that the sun rises from there. Japan is a land of rich culture and history and also well-known for their technology and modernism. It is a great dichotomy to see ancient temples in the middle of modern cities.
Japan is relatively homogeneous and close to 99% of its population is of Japanese descent. The main language is Japanese but many people can speak English and some are quite eager to practice with a tourist. It isn't necessary but learning just a few words and phrases will take you far with the Japanese people. The Japanese are generally polite and it isn't customary to tip in Japan, so don't be surprised if your waiter chases you down the street to return the money you left on the table.
Some of the most popular attractions are Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, fall foliage, beautiful gardens, sumo wrestling, bullet trains, shrines, Japanese cuisine, and more. If you really want to experience the Japanese culture, consider taking a dip in a hot spring known as an Onsan or stay at a traditional Japanese Inn called a Ryokan. These will really heighten your experience in Japan.
Japan is a fascinating destination but do yourself a favor and give yourself a moderate to generous budget to experience it as much as possible. There are some times of the year it is best to avoid like the first week of January (New Year), last week of April and first week of May (Golden Week), and in mid-July to early August (Obon Festival and summer vacation). Many of these periods are during major holidays so most public transportation is fully booked and accommodations are more expensive. Typhoons in Japan occur the most from July to October and more common in August and September.
Make sure you plan your trip with me as I am a Master Japan Specialist! I have also been to Japan several times so I can use my personal experiences to help you with your trip.
Japan is an island nation in East Asia and it is an archipelago consisting of almost 7,000 islands in total. Japan consists of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu plus the Ryukyu Islands and thousands of smaller islands. It also has 47 regional divisions called prefectures and each has its own capital and is comparable to a state in the U.S.
Mountains and forests cover approximately 70% of the total land mass so that doesn't leave much room for their 127 million inhabitants. It is probably why the Japanese are masters of making use of small spaces.
Honshu is the biggest island and where most of the population and tourists travel to. There are also many long, sandy beaches in Japan which surprises many people.
How to distinguish a Shinto shrine from a Buddhist temple? Shrines almost always have gates known as torii (or "bird perch")—two pillars topped by two horizontal beams. In contrast, Buddhist temples often have gateways with tiled roofs that look like miniature versions of the temple itself.
You'll see "samurai castles" perched on hilltops around the country, but only 12 are original. Others, including the famous Osaka Castle, are modern concrete replicas. Himeji Castle, west of Kobe, is by far the most imposing and is well worth a day trip—as is the black Crow's Castle in Matsumoto, to the north of Nagoya in central Japan.
The Hello Kitty phenomenon celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2019. The omnipresent cat, which was dreamed up (and is still owned) by Sanrio Corp., even appears on telephones, a brand of water, and underwear.
Raised floors help indicate when to take off slippers or shoes. At the entrance to a home in Japan, the floor will usually be raised about 6 inches (15cm) indicating you should take off your shoes and put on slippers. If the house has a tatami mat room, its floor may be raised only 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) indicating you should take off your shoes.
The so-called "eternal flame" that burns in Hiroshima is not actually intended to be eternal. It will be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon is destroyed.
Buildings are numbered according to when they were built, not their location on a street. To find a business or home, you may need to do as the locals do: Take the address to the neighborhood police box (or koban)—they're everywhere. You may find maps posted around, but they're of little help unless you read Japanese.
Pachinko parlors are everywhere (the game resembles vertical pinball and can pay off like a slot machine). The parlors are incredibly noisy, brightly lit, smoky and invariably full of people, night and day. Although skilled players can make money, for most it's just an enjoyable pastime.
One survey in 2018, estimated that 27% of foreign travelers arrived in the country uninsured and that 5% of inbound tourists fell ill or were injured during their stay in Japan. Make sure you have medical coverage when you travel to Japan as they are making stricter rules and you may be turned away from receiving life-saving care!
Over the years, I have curated several itineraries that either my clients have traveled on or I have just created for a quote. Here is a list of several different itineraries to give you an idea of what can be done in Japan and most also include some basic pricing. If an itinerary was created several years ago, the price may or may not be the same. In general, prices do go up in price every year but prices do fluctuate depending on the time of year and what promotions are going on at the time you are ready to book your travel.
I am happy to customize any itinerary for you so please contact me to get started!
Sample Itinerary #1 - 10th Anniversary in Japan
This quote was prepared in Feb of 2016 for a departure in April. My clients wanted to spend their 10th anniversary in Japan. It took them three Travel Agents before they came to me because they were not getting what they wanted from the other agents. They even used a big, well-known agency who promised they could handle their requests. However, it took this agency two weeks to get back to my clients and only had two hotels to offer them. A second agency would only give them escorted/guided tours of Japan which they did not want at all. A third agent didn't get back to them at all. I was able to assure them that I have done trips like they requested in the past and offered them one quote to see if I was on the right path before they committed to my consultation fee. I was able to win their business and they had a fantastic time on their trip!
Sample Itinerary #2 - Honeymoon in Japan with "Rabbit Island"
This quote was prepared in May of 2016 for a departure in July. This honeymoon couple wanted to spend time in Japan and visit "Rabbit Island" plus experience the food. They had several items they wanted to do and they did NOT want a pre-packaged tour which was all they could find on their own. Several experiences on their list were not easy to find but I managed to get a fair number of their must-see items like "Rabbit Island", the bamboo forest, and Mt. Fuji.
Sample Itinerary #3 - Family Vacation to Japan
This itinerary is for a departure in July 2018. This was for my own family's vacation to Japan and we had a fantastic trip. It did get sidetracked a bit due to a lot of rain from a typhoon that hit in early July. We still managed to make it all work but several items on our itinerary did not happen. It was especially disappointing to not visit my family in Oita so we will try again in 2022 to complete the parts we missed out on.
Sample Itinerary #4 - Japan on a Budget with Hiking Mt. Fuji
This itinerary is for a departure in August 2019. This was for a mother & daughter trip and they were looking for very specific items on their trip. I don't usually do budget travel accommodations but they wanted to stay in hostels and in a capsule hotel as well. I warned them plenty in advance and they still agreed to the basic accommodations. Plus, one of their requirements was hiking Mt. Fuji and those accommodations are basically camping. They also wanted to visit a "cat island" but there was not a convenient island for them with the other items on their list. Instead, I sent them to "Rabbit Island" like I did for a previous client and they were happy with it.
Sample Itinerary #5-7 - Escorted Small Group Trips to Japan
As a Japan Specialist, I have found that more people are interested in a custom itinerary to Japan instead of the escorted/guided tour sample shown here. However, they do make for great starting points when discussing a trip to Japan. You can see what is possible to do and what most people are interested in seeing and doing. We can easily customize these itineraries and make it your own but keep in mind that it will cost more. One benefit of traveling with a group of people is that you can share costs. Still, it is worth checking them out and if you are happy with the itinerary as is, let's select a date and get you booked on that tour!