Travel guide to Japan

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Japan has just about everything - colourful history and culture, fabulous natural scenery and enthrallng big cities. The possibilities are diverse and endless - from trendsetting architecture and design to mountainous landscapes, from sumo wrestling to sushi, and from bonsai to karaoke.

Facts

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Local name
Nippon
Capital
Tokyo (12.000.000)
Size
377829 km2
Principal Languages
Japanese
Principal Religion
Shintoism and Buddhism
Inhabitants
126.965.000 (1997)
Government
Constitutional Monarchy
Geography
Japan is filled with mountains and possesses more than 40 active volcanoes. The largest of Japan's 4 main islands is Honshu Island. It is a densely populated island which is also known as 'the mainland' - and it is where Japanese industry is concentrated. In major contrast to Honshu Island is the second major island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is found to the north and it possesses far fewer residents and some wide areas of beautiful natural scenery.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Japan can be visited all year around. In spring and autumn the mild weather and the changing natural colours are perfect for enjoying a fabulous cycling adventure. The summer offers great scuba diving and snorkelling opportunites. You can also go skiing in Japan during winter and spring. In short, Japan can be visited at any time. However, do be aware that Japan suffers a lot of rain in June and early July. - and in the north the winter is very cold.

Local conditions

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Currency

Yen (Y)

Net cafes

Both large cities and smaller towns in Japan have internet cafés, so it should be fairly easy to find one. At the same time Internet cafés are less common than you might actually expect - because most Japanese own their own computers!

In case of emergency

If you need help you should call the following numbers The Fire Department and ambulance (119) Police (110) You can also go the nearest Police Box (Koban) on the street. If you need a doctor or an ambulance and don't speak Japanese the easiest way to get help is to call Tokyo English Lifeline ((03) 3403-7106)

Tipping

In Japan tips are seen as insulting - therefore do refrain from giving any. If you wish to thank for an especially good service at an hotel - or perhaps for some help you received, then simply send a postcard from your next destination - or give a present very discreetly when you are leaving..

Timezone

When the time is 12.00 in England (summertime) it is 20.00 in Japan When the time is 12.00 in England (wintertime) it is 21.00 in Japan

Weight and Measures

In Japan you use the following weights and measurements Weight: kilo Length: metres

Photography

: Be polite and always ask for permission before taking a picture

Drinking water

The tap water is clean almost everywhere in Japan. However, if you are in a big city, it is recommended to drink bottle water.

Electricity

In Tokyo and the eastern parts of Japan you use 100 volt AC, 50 Hz. In the western parts of Japan (Osaka) you use 100 volt AC, 60 Hz.

Behaviour

The Japanese don't expect tourists to be familiar with Japanese etiquette - you will get far just by showing courtesy. The Japanese don't shake hands, but bow when greeting and saying goodbye. Presents are an important part of social behaviour in Japan. When visiting somebody for the first time you should therefore remember to bring a present. When introducing somebody you should always mention his or her last name first. Very personal remarks and irony are not considered good manners. You should also always remember to take your shoes off when visiting private homes and Buddhist temples.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 9.00 to 15.00 (Monday-Friday) and from 9.00 to 12.00 (Saturday) Offices are open from 9.00 to 15.00 (Monday-Friday) and from 9.00-12.00 (Saturday. The offices are closed the second Saturday in the month) Shops are open from 10.00 to 20.00 (Monday-Sunday)

Food and drink

The Japanese kitchen is strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. The basic insight is that food should not only satisfy your body but also your mind. The Japanese kitchen welcomes you to a world full of diverse and exotic food. Dishes are mainly composed of fish, seafood, seaweed and rice. As animal flesh is expensive in Japan then dishes containing it are rare. Japanese cuisine also offers a wide selection of interesting refreshments, and perhaps unmissable is the famous traditional tea ceremony.

Holidays

New Year's Day 1st of January Day of Young Adults 10th of January Nation's Foundation 11th of February Spring Equinox 20th of March Nature Day 29th of April May Day 1st of may Constitution Day 3rd of May Holiday the 4th of May Children's Day 5th of May Day of the Sea 20th of July Senior Citizen's Day 15th of September Fall Equinox 22the of September Sport's Day 9th of October Culture's Day the 3rd of November Labour's day 23rd of November Emperor's Birthday, National Day 23rd of December

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

It is very hard to find places for camping in Japan - there only are a few camp-sites.

Hotels

The hotels in Japan (including the Ryokans) can be very expensive. Hotels are divided into 3 categories, and it often makes sense to spend the night at a hotel for business people, as they are usually reasonably priced.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

In Japan you can find guesthouses called Kokumin shukusha in the most fabulous scenarios. The prices are similar to that of a business hotel. Private boarding houses are cheaper but usually have no showers.

Hostels

Japanese hostels can be used by all regardless of their age. To stay at a hostel you have to book in advance and stay for a maximum of 3 nights.

Other Accommodation

If you are claustrophobic don't try a cabin hotel - the rooms are the size of the bed. Cabin hotels are cheap, but for men only. You can also reserve a night at some temples called Shukubo through the local tourist office.

Local transport

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Planes

If you are in a hurry it is a good idea to travel by plane. Several large airline companies have routes to most of the larger cities

Trains

Train is a highly efficient way to travel around in Japan. If you buy a Japan Rail Pass you can save a lot of money.

Taxi

In the larger cities taxi drivers often have problems finding a specific address. Therefore it is a good idea to mention the nearest Underground station when booking a taxi.

Car rental

If you want to rent a car you will need an international driver's license. In general it is best to avoid driving on your own in Japan - it is impractical, complicated and expensive.

Boat or Ferry

Several companies connect Japan's many islands. The long travel time is by far compensated by the beautiful scenery you will encounter on your journey.

Special conditions

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Weak and short earthquakes are common in Japan. Typhoons are also common in late summer, especially in the southwestern parts of Japan.

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