Located in Eastern Asia, Japan stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk down to the East China Sea, as well as China in the Southwest. It is one of the oldest civilizations to exists. Japan’s culture is largely based on appreciation, kindness and family. The vast country contains sights, smells and sounds for any tourist.
History buff Yogi’s may enjoy a trip to the Imperial Palace. Much of the Palace is off limits as the Imperial family lives there year-round, however daily tours are offered for some of the grounds. If you want to explore on your own make sure you check out Megane-bashi bridge, the iconic ‘Eyeglass Bridge’ of the Palace.
With a huge population and large number of skyscrapers, it is understandable to need a break from the hectic city in a peaceful setting. Head over to Yoyogi Park which has ponds, walking paths, and both a cherry and gingko tree forest. Beautiful views for every season! The park is free to visit and only a five minute walk from Harajuku Station.
Important dates in Japan
January 1- New Year’s Day
January 8- Coming of Age Day
February 11- National Foundation Day
March 21- Spring Equinox
April 29- Showa Day
May 3- Constituion Memorial Day
May 4- Greenery Day
May 5- Children’s Day
July 16- Sea Day
August 11- Mountain Day
September 17- Respect for the Aged Day
September 23- Autumn Euinox
October 8- Sports Day
November 3- Culture Day
November 23- Labor Thanksgiving Day
December 23- Emperor’s Birthday
December 25- Christmas
- The Japanese name for Japan is “Nihon” or “Nippon” which means “sun origin”
- The country is made up of almost 7,000 islands
- The highest point of Japan can be found on Mount Fuji, reaching 12,388ft
If you arrive in Tokyo and realize that you have forgotten a necessity or two, check out one of Tokyo’s 100 Yen shops. For a little less than $1 USD, you can shop for everything from ceramics to nail polish to office supplies at one of the many locations around the city. Our favourites include Daiso, Seria, and Can Do.
Every year cherry blossoms take over Japan. Visit between April and May to witness the Sakura. Check online for the best places and times for the Hanami season. The first week of April is generally the best time to view the blossoms in Tokyo.
International credit cards (such as Visa and MasterCard) are generally accepted within Tokyo. Debit cards do not typically work, and smaller businesses may not accept cards. Mobile payment is frequently an option, and cash (yen) will always work.
Good to know
A visa is not required for most visitors that intend to stay for 15-90 days or less, as long as the country has a reciprocal visa arrangement. Please consult your country’s visa requirements to confirm.
It is also important to note that if a holiday falls on a Sunday it will likely be carried out to a Monday.
Culture and Etiquette in Japan
While it is customary in many countries to greet others with physical contact, you should not initiate a handshake in Tokyo unless it is first initiated by the person that you are greeting. A proper greeting in Tokyo includes standing six inches to a food apart, lowered or soft eye contact, and a slight bow. Hold your hands close to your waist or lap. For friendlier or less formal greetings you can simply nod or bow slightly.
Appreciation and politeness are keystones in Japanese culture. When greeting someone, it is normal to state the family name (or last name) first, followed by their first name. ‘San’ is commonly added to a last name as a title. So, for example Mrs. Potter would be Potter-san. Teachers and doctors are not addressed with ‘san’ but instead, ‘sensei.’
Shoe removal upon entering a building is a common practice for cleanliness and respect practices. When in doubt as to whether or not to remove your shoes simply look around to see whether there is a shoe rack or cubby available or if there are slippers available for your use.
Japan is conservative and trendy in dress. Citizens of Tokyo always look groomed, neat, and polished. Women tend to wear fitting skirts, blouses, and heels. Men wear properly tailored trousers, slim cut shirts and jackets. Some establishments will require you to remove your shoes, so choose shoes that are easy to take off and put back on (and make sure that your socks are free of holes!). In summer months shift dresses or shorts and a blouse are excellent options. Men may choose light trousers or shorts with a clean, pressed top. A down jacket and scarf are necessities for winter months!