In this Destination Guide you will find information for :
♦Currency: Yen ¥
♦Zone: +9 GMT
♦Phone Code: +81
♦Best time to visit: May to July
♦Must eat: Yaki-Soba
♦Must drink: Matcha Green Tea
♦Don't miss: Tokyo Sky Tree Tower
♦Number of times visited: 3
Getting there and transportation: Japan is a very accessible destination from around the world and many airlines offer good competitive prices, not only to the capital but to other major cities. Coming from Europe or America the best point of entry to the country is to Tokyo, there are several airports in the city, Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND) are the most common.
The host airlines are Japan Airlines and ANA (All Nippon Airlines). They offer the best direct routes though they can be expensive. Most European and American carries have at least one flight a day to Tokyo. However there are many alternatives with other middle east or Asian airlines making prices more competitive with one extra stop.
If you coming from Asia, then it's worth checking lost cost airlines such as Vanilla air, Air Asia or Jet star as they offer no frills fares. Major Asian airlines also fly into Tokyo and Japan's other gateways, Osaka (KIX) and Fukuoka (FUK) being the most common.
When in Japan, the transportation systems are one of the most complex in the world with many metro, rail and high speed lines coinciding in major stations. Despite this, it's very user friendly and good signage in English will help you naviagete your way through the many transport modes. Each city can have one or two metro systems running on different tickets.Therefore it's more convenient if you busy passes that include all modes.
Japan is also famous for its high speed rail, and many tourists go to Japan just to travel on the bullet type trains which reach speeds of up to 320km/h. Prices are very expensive for single tickets but if you are visiting for a week or more it's definitely worth considering buying the Japan JR pass which enables unlimited travel on all the rapid Shinkansen lines. For more information check this website jrpass.com
Weather and temperature: The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Generally it resembles to northern European climates and enjoys hot summers but cold-freezing winters. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter. It can snow heavily in the north specially and the higher terrains.
The average winter temperature in Japan is 5 C and the average summer temperature is 25 C. However in Japan typhoons can hit towards the south of the islands due to the location in the end of the summer (Aug-Sept) and can bring strong winds and heavy rain. The best time to visit Japan is from May to July.
However if you planning to see the popular Cherry blossoms, should visit from March to the 1st week of April. Also for the Autumn leave fall it's very impressive to see the array of colours and should be visited in late November and early December. Specially at Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto
Food and drink: Japanese ciusine is famous worldwide and what best to eat it in the original country! Japanese cuisine involves fresh, delicate flavours based on seasonal ingredients. Rice, miso (fermented soy bean) soup, tofu (soy bean curd), pickled vegetables and fresh seafood are samples of the Japanese diet. Traditionally, meat was not eaten because of Buddhist beliefs, but these days, consumption of beef, chicken and pork is widespread.
Sushi is world renowned, but it’s not the only style of cooking and the variety of regional dishes is astounding, ranging from noodle soups and dumplings to meat skewers, octopus balls and some of the finest beef in the world.
Specialities include: Teriyaki, beef, chicken or fish marinated in a soy sauce with mirin wine, and seared on a hot plate. Tempura, seafood and vegetables deep-fried in a light batter. Sushi, Slices of raw fish and vegetables placed on cooked squared rice blocks. Sashimi, thinly sliced fresh fish served uncooked with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi. Ramen, noodles in a meat, fish, soy or miso-based broth with toppings such as sliced pork, spring onions and a boiled egg. Yaki-Soba, buckwheat noodles served hot or cold cold with with bite-sized pork, chicken, vegetables (usually cabbage, onions or carrots) and flavoured with yakisoba sauce, salt and pepper. It is served with a multitude of garnishes. Kushikatsu, crumbed fish, meat and vegetables deep-fried on skewers. Nattō, a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented. Some eat it as a breakfast food. It is served with soy sauce, karashi mustard and Japanese bunching onion. Yakitori, skewers of bite-sized grilled chicken. Okonomiyaki, a grilled savoury pancake made with shredded cabbage, seafood, pork and noodles.
As for drinks, Matcha is a bitter green tea used in tea ceremonies. Sake, dry or sweet rice wine served hot or cold. Shochu, a strong vodka-like spirit often mixed with soft drinks. Asahi and Sapporo, crisp, dry lagers served in most Japanese bars and restaurants. Whiskey's are also quite popular imitating Scottish style distilleries.
Attention!: Tipping in NOT done in Japan. Due to their hospitality customs Japanese don't expect a tip. So when eating or drinking out there is no need to tip. It can be considered an offence that service was not good enough and to incentive them. Just the opposite of what people in the west are used to! But great for saving those extra coins! If you wish to leave money do it as a donation, to help charities. You will find little boxes next to the cashiers.