A lazer-guided, umami-flavoured, Hello Kitty fun machine where samurais battle Shiba dogs in naked thermal hot springs. If you’ve taken a holiday in Japan, you’ll know that that sentence makes a surprising amount of sense. This is a country that’s famously hard to read, so a local-led group tour is a pretty good idea. We’ll introduce you to soba noodle masters, lead you through tuna auctions and sumo stables, stay with Buddhist monks in Koya San and sing bad karaoke ‘til the wee hours in Osaka (all while sipping sake and gorging on market fresh sashimi). You ready? Kanpai!
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport – which usually have less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on what trip you're on while in Japan, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour, Japan's Shinkansen (bullet trains) are known for their punctuality, safety and comfort. You can even munch on a bento (delicious boxed lunch) on board!
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Japan you may find yourself staying in a:
March, April and May are excellent months to holiday in Japan and, as a result, are the busiest. The weather is usually fine and beautiful cherry blossoms are in full bloom. September, October and November are also great months to visit Japan on holidays, as the days are warm but not humid and the autumn colours are out. Winter, while cold, offers great conditions for skiing, snowboarding, going to snow festivals and admiring the stunning mountain scenery. The summer months can be quite humid, but tourist areas are generally quieter and there are many fun festivals and fireworks displays to enjoy.
Citizens of the USA, Australia and New Zealand are automatically granted 90-day temporary visitor visas on arrival, but gaining an extension can be difficult unless you have a local contact. Most European passport holders are also granted this 90-day temporary visa, and citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK can apply for an extension at a regional immigration burao.
Tipping isn't customary in Japan and is not expected – in fact, it will sometimes be considered impolite. Some inns or ryokans may leave a small envelope in your room where a small gratuity can be left for housekeeping staff.
Internet access is excellent in Japan, with one of the most developed high-speed internet networks in the world. Internet cafes and wi-fi hotspots are easily found in most cities and major towns.
Mobile phone coverage is excellent in Japan but be aware that talking loudly on your phone in public places (like in train carriages) is frowned upon. You will be expected to hide your mouth behind your hand if you must take a call in public. If you want to use your mobile phone, ensure global roaming is activated before you arrive (but be aware of the fees this may incur).
In Japan, toilets range from high-tech bidets to standard western-style flushable toilets to squat toilets, which are still common outside the city. Sometimes you may need to pay for toilet paper, which can usually be purchased from a vending machine nearby.
Japan's unit of currency is the yen. Prices here are approximate and shown in US dollars for ease of comparison.
Drinking water from taps in Japan is considered safe. For environmental reasons, try to use a refillable water bottle rather than buying bottled water. Major cities often have water fountains in train stations.
Major credit cards are accepted by some stores; however, Japan is still very much a cash culture and as such, some places may not accept credit cards. Ensure you carry enough cash to cover purchases.
ATMs are common in Japan but unfortunately many of them don't accept foreign-issued cards. However, you can access cash from non-Japanese bank accounts via the Cirrus and Maestro systems at all post office ATMs around the country, as well as ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their tour. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Please note that some businesses shut down from 29 December to between 3 and 6 January.
For a current list of public holidays in Japan, including the movable dates noted above, go to worldtravelguide.net
LGBTQIA+ identifying travellers are unlikely to encounter violence, outright hostility or overt discrimination in Japan. However, conservative values about queer sexuality and non-binary gender expression are common, particularly outside large cities. Sex that takes place between consenting adults of the same gender is legal, though same-sex marriage is not. Some districts (such as Tokyo) legally recognise same-sex partnerships.
It’s important to keep in mind that public displays of affection are not common in Japan, regardless of sex, gender presentation or sexual orientation.
If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.
Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.
The needs of travellers with mobility issues, including wheelchair users, are considered in the infrastructure in major cities. Train stations have lifts (elevators), wide turnstiles and (for the most part) raised platforms so that wheelchair users can glide onto the train without being assisted.
Sidewalks in Japanese cities are sometimes sloped towards the road, which can make travelling a straight line difficult for wheelchair users or people with vision impairment.
It is common practice in Japan to remove shoes when entering a home. Wheelchair users should carry something to wipe down their wheels in respect of this custom. Apply the same logic for other mobility aids such as canes.
Ryokans and other traditional accommodation can be difficult to navigate for people with limited mobility, but accessible hotel options are plentiful in the major cities.
Travellers with vision impairment may find the tactile yellow strips that guide the way to various places in train stations helpful, though please note that there is no barrier between the train tracks and platforms.
If you have a battery-operated hearing aid, it’s a good idea to bring extra batteries or familiarise yourself with the Japanese equivalent of the batteries it takes.
If you do live with a visual, hearing or other impairment, let your booking agent or group leader know early on so they’re aware and suitable arrangements can be made. As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.
Summer months can be incredibly hot and sticky, so loose, lightweight and breathable clothing is essential. While linen and cotton are good options, cotton in particular does not dry well in Japan's humid climate. Spring and autumn can be crisp to cold, so you might want to pack thermal layers in addition to your coat and boots. Outside of Hokkaido and the mountains, the winter temperatures in Japan are manageable as long as you have regular cold weather clothes like a good coat, pair of gloves, a winter hat and a scarf.
The style of dress common for women in Japan may be a little more covered up than you are used to, particularly outside the major cities. For all travellers, packing comfortable trousers is essential as you may find yourself sitting on the floor, cross-legged, more often than you would at home.
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
In Japan, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses and smaller-scale hotels in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support community businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans. Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to being the best travel company for the world.