There’s a certain allure to Japan – a place where eastern tradition and western modernity collide among otherworldly scenery that’ll take your breath away and refuse to give it back. Add mouthwatering cuisine, a fascinating history, and a multifaceted culture into the mix and it's easy to understand how Japan continues to captivate travellers. From enjoying a sake tasting at a local brewery and soaking in a steaming hot onsen to marvelling at World Heritage-listed temples thousands of years old, our tours in Japan promise the ultimate adventure: one you’ll continue to think about long after you return home.
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises). However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
There’s never a bad time to travel to Japan but the months that see the most travellers are March, April, and May as the weather is mild and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The warm weather (with low humidity levels) of September, October, and November are also suitable months to visit Japan – you’ll even be treated to landscapes coloured with oranges, reds, and browns for autumn. While winter can be cold, this is the best time for snow activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and snow festivals. On the other hand, the summer months see high humidity levels that can leave some travellers uncomfortable.
Under current restrictions, a visa is required to enter Japan as a tourist. We recommend you apply for your visa no later than one month before your departure date. Please contact your local consulate or embassy for more information.
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).
Japan's unit of currency is the yen. Prices here are approximate and shown in US dollars for ease of comparison.
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.
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
Travellers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community shouldn’t have any issues visiting Japan with violence, outright hostility or overt discrimination extremely rare. However, Japan’s older generation still holds conservative values when it comes to queer sexuality and non-binary gender expression, especially those that live in regional areas.
Same-sex relationships are considered legal in some districts (such as Tokyo); however, same-sex marriage hasn’t been legalized yet. Public displays of affection are often frowned upon, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation so keep that in mind when you’re out in public.
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. Spring and autumn can be crisp and 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 cross-legged on the floor during your stay.
Having a basic understanding of the language and culture of the country you're visiting can go a long way when it comes to, not only communicating efficiently but your overall trip experience as well. Some common phrases you need to learn are:
There are two dominant religions in Japan - Shinto and Buddhism. The majority of Japanese people practice both simultaneously, however, there is a small number of the population that practise other religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam.
From the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the peaceful nature of the Japanese Alps, there are plenty of bucket-list destinations to include on your itinerary of Japan. We know it's hard to see everything but here are a few of our favourite places to visit in Japan:
Japan isn't short of spectacular attractions to wander through and fascinating historical landmarks to marvel at but it's pretty hard to do it all on your trip to Japan. So you don't miss the things you simply have to see, we've put together a short list of parks, temples, and monuments worth visiting. Happy exploring!