Escorted tours to Japan
Currency: Japanese Yen
Time Zone: JST/GMT+8
Tipping: It is rare in Japan to tip, however if you have received particularly good service your server may still accept it.
Japan - an Introduction
If you've been to China but are still lured by the temptations of the mystical Far East, Japan escorted tours should meet your holiday expectations with its clever combination of old and new. Nowadays, thoughts of Japan tend to turn to the devastating effects of the earthquake and powerful tsunami that struck the northeast of this beautiful country in 2011. However, the wonderful 'can do' spirit of the Japanese people means that north Japan will be rebuilt quicker than anyone can possibly imagine.
Japan is a magical place perfect for a wide range of escorted tours despite the language barrier, and offers a real departure from western ways. Instead of staying in a typical chain hotel, stay a night or two in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn), sit cross-legged on tatami mats instead of at the table, wear traditional robes and enjoy dishes containing raw fish and vegetables. How about washing away the stresses of the day whilst cleansing your body by taking a dip in a thermal bath (Sento)? A couple of things to note; you are likely to be the only non-Japanese person at a Sento. You will be sharing with other people and there's no time for embarrassment, the baths are not for washing in and the only thing that enters the bath is your nude clean body – that's right, you have to be completely naked!
Japan is not wholly famous for sushi, shrines and the Bullet Train reaching exceptional speeds, these are simply the foundations of what makes Japan one of the most fascinating countries to visit in the world. There are many places on Japan tours where you can soak up an air of the traditional so don't be surprised if you never wish to leave magnificent cities like Kyoto and Nara where both house a multitude of temples, shrines and museums. Nara is Japan's first capital city and has eight World Heritage Sites, all offering something intriguingly different for tourists to see.
Aside from pulsating cities such as Osaka and Tokyo, you can learn about the tragic past and explore the modern city of Hiroshima or soak up the romance of Nagasaki and pay homage to the fallen at its Peace Memorial. Just south of Tokyo Bay you will visit Yokahama, the second largest city in Japan and full of maritime history. Head into Chinatown, the largest in Japan and very touristy where you can find plenty of Chinese grocery stores and somewhere to buy a cheap version of the cheongsam dress. Catch a baseball game at the Bay Stars Stadium or if you're lucky see a football game in the Nissan Stadium. Visit Yamashita Park for some amazing street entertainment and sit in the rooftop garden of Ōsanbashi Pier and watch the sunset, a very peaceful experience for all to enjoy.
Escorted tours of Japan typically include return flights, a full touring itinerary including internal travel, accommodation in good standard hotels, meals and a variety of included or optional excursions so you can explore further than the bustling cities and gauge a real feel of Japan and all its wonders.
Things to do
For some, if it is your first visit to Japan, things can sometimes seem a little daunting as there are so many things to see and do whilst staying here. To help with your holiday planning, let us offer a little inspiration for you:
Being Japan's capital, you cannot fail to be amazed by the awesome sights that Tokyo has to offer its visitors. The main place to visit is Asakusa with its amazing Temples, relax in the beautiful gardens of the Imperial Palace and the awesome Meiji Shrine. For the best viewing platform, visit Tokyo Tower although it could be considered to be a little overpriced. Enjoy a sushi breakfast at the Tsukija Fish Market, cruise the Sumida River and take a soak in the local 'Sento' – just don't miss the night-time views of Tokyo Bay!
Although it was almost completely flattened in World War II, Osaka is a fabulous example of Japanese urban phenomenon. Especially at night when Osaka's dreary streets come to life with flashing neon lights beckoning visitors to enter and sample the delicacies on offer. Places that you shouldn't miss are the Dōtombori area, Osaka-jō and the fabulous ancient Farmhouses. You will possibly find that a meandering stroll can be just as rewarding as a structured tour.
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage
If you fancy something that's a little off the wall but just as rewarding, follow the oldest tourist trail where you can walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest Buddhists. The 1400 km walk will take you on a pilgrimage of the '88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku'. This is an experience you certainly will not forget and will give you a flavour of sacred times gone by.
Daisetsuzan National Park
The largest Park to be found in Japan and sometimes referred to as 'Taisetsuzan', stunning scenery is everywhere you look from dormant volcanoes, to piping hot springs and luscious forests – you won't be disappointed with your visit here.
This is definitely the place to be if you're looking for a combination of sleepy temples, tranquil shrines and beautiful Zen gardens. You'll find Geisha scurrying to their destinations through the winding alleyways. Admire the magnificent Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji, the Nijō Castle, marvel at the cherry blossoms of Arashiyama and the Kyoto Botanical Gardens.
Tips & Advice
The beauty of travelling as part of an escorted tour is that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in foreign lands. However, to help you have an enjoyable holiday in Japan take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
Prior to leaving the UK it is advisable to contact your GP to ensure whether you need any vaccinations or preventative medical measures.
Japanese medical facilities are typically very good, but the fees for treatment are high. Hospitals and clinics tend to be well equipped and the staff are trained to a high level. You will however struggle to find an English Doctor practising in Japan, but some Doctors might speak English. In Japan, you will be expected to pay for your treatment up front so make sure that you have access to funds and suitable travel insurance before you leave the UK. If you are transferred to a medical centre for treatment you should always inform your insurance company as soon as possible. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
To call an ambulance in Japan simply dial 119.
Crime levels in Japan are typically fairly low. Public transport and walking around at night tends to be safe, however you should always maintain a level of caution. The entertainment district in Tokyo, Roppongi, is thought to be an area with a higher level of crime, so be particularly careful you are in this part of the city. Always buy your own drinks and avoid confrontation in bars and clubs.
If your passport is stolen or lost whilst you are in Japan you must visit the local police station to obtain a police report.
Local Laws and Customs
In Japan, loud, boisterous behaviour is not as acceptable as in the UK and may be frowned upon. Public displays of affection are not as common in Japan as they are in the UK and should normally be kept private.
Meals and drinks are always paid before you leave a bar and as tipping is not necessary, bills can be high. Be careful, as if you dispute a bill it can lead to being arrested.
When in Japan you must carry your passport with you at all times.
Some medicines and prescription drugs are banned in Japan therefore if you need medication for long term use it is wise to be able to present paperwork regarding usage and maybe even an import license. This can be checked with the Japanese Embassy or Consulate prior to travel.
Japan has severe penalties for all drug-related crimes; police may carry out random tests in bars and clubs.
British Citizens are authorised to enter Japan for up to three months without needing a visa. You might need to provide evidence of an onward journey such as a plane ticket.
If you are intending to visit Japan for another purpose (work, study or settlement) you need to apply for a visa before you leave - they cannot be issued when in the country.
You must have validity on your passport for the entirety of your trip. No additional period is required after this.
Japan's medical laws are different to those in the UK with the use or possession of some of the UK's most common medication being banned. This includes things like Vicks Inhalers, allergy medication and even mild painkillers, so check the list of banned substances before you travel.
Any other nationality looking to visit Japan must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
To find out more about visiting Japan, check out their official tourism website at jnto.go.jp.