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Practical information about Japan

1. Climate in Japan

There are four seasons in Japan. The Japanese are proud of their four seasons, and an astonishing number of them are convinced that it is a particular Japanese phenomenon.

Spring extends from March to the end of May, and it is the best time to visit Japan. It is warm without being baking hot, and there is limited rainfall. For three weeks in March and April, the cherry trees bloom. This special season is called Sakura, and it is the highlight of the year and a time of great festivity for the Japanese. It is also a wonderful experience, not only to see the cherry trees in bloom but also how much this special time means to the Japanese. However, it is definitely the most expensive time to visit.

Summer extends from June to the end of August. June brings rain, and in July and August it will be very hot and humid. Day temperatures of 30–35°C are not unusual.

Autumn extends from September to November. This is a really good time to visit Japan. The temperatures are pleasant but still warm, and the humidity drops a lot. The autumn colours of the maple trees emerge, giving the landscape and gardens a completely different character. It’s really beautiful. Southern Japan can be hit by hurricanes, or typhoons as they are called here.

Winter extends from December to February, and the Japanese Alps and the island of Hokkaido get lots of snow and frost. The towns and cities of the lowlands on the Pacific coast, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka rarely get snow and frost. It can be cold inside old buildings, as central heating has not been installed. On Hokkaido, there is typically a lot of snow and it is very cold due to the cold winds from Siberia.

2. Mode of travel

You travel individually, but excursions and transfers typically take place in smaller international groups with English-speaking guides.

3. When is the best time to travel to Japan?

You can travel to Japan all year. The best time is spring and autumn as the climate is at its most comfortable.

Every year in April/May, there is a major public holiday – the Golden Week – where almost all of Japan is on holiday. At this time, you might find it very busy on public transport and at hotels and attractions. A number of smaller stores may be also closed for the holiday.

4. Travel terms and conditions

Please read our booking terms and conditions carefully. These terms and conditions constitute the basis of your package purchased from Asiatours.co.uk. Click here to read our terms and conditions of travel.

All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate

5. Help with taking out travel insurance

We are an ATOL protected agency giving you complete peace of mind. It is a condition of booking that the sole responsibility lies with the guest to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependants/traveling companions for the duration of their tour.

In cooperation with our partner we can offer advantageous travel insurances. Learn more here.

6. Visa

As a British citizen, you can travel to Japan without a visa. Your passport must be valid for the duration of the stay. Upon your arrival at the airport in Japan, you must provide biometric data in the form of fingerprints and a photo, as well as an interview in immigration. A 90-day residence permit will then be stamped in your passport.

The rules on visas can be checked on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

7. Vaccinations

We always advise that you contact a specialist, your GP or an authorized vaccination clinic. You can also read more about the rules for travel & vaccinations at the central NHS Fit for Travel website: here

8. Language

The language is Japanese, which also has its own written language (symbols). Younger people in particular can speak English, and it is generally no problem getting by when you can simply ask.

Signs are mainly written in Japanese, but in hotels and on public transport, for example, there is also signage in English. The Japanese are generally very helpful, and if you are standing with a map in your hand, looking confused, it’s not unusual for a helpful soul to stop and offer to help you.

9. Currency and credit cards

The Japanese currency is called yen (JPY).

At www.xe.com/currencyconverter you can check the exact rate from US dollars, Euro and British pounds.

The Japanese prefer to pay and receive payment in cash. We therefore recommend that you change your money to yen before you leave.

Common credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are far from used everywhere. International credit cards are only accepted at international stores in cities.

Cash machines are found in a lot of places, but you can only withdraw cash using a Japanese credit card. To make a withdrawal using an international credit card, you will need to find the Lawson kiosk chain or 7-eleven stores. Inside these stores, there are cash machines intended for international credit cards. You will find stores from these two chains in almost all towns and cities.

If you bring US dollars and euros in cash, you can go to a tourist information office as most of them have foreign exchange machines. You may not be able to exchange pounds in all machines.

Naturally, there are banks in Japan, but they are not always all that accessible and have limited opening hours.

10. Price level

The price level in Japan is on a level or slightly below ours.

Like everywhere else, restaurant visits can be cheap or expensive. The most expensive thing to do is to buy foreign goods such as wine, Coca Cola, or meat from abroad. If you stick to Japanese goods such as Japanese beer, sake, Japanese soft drinks and tea, it’s cheaper. At the Lawson kiosk chain or 7-eleven stores, you can buy really good, fresh, high-quality packed lunches – a so-called Bento Box – for a really reasonable price.

Taxis for short distances of under 10 km, for example, are also reasonably priced.

If you want to buy electronics, there may be savings to be made. However, we recommend that you check the price at home before you travel.

11. Tips

Tipping is very rare in Japan. If you leave money on the table at a restaurant when you go, the waiter will probably run after you to give it back.

In Japan, however, it is the norm to give small, beautifully wrapped gifts. If you want to please your guide or maid, you can buy a small symbolic gift, such as a small cake or a couple of pieces of Japanese candy in a package and write a small card to thank them for the good service. And finally, remember that it’s the symbolism of the gift and not the size of the gift that matters.

12. Hotels

Hotel rooms in Japan are generally very small, even 4 and 5-star hotels. Most double rooms have two single beds, and a single room really is a single room. If it is important for you to sleep in a double bed, you should state this when booking the holiday. It is common practice for a night shirt to be laid out on the bed. In all hotel rooms, there are slippers for you. You take your shoes off and wear slippers in the room. There is very little space for luggage. At all 3-star and many 4-star hotels, the bathrooms are small, standardised, prefabricated plastic rooms, which are basically the same from hotel to hotel. There is a hairdryer in the bathroom, and typically a pack of disposable toiletries as well as soap and shampoo. There is heating in the toilet seat (and you can also activate an electronic cleaning/rinsing program if you wish to try it). In some 4-star and a lot of 5-star hotels, there are bathrooms with porcelain sanitary ware.

If a hotel is fully booked, a similar hotel of the same standard will be offered.

13. Ryokan

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you experience a different side to Japan than when you stay at a regular hotel.

A ryokan is decorated in traditional Japanese style with woven straw mats called tatami on the floor, shoji sliding doors and windows, low dining tables and futon beds. Some rooms have an en suite bathroom, while others only have access to shared bathrooms.

Unlike at a hotel, where you often don’t spend much time, a ryokan is more than just a place to stay. In Japan, people travel far and wide to experience the hospitality and authentic Japanese culture found in a ryokan. Part of this culture is to relax in hot springs known as onsen baths and to enjoy multi-course meals. So where you stay is also a central part of the experience.

A modern ryokan usually serves dinner in communal dining areas, while a traditional ryokan serves dinner in the room. The Kaiseki meal is the culinary highlight at a ryokan. The meal is presented in such a way as to be a delight for the eyes and taste buds alike. Between 10 and 15 courses are served, made from seasonal ingredients and specialities. It is a unique opportunity to become acquainted with delicious and exciting Japanese dishes, which you would never otherwise have the chance to taste.

A ryokan is usually located near an onsen bath, and some ryokans even have their own onsen. The onsen is a hot spring where the water is heated by Japan’s active volcanoes. The volcanic activity adds minerals such as calcium, sodium and chloride to the water, all of which are good for digestive problems, fatigue, bruising and much more besides. And the health benefits of the steamy onsen baths are one of the things that make the ryokan Japan’s preferred place to stay.

The biggest difference between a ryokan and a hotel is that a ryokan embraces a traditional Japanese atmosphere – it is peaceful with a permeating sense of calm.

A stay at a ryokan gives you a unique opportunity to get right up close to Japanese culture and learn more about Japanese traditions.

Read more about the traditional Japanese inns – ryokans!

14. Time difference

Japan is 9 hours ahead of the UK when it’s winter here, and 8 hours in British summer time.

15. Electricity

In Japan, the voltage for electric mains is 100 V, and plugs have two flat pins (similar to the US). We recommend that you bring an adapter as hotels do not always have loan adapters for guests.

16. Telephone and internet

The International country code for Japan is +81.

It can be expensive to call home from or receive calls in Japan. Check with your own mobile phone company regarding coverage and call rates.

Everyone has smartphones, and many local tourists are big fans of selfie sticks.

There is free Wi-Fi everywhere: in trains, at cafés, restaurants, shops and hotels.

17. Safety

Japan is one of the world’s safest countries to travel in. It’s perfectly safe to walk around the streets, day and night. Even in Tokyo’s metro, which is extremely crowded in the rush hour, you needn’t worry. The Japanese are also completely honest and wouldn’t dream of cheating you. If you intentionally leave a tip on a table in a restaurant, the waiter will almost certainly run after you to give you the money back because you’ve probably forgotten it.

18. Food & drink

Japanese food is really delicious, with great attention paid to flavour combinations. Most flavours are mild, but horseradish and chilli are also used. The Japanese love fish, and this is evident in the food on offer. Generally speaking, small amounts of fish and meat are served while the bulk of the meal is rice and vegetables or noodles. The Japanese love noodles, which can be made of wheat (udon), buckwheat (soba), ramen (wheat) and somen (wheat). They are served both hot and cold, and preferably in soup. You are bound to eat sushi, tempura (deep fried prawns), miso base soup, soya, tofu, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and eat – not just drink – green tea in some way or another. The portions are often small and you typically order many small dishes.

There are a whole host of restaurants and cafés, and at the Lawson kiosk chain or 7-eleven stores, you can buy really good, fresh, high-quality packed lunches – a so-called Bento Box – for a really reasonable price.

In many places, the menus are electronic tablets which you also use to place your order. This can be a challenge if it is all in Japanese and you order from pictures.

The waiters and waitresses are generally very helpful and accommodating.

19. Public holidays

It is always special to experience the traditions and celebrations of other countries. Below is a list of public holidays, important festivals and other special occasions.

Please note that some museums and attractions may be closed on these days.

20. Flight reservations and airline tickets

We will send you your flight reservation as soon as you book your trip. You can see times and routes on the itinerary. It is important to check your name for spelling mistakes. The name on the reservation must be exactly as in your passport. If you find any mistakes in the names, please contact us immediately.

Today, there are only electronic airline tickets (e-tickets), so you do not receive a physical ticket for use at the airport check-in. When you check in at the airport, you use your passport and a booking reference. The booking reference is on your itinerary.

If your tour includes a domestic flight in Japan, this must be stated in the itinerary.

If your tour includes a domestic flight in Japan, you will receive the e-ticket from our partner when you get to Japan.

21. Service letter

Once you have purchased a tour through us, you will receive our service letter before your departure. The service letter contains important information about online check-in, what to do in the event of a delay, our agreed guidelines for tips, etc. In addition, you will find important telephone numbers for our local agents as well as our emergency telephone number.

So it is important that you print out the service letter and bring it with you.

22. Seat reservation, upgrades and extra legroom

We recommend that you make a seat reservation on the plane. Many airlines also offer to upgrade reserved tickets for seats with extra space and comfort, e.g. Economy Comfort at KLM and Premium Voyageur at Air France. You can do this through the airline’s website. Most airlines have a point in the menu called “manage my booking”. Please note that many airlines require payment for seat reservation, so you should have your credit/debit card to hand when you get started.

Unfortunately, rules differ as to when seat reservation is opened. We recommend that you try to make a seat reservation as early as possible and you will then know when you can make a seat reservation if it cannot be done right away. It is very common for seat reservation to be opened between 72 and 24 hours before departure.

23. Your luggage

When travelling in Japan, we recommend that you carry just one suitcase/bag per person. (Travel as lightly as possible, as hotel rooms are generally small.) We use many different airlines to Japan, so it may vary how much and how many kg you can carry in both checked luggage and hand luggage. See your flight reservation for information or contact us if you have any questions.

You should also make sure you carry all your important and indispensable things in your hand luggage. This applies to items such as passports, visas, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money and cameras, as well as information about your health and vital medicines.

It might also be chilly on the plane due to the air conditioning, so bring a sweater or wind cheater with you in your hand baggage.

24. Transfers to and from airports

Your itinerary shows whether there are any transfers to and from airports.

25. Etiquette and cultural differences

Experiencing differences in culture and etiquette is one of the joys of travelling and it is important to respect these differences. We have the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so we would like to provide you with some tips and advice that will help make your experience of Japan even better.

The deep bow is an expression of great respect; the greater the respect, the deeper the bow – men keep their hands by their side, while women fold their arms in front of them.

When you hand something to someone else, you should do so with both hands.

Elderly people command a lot of respect in Japan. On trains and buses, the “silver seats” are reserved for elderly and disabled passengers – you should never sit there.

At some shrines, there is a cleansing ritual before you enter – you should follow this if you wish to enter.

There are not many public waste bins. The Japanese are fully accustomed to carrying a small waste bag with them, which they use and then throw out the waste when they get home. We recommend that you do the same and throw it in the waste bin in the hotel room.

Take off your shoes when you enter a shrine or a traditional Japanese home or restaurant.

Avoid sticking/leaving chopsticks in the rice bowl; place them next to it. If they are left sticking in the rice bowl, they are reminiscent of incense sticks, which are lit in the temples in honour of the deceased.

Avoid physical contact in public spaces. You will never see the Japanese kiss or hug in public.

Avoid showing anger. Venting your frustration or anger by shouting or being ill-mannered is extremely rude and condescending and will not lead to anything good. Speaking softly and muted laughter are polite.

The Japanese are very comely-dressed. It is unusual to see men in shorts and women with bare shoulders, and that goes for foreigners, too.

Tattoos are frowned upon in Japan and are associated with criminal elements. This is because in olden days, convicts were tattooed on the forehead so that everyone could see the person was a criminal. Today, tattoos are linked to the Japanese mafia, Yakuza, all members of which have tattoos – the more tattoos the person has, the higher they are in the organisation. We therefore recommend that you consider carefully your attire if you have tattoos.

26. Travellers with reduced mobillity

Please note, this tour is generally not suitable for persons with reduced mobility. Please contact us for information about the possibilities according any specific needs.

Help, Advice or Booking

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01279 704 137

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Mon, Wed & Fri: 8 - 16 Tue&Thu: 8-21 Sat: 9-17

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