The weather is a popular topic of conversation in Japan, which comes as no surprise given the complexity of the climate in a country spanning 20 degrees of latitude.
Japan experiences four diverse seasons; Spring during March to May, Summer during June to August, Autumn during September to November and Winter during December to February.
Japan’s rainy season lasts from the beginning of June to mid-July. During this time humid rain storms are common. Only Hokkaido is barely affected by the rainy season.
Typhoon tropical storms can appear during the end of August and beginning of September.
Japan is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, except during daylight savings time when there is a 9 hours difference.
Passport & Visas
British Citizens need a current passport with at least six months validity from the date of entry. A visa is not required for UK passport holders for a stay of up to 90 days.
Non-UK passport holders should check their visa requirements with the Japanese Consulate-General or their travel consultant.
As voltage in Japan is 100V, travelers are required to use adapters to convert any appliances. 60Hz in the West, and 50Hz in the East, with a 2-pin flat plug.
The unit of Japanese currency is the Yen. There are four bills of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000.
Coins of smaller denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 also exist. You can buy Yen at hotels, banks, and other authorized money exchanges; however, it is recommended you exchange your money prior to travel.
Credit Cards & ATMs
Credit Cards and debit cards from major issuers are becoming increasingly accepted in major cities. However, towns in more remote and rural areas will only accept cash payment.~
ATMs are mostly only found in banks or post offices compared to the UK where there are many street ATMs, however these ATMs mostly only accept Japanese cards.
7-Eleven convenience stores have international ATMs, allowing international withdrawals, as do Citibanks. International withdrawals can be conducted 24/7 at 7-Eleven, otherwise bank ATM users and people withdrawing money from Japanese accounts can only withdraw money during the working hours of the bank or ATM (All ATM’s in Japan with the exception of 7-Eleven have working hours).
Wi-fi & Communications
Outside of hotels, Japan is a country with very little free wi-fi with the exception of establishments such as Starbucks.
Telephone / Fax: Full international direct service. Country code: 81.
Dining / Drinking
Japan has a reputation of being expensive, but this does not have to be the case. If you are looking for a different dining experience, big name restaurants will have similar prices to the U.K. A good rule of thumb is to look for places which display a price or even a model of the food with the price outside, that way you know what to expect.
Unlike most countries, Japan has no open-drinking rules, this is due to the large number of convenience stores that sell alcohol so it is common to see people drinking cans of alcohol on the street or on trains. However, eating in public outside and on trains is considered bad etiquette and is usually avoided.
Luggage Courier Services
It is common in Japan for travellers to send their luggage ahead when taking a trip and there are special luggage courier services (such as “Kuroneko Yamato”) that offer reliable and punctual delivery.
This service is convenient if you do not want to carry your bags while travelling, and also because there is limited space for large pieces of luggage on Japanese trains.
If you wish to send a suitcase or item of luggage from one hotel to another, you can ask the reception of your hotel to fill out a courier form, with the name and address of the hotel you want your luggage delivered to, and also the time you prefer it to arrive, and your luggage almost always arrives at that time.
Pasmo or Suica
Pasmo and Suica cards are top-up travel cards which can be used all over the country and are Japan’s equivalent of Oyster Cards in the UK. They can be topped-up at major stations around Japan.
They can be used on all transport that permit contactless payments and unlike the JR Pass they can be used on different company train lines.
For example you can use the cards on JR lines and then use them on city metro undergrounds.
As well as transport you can use them to make purchases in shops that allow Pasmo and Suica contactless payment.
But please note that smaller rural lines may not accept Pasmo or Suica cards.
When in a hotel room or entering a home, shoes are removed and exchanged for a pair of slippers; this is even more essential in traditional Japanese style accommodation, such as Ryokan. If you can remember, try to face the shoes outwards.
The polite greeting in Japan is to “bow”. Bow from the waist and keep your arms straight by your side.
Imitate the bows you receive – don’t over bow or ignore the greeting. Smile and nod if nothing else, you don’t want to be seen as rude.