Vital Information For Solo Travelers To Japan

What You Need to Know And Do When Traveling Throughout Japan

Known around the world as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, Japan offers tourists a varied mix of past, present and future combining ancient samurai traditions and an impressive history combined with modern day robotics and 'new world' state of the art technologies.

The country is a land of contrasts and represents a fascinating destination for visitors by combining attractions of an ancient and unfamiliar culture with all the trappings of one of the world powerhouses in fashion and innovation. Japan is a journey of discovery whenever or wherever you visit in the country.

When Is The Best Time To Visit?

The weather in Japan can vary significantly from one part of the country to another. Check the average temperature and rainfall in the area you are planning to visit to gain a better understanding of the prevailing conditions.

Peak Season

  • Spring is one of the best times to visit Japan as the magnificent cherry blossoms more than make up for the frequent showers during this period.

  • Cherry blossom season generally begins in March in the south of the country and reaches the north by May.

  • Autumn is another great time to visit Japan, as the temperatures are mild and the summer crowds have abated somewhat. The changing foliage in some areas is spectacular to witness.

  • The rainy season in June heralds the beginning of the hot humid summer for most of the country, with the exception being areas in the cooler north and the mountainous regions.

  • September hails another wet season when summer comes to a rainy end and the country sometimes experiences typhoons and heavy weather conditions.

  • Winter is ski season, which begins in mid December and runs until late March or early April depending on the region.

  • Winter weather varies greatly throughout the country with mild temperatures in the south and harsh winds and heavy snow in the north west, and clear blue sky days in the north east.

  • Winter days are short, as the sun sets at around 4.30pm in Tokyo during the mid winter period.

  • Peak holiday periods include (Western) New Year, Golden Week in late April and early May, and the Obon festival which is held in mid August.


  • School holidays create peak periods also with dates varying throughout the country. There are three school terms with a long summer break during July and August, and shorter breaks in December and January, March and April.

  • Japan is a major tourist destination for the Chinese so China's Golden Week which falls in early October, and Chinese New Year January and February greatly affect the availability of accommodation.

Japanese Culture

  • Japanese society places much emphasis on maintaining harmony, cooperation and respect in families and workplace hierarchies.

  • The Asian concept of 'face' is also very important in Japan, which means avoiding confrontations, criticism or directly turning down requests - Japanese people rarely use the word 'no'.

  • The Japanese are extremely polite and are reserved so be aware an up-front type of personality may come across as rude or disrespectful to the locals.

  • Bowing is the traditional way to greet someone in Japan, however a slight bow or handshake is acceptable if you a visitor to the country. Older people should be greeted with great respect and held in high esteem during your interaction with them.

  • Before entering a person's house, always remove your shoes. In hotels, it's expected that you will remove your shoes also and use the slippers provided. Some restaurants will also expect you to remove your shoes prior to entering the establishment.

  • In homes and in accommodation with shared bathrooms you may be required to use 'toilet slippers'.

  • You should always take a small gift if invited into a person's home. The wrapping is just as important as the gift itself. Don't expect the gift to be unwrapped in front of you, as it is not customary to unwrap the gift in front of the giver.

  • Offer or receive any gift with both hands as a sign of respect.


  • Tipping is not expected, instead a gift or some money tucked into an envelope is more likely to be graciously accepted.

  • Blowing your nose in public is considered extremely rude, so avoid doing this at all costs.

  • When eating, never point or play with your chopsticks or use them to pierce food. Return them to the chopstick rest when you pause to take a drink or when speaking to others.

  • Leaving a small amount of food and drink is the best way to indicate that you have had enough to eat. An empty plate, glass or cup will invite offers of more.

  • It's considered intrusive to talk on your phone while on public transport, so switch your phone to silent on trains and in quiet places including restaurants and museums.

Visa Information

Holders of a valid passport can visit Japan for up to 90 days without a visa provided they:

  • Have a passport which remains valid for the duration of their stay.

  • They do not receive any income while in Japan.

  • Visa and entry rules may change so check with the Japanese Embassy in your home country for the latest advice and information.

  • Take note: When you fill out the incoming passenger card on arrival at the airport, you will be asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. If you answer yes, it's likely you will be taken aside and questioned and you may be refused entry to the country.

  • Japan has a tough attitude towards drugs and foreigners, even famous ones including the likes of Paul McCartney and Paris Hilton have been refused entry because of their prior drug convictions.

Health And Safety

Japan has an excellent nationwide health care system and English speaking doctors can be found in most cities. Medical fees are extremely high and you may have to pay on the spot, so it's essential that you are covered by travel insurance.

The tap water is safe to drink and food hygiene is of a very high standard.

Mosquito borne diseases including Japanese encephalitis can be a problem in rural areas, so take steps to avoid being bitten.

There are restrictions on bringing some medications into Japan, including codeine and pseudoephedrine. If you need to travel with medication check first with the Japanese Embassy and ensure you have the required documentation to support the possession of pharmacy dispensed drugs.


Violence and petty crime incidences are extremely low in Japan.

Japan experiences typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis so make sure you are familiar with the safety procedures at your accommodation.

Almost all parts of Japan are considered safe, however certain areas close to the damaged Fukushima power plant remain off limits.

Personal Safety And Security

Japan has zero tolerance for drugs and it imposes severe penalties for the possession of even very small amounts of illegal drugs. Japanese police carry out occasional random drug tests on customers in bars and clubs.

Women are sometimes groped in public and on trains so if this happens to you, Japanese police advise that you should shout at the perpetrator and tell other people and train staff - as this is one of the rare situations when it's considered okay to make a scene.

The legal drinking age is 20.

There is zero tolerance for drink-driving and the legal limit is 0%.

Smoking is prohibited in many public areas, so before lighting up check for signs and be on the lookout for other smokers.

There are no laws against homosexuality in Japan.

Prostitution is technically illegal however the sex work industry, known as 'fuzoku' generally manages to get around the laws.

Visitors must carry their passport at all times.

Japanese police have the power to search without a warrant and to detain suspects for up to 23 days without charge.

Jail sentences can be more severe than in the west with punishment for serious charges including murder resulting in a death sentence.

Crime rates are very low and petty theft is rare, so visitors to Japan are considered to be safe for the most part.

If you lose something, it is more likely than not to be handed in untouched. A 2004 survey in Japan found that 74% of lost items were retrieved by their owners.

All taxis should be licensed and have a working meter. It's highly unlikely your taxi driver will try to rip you off.

Fraud can be a problem in Japan as in many countries, so always cover the keypad when using ATM's and never let your credit card out of your sight when paying at restaurants.

Sandra Hawkins

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