Time: Japan Standard Time is 3 1/2 hrs ahead of IST.
Currency: Yen (¥)
Mobile Phones: Only 3G phones work in Japan. Voice SIM cards are not presently available. Mobile phone rental is common and easy.
Internet Access: Most big hotels, cafes and restaurants in big cities offer free w-fi. Internet café rates are ¥200 to ¥700 per hour.
Tourist Information: The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO; www.jnto.go.jp) is Japan’s main English-language information service for foreign travellers. JNTO Tourist Information Center (tel: 3201-3331; www.jnto.go.jp; 1st fl, Shin- Tokyo Bldg, 3-3-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; 9am–5pm).
When to Go
- April & May, August (high season): Flights are pricey around the Golden Week (early May), O-Bon (mid-August) and New Year. Honshu cities are busy in the cherry blossom (late March to early April) and autumn foliage (November) seasons.
- June & July, September–December (mid-season): June and July is rainy season in most of Japan (except Hokkaido) – it doesn’t rain every day but it can be pretty humid. Autumn (September to mid-December) is usually cool and clear.
- January–March (low season): Winter is cool or cold in most of Honshu, but it’s fine for travel. Be ready for snow in the mountains.
What to Pack
- Slip-on shoes, as you’ll be taking off your shoes a lot.
- Prescription medicines, which can be time-consuming to purchase.
- Smart, casual clothes if travelling in summer and autumn; heavy woollens and jackets if you’re visiting in winter.
- Umbrellas, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Disposable forks, spoons and knives if you’re not a chopstick user.
Japan has a brilliant public transport system: trains, buses, ferries and planes are all abundant and efficient.
- Air: Air services in Japan are extensive, reliable and safe. Flying is sometimes faster than even shinkansen (bullet trains) and not that much more expensive.
- Train: Japanese rail services are fast, frequent, clean and comfortable. Apart from Japan Railways, the ‘national’ railway, there is a huge network of private trains.
- Bus: Almost every Japanese city has an extensive bus service. There are many services between cities. But, destinations and stops are often written only in Japanese.
- Taxi: Can be found even in very small cities and on tiny islands. The train station is the best place to look. Fares are fairly uniform throughout the country.