Japan was always on John Booty’s bucket list with its unique and dynamic culture that effortlessly combines ultra-modern with deep tradition. On the streets of innovative, futuristic cities glass towers and tranquil temples stand side by side, whilst picturesque old towns, and gorgeous landscapes are an easy bullet train ride away. Mix these spectacular sights with a welcoming people, delicious cuisine and rich culture and you’ve got yourself a holiday to remember. This week John Booty from Wendy Wu Tours has given us his 5 top tips for visiting Japan.
- Best time to visit? Japan is a very seasonal destination with each time of year bringing a range of highlights to different parts of the country. For example, during the months of January (in the south) and May (in the north), cherry blossom season occurs. In the autumn months, October to December warm tones of red, orange and gold ginkgo and maple leaves sweep across the country. Throughout other times of the year you’ll find varied climates; the north can experience very cold temperatures with snow in destinations like Sapporo, whereas the south will have you wandering in the warmth of the sun in places like Osaka.
- Where should I visit & my favourite part? Japan offers an abundance of incredible culture, sights, cuisine and history with every turn displaying something new. If it is your first time travelling to Japan, I can recommend taking the ‘Golden Route’. Covering all of the iconic places from Mt Fuji in Tokyo to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, the Golden Route is perfect for first time travellers. However, if you’d like to head off on a more in depth adventure, I’d recommend journeying to more off the beaten track destinations, for example Takayama and Shirakawago.
My favourite city is Kyoto which was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years The city has learned the art of balancing its incredibly old, rich culture (17 sites are listed as UNESCO World Heritage here) with the contemporary world, meaning you can explore anything from ancient Buddhist temples and elaborate palaces to the art of manga and nouveau cuisine. Long a centre of religion, culture, food and art, it is in the quiet backstreets and tranquil temples that Kyoto’s traditional soul dwells – hurrying between engagements with the flawless geisha, in the tea ceremony or in the quiet contemplation of a zen garden – whilst it can be easy to miss, it’s also easy to find. During cherry blossom season (sakura) Kamo River is lined with cherry blossoms and so is a beautiful walk, and the Imperial Palace Park has cherry blossoms throughout. Stroll the Philosopher’s Path for more cherry blossom action (the whole path is lined with them) as well as hidden shrines and temples.
- Is Japan Expensive? Japan is actually very comparable to the Ireland & the UK when it comes to costs. In main cities like Tokyo, you may find it is a little more expensive than in the quieter, more rural areas. If you head outside of the cities, you’ll find that prices are lower for things like food, drink and shopping.
I would recommend ordering some Japanese Yen (¥) from your bank before you go so you have some cash for when you arrive . Should you need more money while you are out there you can find ATM machines fairly easily in many parts of Japan – particularly in large cities like Tokyo, where 7/11 stores are everywhere – and the cost of withdrawing money from these ATMs is decent. Just be aware that you may be charged international withdrawal fees from your bank at home, so it’s best to check this before you leave. Credit/Debit cards are accepted in large stores, but some smaller business still only deal in cash.
- Do you need a Visa? Irish & UK Passport holders do not require a tourist visa to entre Japan as long as you have a confirmed return flight home and not staying longer than 30 days.
- Do I need a guide / should I book a tour? I would most definitely recommend booking a fully inclusive tour ( Meals / Excursions / Travel included ) with an award winning guide to make sure you do not miss anything. (Not that I’m biased) If you’ve never travelled to Japan before, the language barrier may be a little daunting. On a tour all you need to do is seat back relax and enjoying everything this amazing country has to offer. You would not be disappointed.