Find inspiration for your Japan vacation, from sightseeing in the city and cultural immersion in the countryside to top picks and suggested itineraries
Arrive in Japan with a game plan. Discover the many events and festivals, temples and castles, theme parks and hot springs, beaches and outdoor activities that Japan has to offer. Whether you're passionate about sports, an art lover, a nature enthusiast, a history buff, a foodie, or just looking to relax on a beach, the possibilities for your Japan journey are endless.
Weather, Climate and Geography
Japan's land area stretches from the northernmost island of Hokkaido, close to Russia, to the subtropics of Okinawa. The weather varies greatly from region to region, so check the weather forecast for the areas you'll be traveling to.
Located in East Asia, Japan is a curved-shaped archipelago with the Sea of Japan along the west coast and the Pacific Ocean along the east coast. Its closest neighbors are South Korea, Russia, and Taiwan near the southernmost Okinawan islands known as Yonaguni . Japan's size is often compared to that of Germany and it is slightly smaller than the state of California and somewhat larger than the United Kingdom.
Japan's land is made up of dense forest and mountainous terrain covering 70 percent of the country, held in place by the Japan Alps —the series of mountain ranges spanning the central area of the main island of Honshu. In some regions of Japan, Kyushu in particular, highly geologically active volcanoes dominate, and eruptions are common.
Along the coastlines and flat areas, you will find many of the major cities—in some cases built on reclaimed land. There are many beautiful beaches with some great surfing spots on the country's peninsulas—the Boso Peninsula , Izu Peninsula , and Kii Peninsula among others—as well as many places to snorkel and dive. Heading further south, you will reach the subtropics of Okinawa and its outlying islands.
National parks and protected ecological zones house a range of distinctive wildlife and geographical points of interest from Akan-Mashu National Park in the wilds of Hokkaido, to the UNESCO World Heritage accredited Ogasawara Islands located 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo in the Pacific Ocean.
Many islands are uninhabited and nature is beginning to take some of them back in dramatic fashion—visit Tomogashima Island and its abandoned and now overgrown red-brick military buildings.
Weather through the seasons
Every season in Japan has its charms, brought by the seasonal changes in temperature and weather. Read below to learn what distinguishes each season from the rest in Japan.
A welcome break from the winter cold, spring is celebrated throughout the country with the arrival of the cherry blossoms. Starting in the south and gradually moving north, the blossoms bloom between March and May depending on your location. Cool and breezy with generally sunny skies, spring is a comfortable time to get out and explore the cities and countryside. Leading into summer, the rainy season begins in late May and early June.
Summer throughout Japan is stiflingly hot and intensely humid—make sure to keep hydrated. The beaches are packed, firework displays explode above the nation's rivers, and street festivals are held around every corner. The mountains offer some respite from the major city cauldrons. Be aware that September brings typhoons that can thwart you travel plans.
As the weather cools, the autumn colors light-up the countryside. Starting in the northern island of Hokkaido and traveling south, the dazzling autumn leaves blanket the country between late September and early December. Similar to spring, the fall season is perfect for outdoor exploration and a great time to taste what's in Japan's larder.
The ski season begins and the northern areas are covered with Japan's peerless powder snow. Crisp and cool, the weather remains clear throughout January on the mainland—becoming a little gray and uninspiring in February. Warm up with some hot sake and a bowl of bubbling hot-pot.
Passport & Visas
Any foreign visitor entering Japan must have a valid passport for the duration of their stay, and all visitors must comply with the conditions of their visas. See below for commonly asked questions about Japan visa requirements.
Do I need a visa for Japan?
Citizens of 68 countries coming to Japan for tourism purposes including Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, UK and almost all European nations don't require a visa (rules and conditions apply) and will be granted permission for short-term stay upon arrival.
Visitors from outside these 68 countries must apply for a visa in advance. Click here to link to the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website for further information.
Even if you are a citizen of a country that doesn't require a visa, make sure to check the official rules for Japan visa requirements as they can periodically change.
Japanese law requires that all short-term foreign visitors must have proof of onward travel (departure) from Japan.
All short-term foreign visitors to Japan are photographed and fingerprinted upon arrival and must carry their passport with them in Japan at all times.
Working and engaging in paid activities on a short-term stay visa is strictly forbidden.
How long can I stay in Japan without a visa?
Japan immigration laws state that visitors from 68 countries are able to travel in Japan for up to 90 days without a visa:
Stays of up to 15 days: Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand
Stays of up to 30 days: United Arab Emirates
Stays of up to 90 days: other countries and regions
This is provided visitors have a valid passport for the duration of their stay and don't engage in any paid work or activities.
Citizens of the 68 countries with savings of over 30 million yen are eligible to stay in Japan for up to one year for sightseeing or recreational purposes under the Longer Stays Program. If the applicant's spouse does not apply as an accompanying traveler and wishes to stay separately under this program, the applicant and his/her spouse must own savings equivalent to more than 60 million Japanese yen in total. Children are not allowed to accompany, and other rules apply. Visas must be obtained before traveling to Japan; click here for more information.
Citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland, and the UK may extend their stay for another 90 days. Apply at the nearest Japan immigration bureau before the initial 90 days expire and pay a small processing fee. Click here to link to the official Immigration Bureau of Japan website for more information.
I want to work in Japan. How do I apply for a work visa?
Foreign nationals wanting to work in Japan require an appropriate working visa. Japan visa requirements say working or engaging in any paid activities on a short-term stay or tourist visa is strictly forbidden.
Work visas are categorized into different types according to defined professional fields, with each requiring specific experience and qualifications.
A job offer in Japan is required to apply for most types of work visas.
Before a working visa can be issued, you will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from your prospective employer, and approved by the Bureau of Immigration. This document is a preliminary screening process that says holders meet the conditions for landing in Japan and being considered for a visa.
For more information on how to apply for a working visa, click here
Can I get a working holiday visa to Japan?
Citizens of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK are all eligible to apply for a working holiday visa to Japan.
The working holiday visa allows an initial six-month stay in Japan, with the possibility of up to two six-month extensions. The purpose of the visa is for travel, but working-holiday visa holders can undertake limited work to supplement their travel funds if necessary.
Eligibility requirements vary according to applicant's age and the maximum number of visas that can be issued per country per year.
How do I get a student visa to study in Japan?
If you are a citizen of one of the 68 countries with which Japan has a general visa waiver agreement and if you plan on studying at a Japanese language school for under 90 days, you only need a valid passport.
Those who are not citizens of these 68 countries, or those wishing to study and/or train in Japan for longer periods of time, will need to apply for a visa. For further information about studying in Japan and applying for the appropriate visa, please click here
I want to stay longer in Japan. Are there any longer stay programs?
Yes, there are. With the introduction of the Longer Stays Program, it is now possible to stay in Japan for up to one year. To be eligible, foreign nationals and accompanying spouses must be from countries/regions to which Japan implements visa exemption measures—children are not allowed to accompany. Foreign nationals must be over the age of 18, and have savings that equate to 30 million Japanese yen. If the applicant's spouse does not apply as an accompanying traveler and wishes to stay separately under this program, the applicant and his/her spouse must own savings equivalent to more than 60 million Japanese yen in total.
Subscription to a private medical travel insurance policy which covers death, injury and illness during his/her stay. The period of stay is six months. However, it can be extended to one year with a Permission for Extension of Period of Stay (available only once). It is necessary to obtain a specified visa of Designated Activities in advance from Japanese embassies or consulates that exercise jurisdiction over the applicant's domicile to enter Japan under this program.
Foreign nationals who stay for a mid-long term in Japan—including those under this program—are required to go through all relevant procedures at a municipal office . Contact the Immigration Information Center for further information. A multilingual service is available.
Tipping in Japan
Tipping culture in Japan is a little different
If you are from a country where tipping is routinely practiced, it may come as a surprise that there is no such culture in Japan. This might be especially shocking as the standard of customer service in Japan is often regarded as the best in the world. If you are visiting bars, cafes, or restaurants, taking taxis or staying in hotels, there is simply no need to tip.
There is one case, however, when tipping might be appropriate. If you have a private guide, or interpreter—someone who is used to western practices—then they may accept a tip from you (although it is certainly not expected). If you do decide to tip, make sure to put any bills in an envelope. You can buy these at convenience stores or 100 yen shops.