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A Guide to Japan for First-Timers

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

Ancient traditions meet modern, world-leading technology in Japan. With a landscape that is more than two-thirds mountainous, speedy bullet trains connect temples to castles to gardens to architectural wonders. It’s time to discover Japan.

Map of Japan

1. Spend the night in the past

Immersed in ancient traditions, Japanese Ryokan inns originate from the Edo period when they offered travelers accommodation. They typically feature a futon and tatami-matted rooms. Many Ryokan also feature public baths or hot springs.

2. Eat up

Japan is famed for its fresh and seasonal cuisine which range from traditional and familiar to exotic and trend-setting. Paired with their obsession for matcha or green tea drinks, it’s easy to see why Japanese cuisine is popular around the world. Get familiar with some of Japan’s culinary highlights in our Japan food guide.

3. Visit the islands

Japan is composed of many islands, each offering a completely different experience. From islands which act as protective havens for rabbits to popular Miyajima Island, inhabited by a herd of friendly deer, there’s a unique island to interest all.

4. Marvel at the beauty of the blossoms

Japan is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms which come out at the beginning of spring, usually in March and April. The Sakura is Japan’s national flower and a symbol of renewal and hope. Read more about the beautiful blooms in our blog.

Geishas in Kyoto

5. Get in touch with the past

Kyoto, the country’s former capital, preserves much of traditional life in Japan, including the lives of the Geisha. Wander Gion District where the popular female entertainers go about their daily routine, dine in an Izakaya and replenish your Zen at shrines and temples.

6. Ride the infamous bullet train

Fitting in with Japan’s reputation for cutting-edge technology, the iconic bullet train speeds through the Japanese countryside. Known as the “Shinkansen”, the trains are famous for their high-speed and punctuality. Discover more about the iconic trains in our blog.

7. Pay your respects in the city of peace

Visit the only remains of pre-war Hiroshima in a leafy city that has managed to rebuild itself. The A-Bomb Dome stands tall, surrounded by the Peace Memorial Park, as a constant reminder of the day that changed history.

8. Scale Japan’s highest mountain

Journey to the stations of Mt Fuji, the near perfect shaped volcano to the south of Tokyo. The 3,776m tall mountain features heavily in images of Japan and was granted World Heritage status in 2013. Nearby town Hakone offers spectacular mountain views of the across water and through tree tops.

9. Stroll through the parks

Japan is a highly dense country which makes the space for parks all the more special. Stroll through bamboo forests, relax at Zen gardens and celebrate spring beneath beautiful cherry blossoms planted along the rivers. Japan’s parks are most popular in autumn when foliage changes color and spring when cherry blossom trees are in full bloom.

10. Visit a themed restaurant or café

In a country where food can be bought on the corner of every street, it’s no surprise that sometimes food gets a makeover. Japan is home to many themed restaurants and cafes, from cute and cuddly cat cafes to bizarre and colorful robot restaurants. Themed stores are found all over the country.

Halong Bay

Tips and tricks

Where to stay

For the best hotels in Japan, check out our latest Japan brochure.

Getting there

Flights operate directly between Australia and Japan.


Japan’s climate is generally temperate with four distinct seasons, winter from December to February, spring from March to May, summer from June to August and autumn from September to November.

Vietnam's climate

When to go

The best time to visit Japan is during autumn and Spring when parks are livened by beautiful colors of autumn leaves changing color and bright cherry blossoms. More adventurous winter sports available in the north of the country. For more information, read our guide on when to visit Japan.


The currency used is the Japanese yen.

Did you know?

Japan is made up of 6,852 islands!

Top Tip

Most ATMs won’t accept your bankcard. Only international banks such as HSBC or ATMs at 7-Elevens or post offices will accept foreign cards.

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