Welcome to The Land of the Rising Sun! If you’re heading to East Asia, make sure you stop in Japan and hop around some of the 6,852 islands to really experience it in all its glory. The four main islands are Honsu (the largest island), Hokkaido (the northernmost island), Kyushu (the most south-westerly island) and Shikoku (the smallest island), and they all have something different to offer. The capital of Japan is Tokyo, which is located on the East coast of the island of Honsu – fun fact: it’s the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with over 38 million people residing there!
Put on your shoes and start exploring!
There’s so much to see, so we understand why you’re looking at a holiday to Japan! The first part of your trip is to figure out your itinerary, when are you travelling? Is it ski season? How simple is it to get travel insurance to Japan? We can answer the final question – very, with Columbus Direct! The only tiring thing is the actual flight from the UK (depending on how well you can rest on planes!), everything else should be a breeze!
So now you know how easy it is to get your holiday insurance policy for your trip to Japan, how do you go about doing so? Well, simply fill in one of our quick quotes online for a rough guide and follow the steps to tailor the rest of your quote to suit your needs. If there’s something else that you’d like to add, feel free to give us a call to speak to an advisor who will do their best to accommodate you with additional travel insurance products. Purchasing holiday insurance is vital for any trip (at home or abroad), and Japan is no different. There’s no correct answer to which travel insurance is the best for visiting Japan, as it completely depends on each individual trip, but ensure you select the correct date range which covers your trip, and select “Worldwide – Excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean”.
Hit the ski slopes in Japan!
Lucky you if you’re planning on travelling during the ski season - Japan is home to over 500 ski resorts which all vary in size and difficulty up and down the country. Don’t forget, if you plan on hitting the slopes whilst you’re away, you will need to add Winter Sports Cover to your policy. Even the most experienced of skiers and snowboarders will need to have winter sports cover included on their policy to ensure that cover is included for that activity, and many more. Remember, the cheapest option is not always the best value travel insurance – with Columbus Direct, we cover your lift pass and equipment protection to name but a few benefits when you purchase your travel insurance for skiing in Japan with us.
Do I need deep pockets?
If you’re getting sold on the idea of visiting Japan, but wondering if it’s expensive to travel there – the good news is, because of the number of airlines battling each other to provide the most competitive prices, you’re now more likely than ever to find an affordable price for your flight to Japan!
The cost of flights will also depend on what time of the year you wish to travel. But which time of year is the best to visit Japan? Late spring (March – May) and late autumn (September - November) usually see clear skies and little rainfall and milder temperatures. If you’re heading for Spring, the Sakura festival usually takes place in April (Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka), although the earliest bloom can be in January in Hokkaido in the North, and as late as May in Okinawa in the South.
Cheaper flights can be found in the Winter months of December to February, and seeing Japan in a different season is like seeing a whole different country – not to mention the fantastic ski resorts which open around January time!
Which cities are the best to visit?
Japan is a big country, with 13 cities having a population of over 1 million people:
- Tokyo – The capital of Japan, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world.
- Yokohama – Japan’s most prominent port city, and Japan’s largest city.
- Osaka – A city which see’s a distinct four seasons a year.
- Nagoya – Another major port in Japan, but its main industry is automotive.
- Sapporo – Host city for the 1972 Winter Olympics, it has a large draw for snow sport enthusiasts.
- Kobe – Home to many international corporation headquarters, and the famous Arima Onsen hot spring resort.
- Kyoto – The Historic Monuments of Kyoto are listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, a site not to be missed.
- Fukuoka – Japan’s youngest major city, and the fastest growing population.
- Kawasaki – In the middle of Tokyo and Yokohama, Kawasaki has excellent transport links to reach the centre of Tokyo.
- Saitama – Excellent transport links to Tokyo as the shinkansen runs directly through the city.
- Hiroshima – Head to Hiroshima for their okonomiyaki – a pancake which literally means “what you like”.
- Yono – In 2001, Urawa and Ōmiya merged to form the new city of Yono.
- Sendai – Nicknamed the city of trees due to the zelkova trees which line the streets.
What can I do while I’m there?
There is a whole host of things to see and do in the above cities, but where exactly are the best places to visit in Japan? It mainly comes down to personal preference, everyone travels for different reasons. If you like to explore and learn about the local culture, sport is a good start. Sumo, Kyudo, Baseball and Judo are all as iconic as the last, and you’ll be able to see them in action (or have a go yourself) in many places across Japan.
There are 4 UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites in Japan that you can visit, and 18 cultural sites. Himeji-Jo is a 17th century landmark, and an almost perfect example of how the Japanese constructed their castles, and is about an hour drive West from the city of Kobe. The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine is on the island of Itsukushima, which is roughly translated to mean “island dedicated to the gods” hence the building of the shrine on the outskirts of the island. You can visit here on a ferry from Hiroshima, as the island is in Hiroshima bay.
If you’d like to visit cities to find some more fun, touristy places, Tokyo should most definitely be your port of call. For example, animal cafes are hugely popular at the minute, they even have an Owl café you can take a selfie with, there are Super Mario driving experiences based on the popular Nintendo game, and if you’re okay with heights, you can go up both the Tokyo Tower, and the Tokyo Skytree (the world’s tallest tower).
Top tips if you’re visiting Japan:
Japanese Yen comes in denominations of ¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000 and ¥10000, while the coins come in denominations of ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500. At the time of writing (May 2019), £1 is roughly equivalent to ¥142, so a ¥10000 note isn’t going to buy you a new car – don’t panic!
Handy phrases to know in Japanese are:
- Hello = Konnichiwa
- Goodbye = Sayonara
- Thanks = Arigato
- I’m Sorry = Gomen Nasai
- Yes = Hai
- No = Iie
- Please = Koudasai
Depending on where in Japan you’re visiting, will depend on when to avoid the rain. Japan is very geographically diverse, so it’s best to do some research on the region of Japan that you are visiting to see what weather you’re likely to encounter.
Before you travel, it’s advisable that you contact your GP to see which vaccinations (if any) you will need prior to your trip. Ensure that you allow them to be administered at least 6 weeks before you travel. You can read more about travel vaccinations on the NHS website here.
Also, as Japan is in a constant threat of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, it would be advisable to stay up to date with weather news from the area you’re staying in, and if there are any imminent threats, these will be updated via the gov.uk travel advice page, or the Japan Meteorological Agency website.
What else might be good to know?
Wondering what to eat in Japan? The Japanese eat more fish than any other people in the world, consuming around 17 million tonnes every year! They also import the largest amount of shrimp, around a third of the total imported worldwide. They also love ramen, with more than 5 billion servings of instant ramen noodles consumed yearly, and don’t get us started on the Kobe beef!
If you’re exploring the cities and find that you’re feeling a bit peckish, Japan has around 5 and a half million vending machines which you’ll find on nearly every street corner and sell nearly everything you could possibly need, from snacks, to light bulbs!
Sport is massive in Japan, too. Like we mentioned above, there are a few which are popular, with the traditional martial arts being taught in schools and dojos, and other sports like track and field and team sports such as football and baseball being a popular activity.
Sumo follows many rituals which have been in place from the beginning, salt throwing is a Shinto ritual of purification, they also stamp their feet in the ring to remove any evil spirits from below before their bout.
Kyudo is the Japanese martial art of archery. The bows are longer and more asymmetrical compared to bows in Western archery, and you also rest the arrow on your thumb. If you have a chance whilst you’re visiting Japan, book to try your hand at the ancient sport.
Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, there are currently 12 teams competing in the Nippon Professional Baseball organization across two leagues, the Central and the Pacific leagues. The highest capacity stadium in the leagues belongs to the Hanshin Tigers, who call the 47,757-seater Hanshin Koshien Stadium home. Japanese baseball is so popular, that teams from the MLB (Major League Baseball) in the USA play a “best-of” series of matches against teams in the NPB in Japan.
Let’s fly away…
Getting to Japan from the UK isn’t going to be a walk in the park, that’s for sure – the great circle distance from London Heathrow (LHR) to Tokyo Haneda (HND) is 9,615km! Flights from London Heathrow take around 11 hours and 40 minutes non-stop –yes, airlines do fly there non-stop! Japan Airlines, British Airways and ANA (All Nippon Airways) all fly directly to Japan from the UK, thanks to a fleet of long-range planes such as the Boeing 777 (ER – Extended Range) and 787’s (Dreamliner).
It goes without saying that travelling during off-peak seasons is your cheapest option of visiting Japan, this means travelling in late Autumn time (December), avoiding the Christmas/New Year holidays, up until the start of March.