July 25, 2024

Japan has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for Aussies who are looking to take a holiday in 2024.

Thanks to their weak Yen which makes our dollar go further, relatively short and inexpensive flights, plus a wealth of things to do from surfing and skiing to exploring big cities, it makes sense that Japan is so popular.

So what should you know before you go?

9Travel chatted with a verified Japan tourism expert to get all the hot tips.

Luvena Lee has been a travel agent with Flight Centre for nearly 11 years, and is one of the top consultants in NSW.

Here’s what she recommends.

READ MORE: What to know about Japan’s famous cherry blossom season

female tourists walking together through Shinjuku in Tokyo at dusk.
Tokyo is a hot destination for Aussies this year. (Getty)

Best things to do in Japan

“Honestly, there’s no bad place to visit in Japan, it all just depends on what you like to do. You’ll likely be flying into Tokyo, which is worth at least a few days of your trip,” Lee said.

The other top two cities for visitors are Kyoto and Osaka. 

Lee says that Kyoto, the original capital of Japan, is a must-visit.

“Kyoto is a bit more similar to Melbourne, whereas Tokyo is more like Sydney,” she explains. Kyoto is easy to navigate and is set on a grid, while Tokyo – like Sydney – is more of a jumbled mess of streets.

Kyoto is also a better place to get a sense of Japanese culture, with temples, traditional older buildings, and Shinto shrines. 

READ MORE: Secret spots to visit in Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan springtime at the historic Higashiyama distirct.
Kyoto has more of a historical and cultural side than Tokyo. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Money in Japan

Get a Suica card. It’s basically like a prepaid money card which you can load cash onto, and use on public transport, in stores, and at vending machines.

Also carry cash ravel Money Group General Manager Scott McCullough says.

“While most large merchants in Japan accept cash or card, a lot of smaller businesses and some transport operators only accept cash, so it’s important to make sure you have some Yen in hand before you travel,” he said.

“If you’re short on time and looking for the most convenient way to do it, we’ve recently launched the equivalent of UberEats, but for foreign cash. It offers same-day delivery or pick-up to your home or workplace and is available across Travel Money Oz’s 80 plus stores nationwide.”

READ MORE: The key things to know about visiting Paris on the cheap

Aerial view at dusk of night skiing in Niseko Village. Niseko is a popular destination for ski resorts in Japan
Want to go skiing but can’t afford Switzerland? Try Japan. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit Japan

If you want to ski, visit Japan between December and April. There are a few places that are popular with Aussies: There’s an area called Hakuba, which you can access by train from Tokyo, or up at the very north of the island called Hokkaido is a ski area called Niseko.

If you want to see the cherry blossoms, March is your best bet.

If you hate the cold, try to visit in the middle of the year – they have opposite seasons to us so experience winter over Christmas.

(Nine)

How long do I need in Japan?

Lee says that you need at least seven to ten days in Japan.

You could spend a month exploring the country, but that’s not always possible when it comes to getting time off work. 

If you can aim to be in the country for two weeks – or 12 days when you factor in flights there and back – you’ll be cheering.

READ MORE: Magnetic Island is Queensland’s most underrated tourist destination

row of cherry blossom trees along Ooka river, Yokohama, Japan
Cherry blossom season comes annually in March. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When is cherry blossom season in Japan

This can vary based on the year, and where you are.

9Travel has a full guide to seeing cherry blossoms in 2024, including the best places to go and the predicted blooming dates.

So where will you see them?

Tokyo’s Ueno Park has more than 1000 cherry blossom trees in its surrounds, with most of them creating a tunnel-like effect along both sides of the pathway between Keisei Ueno Station and the Tokyo National Museum.

You could also hire a paddle boat to see the cherry blossoms on the banks of Chidorigafuchi Park’s river and their reflection in the water while in it.

Wakayama

The trending destination where your dollar goes even further

What to know about Japan’s culture and customs

The Japanese culture tends to be very polite and reserved, says Lee. One thing that she notices when she’s there is that public transport is quiet. “They don’t really talk,” she says. “Everyone kind of keeps themselves.”

In a similar vein, don’t jaywalk. “If the street is completely empty, and there’s no cars, they will still wait for the lights,” she says.

Also, tipping definitely isn’t a thing, and workers will find it strange if you try to tip.

Train travel in Japan explained

The Japan Rail pass is the best way to get around the country on their high-speed trains.

READ MORE: Broken Hill was voted the best town in NSW

Paragliding at Mount Fuji, Japan
Trains are the best way to get around the country. (Shizuoka Tourism)

While there are 7-day passes which offer unlimited rides, prices on these have gone up, so it’s worth doing some rough maths before you go. If you’re jumping from place to place, it makes sense. But if you’re travelling slowly, maybe not.

“Have a rough plan of what you want to do. And then work backwards to see if it’s actually worthwhile purchasing a seven-day pass, or if you could get away with doing point-to-point tickets. 

Visa requirements

For short stays in Japan under 90 days, you don’t need to get a visa.

Australians are eligible for Japan’s visa exemption scheme for short-stay tourism and business travel.

Your passport must be valid up until your date of departure from the country.

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