If you’re anything like me, you get super excited before any holiday flights and struggle to get any sleep during the nights before. Unfortunately, with somewhere like Japan that’s likely a pretty long journey, which means you’re going to need to prepare! So, how do you easily avoid jet lag when traveling to Japan?
Getting into Japan’s local time as soon as possible and staying with it, as well as not booking stop-over flights is perhaps the best way to avoid jet lag. Do your best to stay up during the day and don’t go to bed too early – after a day or two you should be as close to ‘normal’ as possible.
Couple this with understanding how to survive your flight to Japan, and some of the other top tips on this page, and you’ll end up in the land of the rising sun ready to go out exploring! Let’s get into it!
Before the flight
1. Get on the time schedule of Japan
This is probably the most repeated suggestion about how to reduce jet lag in Japan, and that’s for good reason.
If you’re in the US, Japan’s time could be anything up to 14 hours ahead so you really need to plan your trip well. Especially if you’re slightly short on time.
This is likely to be a lot harder to achieve if you have a busy schedule or are part of a large family with kids, so your routine may have to be adapted rather than changed completely.
Any amount of change will make a difference in the long run, even if for just a few preceding days of your holiday, you get up and go to bed slightly earlier or later depending on when your flight is.
2. Pick a flight that flies overnight (allowing you to sleep and wake up early)
When traveling on a long-haul flight to Japan, I’m always a fan of one that travels overnight. Not only does this allow me to catch up on some sleep if I’ve switched around my schedule over the last few days (to get on Japan’s time), but it also helps the time pass a lot quicker.
Another great bonus of traveling at night is that by arriving in Japan early in the morning, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you to spend how you like. That’s another reason why I love Japan’s last sleeper train so much!
It’s also much nicer to be able to actually see the place you’re traveling to when you’re on a transfer. Even if that transfer is just a walk from the trainstation to your hotel, that’s not as fun at night!
But then again, I find it easier to sleep at pretty much any time than force myself to stay awake. You may think differently!
3. Pack comfy clothes… And perhaps this dog if they let you…
This technically won’t help you prevent or reduce jet lag to Japan directly, but I highly advise packing extremely comfy clothing. There’s absolutely nothing worse than being uncomfortable on your flight to Japan.
Obviously, I do imagine this is something most of you do anyway on most journeys, but it’s still worth mentioning because it’s such a good idea.
The theory is this: The comfier you are, the easier it will be to sleep, the more rested you are, the quicker you ‘Recover’, and the more you can make the most of your time in Japan.
You’re much better traveling to Japan in your comfy clothes and maybe feeling a little silly walking through the terminal with a dressing gown on than being extremely uncomfortable for 12 hours on a cramped flight. t’s just not worth it!
Saying that I remember my Grandad and Nanny used to get dressed up for their flights (Suits and everything) because it was such a special occasion.
Oh, how times have changed!
4. Don’t book stopover flights (If you can afford not to)
I get it. We’ve already talked about why flights to Japan are expensive (and how to get them cheaper!), but sometimes our only option to actually get to a place is the cheapest one.
In this case, that means possibly booking a stopover flight.
As much as I’ve promised myself never to fly with a budget airline again, I’m getting on a Ryanair flight in 3 days’ time…
But, if you have the money and it’s not going to impact your life too much, then I highly recommend booking a direct flight to Japan to reduce jet lag.
The first time I went to Japan I had the most disjointed flight I’d ever been on. I flew from the UK-Italy, then changed airports using a cab, and finally flew on to Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
Let me tell you now, trying to stay awake at 4 in the morning in an Italian airport to catch a delayed flight is really not ideal.
So the moral of the story is if jet lag is of huge concern to you and you have extra money to spend, choose the direct flight!
5. Get some exercise
Getting exercise before your flight to Japan is a great way to prepare your body for the long journey. You’ll prime yourself to be able to sleep when you need to, and feel much better when it comes to any potential jet lag effects.
So hit the gym, or exersise like the Japanese do. Either way, it’s a fantastic way to avoid Jet lag in Japan!
During the flight
6. Try to sleep
If all else fails, trying to sleep on your flight to Japan is likely to be the best course of action.
Before you catch those Z’s, work out what time you’ll be arriving in Japan and try to work around it.
For instance, if you’re landing in Japan in the early evening then you probably shouldn’t sleep the entire flight away. A couple of hours here and there is fine, but if you struggle to get to sleep then technically you’ll want to be tired when you arrive at your destination.
I find wearing noise-canceling headphones (like these Japanese ones) (or earphones) works extremely well for me. Make sure whatever you wear, they are comfy and can be worn for hours on end.
Also, I’ve just got a set of Bluetooth earphones that cannot be used with the airplane’s system, so make sure you take that into account if it’s something that bothers you.
During my flight to Japan when I moved out here, we flew with etihad. The first plane was newer and had access to Bluetooth technology with our earphones, but the second plane required us to use the ‘old fashioned’ plug in style.
7. Don’t drink caffeine
If you want to mess up your brain, circadian rhythm, and sleep schedule, the best way to do that is by drinking caffeine.
It takes anything up to 12 hours for caffeine to be completely gone from your system. That means it’s probably best to avoid the stuff from the moment you step out of your front door to the moment you arrive at your cute Japanese Airbnb.
If you’re looking for an alternative to coffee, I would suggest giving green tea a go. It’s relatively healthy for you, has less caffeine than a cup of tea, and rather than a short burst of energy, it works over a longer period of time.
And it’s keeping with the culture of Japan so it’s really a win-win!
Though, if you’re strongly affected by caffeine, I would give any drinks like this a wide birth until you arrive.
So when the drinks cart comes around, take a rain check on the coffee, but make sure you’ve packed your Tokyo Treat box!
After the flight
8. Stay with Japanese time
Don’t fall asleep. …or do, depending on the time you want to get there.
This is another reason I love arriving in Japan early, especially during spring. The sunrises are absolutely incredible so the ideal flight should land just before dawn and by the time you’re out of customs you should be presented with a beautiful golden glow.
It’s also a great chance to explore the city, even if you arrive at night.
Both airports are around an hour or so away from Tokyo with fantastic connections to the city with their world-famous train lines. Just be careful if you arrive too late, trains tend to stop just after midnight at the airport station.
Another great tip to get over jet lag (that can only be achieved once you’re off the plane) is grounding.
Grounding or ‘earthing’, is the practice of going barefoot as soon as possible to your destination to reset your internal body clock.
It works best with grass or dirt, but any outdoor surface should suffice. And there’s actually a lot of science to back this technique.
So it’s worth a try at least! ^_^
9. Visit an Onsen or Teahouse to help relax
If you know you’re highly affected by jet lag no matter how much you prepare, the only way to get over it is by resting.
Luckily you can rest and relax in Japan whilst still being culturally involved in the country.
There are a plethora of things to do in Tokyo (and the rest of the country) that are both extremely relaxing and culturally enriching at the same time.
I’ve written an entire post on the most relaxing spots in Tokyo to help you get over that first tiring day and make the most of your holiday to Japan.
At a glance, there are a few great options to choose from that can be found in almost any corner of Japan. And they’re perfect options if you have a day to kill but don’t feel like doing anything too active.
Tea Houses – Incredibly peaceful places all across Japan where you’ll experience a cup of tea like never before.
Onsen – Somewhere to rest your aching body after a flight a soak in the ancient waters of Japanese hot spring.
Parks – A place to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul by connecting with nature on a Japanese forest bathing walk. Arriving in Osaka? This park is the one I recommend visiting!
FAQs about jet lag in Japan
1. Do you get jet lag flying to Japan
I’ve never really got jet lag flying to Japan, but then again I’ve never had it on any long haul flight.
However, a lot of people do experience jet lag when flying to Japan, particularly if they are travelling across multiple time zones.
The severity of jet lag symptoms can vary from person to person and can depend on factors such as age, health, preparedness, comfort, and the direction of travel.
2. How bad is jet lag to Japan?
Jet lag can be quite bad for some people, and my partner often experiences it quite heavily. With symptoms ranging from mild fatigue and difficulty sleeping to more severe issues such as headaches, nausea, and disorientation, it really does pay to be prepared.
However, perhaps the most important thing is that you’ll be wasting valuable exploring time if you have to deal with these affects!
3. How long does it take to get over jet lag from Japan?
It can take several days to fully recover from jet lag after travelling to Japan. Whilst I don’t think you’ll have this big of a problem, it’s always the reason that I suggest to people they should do something relaxing on the first few days of their holiday.
However, the exact duration and severity of jet lag can vary from person to person. Some people may be able to adjust to the new time zone relatively quickly, while others may experience symptoms for a week or more. My partner often falling into the latter of those two categories!
4. Do you lose a day flying to Japan?
Depending on where you are flying from, it is possible to lose a day when travelling to Japan due to the time difference. For example, if you are flying from the United States to Japan, you may depart on a Monday and arrive on a Tuesday, even though the flight itself may only take around 12 hours.
I’ve written more about this and how to survive your flight in detail!
5. When should you sleep on the flight to Japan?
Completely preventing jet lag on your journey to Japan is impossible, but there are ways to mitigate its effects. When to sleep on a flight to Japan can depend on a variety of factors, including the length of the flight, your usual sleep schedule, and the time of day you arrive in Japan.
If you’re doing your best to avoid jet lag (and we are!), if you are flying during the night, it may be a good idea to try to sleep on the plane so that you arrive feeling more rested. However, if you are flying during the day, it may be better to stay awake and adjust to the local time zone as quickly as possible.
It may sound like a bit of a hassle to work it all out, but the airline you travel with will usually adjust everything accordingly in the plane. So will it may be night time, they might turn the lights on because of the local time it is in Japan. Easy! And a great way to avoid jet lag without you having to think about it that much!