After living in Japan for almost ten months, there are a few things that have become obvious. The food is fantastic, the public transport is beyond convenient, and there are far too many places to visit in a year, let alone a holiday.
So if knowing where to visit in Japan was becoming an issue to me, I thought it may be a problem you guys would face as well. So, I decided to build a ‘Where should you visit in Japan’ quiz to help give you an idea of where to start your search.
Bear in mind the result may not be exactly what you thought, and if that’s the case, just send me a message and I’ll do my best to help you figure out your next grand Japan destination.
By the way, I’ve also made a ‘Should you move to Japan’ quiz. It’s a bit of fun, but should also help set you on the right foot if you’re considering making the move. Again, just send me a message if you want to chat about any of the logistics involved!
Considerations before taking a trip to Japan
Before we talk a little bit about how to choose the destination to travel to in Japan, let’s go over a couple of things you’ll need to make that trip successful.
Top Tip: Unsure if you’ve budgeted correctly for your trip to Japan? I’ve made a Japan travel calculator just for you!
Get yourself a cheap flight
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The cost of a flight is something that can make or break your holiday budget.
I’m undoubtedly going to sound like a broken record because I truly believe these guys offer the best way to get dirt-cheap flights to Japan.
All you have to do is sign up for an exclusive (yet free!) membership at Going, and they’ll send you the best deals, and mistake fare prices (the one we’re most interested in!) for your flight to Japan.
I saved a family member 90% on their ticket price recently, hopefully, it could absolutely do the same for you when you as well.
Figuring out finance options
If you’re in need of a multi-currency account to pool your cash together, or simply want a card that you can use abroad without incurring fees, Wise is the company to choose. I’ve used them for a long time and they’re ideal for travelers!
If you’re staying over here long term, you may have to open up a Japanese bank account, and paying directly from Wise is a great way to cut out those pesky hidden fees!
It’s hard to suggest exactly how much you’ll need to take a trip to Japan as a lot of that is dependent on your financial circumstances and personal preferences. As a slightly obvious rule of thumb, cities are going to be more expensive, as are the popular periods in the year like Sakura season and kōyō.
As I’m writing this, it’s Summer in Japan. While the flights are somewhat expensive, the hotels and the actual cost of things are incredibly cheap at the moment. So, make sure you do a bit of research first to make sure you have an appropriate budget.
You’ll be happy to know that, in general, Japan is a very safe country to visit.
Crime rates are low, and you rarely have to worry about petty theft or anything like that. Of course, these things can always happen, but I feel 100 times safer here than I did in the UK or any other country for that matter.
In terms of natural disasters, Japan is well-prepared for earthquakes and typhoons thanks to its advanced early warning systems and incredible infrastructure. And it’s a high possibility that you will be in an earthquake when you move to Japan, but most are nothing more than a small and brief shake.
Japan also has a great healthcare system, so you’ll be in safe hands should anything happen while you’re out here. Just make sure you get travel insurance as well!
The culture difference
One of the biggest things to take into consideration when traveling to Japan is the cultural difference. While it’s true that parts of Japan are the ‘wacky’ and ‘crazy’ Japan you’ve likely seen on social media, there are a number of deeper differences that may affect your time here. That said, you’ll usually be fine as long as you’re polite.
The language barrier is perhaps one of the biggest challenges, but with enough effort, you’ll get by. It’s important to respect the culture and customs of Japan when you travel here; try to learn at least a little bit.
Even if you never become fluent, everyone will appreciate the effort!
In terms of food, there are a lot of traditional Japanese dishes that will take some time to get used to. But that shouldn’t be too much of an issue unless you’re staying with a Japanese family (even then, it depends on what they eat) or staying in a temple.
10 Ways to Figure Out Where to Travel to in Japan
1. Research online
Researching online is definitely the main way to figure out where to travel in Japan. At least, it’s my main way of figuring it out.
I love browsing through different blogs, reading people’s stories, and getting to the bottom of what is and isn’t a good area to go to. Naturally, you’ll have to pick out which sources you actually listen to, which is more important now with the addition of Ai.
Usually, if you can see someone’s face, they talk in a friendly way, have their own photos or video, and have a great about me page, you’ll be in safer hands. At least, that’s what I try to do, an I don’t let ai write my work for me. I’ve actually been to these places and had these experiences.
2. Japan Travel documentaries and videos
For those of you that are visual learners, watching videos and documentaries is a great way to get inspired on where you should visit in Japan, and more to the point, what places are actually out there. Yep, this is probably the only time you’ll actually be told to go and watch Netflix and Youtube!
A few of the best documentaries for people visiting Japan are Joanna Lumley’s Japan, James May: Our Man in Japan, Queer Eye: We’re in Japan, and Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories.
Those should give you an overview of not just the best places to visit in Japan, but also the culture within it. Much of which you may be exposed to on your trip.
Of course, there are plenty of JYoutubers worth watching as well. Check out that article I wrote a while back for a few awesome YouTubers in Japan that deserves your attention.
3. Read travel books and guides
Straight off the bat, I love books. If they didn’t cost me money it would easily be my favorite way of deciding what to do and where to go, but sadly they do.
Sure, you can go the obvious way and grab any number of guidebooks like a geek in Japan and even my Tokyo and Osaka Bucket list, but there are other ways that people often forget about.
I’m currently reading ‘The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan’ – a story told by Alan Booth of the time he walked from the very north to the very south of Japan (it’s freaking good by the way). Check it out here.
While I’m not suggesting that’s something you’ll want to try, the insights you can get from a book like this are invaluable. Sure, it won’t have up-to-date information on things to do in the area, but you’ll get the general vibe of a lot of places as well as learn about several you’ve never heard of. The perfect stepping-off point for a load more research.
Look for books written by experienced travelers or locals for a more authentic perspective. It’ll take more time than randomly picking something off the shelves, but if you know a little about the author, you’ll trust their opinion all the more, and be way happier with your itinerary choices.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, Books and Bao, one of my favorite book content creators has written a list of must-read books if you’re traveling to Japan. That’s a lot of inspiration to help you decide where you should go!
4. Consider your interests
It’s all very well and good to be told by a book where you should go, but it’s also important to think about what kind of holiday you want to have before you start researching. I like the countryside, but you may prefer the draw of the bigger cities. Either way, you can likely do both, it’ll just take a bit of planning.
Are you interested in historical sites, bustling cities, natural beauty, culinary experiences, traditional arts, or modern pop culture? Japan offers a wide range of options to cater to various interests.
If you don’t know what you’re interested in, that’s alright! Just take some time and have a click around the site and see what kind of places take your fancy. Make sure to spend some time watching those documentaries and reading some of those books as well 😉
5. Seek recommendations
Ask friends, family, or colleagues who have visited Japan for their recommendations. No one you know been to Japan? Send me a message and I’ll help you!
I always find this the best and quickest way to figure out what is and isn’t worth a visit. Of course, you’ll have to take into account that we all have different interests, but it’s a good way to get the general vibe of an area.
Looking for a bigger discussion? Places like Reddit and other forums provide great places to hear other peoples stories and experiences around certain places in Japan:
A few subreddits worth checking out:
- r/japan – If you’re looking for practical information or general chit-chat with other people about Japan, this is the place to come.
- r/japanpics – A subreddit that’s packed full of photos of Japan. It’s a great starting point for you to get inspired about where to travel in Japan next.
- r/japanlife – If you’re considering living in Japan, this is the subreddit worth browsing beforehand.
- r/japantravel – Here you’ll find itineraries people have followed, area reviews, and a helping hand planning your trip from people that have already done it.
6. Check seasonal attractions
Consider the time of year you plan to visit Japan and look into seasonal attractions. Cherry blossom viewing in spring, fall foliage in autumn, or snow festivals in winter are just a few examples of unique experiences that vary by season and location.
Of course, they come with more things that need researching because these times of year may cost more, be busier, or have certain restrictions on places you can go and events that are on.
For instance, there’s no point wasting time researching the best places to hike in Japan if you’re stuck doing it in the rainy season. Well, unless you really like hiking!
7. Follow travel influencers
Following select travel influencers or photographers on social media platforms such as Instagram or YouTube is a great way to figure out where you should travel to in Japan. However, be careful not to take advice from everyone you find.
Unfortunately, a lot of these influencers grab onto the most wacky and weird thing they find, and smash it onto their socials in the hopes of the most clicks. Sadly that means a lot of the content you’ll find on places like Instagram may be very similar.
For YouTubers, check out the article I linked above in number 2, and I’ve also written one for the best Instagram accounts to follow before going to Japan as well.
Those people often share stunning photos and travel stories from different parts of Japan, which is a great way to get inspired before your trip. You’ll also find a few accounts in that article that have absolutely nothing to do with traveling, but it might inspire you in some other way to choose the perfect next destination!
8. Explore off-the-beaten-path destinations
I think there are a number of popular attractions and places that you really need to see when you come to Japan, naturally, some of those are going to be touristy and pretty busy. However, no matter what kind of time constraints you’re under, I think it’s important to step away from the ordinary when you can.
Sometimes I like to browse around on Google Maps, and when I find a small town or city in an area near to me, I decide to go there.
With a little bit of research, this could be a fun way of discovering off-the-beaten-track areas, which is an especially good idea during popular times of the year. Once you’ve found an area, type it into Google, your favorite blog (this one? ;)), Instagram, or Youtube, and see what comes up.
You may end up with a far more authentic experience than you first imagined!
9. Consider logistical factors
Sometimes logistics and practicalities make the decisions for you. Even though I’d love to fly to Okinawa or Ishigaki this summer, it’s likely going to be too much money and I don’t really have time for it either.
While you may end up feeling a little sad that you can’t fit in absolutely everything you’ve planned to, or can’t visit that prefecture you wanted, remember you can always come back!
Take into account practical considerations like flight availability, transportation options within Japan, and the duration of your trip. Some destinations may be more easily accessible or convenient to include in your itinerary.
10. Take your time
Don’t rush the decision-making process. If you really don’t think you’ll be able to come back (and even if you think you will), it’s worth taking the time to make sure all the sides of Japan you want to see are in your itinerary.
Take your time to research, gather information, and compare different options. Plan an itinerary that allows you to explore multiple regions and experience the diversity that Japan has to offer.