Please make sure you have confirmed, round-trip/return air tickets to Japan. When checking in for your flight, most airlines will require you to have either a return ticket, or at least a ticket to a third destination following your stay in Japan. They may deny you boarding if you only have a one-way ticket.
Cash is still the best form of payment to carry in Japan, particularly outside big cities. Smaller shops, restaurants, and bars will usually only accept cash. Japan is a very safe country to travel in, and there is very little street crime. Many Japanese people routinely carry large amounts of cash with them. Furthermore, it can be time-consuming to exchange overseas currency even in Tokyo and Kyoto, especially anything other than USD, AUD, Euros and GBP. The best option is to purchase Japanese Yen cash before you leave home, or on arrival at the airport in Japan. Regular Japanese bank ATMs will not usually accept overseas bank cards or credit cards, although there are some ATMs in large cities that will (note that your credit card issuer will normally charge you a fee for taking out cash on your credit card). Some Post Offices as well as convenience store ATMs will also give you Yen cash with an overseas card. We recommend you contact your bank prior to travel to advise them of your dates in Japan so they are aware of your plans and do not erroneously block transactions.
How much money to bring
You will need to have cash to pay for lunches, dinners which are not included in your tour, drinks with meals, snacks and any gifts you wish to buy. We recommend JPY5,000 per person, per day. Please make sure you have this at the start of your tour.
Nationals of EU countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and some other countries do not require visas for Japan. Please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website to see if your country is exempt from applying for a visa in advance. It is your responsibility to check that you do not need a visa and Oku Japan can not accept responsibility if you are denied entry into Japan.
Japan has four distinct seasons, and the weather and temperatures change with the seasons. March is the end of winter with daytime highs of around 15o but cold nights. There may be snow in the mountain villages. April is very pleasant, with daytime highs of around 15-20°C . Towards the end of May it can become quite hot at lower altitudes (up to about 30°C). The rainy season lasts from the middle of June through to mid-July. You can expect daytime temperatures of about 15-20°C in October, and daytimes are often pleasant and warm into November. Short tropical cyclones can hit Japan between June and October. Mid-July to mid-September is very warm and very humid in most parts of Japan.
In the countryside we use small, family-run inns (minshuku and ryokan) where en-suite facilities may not be available. In cities we mainly use western-style hotels.
Please look at our accommodations page for more information about traditional Japanese accommodations.
One of the highlights of the tours is to taste real, home-made Japanese food. We recommend that you try to master chopsticks (o-hashi) before you go. Be prepared for the freshest of food. Japanese food is delicious. Fish, chicken, pork, rice, miso soup, tofu and vegetables are at the heart of many meals. It is not all raw fish, but sashimi will be offered, and really is worth trying. We will mostly sit on cushions on the floor at low tables for meals. So you should be able to sit comfortably on the floor - loose clothing is highly recommended.
We encourage clients to sample the full range of food provided by the inns on our tours whenever possible. The inns are proud of their set menus, which usually consist of a multitude of carefully-balanced and painstakingly-produced dishes. If you are travelling with others, you can easily swap dishes between you at mealtimes so that each member of your party eats what they like best.
Inns are usually happy to provide meat-free meals if we request them at the time of booking. We can also request meals which are meat-free and without fish and seafood, though fish and seafood feature heavily in the standard Japanese diet. If requesting meals without fish and seafood, please tell us if you can still accept soups and sauces containing the traditional fish stock called dashi. It is hard for the inns to produce meals without dashi and choices for vegans are limited.
For those with an allergy to wheat gluten, eating in Japan can be problematic. Soy sauce and miso (used in miso soup) contain gluten. While tofu does not contain gluten, it often is served with soy sauce.
Many inns will do their best to cater for special diets, but please submit requests to Oku Japan at the time of booking. It may not be possible to accommodate requests made afterwards. Please understand that some smaller inns may not have the facilities necessary to cook for those with special diets.
Please view our food page for more on traditional Japanese cuisine.
Vaccinations and Health
There are no specific immunisations or medications necesary for Japan. It is advisable to bring with you any medications that you may need while in Japan. Western brands of most medicines are often not available in Japan. Although there are generally good Japanese brands, they are often expensive. We recommend you bring a copy of any prescriptions you take and make sure you know the generic name for the medicine.
Please note: It is illegal to bring over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine or codeine into Japan.
It is a requirement of our tours that you are covered by travel insurance for the duration of your trip. You are free to purchase this insurance from any supplier you choose, however for those on walking trips it should cover activities including walking/ hiking and emergency evacuation in the event of injury while in mountainous areas. Please bring your certificate of insurance with you..
Japan is one of the safest places to travel in the world and medical services are of a high standard, but it is always wise to be prepared. As already noted, it is essential to take out full medical insurance when visiting Japan, as there are no reciprocal health care agreements between Japan and other countries. Whilst certificates of vaccination are not normally required, travellers who have passed through infected countries may be asked to report to the health office on arrival. The authorities are scrupulous about travellers who have passed through areas with yellow fever. Some of our tours visit remote areas and in the event of serious illness or injury, evacuation could be difficult, so we discourage anyone with serious medical problems from joining our trips. If you are in any doubt about your ability to join a tour, please consult us and your doctor. We recommend that everyone has a physical and dental check-up. Problems such as fillings coming loose and toothache could be troublesome.
Water from taps in Japan is safe to drink, although bottled water is widely available if you prefer. Avoid drinking from streams and rivers.
There is no malaria in Japan; however mosquitoes can be a mild nuisance in the summer months. It is best to bring an insect repellent if travelling during this period. The risk of travellers acquiring other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever or Japanese encephalitis has been extremely low; you may wish to consult your health professional at home for the latest advice.
Clothing and Gear
The weather in Japan is mild/warm in May and September. It gets cooler in October. Some rain is expected during these months but they are outside the main rainy season in June. Short, tropical cyclones can hit Japan between August and October.
Cash and credit cards
Light-weight trousers or shorts for walking (tours from April to mid-October)
Medium-weight trousers (tours from mid-October through to March)
Comfortable walking shoes or lightweight trail boots
Trainers/sandals or comfortable shoes for cities
Light-weight waterproof jacket (ideally breathable) - tours from May through to mid-October
Medium-weight waterproof jacket (ideally breathable) - tours from mid-October through to April
Fleece top (Polartec 200 or equivalent weight) - tours from October through to April
Underwear (add thermal base layers for December, January, February)
Sun hat (tours from April through to mid-October)
Smart/casual clothes for air travel and in cities
Gloves (tours from mid-October through to March)
Warm hat (tours from mid-October through to March
Bandana/handkerchief (in case public toilets have no hand drying facilities)
Toiletry kit - tissues, shaving kit, deodorant, moisturiser, flannel/washcloth
Medicines and prescriptions
Ear plugs and eye mask
Camera plus charger, extra film or memory cards
Electrical plug/socket adapter
Walking poles (a personal choice; most clients manage without)
The type of footwear you use for walking or hiking is important. You should use boots that you have broken in and know are comfortable. Leather or fabric (e.g. suede/ Gore-Tex) boots are appropriate for trips that involve walking or hiking. Ankle support is important, so trainers/sneakers or similar footwear are not recommended for the longer hikes. Trainers are fine for city walking.
We suggest a main, lockable suitcase on wheels or larger rucksack, and a day pack for personal items for sightseeing/walking. The day pack should be at least shower-proof, and if in doubt we recommend using a waterproof stuff bag or plastic bag to keep the contents dry in case of a rain shower. It is important in Japan to travel light. Buses and trains have limited luggage space and travelling by train often requires carrying luggage up stairs at stations. Japanese ryokan and minshuku provide a robe (yukata) to wear in the evening, as well as all amenities. Your trip will be more enjoyable and stress-free if you limit the luggage you bring.
It will add greatly to the pleasure of your trip if you can learn at least a few Japanese phrases. Especially outside the cities many hotel or restaurant staff speak no English.
The following kanji (characters) would be very useful to memorise.
|woman (onna)||man (otoko)||big (ookii)||small (chiisai)|
|exit (deguchi)||toilet (toire)|