Prepare for your trip
Please make sure you have confirmed, round-trip air tickets to Japan. Most airlines will require you to have either a return ticket, or a ticket to an onward destination following your stay in Japan. They may deny you boarding if you only have a one-way ticket.
Money and how much to bring
Cash is still the best form of payment to carry in Japan, particularly outside big cities. Smaller shops, restaurants, and bars usually accept only cash. Japan is a very safe country and there is very little street crime. Japanese people routinely carry large amounts of cash with them. Exchanging overseas currency can be time-consuming so we suggest you purchase Japanese Yen cash before you leave home, or on arrival at the airport in Japan. Most Japanese bank ATMs do not accept overseas cards, although there are some ATMs in large cities that will. Post office and some convenience store ATMs do now dispense Yen cash with overseas cards. We recommend you contact your bank prior to travel and advise them of your dates in Japan, to reduce the risk of them blocking genuine card transactions.
You will need cash to pay for any meals which are not already included in your tour, drinks with meals, snacks, souvenirs and any other personal items. We suggest JPY5,000 per person, per day as a sensible figure – depending, of course, on your own personal spending habits.
Nationals of EU members, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and some other countries do not require visas for Japan. Please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website to check if your country is exempt from applying for a visa in advance. It is your responsibility to comply with Japanese immigration regulations; Oku Japan cannot accept responsibility if you are denied entry.
Japan has four distinct seasons; weather and temperatures change with the seasons. March is the end of winter with daytime highs of around 15 degrees Celsius, 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. Mid-July to mid-September is very warm and very humid in most parts of Japan. You can expect daytime temperatures of about 15-20°C in October; days are often very pleasant and warm through into November. Short tropical cyclones can hit Japan between June and October.
Gear and clothing
Our ‘Preparing for your trip’ handbook contains a detailed packing list.
For clients who are joining our Winter Nakasendo Trail tour, please see the document below with tips for the correct type of clothing to wear while snowshoeing:
Vaccinations and Health
There are no specific immunisations or medications necessary for Japan. Speak to your family doctor or travel health professional for latest advice. Have a dental check-up, too -fillings coming loose or toothache can be troublesome while touring.
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. Bring 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; your family doctor or travel health professional will advise you.
We recommend you bring a copy of the medical prescription for any medicines you bring. Please note it is not permitted to bring into Japan any medicines containing pseudoephedrine or codeine.
We require that you are covered by medical insurance for the duration of your trip. You are free to purchase this insurance from any supplier you choose. Please ensure that your medical insurance includes emergency evacuation in the event of injury while in mountainous areas. Please bring your certificate of insurance with you.
We also recommend, but do not require, travel insurance to cover you if you have to cancel your tour before departure (because of illness or injury, for example). Travel insurance should also cover any valuable items such as cameras, in case you lose or damage them during your trip.
Will my mobile phone work in Japan?
3G or 4G phones such as iPhones, Android smartphones, and newer models of Nokia and other manufacturers' phones will work in Japan. Depending on your network provider, you will 'roam' with either NTT Docomo or Softbank on their 3G or 4G networks. If you have an older '2G' phone, it will not work in Japan.
Please note that SIM cards are not available in Japan from the major carriers, but a growing number of companies offer SIM cards that will work with unlocked overseas phones, tablets, or 'MiFi' personal WiFi devices. Most are data only, and will enable the use of internet, but not voice - you can send and receive emails, browse the internet, or use Skype, but not make or receive regular voice calls. When bringing your phone from home using your SIM card from home, you will be 'roaming'. This can be very expensive. Sometimes our clients prefer to rent phones in Japan to avoid the quite high roaming charges that this can incur.
It is possible to rent Japanese mobile phones and have them ready when you arrive, usually at Haneda, Narita, or Kansai Airports. Many will give you the telephone number before you leave home so you can tell friends and family your number.
We do not have a direct partner, but the Japan National Tourist Organization provides some useful information on renting phones in Japan at the following link:
Narita Airport also has vending machines which offer SIM cards unlocked smartphones, particularly aimed at travellers to Japan.
Please note that phone reception on the trail is limited in some places, particularly in the mountainous regions.
Can I access the Internet on my tour in Japan?
Most western-style hotels in Japan have internet access, via WiFi or via a cable in your room. Some Japanese inns also offer WiFi, perhaps in the lobby area. When we send you your tour itinerary, around a month before your trip starts, we are usually able to tell you which hotels and inns will offer Internet access.
Internet cafes can be found in cities; they are known as 'manga kissa' and have comfy chairs and libraries of comic books. As they can be hard to spot (usually on the upper floors of buildings) it is best to ask your tour guide or your hotel concierge.