Japan offers visitors a wealth of entertainment opportunities, both modern and traditional. Contemporary diversions include clubs, discos, live music venues and bars, as well as international performance arts such as opera, ballet, drama and musicals. For culture lovers who want to sample some of the fascinating traditions of Japanese theatre, there is Kabuki, Bunraku and Noh.
In Japan there are many fascinating places that you can enjoy for free. These include such diverse attractions as beer museums, food galleries, hi-tech consumer electronics showrooms, cosmetics factories and television studios. With so many different places to visit there’s bound to be something of interest for everyone.
Japan is easily accessible from anywhere in the world with over one hundred direct flights every week to four of Japan’s 22 International Airports.
You will arrive at either Narita (Tokyo), Kansai (Osaka), Nagoya, or Sapporo. All other destinations within Japan can be reached quickly and conveniently using the country’s extensive network of rail, bus and domestic air services.
Tip: Read the Japan Airports information page.
Bus services are operated by numerous bus companies, not only in big cities but also in regional towns. The bus fare varies depending on the bus company but it is usually around 200 yen for an inner-city ride. Long distance buses which link cities are also operated frequently both during the day and at night. This is a more economical way to get about than by plane or by train if you are not pressed for time.
JR operates long-distance buses between Tokyo and other major cities. Though travel takes longer, sometimes due to heavy traffic, fares are cheaper than Shinkansen train fares. Other bus companies provide bus travel between major cities as well.
All major cities have extensive intra-city bus routes. For example, in Kyoto, buses are convenient, easy to use, and have English announcements.
Your bus ticket is numbered to indicate the fare zone where you boarded. An illustrated sign at the front of the bus shows a changing fare schedule. If your ticket shows the number 3, for example, the fare you pay is indicated under column 3 on the sign. Put the fare in the cash box beside the driver’s seat when leaving the bus. In a few instances, a flat fare is charged.
Subway lines are widely available in all major cities, providing prompt, efficient transportation. Almost all stations have automatic ticket machines from which you can buy your ticket for various destinations.
To use the subway lines, first purchase a ticket at a vending machine or ticket window. Your ticket is punched by hand at the wicket or inserted in a punching machine. Please keep the ticket, since it must be returned at your destination.
If there is no fare chart in English, buy the cheapest ticket indicated on the vending machine and pay the difference due at the fare adjustment office at your destination station before you go through the exit wicket.
All subway lines display station names in both Japanese and alphabet lettering on platform signboards. The name of the station is in large letters in the center of the sign; names of adjacent stations appear below or to either side.
The railway system in Japan has a high reputation for punctuality and safety.
The train fare varies naturally depending on the distance you travel as well as the type of train you wish to catch: Limited Express, Express etc. and the type of reserved seat: Green Car (first class), Sleeper etc., for each of which an extra charge is required.
Tickets for short distances are available from ticket machines that are installed at each train station whereas tickets for long distances and reservations are dealt with at ticket offices at major stations
To use the train, first purchase a ticket at a vending machine or ticket window. Your ticket is punched by hand at the wicket or inserted in a punching machine. Please keep the ticket since it must be returned at your destination.
Most stations display station names in both Japanese and alphabet lettering on platform signboards. The name of the station is in large letters in the center of the sign; names of adjacent stations appear below or to either side.
Most if not all trains stop operating around midnight.
In Japan, cars travel on the left hand side of the road. Know your route in advance, because road signs may not have alphabet lettering. All expressways are toll roads. Traffic regulations are very strict and orderly. Availability of road atlases in English is limited.
Car rental services are available in most large and medium-sized cities as well as at airports and major train stations. When you apply to rent a car, you will be asked to produce your international driver license.
If you wish to drive in Japan, you must possess one of the following driving permits.
1. A Japanese Driver’s License
2. An International Driver’s License (90 member countries) based on the Treaty of Geneva (Convention of 1949)
3. A Driver’s License of Switzerland, Germany or France (must inquire about conditions to the institution issuing the driving permit of respective countries)
Tip: More info on driving in Japan
Once known in the west either in the form of “sukiyaki” or the more exotic “sushi,” Japanese cuisine has in recent years become much more familiar and appreciated around the world. Many visitors to Japan will have already sampled the pleasures of raw fish or batter-fried shrimp. But few first-time visitors to Japan are prepared for the variety and sumptuousness of Japanese food, as it is traditionally prepared. Eating in Japan is an experience to be enjoyed and remembered fondly for the rest of your life.
Sukiyaki is prepared right at the table by cooking thinly sliced beef together with various vegetables, tofu and vermicelli.
Tempura is food deep-fried in vegetable oil, after being coated with a mixture of egg, water and wheat flour. Among the ingredients used are prawns, fish in season and vegetables.
Sushi is a small piece of raw seafood placed on a ball of vinegared rice. The most common ingredients are tuna, squid and prawn. Cucumber, pickled radish and sweet egg omelet are also served.
Sashimi is sliced raw fish eaten with soy sauce.
Kaiseki Ryori is regarded as the most exquisite culinary refinement in Japan. The dishes are mainly composed of vegetables and fish with seaweed and mushrooms as the seasoning base and are characterized by their refined savor.
Yakitori is made up of small pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over hot coals.
Tonkatsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet rolled in breadcrumbs.
Shabu-shabu is tender, thin slices of beef held by chopsticks and swished in a pot of boiling water, then dipped in a sauce before being eaten.
Soba and Udon are two kinds of Japanese noodle. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and Udon from wheat flour. They are served either in a broth or dipped in a sauce, and are available in hundreds of delicious variations.
Read our tips on how to eat Japanese food and our food Top Tips
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