One of the most modern countries in the world, as well as a land with ancient history and traditions that are still practised to this day, Japan is an eye-opener. Its cutting-edge cities are inspiring – almost science fiction. On tour in Japan, you’ll find toilets that talk to you, an unbelievable assortment of products and some of the most modern forms of transport, architecture, fashion and technology available on earth. And then there’s the traditional side, an aspect of Japanese tourism that is both evocative and difficult to understand for Westerners, but a world that begs to be discovered.
When you travel to Japan, you embark on a journey of discovery. A holiday here is an unmatched experience, where you will enjoy dishes that are so beautiful on the plate you will hesitate to eat them, where everything is unusual and high tech – and works so much better than anywhere else in the world. There is a vibrant urgency in Japan’s cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, which is part and parcel of being so forward-thinking. But the Japanese look back as much as they search for the new, evident in their historical traditions, beautiful old buildings, culture and sacred places. It is what makes a holiday here so exciting and unique.
Why we love Japan
- The ancient Japanese culture is quite extraordinary.
- Japan is home to many historical attractions, temples and shrines.
- The public transport system is superb, so you can explore the country’s many tourists attractions.
- It’s the home of anime!
- The fashion scene is incredible – and the traditional kimonos just as covetable.
- Japan boasts 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Mount Fuji and the Shrines and Temples of Nikko.
Japan is fun, fascinating and safe, making it a holiday destination that is perfect for family travel, touring with your partner or your friends, or visiting as a solo traveller. It is an incomparable country that must be seen and experienced at least once in your lifetime! Book a holiday package to Japan to embark on your adventure to the Orient.
What to do in Japan
Unforgettable experiences await when you visit Japan, one of the most extraordinary countries in the world. Here, the disparity between the ancient and ultra-modern is what sets Japan apart. Ages-old traditions are honoured and respected, and the Japanese pay homage to their history at every opportunity. You will explore centuries-old buildings, see arts and crafts that are quite unique and visit temples and shrines that will teach you about its rich culture. You’ll also be blown away by the modernity, the beauty, the warmth and friendliness of the people, and the sights and sounds of every single place you visit.
And then there’s the food. Nowhere else on earth offers varieties of KitKat chocolate as you’ll find in Japan. Nowhere else has vending machines for every imaginable product. No chef anywhere else in the world can create such beauty out of everyday produce… The country is literally a gourmet’s delight.
Attractions and things to see in Japan
- See the magnificent cherry blossoms transform the landscape in springtime.
- Ride on the Shinkansen, a high-speed Japanese bullet train.
- Watch a Kabuki performance – this type of Japanese entertainment is now registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
- Shop for sweets and high fashion in Takeshita Street in the Harajuku area of Tokyo.
- Soak in an onsen (Japanese hot spring bath).
- See Sumo wrestlers in action.
- Visit the Golden Temple in Kyoto.
- Brave Tokyo’s infamous Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.
- Order a ramen noodle meal from a vending machine.
- Wash down some wagashi (Japanese sweet treats) with a cup of matcha tea.
There are so many things to do in Japan. Our holiday packages will take you to the best tourist attractions while also giving you opportunities to uncover a fascinating culture and immerse yourself in each experience.
Know before you go...
- January is the coldest month in Japan, and the hottest time is from June to August.
- The best time to visit Japan is late spring (March to May) to see the blossoms, and late autumn (October and November) when the weather is mild and there are clear skies.
- There are regular flights from South Africa to Japan, typically via stops in Hong Kong or Singapore.
- The flight duration from Johannesburg to Tokyo via Hong Kong is 18+ hours.
- South African passport holders do require a visa to enter Japan – apply through the Japanese Embassy for a 90-day visa.
- Passports must be valid for the entire time you are visiting Japan.
- Japan is 7 hours ahead of South Africa.
- Japan’s official currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY). It is the world’s third most traded currency, after the US Dollar and the Euro.
- Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants, but in Japan, cash remains the favoured currency.
- It’s best to arrive in Japan with Japanese Yen.
- ATMs are available, but make sure they accept international cards before using. Mizuho Bank’s ATMs accept Visa, Mastercard & Maestro.
- Tipping is not widely accepted in Japan – it is considered rude to tip at restaurants, in taxis and for many hotel services.
- Most restaurants prefer if you pay at the till.
- Japanese is the official language.
- English is quite widely spoken and understood.
- Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two main religions.
- Religion does not play a big role in the everyday life of Japanese people.
- You can drink tap water in Japan. It’s one of the few countries in the world offering good quality water.
- No vaccinations are currently required but check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Depending on when and where you visit, lightweight clothing for summer, warm clothing for winter, rain gear, beachwear if relevant and ski gear if travelling to a ski resort. Choose items that can be layered.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- Japanese cities have excellent transport systems as a whole, including the famous Shinkansen high-speed bullet trains, as well as ferries, taxis and buses.
- Other cities in outlying areas throughout the continent may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; rat
her take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
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