Japan may seem a little off the beaten path for a vacation. It’s not the beach, and it isn’t Europe, but it does welcome many foreign visitors every year. A safe and beautiful destination, it can still feel intimidating in part because of the difficult language and different alphabet, but you shouldn’t let this put you off. The tips below can help you start planning a memorable trip to this exciting, ancient, and gorgeous land.
Figure Out Your Budget
Japan is known as a somewhat expensive place to travel to, but in fact, it’s no more costly than places like London and New York, and there are bargains to be had as well. Still, you need to know your budget before you start planning. You may have some savings that you want to use, or you might be looking at your credit card, but the better alternative to the latter is a personal loan. There are loans with low monthly payments available that can usually beat credit cards for interest rates, and you can pay off your trip slowly when you return. It’s easy to search online for a loan that suits you.
Many are intimidated by the potential language barrier involved in a visit to Japan. While it’s true that language is not widely spoken as it is in many European countries, most Japanese people have at least learned some English in school even if they are reluctant to use it. Even more importantly, people are generally friendly and eager to be helpful.
You can get by with plenty of smiling and gestures–although try to gesture with your hand instead of pointing as the latter is considered rude. You can learn two of the Japanese alphabets, follow a guide to hiragana, and one for katakana, then with flashcards and a few hours of diligent study and this can help you sound out some words, including foreign ones, but even if you don’t do this much, you will be able to get by without speaking the language.
Keep in mind your planning should be specific, researching the cheapest way to stay in Paris, for example, won’t do you much good when traveling to Japan. Where should you go and what should you do? It depends on your interests, but Japan has something for everyone, whether you love big cities, nature, history, fine art, cinema, food, sports, or just about anything else. Tokyo is unmissable, a vast metropolis that is truly unlike anywhere else in the world, but how much you love it will depend upon how much big city you can stand. Whether or not you’re outdoorsy, try to make time to climb Mount Fuji if you’re there during the main climbing season of July to September.
Another must-see is the ancient city of Kyoto and at least a few of the many temples there. It’s less than two and a half hours by the speedy shinkansen train from Tokyo. If you have a little more time, consider walking the pilgrimage trail just south of Kyoto known as the Kumano Kodo. You may also want to consider taking part of a quintessentially Japanese cultural experience, such as staying at a ryokan or traditional guest house, taking part in a tea ceremony or seeing a kabuki performance, a form of classical theater.