Japan: Modernistic Tokyo Meets Ancestral Kyoto on the Web
Japan is often thought of as the most modern country in the world, and in many ways it is. Yet behind the glitz and glamour of the neon lights and robot dogs, you’ll find a deeply traditional culture that changes at a glacial speed. This guide features the best Web sites to aid you in planning and implementing your trip to Japan, including resources to introduce you to Japanese culture and sightseeing, tools for finding and booking transportation and accommodation, advice to help you stay safe and healthy overseas, and blogs and forums to put you in touch with other travelers.
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Japan has its share of cultural quirks and distinct specifications regarding manners and public behavior, in addition to some intense weather issues. Below are sites to help you cope with some of the uniquely Japanese obstacles and issues you will encounter, as well as information about the basic practicalities of entering and exiting the country safely.
- Manners in Japan can be complicated and nuanced, even challenging natives, according to a July 2007 International Herald Tribune article. Newcomers are not expected to know every custom and rule of etiquette; showing a bit of extra courtesy and reserve should suffice in most situations.
- In Japan, it’s especially important to learn and use at least a bit of the native language, says this October 2007 article discussing “5 Ways You Can Be More Japanese in Japan,” in the online travel magazine Vagabondish.
- You probably won’t be able to use an American phone in Japan, no matter what SIM card you buy. However, you can easily buy prepaid and rental mobile phones in airport booths when you arrive. The major providers are AU, Vodafone, and Docomo.
- Japan’s length north to south is comparable to California’s, which accounts for the country’s varied climate across its eight regions. In Hokkaido, the chilly northernmost island, winter snowstorms are common; while further south in Okinawa, winter temperatures typically remain above 40º F.
- Japan experiences its share of extreme weather: typhoons in the rainy, early summer season and frequent earthquakes across the country year-round, most of which go undetected by the general public.
For travel requirements and safety …
The U.S. Department of State
provides a Consular Information Sheet for Japan. Check here for entry and exit requirements, safety and security information (including crime statistics), customs details, and embassy listings.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
is managed by the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC, and is a useful resource for any traveler to Japan. In addition to visa and customs information, the site has specific advice for travelers, students, and job seekers in Japan.
is a site specifically geared to solo female travelers, and has been recognized by the BBC
and Travelers’ Tales
. This article discusses what it’s like for a woman to travel alone in Japan, what to look out for, and how to make the most of your time. The author lives in Japan and recommends a few agencies and tour guides that she’s found especially helpful.
For Japanese culture and etiquette …
Trends in Japan
covers all things pop culture in Japan, including entertainment, fashion, technology, and sports; the site even includes a section called Tokyo Tales, which features novel excerpts from up-and-coming writers in the city. The site is sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
is a quarterly online publication offering a snapshot of multiple aspects of Japanese life. Sections on “Life & Culture,” “Art & Entertainment,” and “People & Work,” among others, have magazine-style feature stories with photos. There’s a range of topics, such as Kabuki theater
and local supermarkets
offers cultural insight and etiquette tips for travelers to Japanese temples and shrines, including basic details of Shintoism and Buddhism.
For Japanese history …
The U.S. Department of State
provides a “Background Note” page for Japan. The page begins with a geography section; continue scrolling down for detailed profiles of the country’s people and history.
shows a brief timeline of Japanese history with names of periods, such as Kamakura, and approximate dates. Each notch in the timeline includes a synopsis of cultural achievements and notable events that occurred.
Japan Cultural Profile
outlines several aspects of the country, including a slide show of historical eras from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 through 2004. Slides are brief but include key details and small photos, most of which enhance the text.
To learn Japanese …
provides a lesson in the Japanese language. Utilize the section on key phrases, or take the illustrated “Challenge” to test your knowledge.
For currency conversion …
has a quick and easy currency conversion tool; enter an amount in U.S. dollars and find its equivalent in Japanese yen.
For advice on when to go to Japan …
was mentioned previously for its suggested itineraries; this section of the site gives a brief summary of the best times to visit Japan. Details of year-round weather are given, and you’ll learn when to expect heavy crowds.
guide to Japan includes a calendar of yearly events, organized by month and date. This section is all text, with quick, detailed descriptions of each event listing. The format invites a thorough read-through to understand the breadth of event possibilities in Japan.
For Japanese sports …
provides information about teams, statistics and league standings, player profiles, and a section of frequently asked questions including advice on how to get tickets to games.
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