A collection of Japan travel and backpacking resources including Japan travel, entry visa requirements, employment for backpackers, and Japanese phrasebook.

Backpacking Japan

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Japan? Here you will find information on working in Japan, entry visas, Japan hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

A guide for backpacking around Japan. Get important travelers information when it comes to Japan including visa requirements, employment opportunities, common Japanese phrases and translation, as well as Japan hostels.

Facts About Japan

Japan is known equally as a hard working, hi-tech country obsessed with miniaturising everything and as a land of ancient temples, martial arts and origami. Whichever definition appeals to you more, you will find plenty to satisfy you, from the bustling neon capital of Tokyo to the ancient temples and shrines of Kyoto. All set against spectacular natural scenery such as Mount Fiji and bubbling volcanic hot springs. On top of all this, the Japanese people are famous for being friendly and gracious hosts, especially to tourists who can expect a warm welcome to one of the most interesting countries in the Far-east.

  • Currency: Japanese Yen. (¥)
  • Time Zone: GMT + 9
  • Language: Japanese
  • Telephone Services: Country code +81, International access code 001
  • Emergency Numbers: Tokyo English Life Line 3403 7106, Japan Helpline 0120 461 997

Climate

In general Japan benefits from a temperate climate with cool sunny winters and very hot summers. The most pleasant time to visit is the milder Autumn and Spring seasons. Rain can fall throughout the year but is not generally too heavy. Typhoons can occur during September or October but generally don’t last for longer than a day. Okinawa has a sub-tropical climate and Hoikkaido boasts a climate similar to that of Washington with Siberian blasts blowing in during the winter providing great skiing spots. Winter can get very cold with temperatures as low as 2 degrees C and in the North temperatures can drop to below freezing.

 Japan climate map including average rainfall and temperature by month. Find the best time to backpack Japan based on your climate preferences.

Things to see and do

Unlike most cities, Tokyo is not a city littered with interesting or ancient architecture. Having been almost completely rebuilt after the heavy damage sustained during the Second World War the skyline is dominated by modern hi-rise skyscrapers. While in the suburbs some tradition clings on by its fingertips, certainly central Tokyo can be described as nothing short of a modern metropolis. Most visitors spend a lot of there time in the Ginza shopping district which contains boutiques, shops and galleries of all kinds. Its fashionable status does make Ginza somewhat expensive so unless you want to blow your whole trip’s budget in one day it is best to take it easy here. Some of Japans finest museums and galleries are located around the Ueno-Koen park including the Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum.

After experiencing the new Japan in Tokyo there is no better place to discover a taste of old Japan than Kyoto. The city boasts literally hundreds of temples, shrines and gardens and was even the nations capital for over a thousand years. Although even here, modern buildings have started to encroach on the tiled roves and pebbled gardens of the temples there is still plenty left to see. There are a number of suberb temples including the Kinkaku-ji temple and the Sanjunsangen temple which houses 1001 statues of Kannon the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Also worth a look is the Imperial Palace in central Kyoto and the Himeji-jo Castle located just outside the city itself.

Those with a penchant for modern history often visit Nagasaki, the city decimated by the second nuclear bomb dropped on Japan during Worl War Two. The city has now been rebuilt as a prosperous example of Japanese urban life but its grisly past is recorded in the A-bomb museum situated at Urakami, the centre of the explosion. Also of interest in the city is the Fukusai-ji Zen Temple, Glover Garden and the Hypocentre Park which has a monument to mark the exact centre of the blast which decimated Nagaski.

Travel

When travelling in the mainland of Japan, it is dubious if the distances warrant air travel, however when travelling throughout the Islands it does become a viable possibility. Several airlines offer domestic flights throughout Japan and its islands including Japan AirlinesAll Nippon Airlines and Japan Air Systems. Tickets can be bought from tour operators, or at the airports from both airline counters and automatic ticketing machines in the larger airports.

Japan Railways Group is the rail operator throughout Japan. The service is one of the best in the world with some of the most hi-tech trains in existence. Many travellers will be familiar with the famous “bullet trains” which reach speeds in excess of 300km/h, which serve the busiest lines on the Japanese network with some routes offering as many as six trains per hour. Other lines run limited express, express or local services, generally each type of train carries a different supplement with a further supplement being charged for travel in the first class “green” cars, seats on which must usually be reserved in advance. Tickets can be bought from stations, most commonly from automated vending machines. For some short distance, local trains, this is the only way to obtain a ticket.

A “Japan Rail Pass” is available, which is usually purchased through Japan Airlines or a tour operator which is only available to foreign tourists. This pass allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail trains, buses and ferries. Passes start from ¥150 for a 7 day pass and are without a doubt one of the most economical ways to get around in Japan.

Bus travel is highly developed in Japan, but in most cities has been superseded by the underground metro system for local travel, similarly the rail network has mostly replaced the inter-city bus network. Services do still exist in appreciable numbers but the fare system are confusing and almost always highly automated so for most travellers it is wisest to just stick to the train.

Taxis are plentiful but they can be veery expensive, especially at night but if you are travelling in a group and can share the cost they could be a good transport option.

Accommodation

Hotels in Japan are sub-divided between Western and Japanese style hotels. While the Western style hotels are much the same as those found in Western Europe the Japanese style ones are a unique experience. On arrival guests are given kimonos and rooms are decked out in traditional Japanese style complete with paper sliding doors and Japanese bathtubs. These Japanese style hotels are known as “ryokan and the Japan Ryokan Association can be contacted for more information. For general information on all kinds of hotels the Japan Hotel Association can provide further information.

There are over 400 youth hostels in Japan which are regulated by Japan Youth Hostels Inc. In general guests must be a member of the International Youth Hostel Association although guest passes can be obtained from Japan Youth Hostels Inc’s headquarters in Tokyo or from some tour operators.

Health

The provision of healthcare in Japan is excellent, easily on par with the standards of the US or western Europe. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers will provide English speaking doctors where appropriate and all western medications are widely available. Treatment costs can be extremely high in Japan so it is essential that you have adequate insurance cover when planning a visit to Japan.

There are no special precautions or vaccination recommended before visiting Japan, food and drink is considered safe and normal everyday precautions should be observed when buying food from street traders.

Useful Links

The Japan National Tourist Organization is a source of tourist information for visitors to the country

Japan Youth Hostels Inc have information on youth hostels in Japan

The Japan Hotel Association maintains information on all kinds of hotels throughout Japan

The Japan Ryokan Association is the definitive resource on traditional ryokan style hotels

Japan Railways Group is the rail operator throughout Japan

Japan Airlines are Japans international Airline but also offer domestic flights

All Nippon Airlines are one of Japan’s domestic airlines

Japan Air Systems are another of Japan’s domestic airlines

Japan Visitor is a concise guide to Japan with information on tourism, hotels, flights and much more.

Price Check Tokyo Typical prices for everyday items.

Japan FAQ Very helpful info and great links

Japan Rail Fare Calculator The JR Pass is best, but not all lines are JR and this can really help.

Entry Visas for Japan

A valid passport and a return ticket is required by all visitors to Japan. Visas are not required by US or EU nationals for a stay of up to three months. Further visas and visas for other nationalities are issued at the local Japanese Embassy or Consulate and their exact validity and price varies widely with nationality.

Addresses

Visa and immigration related enquiries should be directed to the nearest Japanese Embassy of Consulate:

Embassy of Japan 
101 Piccadilly 
London 
W1V 9FN 
Tel: (020) 7 465 6500 
Fax: (020) 7 491 9348

If you require UK representation while in Japan you should contact the British Embassy:

British Embassy 
No 1 Ichiban-cho 
Chiyoda-ku 
Tokyo 102-8381 
Tel: + [81] (3) 5211 1100 
Fax: + [81] (3) 5275 0346 
embassy@tokyo.mail.fco.gov.uk 

There are also British Consulates in Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Sapporo

The Japan National Tourist Organization is a source of tourist information for visitors to the country:

Japan National Tourist Organisation 
Heathcote House 
20 Saville Row 
London 
W1X 1AE 
Tel: (0171) 734 9638 
Fax: (0171) 734 4290

Foreigner Work Permits in Japan

EU nationals are permitted to enter and stay in Japan for up to six months without needing a Visa. Initially you are only allowed to stay for three months but after this time can contact the Immigration Department in Japan to apply for a three month extension. If you intend to work in Japan you will need a work Visa for which a sponsor, for example your employer, is needed. Before obtaining a work permit you will need to find a job.

Teaching English

Although the demand for English teachers is not as high as it used to be there are still opportunities for this type of work, mainly in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Vacancies are usually competitive so any experience and TEFL qualifications will always be to your advantage. English teachers are also typically required to have a degree, so employment in this field is not so easy to gain access to for pre-university gap year students.

The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) arrange placements for UK nationals as English teachers in Japan. Successful applicants will work in schools, local governments, and boards of education as English teachers. Workers are paid an annual salary of about 3,600,000 yen, but monthly deductions are made for health insurance and pension funds. Contracts last for one year; accommodation for this length of time is not provided but the organisation with which you are placed assist in finding a place to stay.

Agricultural Work

Agriventure run projects in Japan for between five and fourteen months. Workers live with a host family on their farm and assist in the day to day running and maintenance of the land. Accommodation and food are provided, as well as a weekly wage. You are expected to pay for your own travel, insurance, and Visa expenses. Applicants must be aged between 18 and 30 and usually need to show some experience in the agricultural industry and must hold a full driving licence.

GAP Activity Projects

GAP arranges placements specifically designed for gap year students. One project in Japan focuses on care work in Cheshire Homes for the elderly, disabled, and people with Cerebral Palsy. Volunteers can also work in the Kobokan Community Care Centre in Tokyo where work is centred around the resident children, playing with them and accompanying them on camping activities. Further work is available in hospitals on medical projects, for example on the island of Tokunoshima you can work in a hospital or teaching in a school. Further teaching opportunities are available at a High School in Osaka. Accommodation is usually provided by GAP, this can vary depending on the placement but volunteers often live with host families or other volunteers and workers in houses or hostels near their place of work.

Concordia

Volunteers work in groups with children and communities in a number of countries throughout the world. Projects last for up to three weeks, in the summer months. All volunteers are supplied with food and accommodation and are required to pay a fee of ¥75 to register with Concordia.

Involvement Volunteers Association Inc. (IVI)

IVI runs various volunteer projects in Japan including on farms, in youth hostels, and in schools. Volunteers can work on a farm in Kyushu where they will help with farm work and looking after the children. Workers are needed in youth hostels to help the running of the kitchen, reception etc. and are provided with food and accommodation. Youth hostel vacancies are available in Hirosaki, Hamasaka, and Abashiri where volunteers must speak Japanese. Alternatively IVI have placements in a private nursery school and primary school in Osaka where volunteers assist with caring and educating the children. Again, food and accommodation are provided.

Project Trust

The Project Trust currently has two placements available to volunteers. The first is in Junten High School in Tokyo where volunteers work as assistants in English conversation classes. Furthermore, volunteers teach English to local workers, take Japanese lessons, and learn sign language. Accommodation is provided in the community of Oji where the school is located. The second post is on the Toya Board of Education in Hokkaido. Work includes helping at local schools and with adult classes as well as assisting with work in a nearby hospital. The work here places volunteers right into the community and accommodation is again provided.

Useful Links

TEFL

Jet Programme

Agriventure

GAP

Concordia

Volunteering.org.au for more information about volunteering with IVI

Project Trust

How to Say Common Japanese Phrases

Meeting People

English
Japanese
yes
hai
no
iie
thank you
arigato
you are welcome
douitashimashite
please
douzo
excuse me
sumimasen, shitsurei shimasu
hello
kon-nichiwa
goodbye
sayounara
Good morning
o hayou gozaimasu
Good night
oyasuminasai
I do not understand
wakarimasen
Do you speak…?
anata wa…go wo hanasemasuka?
English
eigo
What is your name?
anata no namae wa nan to iimasu ka?
Nice to meet you
o-ai dekite ureshii desu
How are you?
o-genki desu ka?
good
ii, yoi
bad
warui, yokunai

Directions

English
Japanese
map
chizu
left
hidari
right
migi
straight on
massugu
far
tooku
near
chikaku

Methods of Transport

English
Japanese
Where is…?
wa doko desu ka…?
How much is the fare?
unchin wa ikura desu ka?
ticket
kippu
A ticket to…, please
kippu wo ichimai onegaishimasu
Where are you going?
Dokoe ikimasuka?
Where do you live?
Dokoni sunde imasuka?
train
kisha, ressha
bus
basu
underground
chikatetsu
airport
kuukou
train station
eki
bus station
basu tei
underground station
chikatetsu no eki
departure
shuppatsu
arrival
touchaku
parking
chuushajou

Time

English
Japanese
What time is it?
nanji desuka?
today
kyou
yesterday
kinou
tomorrow
asu

Accommodation

English
Japanese
hotel
hoteru
room
heya
reservation
yoyaku
Are there any vacancies?
aita heyaga arimasuka?
No vacancies
aita heyawa arimasen
passport
pasupooto

Places

English
Japanese
post office
yuubinkyoku
bank
ginkou
police station
keisatsusho
hospital
byouin
chemist
yakkyoku
shop
mise
restaurant
resutoran
museum
hakubutsu kan
square
hiroba
street
toori

Shopping

English
Japanese
How much does this cost?
korewa ikura desuka?
I will buy it
sore wo kaimasu
I would like to buy…
sore wo kaitai nodesu…
Do you have…?
wa arimasuka…?
open
aku
closed
shimatteiru
postcard
e hagaki
stamps
kitte
little
sukoshi
lot
takusan
all
zenbu

Meals

English
Japanese
breakfast
chohshoku
lunch
chuushoku
dinner
yuushoku
vegetarian
saishoku shugisha
cheers!
kanpai
The bill please
kanjouwo onegai shimasu

Drinks

English
Japanese
drink
nomimono
coffee
koohii
tea
ocha, koucha
juice
juusu
water
mizu
beer
biiru
wine
wain

Food

English
Japanese
meat
niku
fish
sakana
vegetable
yasai
fruit
kudamono
potato
poteto
salad
sarada
dessert
desaato

Buy phrasebooks online at Amazon.co.uk

Japan Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers.

Sorry, no hostels have been registered for this country yet.

There you have it, the ultimate Japan backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Japan.

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