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Exo Travel Guides


Seeing the Real Japan with Exotissimo Thank you for choosing Exotissimo Travel Japan to organize your travel arrangements in Japan. This document will give you some more information about the country, the different destinations within Japan, useful information for travelers, and a listing of the Exotissimo preferred hotels.

Where to go in Japan

nations for visitors to explore. Four main islands form the most well seen and known areas of Japan, and home to most of the Japanese population. The islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku make up 97% of the country’s land area. The main island of Honshu plays home to Japan’s key destinations, but the other three islands offer varied landscapes and environments for tourists to explore, including sublime skiing areas in Hokkaido and unknown beaches on Okinawa, an island chain which stretches over one thousand kilometers from Kyushu to Taiwan. Most classic itineraries to Japan will explore the highlights of cosmopolitan Tokyo, the beauty of the infamously shy Mt Fuji, the blooming city of Hiroshima and the veritable melting pot of UNESCO world heritage sites, Kyoto. Being the experts we are, our little tip to all would be to take some time to visit Takayama, a charming destination with a very unique culture, located high up in the Japanese Alps.

A vast archipelago consisting of over 7000 islands, Japan offers a multitude of varied and contrasting desti-

At the cutting edge of modern technology and transport, Japan is an easy destination to navigate and travel

Our dedicated teams at Exotissimo Japan are experts at what they do. Knowledgeable, passionate, and enthusiastic, there is no request too big or too small for our staff. The latest addition to the Exotissimo collection of destinations, our team consisting of local and expatriate staff has learned all of the hot spots, hidden gems, and everything in between. We will of course show you the highlights of this spectacular country but also are pleased to show you lesser known sites

around, when making use of the famous Shinkansen or Japanese Bullet Train. These feats of modern technology traverse a network of lines across Honshu and Shikoku, at speeds up to 186 miles per hour. Linking most major hubs, the efficiency and speed is put well into real terms when comparing the two and a half hour train journey between Tokyo and Kyoto with the seven hour journey by road. When to go in Japan? A truly seasonal country, Japan boasts four distinct seasons in line with the Western Hemisphere. From March to April, the climate is at its most attractive with pleasantly warm days, and limited rains. This time also welcomes the infamous cherry blossoms, a stunning attraction for visitors, but an attraction that draws in the masses, so be prepared not to be the only visitor at this time of the year! From June to August, the heat and humidity of summer

hits in, and temperatures can hit 40 degrees centigrade, though generally this isn’t the most popular time to travel but for lovers of the heat, it can mean fewer crowds. A tip and a great alternative to the cherry blossoms are the autumn colors in November; however this can also be a very busy time in places such as Kyoto. Spectacular in their own right, the temperature from September cools down and autumn becomes a very pleasant time of year to visit. With winter comes superb skiing opportunities and the chance to try out as many of the Onsens (hot springs) as possible, December through February. When planning your trip to Japan, it is wise to take into account the Japanese public holidays, as this is the most popular time for domestic travel, meaning not only is availability hard to come by, but hotel rates increase dramatically. Check with your Exotissimo consultant for exact details, but key holidays to consider include Golden Week (April 27 – May 6) and New Years (December 29 – January 3) when everything shuts down. This is a guide to the best of the best of Japan. We’ve provided ideas for travel, sightseeing and accommodation with a few insider tips along the way


room and a tranquil garden courtyard, Niwa truly is an oasis in the heart of Tokyo. Or look to the Cerulan Tower Hotel, situated in the heart of cosmopolitan Shibuya, the birthplace of Japanese fashion. For affordable accommodation without compromising on style, we recommend the b ikebukero, just steps from countless dining options.

Think of Tokyo and a multitude of pictures may come to mind. A city of many faces, this incredible metropolis is home to some of the globes most unique and quirky cultures. Tradition meets modernity on a daily basis in Tokyo, as Tokoyites grace the streets in kimonos while neon lights emit from up above. Cosmopolitan to say the least, Tokyo breathes cutting edge arts, ever-evolving fashions, unfathomable architecture, epicurean delights, striking gardens, world class museums and galleries, ancient temples and an energy that is hard to match. Named the fourth most ‘livable’ city in the world, Tokyo cannot fail to entice and fascinate. It might be hard to imagine that this city grew from a modest fishing village when learning that it now sprawls over 2000 square kilometers, but being made up of 23 separate wards, allows for easy exploration of this dynamic city.

Where to stay?

The centre of the city is defined by the JR Yamanote railway line, which loops around the area that used to be reserved for Shogun and his samurai. Best considered as a patchwork of smaller towns that have merged together to form the capital, each one has its own distinctive personality and culture. One of the highlights of any trip to Tokyo is time spent exploring, wandering and simply absorbing the city and its people, and we highly recommend a few hours or even days doing so. Discover the back street away from the large avenues of the city - this is where the real life of Japan is played out!

A veritable paradise for seekers of luxury and highend accommodations,Tokyo plays home to some iconic properties; Think of a hotel in Tokyo and many will remember the Park Hyatt Tokyo from the Sofia Coppela film ‘Lost in Translation’, surely one of the few hotels in the world that employs a professional pillow fitter. Located in the neon lights of Shinjuku, the Park Hyatt’s dramatic perch on the top floors of a Kenzo Tange-designed tower affords sweeping views of the city and Mt Fuji. Possibly the best located hotel in the

What to see? Aside from innately absorbing the energy and eccentricities of Tokyo, there are some incredible sites to be seen and experiences to be had:

city, The Peninsula Tokyo is, has an enviable position in the prestigious district of Marunouchi, directly opposite the Imperial Palace. For fashionistas looking for luxe living within walking distance of Tokyo’s famous Ginza shopping street, look to the Conrad Tokyo with panoramic views of Hamarikyu Gardens.

Meiji Jinja, Tokyo’s most famous shrine is dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. The shrine is a popular site for Japanese weddings; if you are lucky you may see a bride and groom dressed in traditional Shinto wedding attire. Head to Tokyo’s old town, and Asakusa, home to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, and the city’s oldest Geisha district and see Tokyo from a different angle on a cruise down the Sumida Gawa River to Hamarikyu-tien. This stunning former private garden of an Edo Period lord is an oasis surrounded by a sea of skyscrapers.

For those in search of a more modest stay, The Hotel Niwa combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern Tokyo style. With washi paper screens in every

For lovers of seafood and fish, no visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market - the world’s largest fish market. Get here early in the

morning to enjoy a sushi breakfast and talk to your travel consultant about the opportunity to witness the daily tuna auction. Think of Tokyo and you’ll imagine the bright lights of Shinjuku. A neon wonderland where towering skyscrapers cage in the bustle of Tokyo’s premier business and shopping districts and nightlife for those in search of nocturnal activities. Shinjuku station is an attraction in itself – with 2.3 million commuters passing through every day, it is the busiest train station in the world and a city in itself. Boasting a vibrant arts scene, Tokyo is home to many galleries, exhibitions and museums, with content of interest to all. Ueno Park is home to a multitude of museums including Tokyo National Museum, the oldest and largest museum in Japan, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or head to Roppongi, Tokyo’s selfproclaimed ‘Art District’ and home to some of Japan’s newest and most cutting edge galleries and museums. Our favorites are the Suntory Art Museum, showcasing the very best of Japanese traditional art, and the Mori Art Museum, offering not only some of Tokyo’s best exhibitions but unsurpassed views of the city from its 53rd floor perch in the Roppongi Hills building. From arts to fashion, Tokyo is the lifeblood of some of the globes most dynamic and exciting design industries. Take in a fashion show in Harajuku, browse the

boutiques of Daikanyama or hit the designer shops on Omotesando, Tokyo’s answer to the Champs Elysees.

Shopping and Dining Tokyo has over 250,000 restaurants, and 3 times more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris. This means that you will never go hungry! While Tokyo doesn’t have any regional food of its own, you can experience every regional food from throughout Japan as well as cuisines from throughout the world. For sushi fans, make sure to try one of Tokyo’s numerous kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants, for a cheap and fun meal. Or, head to Tsukiji Fish market for the freshest sushi breakfast you will experience. If Tempura is more your thing then grab a seat at Ten Ichi and watch the chef’s create tempura masterpieces. Mix it with the locals in Omoide Yokochi (Memory lane) – a ramshackle collection of tiny restaurants and bars between the train tracks in Shinjuku, or for a really memorable night out than look no further than Ninja – a ninja themed restaurant that serves up great food as well. The basement levels of Tokyo’s Department stores are veritable food heavens, featuring an enormous selection of fresh and prepared food, and the free tastings are a great way of trying new food!

Hakone/Mt Fuji The gateway to Mount Fuji and the closest link to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the town of Hakone is an easy two hour train ride from Tokyo. This small town is famous for its onsen natural hot springs, and has natural beauty in abundance, with a multitude of outdoor activities on offer. No trip to Hakone would be complete without dedicating time to enjoying the hot springs of this volcanic region - no bad way to spend a few hours! There are hundreds of onsen to choose from and to take a dip in, and Exotissimo can recommend our favorite hot spring tips. Being one of the closest areas of natural beauty to Tokyo, Hakone can become busy in peak season, but with a bit of careful planning the best of the sites can be seen without encountering too many of the crowds. Of course, one of Hakone’s main draws for visitors is the hope of an opportunity to glimpse the iconic Mt Fuji. Japan’s highest mountain, Mt Fuji majestically towers at 3776 m, and is commonly affectionately referred to by the locals as ‘Fuji-san’. Throughout any day spent exploring Hakone and its environs, there may be the chance to glimpse of Mt Fuji, but is important to keep in mind that she is a notoriously shy mountain and it needs to be a clear day. However on these clear days, it is even possible to view Mt Fuji

from Tokyo itself. The National Park offers a variety of trekking routes, catering for all levels of fitness with some well marked out hiking trails offering treks ranging from two hours upwards. Beyond the natural attractions of Hakone and the National park, Hakone is also home to a multitude of cultural sites, museums and shrines. Travelers with Exotissimo with benefit from the insight of our unique tips and recommendations when visiting Hakone.

Where to stay? Hakone offers a refined selection of hotels that we recommend, but the quintessential Hakone/Mt Fuji experience is residing in a traditional Japanese-style ryokan for the night. Ryokan accommodation in Hakone comes complete with tatami mats, shoji rice paper sliding doors and onsen baths and you will spend the evening relaxing in your yukuta (lightweight kimono). We can suggest some of our favorite ryokans, but for a truly deluxe experience splash at the Hakone Ginyu, a luxury ryokan built into the side of the mountain giving stunning views of the surrounding mountains and gorge. Alternatively Gora Kadan, a former holiday home for the imperial family combines world class hotel facilities with traditional architecture. For a blended East meets West accommodation option

we recommend Gora Tensui, located in Hakone Machi. One of the few establishments in Japan, where you can sip on sake in the café while soothing your feet in the hot springs. Offering Japanese style bedrooms, some with views from the open air baths and Western style rooms with observation decks on which to relax and reflect after a day sightseeing.

Alternatives to the ryokan style accommodations include the historical Fujiya Hotel, whose doors opened in 1878, since becoming one of the most classical resorts in Japan or the Hyatt Regency Hakone, located at the green foothills of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park, in Gora an area famous for its onsens.

a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago, the National Park houses the Great Boiling Valley, a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs: Be prepared for the unusual smell of sulphur! On the water board a majestic replica pirate ship sweeping across the Lake Ashinoko, before taking a ride on the Hakone Tozan ‘switchback train’, zig zagging though the mountains and giving amazing views of the surrounding valleys. Beyond the natural wonders of the area, Hakone offers many other options as well; the Hakone Open Air Museum, featuring sculptures from world renowned artists, including a Picasso exhibition, set against the back drop of Hakone’s picturesque mountains.

What to see? Beyond the comfort and genuine Japanese hospitality of your ryokan or hotel, Hakone and its surroundings offers a multitude of attractions and activities for visitors. It goes without saying that on every visitor to Hakone’s wish list, a glimpse of the majestic Mt Fuji is high. Fujisan towers above Hakone and its environs and can

be admired from up-close or afar while visiting some of the regions other attractions. Another must do in the Fuji-Hakone National Park, is to ride the world’s second longest cable car up Mt Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers in this volcanic area. Here, try eating an egg hard boiled in the sulfuric hot springs which make Hakone famous. If you do, it will add seven years to your life! Centered around Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed by

And of course no visit to Hakone would be complete without enjoying the abundance of Japanese hot springs. Some of our favorites include Yunessun, a unique spa resort featuring Sake, Coffee, Green Tea and Red Wine baths, or for a more traditional Japanese experience pop next door to Mori no Yu, which has a numerous indoor and outdoor onsen including baths that can be rented privately so you can share a soak with your loved one.

Where to stay? Being at the top of most visitors to Japan ‘must see’ list, Kyoto is well equipped with a multitude of accommodation options, ranging from basic temple stays up to deluxe internationally known hospitality names. As with the rest of Japan, Kyoto experiences extreme peak seasons, notably during the cherry blossom season and

Kyoto The once capital of Japan and the Emperor’s residence for over a century from 794, Kyoto is now Japan’s seventh largest city with a population of over 1.4million people. As the center for Japanese power for a time, Kyoto was looked to as a hub for culture, tradition and religion. Fast forward to the current day and Kyoto is arguably one of the best examples of a blended city environment, where old meets new and modernity intertwines with tradition. On first glance, it may be hard to believe that Kyoto is not only home to an astonishing 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines but also to a staggering 17 UNESCO world heritage sites. During the city’s time in power, temples and shrines were continuously constructed for the emperors, shoguns geishas and monks. Kyoto was one of the few areas to escape the allied bombing World War II and as a result still boasts a plethora of pre-war buildings. A city continuously undergoing modernization, these buildings now juxtapose newer architecture, of note, the Kyoto Station complex, a giant futuristic glass structure and one of the largest and most striking railway stations in the

world. The now urban façade of this large metropolis initially masks the renowned historical attractions, but with the right knowledge, information from Exotissimo and a touch of curiosity, most visitors to Kyoto will soon realize that the hidden beauty of these attractions can be sought out in the parks and hidden spots around the city. Kyoto is well connected to other hubs in Japan by the Shinkansen (bullet train), taking just over two hours on the train from Tokyo and 15 minutes from Osaka. On arrival bear in mind that Kyoto is built on a grid system, so with the help of a map and some simple instructions, visitors find this fascinating city relatively easy to navigate.

public holidays, when hotels rates soar and availability can be hard to come by. For this reason we recommend booking as far in advance as possible. Some visitors even stay in Osaka during this period which opens up a wider range of accommodation choices. To help with your selection of accommodation for your Japan tour,

Exotissimo has handpicked a number of our favorite properties, with an option for all tastes and budgets. For a deluxe stay, we recommend looking at the Hyatt Regency: Located in the traditional, secluded Higashiyama temple area, this luxurious hotel with a contemporary Japanese concept features an interior designed by über hip Japanese design group Super Potato. If you’re in search of a stay with historical roots the historic Westin Miyako Hotel, founded in 1890, has welcomed such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth 2 and Albert Einstein.

With a location high in the hills of the picturesque Higashiyama area, the Miyako is Kyoto’s iconic hotel. Perhaps the thought of a design led property ticks your boxes? If that is the case take a look at the Hotel Granvia. With a convenient location within the architecturally stunning Kyoto Station building, this stylish hotel displays a private art collection throughout the hotel. Or for a well located stay in the heart of Kyoto, the Hotel Monterey is located right in the center of downtown, just a three minute walk from 2 subway lines and surrounded by many restaurants and shopping options.

What to see? The question for visitors to Kyoto is often not just ‘what to see’ but ‘where to start’? With over 2000 temples and 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites in and around the city, planning your visit can seem overwhelming. Here are our top tips for which sites are must do’s, where to explore and how to make the most of your time in Kyoto. One of the highlights for most visiting Kyoto is a trip to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603, and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors. Kinkakuji – The temple of the Golden Pavilion was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death becoming a Buddhist Temple and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous. Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple was built without the use of nails or joiners and offers unrivalled views of Kyoto from the 13m high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall. Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district, Gion is full of tea houses and cobbled streets and the atmospheric Higashiyama district, whose busy lanes lead up to Kiyo-

mizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs including Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles is well worth exploring.

able for all. Ride between temples, around the center or through the parks, a great way to see the city as locals do.

Arguably most famous for its autumn leaves in November, Kyoto has multitude of spots from that come alive during this time. Talk to your travel consultant for our inside tips on where to see the best views. A city with few hills and little traffic, Kyoto is the perfect place to explore on two wheels with routes and bikes suit-

Beyond the more classical sights of Kyoto, Exotissimo Travel can arrange a whole host of Japanese experiences to speckle your days in Kyoto with. From Geisha’s to traditional Arts, cookery to meditation, immerse yourself in Japanese culture and traditions in Kyoto, for a deeper understanding of this awe inspiring country.

Where to stay?

Hiroshima For many visitors to Hiroshima, the startling first impressions of this historically tarnished city are far from expectations, linked to the tragic history of this now blooming center. It cannot be forgotten that Hiroshima is famous for one moment in history: On 6 August 1945 it became the first target of an atomic bomb. However fast forward to the current day and Hiroshima has not only risen phoenix-like from the ashes, but has rebuilt itself as one of Japan’s most laid back, vibrant cities full of wide boulevards, great food and friendly, welcoming people. Naturally some visitors to Hiroshima may have some hesitations about what to expect, what questions to ask and the sensitivities of the subject of the A-bomb. However Hiroshima’s residents, many of whose families lived through the event in 1945, are united in the quest to ensure that such a tragic event never happens again. Around the Peace Park it is not uncommon for a friendly local to strike up a conversation, and if the topic arises, feel free to continue it as you consider appropriate. With simialarites to Japan’s other major cities; blinking neon lights, contrasting styles of architecture and buzz that is rarely found elsewhere in the world, the

first time visitor may find it hard to believe that such an event unfolded here. The modern day city though industrial in some respects, is also a major Japanese hub with a thriving art scene, and is a city rich in galleries, monuments and museums, which can easily fill a day or two’s sightseeing. Three excellent art galleries, a passionate sports scene and an expected range of epicurean delights are just some of the experiences on offer here. If you really want to fit in with the locals, swot up on the Hiroshima Carp – the local baseball team with their red uniform, the color symbolizing a never ending fighting spirit and attend a baseball

game. The lively and friendly people of Hiroshima are at their best when cheering for their favorite team. The city even has it’s version of one of Japan’s most famous foods, okonomiyaki. A delicious and traditional savory pancake, similar to an omlette, the name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked”. The Hiroshima version features a handful of soba noodles added to the mix, and is a must-try for visitors to Hiroshima.

Exotissimo has selected a small number of properties to recommend to clients. Though Hiroshima does not have any true deluxe properties, our portfolio of Hiroshima hotels offers the best options around town to choose from. In an enviable position on Peace Boulevard only minutes walk from the Peace Park, the Crowne Plaza brings modern amenities, chic design and a friendly atmosphere to Hiroshima. If its location, location you’re looking for, take a look at the Rihga Royal Hiroshima, located in the heart of the city, just minutes walk to the Peace Park, Hiroshima Castle and the Museum of Art, with the city’s best shopping and entertainment options on its doorstep and stunning views of the Castle and nearby bay. For a stylish, contemporary stay, check out the Hotel Flex: An ultra modern hotel located on the Kyobashi riverside, just a 5 minute walk from the central station. Located in a vibrant neighborhood, close to lively shopping districts and entertainment areas, the Oriental Hotel offers good value for money and is within walking distance of the Peace Park.

What to see? Of course most visitors to Hiroshima priority will be to spend some time at The Peace Park and Museum. Sitting in the middle of the city, the museum and surrounding park offer a theme of hope and peace. The area where the park now lies was ground zero for the

Atomic Bomb on 6th August 1945. After the bombing the Memorial Park was created and dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack. Stroll through the park and discover many memorials, monuments and statues, before heading into the Museum itself. A visit to the park and memorial is naturally moving, and can be an intense day for some, so some time out in one of the city’s parks to reflect afterwards, can be a welcome experience. Hiroshima boasts three world class art galleries: The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art features

artists such as Henry Moore and Andy Warhol; the Prefectual Art Musuem which collects and exhibits the traditional arts of Hiroshima, craftwork of Japan and Asia and is located next to the beautiful Shukkien Garden; and the Hiroshima Museum of Art which displays modern Western Art in addition to modern Japanese paintings in Western Style. For a museum of a different sort, check out the Hiroshima City Manga Library, containing tens of thousands of Japanese comic books, or car enthusiasts can visit the Mazda Museum. Miyajima Island is a small wooded island located in

the Inland Sea. Here can be found perhaps Japan’s most photographed site - The Floating Torii Gate. Designated as one of Japan’s ‘3 Most Beautiful Views’, the shrine it belongs to dates back to the 6th century and is designed in a pier like structure. Hiroshima Castle – although destroyed by the atomic bomb, it has since been restored to its former glory and is a great spot from which to admire panorama’s over the city.

Other Destinations

distinctive architecture can be seen in Shirakawago– a UNESCO World Heritage listed village famous for its ‘Praying Hands’ style farmhouses. Explore the Miyagawa morning market before visiting one of the many sake breweries, where the famous drink is of a particularly high quality due to the area’s clean water sources. The Hida No Sato Folk Village is an open air museum exhibiting over 30 typical farmhouses and other traditional buildings from the Hida region and the Takayama Festival Floats museum, displays floats from the famous Takayama festival. Koya- San

Osaka Often the first or last destination on a Japan itinerary, Japan’s second city may be low on sights but makes up for it with great food, vibrant nightlife and friendly locals. Just 45 minutes from Kyoto, Osaka was the capital of Japan prior to Kyoto and although not a major tourist destination, it is a great city in which to while away a few hours or an evening with plenty on offer to entertain. Takayama Due to its previously inaccessible location nestled high in the mountainous Hida alpine region, this beautifully preserved old town was cut off from the rest of Japan, allowing it to develop its own unique culture. A very

Holy Mt Koya (Koya-san) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was intro-

duced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi. A 2 hour train journey from Osaka winds its way up into the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. The final ascent to the top of Koya is made by cable car. At Koya-San, sleep in Buddhist temple lodging, and watch the monks chant in the early morning. Dine on shojin ryori, traditional Buddhist cuisine on this mystical mountain. Here, over one hundred temples have sprung up along the streets. The most important among them are Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, and Okunoin, the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. Koya-san and its surrounds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


robes and geta sandals.

For 74 years during the 8th century Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Once the most powerful city in Japan, present day Nara is a small town whose main attractions can be covered by foot. Nara Park, a large park in central Nara is home to most of Nara’s sites, as well as hundreds of freely roaming deer. Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha, and Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine. The Nara National Museum was established over 100 years ago and has one of Japan’s best collections of Japanese Buddhist Art including statues, paintings, scrolls and Ceremonial

These towns are also located close to Jigokudani Yaen Koen, home of the famous Snow Monkeys. Jigokudani literally means ‘hell’s valley’ due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, and it is in the baths of this boiling water that the resident Japanese Macaques like to soak in on.

objects. A stroll through Naramachi, a former merchant district, gives you a glimpse into Nara’s past. Traditional residential buildings and warehouses have been preserved, and boutiques, shops, cafes, restaurants and a few museums now line the district’s narrow lanes. Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen These quaint towns have a long history as hot spring resorts, dating back hundreds of years when priests, samurai and poets travelled here to enjoy the hot spring water. There are many ryokan (Japanese inns) in town with onsen hot spring baths, as well as public onsen to try. Guests are encouraged to take a stroll around town in the traditional onsen clothing of yukata

The monkeys live in large social groups, and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions. Accustomed to humans, they can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests. Whilst the monkeys are most numerous during the colder months, they can be observed all year round. Kamakura Located south of Tokyo, Kamakura is a popular day trip destination for Tokyoites and tourists alike. A former capital, turned sleepy seaside town, Kamakura is a home to many ancient temples and is a center of Zen Buddhism. A grerat base from which to explore a selection of temples and shrines on foot, Kamakura has several hiking trails leading through the forests and allowing a respite from some of the crowds on their day trips. Aside from temples a plenty to explore, Kamakura has some lovely beaches to be enjoyed on during the

The base ingredient of most meals in Japan is white rice, in Japanese gohan, literally translating as ‘meal’. Aside from fish, soya beans form a large proportion of protein and are the base for miso soup, served with almost every meal. Tofu, bean curd and soy sauce are also commonplace in dishes. Think of Japanese cuisine, and sushi may well come to mind. A staple of Japanese cuisine, sushi (cooked, vinegared rice with various toppings) and sashimi (raw fish) and now wildly popular throughout the world. The preparation of these delicacies is highly complex, and apprentices train for two years in traditional methods of selecting and preparing the freshest of fish from the markets. However, if raw fish isn’t your thing, don’t worry - the post war generations of Japanese are just as happy eating pork, chicken and beef.

warmer months which come alive during the summer months with beachside bars and live music. Eating and Drinking One of the highlights of any trip to Japan has to be the awesome experience of Japanese cuisine; from succulent fish roe to bizarre sea weed! The diversity of Japan’s restaurants is just amazing.

Enjoy slurping on a cheap bowl of noodles with salary men under the train tracks or dine out on Kobe beef at Aragawa, the world’s most expensive restaurant. With more Michelin stars to its name than the combined score of London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles, Tokyo will not fail to seduce the foodie or the fussy eater. A widely varied cuisine, there are a few staple ingredients that are commonly used as a base for most meals.

The eating methods that go along with Japanese cuisine are also integral to the culture, and it’s worth bearing in mind a few simple guidelines on the correct method for eating with chopsticks: • Refrain from placing chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, or using your own chopsticks to transfer food to another person’s chopsticks – these reflect rituals performed in Buddhist funerals

• It is acceptable to either rest your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl or plate, or place them on the ceramic chopstick rest (hashi-oki) that many restaurants provide. • Using chopsticks to move items on the dinner table, or point at people or things with is considered rude. • Stabbing your food with chopsticks is also considered bad manners, and should only be done if you are really struggling to use them in the traditional way. It is acceptable to eat sushi with your fingers. Japanese cuisine mainly utilizes fresh ingredients sourced locally resulting in every region in Japan having its own delicacies and regional specialties. This is truly one of the delights of travelling through the country, sampling each region’s individual dishes and experiencing the different ingredients and cooking styles unique to the area. From the fresh sashimi and crab of Hokkaido, to the okonomiyaki pancake in Osaka, the delicious purple potato soft ice-cream of Kamakura and the Yatsuhashi biscuit of Kyoto, the food of Japan will fascinate and delight all visitors.

Japan - FAQs AIRLINES International: Japan is extremely well serviced by almost every major airline. Domestic: Domestic airlines include Japan Airlines (JAL) and Air Nippon Airlines (ANA), Skymark, Skynet and Air Do.

AIRPORT TAX All airport taxes are included in the price of your ticket and do not need to be paid for at the airport.

ARRIVAL IN JAPAN BY AIR Tokyo is one of Asia’s largest air hubs, so it is very wellconnected to the rest of the world. Tokyo is home to two international airports, Narita and Haneda. Other airports in Japan that are serviced by international flights include Osaka’s Kansai Airport and Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair Airport.

Always consult your Exotissimo travel agent for routings, fares and flight availability to Japan. Discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals.

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES Upon arrival in Japan, all visitors must complete an entry/exit form including a customs declaration. It is important that your copy of this form is kept safe with your passport while in Japan and is presented to the customs and immigration officials on departure. If you have booked a Meet and Greet service with Exotissimo, our representative will be waiting in the arrivals hall holding a sign with your name on it.

ATMS Foreign credit, debit, and cash cards are useful for obtaining cash. However, most ATM machines are only for cards issued in Japan and do not accept foreign cards. The exceptions are ATMs located at Narita and Kansai international airports and at more than 24,000 post offices and Seven Eleven, convenience store, throughout Japan. For Service hours and locations for ATMs at Seven Eleven:

Post offices where this service is available display the “International ATM Service”symbol (a green clover) and stickers indicating which cards are accepted. Cards from the Cirrus, Plus, Maestro and Visa Electron networks are accepted, as are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and JCB credit cards. VISAELECTRON, PLUS, Maestro, Cirrus, China Unionpay, DISCOVER.

CLOTHING Lighter clothing in the summer time is best in Japan and warmer clothes in the winter (especially if you are in the Alpine regions). If you are travelling in the spring then bring some warmer clothes as the temperature does drop at night.

Service hours for ATMs at post offices vary depending on the location, but in general they are: Monday to Friday: 07:00 to 19:00/21:00/23:00 Saturday, Sunday and national holidays: 09:00 to 17:00

Japanese are always meticulously dressed and you will be judged (and sometimes treated) based on how you dress so you may want to avoid bringing ripped and tatty clothes.

The minimum amount you can withdraw at any ATM is 10,000 JPY. Check with your hotel or tour guide when you need to make a withdrawal. We recommend using the International ATMS at the airport when you arrive.

Easy to slip on/slip off shoes are essential when visiting temples, staying in ryokans etc. For the same reason, make sure you leave any socks with holes at home. Whilst Japan is less strict than other Buddhist countries about what to wear when visiting temples, it is always polite to cover shoulders.



Department stores and shops are open 7 days a week from 10pm to 7:30 or 8pm. Museums, temples and other tourist attractions are usually open from 10am to 5pm, with entry closing 30mins before.

It is important to note that Japan is very much a cash society, and credit cards are not as widely used as in Western countries. Credit cards are mainly accepted in urban areas in top end restaurants, shops, and hotels. However, it is not advisable to rely entirely on credit cards, as inexpensive restaurants, neighborhood shops,

Offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, Post Offices 9am to 5pm and Banks 9am to 3pm.

and some Japanese inns, especially in rural areas, often do not accept credit cards.

ELECTRICITY The electric current used throughout Japan is 100 volts, A.C. However, there are two kinds of frequencies (or cycles): 50 Hertz in eastern Japan (including Tokyo and regions northeast of the capital) and 60 Hertz in western Japan (including Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and other points southwest).

HEALTH No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present.


At major hotels, two outlets for both 110 and 220 volts are installed for electric razors, hair dryers, travel irons and other small appliances. Japan uses 2-flat-pin plugs (as in the U.S.) and cannot accommodate columnarshaped plugs or 3-pin plugs, which will need a plug adaptor.

Major hotels have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet. Almost all hotels have free LAN cable access in rooms if you bring your own laptop. Japanese style ryokan accommodation can sometimes have wireless internet available but rarely have PCs to use. Cybercafés are very rare in Japan, due to the prevalence of internet access on mobile phones and at home. Manga Cafes (like a cross between a comic book library and internet cafes) are usually located near stations but require registration and staff rarely speak English.



Japan is not just a land of sushi! Whilst fish is in abundance, Japan has a huge variety of food types to cater for even the fussiest eater. Rice is the main staple dish, and noodles such as ramen, soba and udon with various toppings are common.

Many visitors who don’t know a word of Japanese have traveled successfully throughout Japan on their own, but travelers armed with a few phrases of the native language and some tips on communicating with the Japanese will find their trip more enjoyable. One of the first rules of thumb is to have destinations like hotels, restaurants, and attractions written in Japanese so that they may be shown to taxi drivers, people on the street,

Most food is eaten with chopsticks so best get practicing as cutlery is not always available at restaurants.

and others who might provide assistance. Barring that, if travelers need to ask directions or make enquiries, they’re best off seeking out younger people, especially university-age students, or businessmen, since all Japanese learn English in school.

is required for all transactions.

It goes without saying that you should speak simply, slowly and articulately, and if you’re still having trouble communicating, you should write down their question instead of speaking it, since many Japanese haven’t had the opportunity to converse in English but may be able to read it perfectly

Keep in mind that exchanging money and traveler’s checks at banks and post offices in Japan can be a very lengthy procedure so we do recommend the use of debit/cash cards.


Photo developing labs are common in Japan, providing normal print films as well as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-Rom in case you run out of memory. Memory Cards are very good value in Japan.

Japanese money is called yen, symbolized by “¥”. Coins are minted in denominations of 1yen, 5yen, 10yen, 50yen, 100yen and 500yen. Notes are issued in denominations of 1,000yen, 2,000yen, 5,000yen, and 10,000yen. Money can be exchanged at both Narita and Kansai international airports, all banks and Post Offices that displaythe“AUTHORIZEDFOREIGNEXCHANGE”sign,hotels (for hotel guests only), and major department stores in large cities (at their customer service or money exchange window). Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars, Japanese yen, and other denominations can be exchanged for yen at the above locations, but note that a passport

Note, too, that banks in rural areas may not accept traveler’s checks, and virtually no stores or restaurants do.


POSTAL MAIL The simplest way to post mail or packages is at hotel front desks. Otherwise, postcards and stamps are available from post offices, convenience stores and kiosks at train stations all over the country. Post offices are open Monday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00, though central post offices (often located near main train stations) have longer hours and may be open on weekends and

holidays as well. A postcard costs 70yen to send anywhere in the world.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2011 Japan observes 15 national holidays. Government offices, banks, and most businesses are closed on holidays, but most restaurants and stores remain open. Major museums remain open during most holidays, though small, privately owned museums are generally closed. Note that the only exception to the above is during New Year’s, when many restaurants, stores and museums and all offices, are closed, generally from January 1 through 3. During that time, clients may have to dine in hotels in some destinations, though in resort areas and major tourist towns some restaurants remain open. January 1 New Year’s Day (gantan - some businesses don’t reopen until the 4th or 5th) January 10 Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) February 11 National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinen no hi) March 21 Spring Equinox (shunbun no hi)

April 29 Showa Day – birthday of the Emperor Showa (Showa no hi) May 3 Constitution Day (kenpo kinenbi) May 4 Greenery Day (midori no hi) May 5 Childrens’ Day (kodomo no hi) July 18 Marine Day (uni no hi) August 13-15 Obon (Festival of Souls) Not an official holiday but many offices are closed September 19 Respect for the Aged Day (keiro no hi) September 23 Autumn Equinox October 10 Sports Day (taiku no hi)

November 3 Culture Day (bunka no hi) November 23 Labour Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi) December 23 Emperor’s Birthday (Tenno tanjobi)

RELIGION Shintoism, which is indigenous to Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan in the sixth century, are the two main religions in Japan. Many Japanese practice religions, celebrating birth and marriage in accordance with Shinto rites while following Buddhist ceremonies for funerals and memorial services. Shintoism, which originated as a way of dealing with ancient people’s fears of demons and the supernatural, has no written doctrines. A Shinto place of worship is referred to as a shrine. The Buddhist place of worship is a temple. Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all by the constitution.

SAFETY Japan has long led the world as one of the most crimefree countries in the world. Even large cities like Tokyo and Osaka are remarkably safe. Not only are crimes against visitors virtually unheard of, but even personal

belongings accidentally left in trains or taxis, on park benches, or in restaurants are generally turned in to the local police station and eventually make their way back to the rightful owner.

SHOPPING Shopping in Japan is a cornucopia of unexpected treasures, from traditional crafts to high-tech wizardry. Every region has its own local handicrafts, made with techniques passed down from generation to generation. Souvenirs to look out for in Japan include pearls, electrics and electronics, cameras, watches and clocks, bamboo ware, kimono, silk goods, pottery and lacquer ware. Overseas visitors in Japan with temporary status who spend more than 10,001yen on any given day in one shop are entitled to a refund of the 5% consumption tax. Only department stores and specialty shops used to dealing with foreign tourists offer the refund, and clients must show their passports. No refund is granted for cosmetics, food, alcohol, cigarettes, medicine, film and batteries, which include the consumption tax in their price tag.

TELEPHONE The Japanese mobile telephone system is not compatible with those of other countries, which means that unless you have a 3G phone, your mobile phone will not work in Japan. Mobile phones can be rented at the airport for around 500JPY per day plus insurance and call charges. You can also hire a phone and use your own sim card if you want to keep your number. International calls can be made from hotels and public pay phones displaying an “International and Domestic Telephone” sign. These can be found at airports, hotel lobbies, and other key facilities.

TIME Japan is GMT + 9 and does not operate on a daylightsavings system.

TIPPING Tipping is not practiced in Japan, not even to waitresses, taxi drivers, or bellboys. Attempts at leaving a tip will cause confusion. A 10 to 15 percent service charge is added to bills at higher-priced hotels and restaurants. At higher-end

Japanese inns with individualized maid service, a 10 to 20 percent service charge is added. No service charge is added to bills at business hotels, pensions, minshuku, youth hostels, and other inexpensive lodgings.

Taxis can be useful over short distances but get very expensive very quickly.

Travelers can, however, tip tour guides and the head maid at a Japanese inn if special requests were made. It is best to put the money in an envelope first if doing this.

Nationals of many countries including almost all Western countries are eligible to enter Japan for short-term stays (usually 90 days) without a visa for purposes of sightseeing and for business trips.


Nationals that do not have “Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements” with Japan must obtain a visa.

Japan has probably the best public transportation system in the world, so the majority of long distance transport in Japan is on the Japanese trains, including the world famous Shinkansen bullet train. The Japan Rail Pass offers overseas visitors an economical, flexible, and simple-to-use advantage over regular tickets, allowing unlimited travel on a vast network of JR trains throughout Japan and comes in 7, 14 and 21 day passes. Tokyo has an extensive metro and over ground rail system. Using a prepaid transport card (PASMO or SUICA) is the best way to get around. Kyoto has an excellent bus network and purchasing a 500 Yen bus card (with free English bus map) will get you unlimited travel on the city buses for 1 day.


To apply for a visa, the applicant must apply in person to a Japanese embassy or a consulate, usually in his or her home country. Check the following website for more information concerning visas:

WEATHER Japan has mostly a mild climate, but since it’s an archipelago stretching some 1,800 miles (3,000 km) from north to south, there are extremes in the weather, not to mention flora and scenery. The northern end of Japan is subarctic, while the southern end is subtropical.

Springtime is one of the most glorious times to visit Japan, and with good reason. That’s when Japan’s famous trees burst forth into blossom, beginning with plum trees in March and continuing to May, when the last cherry blossoms drift to the ground in northern Japan. The Japanese summer begins in June with the rainy season, which lasts about three weeks. Although it doesn’t rain every day, rains can be heavy and umbrellas are a must. When the rainy season ends, much of Japan becomes hot and humid. Exceptions are Hokkaido (which does not have a rainy season) and mountainous regions with their resorts. Seaside resorts are also popular respites. Mt. Fuji’s official climbing season extends from July 1 to August 26. September signals typhoon season, though storms hit Japan’s coast only occasionally. October brings pleasant, crisper temperatures and magnificent fall colors ranging from crimson to gold. This is the time of harvest, as rice is cut, baled and stacked in neat rows. Except for the extreme north, winter in Japan is not severe, especially on the Pacific coast where the climate is generally dry and the skies are often blue. The southern regions of Japan, including Kyushu, enjoy mild and even warm weather, while the northern regions like Hokkaido

and the mountain ranges of central Japan become very cold with abundant snowfall. Of course, Japan’s many ski resorts, do a brisk business this time of year, as do the nation’s thousands of hot-spring resorts, or Onsen.

plus adjacent weekends.

We do not recommend travelling in the following peak periods, as virtually all long-distance trains, ferries, and airlines will be fully booked, not to mention hotels and other lodging, which often raise their rates in peak times.

3. “Bon” festival season: One week centering on August 15.

2. “Golden Week” holiday season: April 29 to May 5 and adjacent weekends.

WATER Tap water throughout Japan is safe to drink.

1. New Year holiday season: December 29 to January 3,

EXOTISSIMO TRAVEL JAPAN Tokyo - Main Office 7F Park Side Sepia 3-13-10, Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku 3-13-10, Tokyo 106-0031, Japan Tel: +81(0)3 5772 8182 When in Japan dial: 03 5772 8182 Fax: +81(0)3470 5540 Email: go [dot] japan [at] exotissimo [dot] com

Japan Travel Guide - Exotissimo Travel  

This Japan Travel Guide will give you some more information about the country, the different destinations to visit, useful information for t...