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Konnichiwa! Japan in the spotlight

Ancient history, pop culture, incredible scenery, delicious food, luxury, and adventure. In Japan, there really is something for everyone. I can’t wait to be heading back to the Land of the Rising Sun - it’s been 13 years since my high school trip when I was 16 years old. I’ll be there in April 2025 for Star Wars Celebration… are you joining me?

It’s one of the safest, and most beautiful countries in the world. Japan’s culture is so ingrained into everyday life that it’s difficult to miss it, even if you’re only there for a short time. It’s also the birthplace of Mario, Nintendo, and Pokémon - their love of creativity and pop culture makes it a geek haven and a must visit on any bucket list.

Things to do and must sees

No matter what you’re looking for, or your holiday style, Japan has something for you. From the snow fields of Sapporo, the bustling city of Tokyo, to the rugged and underdeveloped landscapes of Kyushi Island.

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea

Full of the magic and pixie dust you expect from a Disney park, with a Japanese flair and exclusive attractions only found at these parks – in fact, the whole park of DisneySea is not found anywhere else! Located a quick train ride or drive from Tokyo, these Disney parks are a must see for any fan.

Universal Studios Japan

Letsa go! The very first Super Nintendo World opened at Universal Studios, located only 11 minutes by train from Osaka, in 2022, bringing the world of Nintendo and Mario Kart to life. Harry Potter fans can also enjoy wandering the cobbled streets of Hogsmeade and fly through the Hogwarts Grounds with Harry and friends. There’s something for everyone to make your day fun!

Other amusement and theme parks

Disney and Universal aren’t the only amusement parks in Japan – in fact there’s more then 100 throughout the country! Major ones include: Fuji-Q Highland, a thrill seekers mecca; Sanrio Puroland, where you can get your fill of Hello Kitty and her friends; Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, where you’ll experience an impressive recreation of life in the Edo period; Nagashima Spa Land, home of the “Steel Dragon 2000” the world’s longest roller coaster; and Toei Kyoto Studio Park, another Edo park, as well as a film and TV set – don’t miss the ninja maze too!


Fast-paced and lit by neon lights – a perfect mix between history and the future. Don’t miss Shinjuku, Tokyo’s version of Times Square, where you’ll be overwhelmed by the neon lights and crush of people. During cherry blossom season, the best place to see them in bloom is in the town of Nakameguro, grab a spot along the Meguro River and bask in the incredible view of the blossoms. For a culture hit, don’t miss the amazing sight of the giant lantern of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Pokèmon fans – make sure to check out my blog of major Pokèmon attractions around the city too!


Japan is known for its incredible temples, and Kyoto is packed with them. Only a short bullet train ride from Tokyo, this centre of Japanese culture is a must see. Kiyomizudera Temple, nestled up in the hills, is home to the Otowa Waterfall – make sure to drink from it for good luck! And don’t miss the marvellous Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple covered completely in gold leaf – making for amazing photos.


There is so much more to this city than its wartime past. If that’s your drawcard, don’t miss the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, UNESCO World Heritage Building and one of last standing buildings that was razed by the first atomic bombs dropped on the city in World War II. The Dome is located within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, along with the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims, the Hiroshima Peace Park Rest House, The Peace Bell, the Flame of Peace that burned consistently since 1964 and the Children’s Peace Monument with the statue of Sadoko Sasaki, and cabinets full of paper cranes. Don’t miss the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where you’ll find exhibits documenting the realities of nuclear bombings, including parts of buildings and walls with the ghosts of people who had been standing beside them when the bombs landed as permanent shadows on them. Outside of the wartime history, catch a short ferry ride from the city to Miyajima Island. This beautiful natural island is home to only 2,000 people, and a healthy population of free-roaming deer. At low tide, take a walk out to the iconic torii gate in the bay, and wander the “floating” walkways of Itsukushima-jinja.

Mt. Fuji

Only a short bullet train ride from Tokyo, and can be seen from hundreds of kilometres away, Mt Fuji is the tallest and most famous peak in Japan. The area around the mountain is a great place to spend some time all year around, with amusement parks, onsen and Japan’s largest shopping complex at the base. People flock to the mountain all year, to experience the area around the mountain, and to climb the trails. Don’t miss the beautiful temples and shrines around the mountain as well.

Skiing and snow sports

Visit in winter and you’ll find a winter wonderland, with numerous ski fields for a variety of skill ranges. The ski fields on Hokkaido, including Niseko, the largest in Japan, are the most recommended, along with the fields along the Japan Alps on Honshu, close to Tokyo. You don’t need to stay at the ski resorts, some fields are close enough to major cities for exciting day trips to the snow!

The basics for tourists

Before you begin your adventure, it’s always best to familiarise yourself with the basic information of the area you’re travelling to. It might not be as exciting as planning your activities and accommodation, but just as important. Below is some information about Japan, especially curated for tourists. Check out the Travel Japan website for a comprehensive guide for first time travellers in addition to the below.

Language and timezone

Japan's official language is Japanese, but English is generally understood in major cities and designated tourist sites. A lot of signs will have English under the Japanese as well. The timezone in Japan is GMT +9 Japan Standard Time and they do not observe daylight savings. They are 1 hour ahead of Australian Western Standard Time, and 1 hour behind Australian Eastern Standard Time, 2 hours behind Australian Eastern Daylight Time.


The Japanese yen is used throughout the country, and you can exchange foreign currency at the airports and most major banks. Japan is primarily a cash-centric country, however, credit cards are usually accepted in most shops, restaurants and taxis in major cities. Due to the custom of humility in Japan, tipping is not encouraged. In fact, it can cause discomfort and confusion if you do. A service charge is generally added on to the final bill in restaurants.

Health and safety

While bottled water is readily available all over Japan—including in the infinite vending machines—the tap water is perfectly safe to drink. If you do find yourself in a situation that requires serious help, dial 110 for an urgent call to the police and 119 for fire or ambulance. Make sure you are aware of the local laws in Japan as ignorance is not accepted as a valid line of defence.


Japan is a leader in technology, though there is a large difference between major cities and smaller towns with technology very limited in some areas. Wireless hotspots are popping up all over major cities in Japan, so you should never be too far from a Wi-Fi connection. Japan uses two flat parallel prong plugs. For guaranteed charging of your electrical necessities, purchase a plug adapter beforehand.

Visas and tourist information

Please check the latest information on Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website or contact the Japanese embassy/consulate in your country/region of residence. Australians travelling on an Australian passport are eligible for a visa exemption for stays less than 90 days for tourism visits. Visitors to Japan pay a 1,000-yen departure tax to expand and enhance the country’s tourist infrastructure—a small tax that will make a significant difference.

If you don't wish to haul your luggage around with you when you arrive in Japan, drop your bags and cases off at the delivery service kiosks located at the airports. Make your journeys as smooth as the public transportation you will ride on by purchasing a chargeable IC travel card. Visitors to Japan are eligible for tax exemption on many consumer goods. The process of receiving your tax back can vary from store to store.


Japan is an archipelago country made up of nearly 7,000 islands, only 421 of which are inhabited (still a huge amount!). The four largest, and most well-known, islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku and account for 97% of Japan's total area. The archipelago is slightly smaller than the US state of California but larger than the United Kingdom.

70% of Japan’s land is covered in dense forest and mountainous areas. The Japan Alps span the central area of Honshu. Most major cities are located on flatter areas and coastlines, with some even built on reclaimed land. Stunning beaches and surfing spots line the coastlines, and massive world-class ski fields form in the winter.

Japan’s location at the intersection of four tectonic plates – the Pacific, North American, Eurasian and Filipino plates – makes its land in general unstable. Movement in the plates cause earthquakes – approximately 1,500 per year! – and many active volcanoes and regular eruptions. While this sounds terrifying, it has caused incredible landscapes and vistas. Earthquakes are plentiful, but many are barely a rumble in the earth and most you will not even feel. Japan is built to resist the seismic activity so unless the earthquake is rated high on the scale, you’re unlikely to experience damage or injury. That all said, be safe and follow directions you are given in an emergency.

Regions and prefectures

Japan is split up into 10 regions, each split into multiple prefectures, all with their own attractions – there’s something for everyone. The country’s capital, Tokyo, is in the Kanto region (the beginning of your journey to be the very best haha). This region also holds the Chiba prefecture where Star Wars Celebration will be held, and also the home of Tokyo Disneyland. The great white north of the Hokkaido region is a haven for adventure fans and home to some of the best snow fields in the country. If you’re after temples and ancient history, the Kansai region is the home of the cities of Kyoto and Nara, where cultural treasures abound. World War II history buffs are encouraged to head to the Chugoku region, where you’ll find the previously ravaged city of Hiroshima, the city that took the full brunt of the US atomic attack on the country.


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