Browse our Japan Tours
Japan has it all. Amid bright lights, daring modern architecture, and the pulsating energy of Tokyo, you’ll find the latest in technology, art, fashion, and high cuisine. To get away from it all, try a tailormade Japan tour to the crystalline waters of Okinawa Island or take in the rejuvenating mountain air atop sacred, snow-capped Mount Fuji. For a peek into Japan’s culture, stroll through fragrant cherry blossoms and delicate pagodas in one of Kyoto’s many Shintoist temples and sanctuaries. Whatever you’re looking for, Japan is at once surprising, serene, and spectacular.
Backyard Travel offers tailored Japan tours for every interest and travel plan. Our itineraries include everything from tours of Japan’s defining sights and unmissable cities to thematic excursions focusing on culture, nature, art, or cuisine. As an experienced Japan travel agency with knowledgeable, on-the-ground staff, we can design a tailormade Japan holiday, customized for you.
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Made up of nearly 7,000 islands, Japan offers endless possibilities for the curious traveler. The country’s rugged terrain keeps over 70 percent of its land forested, and Japan’s treasure trove of natural gems includes everything from volcanic hot springs in the icy northern islands to pristine tropical beaches in the south. Adventurers will find skiing, boating, and even daring volcano ascents, while luxury-seekers can explore beautifully preserved mountaintop villages for a soothing dip in a piping-hot onsen, the soft touch of yukata robes, and a warm cup of green tea.
Japan’s world-famous cities and towns are just as varied. Trend-setting Tokyo boasts fantastic modern architecture, an innovative arts scene, frenzied open-air markets, and some of the best restaurants, hotels, and museums in Asia. In Kyoto, the graceful towers of pagodas rise over Buddhist sanctuaries, while peaceful Hakone, the gateway to Mount Fuji, greets visitors with a landscape that seems painted with the delicate tones of Japanese watercolors.
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We had an unforgettable trip, everything was great! Each guide was so kind and really catered to what we wanted to do and see.
Kirsten, Rachael & Kristin (Japan, April 2015)
Thank you for putting together a fantastic trip for us! We had a great time and absolutely loved Japan.
Mr. Christopher& Mrs. Jessica Lacher (Japan, April 2014)
We would like to thank you very much for organising our tour of Japan. The notes you gave us were excellent and enabled us to get everywhere without any problem.
Mr. Peter Berkovits (Japan, April 2015)
All the tour guides you assigned were very knowledgeable and professional. They shared meaningful information, history and insights and we enjoyed their company.
Ma. Lourdes de Vera-Mateo (Japan, April 2015)
Some Questionsabout our Tours of Japan
Japan is an incredibly safe and easy country to travel, but being prepared and informed is crucial to having a stress-free trip. Before you hop on the plane to Asia, review our guide for recommendations on what to see, do, and eat on a bespoke Japan vacation.
Nationals of many countries (including the European Union, the U.S., Canada, and Australia) are eligible to enter Japan for short-term stays (usually 90 days) without a visa for tourism. To see if your country has a ‘Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangement’ with Japan, check the website run by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Japan has four distinct seasons, each with its own form of breathtaking natural beauty. Cherry blossom season in Japan occurs in March and April, when temperatures are pleasantly warm with refreshing breezes. It’s a good time to visit and see the festivities, as locals gather to picnic under the cherry trees.
Between June and August, things heat up and temperatures can reach as high as 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity. This also when the summer rains come, called tsuyu in Japanese. This makes summer one of the quietest times to travel to Japan, especially in the cities, which can be a bonus if you don’t mind the heat or daily showers.
In the autumn, temperatures cool to highs of roughly 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day and lows of 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. In the winter you can expect snow in the north, in Honshu, and parts of Kyushu. This makes Japan a fantastic skiing destination, and if you’re a winter sport enthusiast, we highly recommend skiing in Hokkaido.
This depends on your personal vision for your journey, as Japan can offer a spectrum of sights and activities colored by the four seasons. We at Backyard Travel think spring and autumn are the most beautiful times to travel to Japan. Spring is made magical by the sakura, or cherry blossoms, that paint the whole country in varying shades of pink. When the soft breeze tussles the blossom-laden branches, you’ll find yourself in a blizzard of floating petals. In autumn, on the other hand, Japanese maples, gingko, and other deciduous trees ignite the country in flaming hues of gold, red, and purple. However, both seasons are extremely busy with local and international tourists, and accommodation gets booked up months—sometimes even a year—in advance, so booking early is essential.
Summer is a great time to tour the coastal regions and verdant mountains, with the Obon Festival, the biggest festival of the year, occurring in August. However, summer travel in Japan is not for the faint-hearted, as it can get very muggy. On the other hand, snowfields in winter offer some of the finest powder in the world, especially in the northern reaches of Hokkaido, where the entire northern island transforms into a winter wonderland and the city of Sapporo (also famous for its beer) holds its annual snow festival.
In Japan, the number and variety of places to visit seem limitless, as each region has its own personality and claims to fame. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hakone (the gateway to Mt. Fuji) draw the most tourists on the whole, while Okinawa draws the beach lovers and Hokkaido is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. If you are looking for a trip to Japan off the beaten path, you might consider trekking the Kumano Kodo, an ancient pilgrimage route south of Osaka that remains one of Japan’s best-kept secrets. Here, a monastery stay at Koya-san, the sacred mountain, will give you the quintessential Japanese experience. For history buffs, a walking tour of Takayama will reveal the aesthetic of the Edo period, while the artsy will love a tour of Kanazawa, which UNESCO appointed a ‘City of Crafts and Folk Art.’
Down south, the Okinawa Islands offer much in the way of adventure and outdoor activities. Snorkeling, surfing, fishing, or eating your way through a tropical side of Japan that you didn’t know existed: take your pick. Or, for an unforgettable and iconic Japanese experience, head to an onsen (hot spring) deep in the mountains. We love Nozawa Onsen, a renowned hot spring village near Nagano. Onsen are usually run by ryokan—traditional Japanese inns that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to pre-Western Japan.
If you’re planning a family holiday to Japan, you’re in for a treat: Japan is a thoroughly engaging place for all ages. In addition to being one of the safest countries in the world, Japanese culture is also famous for its consideration and thoughtfulness—including the needs of little ones and the elderly. Japan has fantastic, family-friendly accommodations and services, including efficient transportation. The pace in Japan can be quite fast, as trips here often involve multiple train journeys; however, we’ll tailor a tour that keeps the pace a bit slower for your family.
A family vacation in Japan can also be a uniquely cultural and educational experience, with the nation’s wealth of historical and legendary sites. Just Kyoto by itself offers enough cultural richness to keep a whole family learning and discovering, from a tour of Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site, to the unique experience of participating in a tea ceremony.
Don’t forget, Japan is also the land of anime, Hello Kitty and the captivating children’s movies of Studio Ghibli. And there’s always Tokyo Disneyland! You’ll find there’s plenty to do for everyone, even if you’re coming with multiple generations. If you’d like to start planning a customized, family-friendly tour of Japan, just contact one of our local Travel Specialists, who will be happy to help.
Buying a local SIM card is a little difficult in Japan, as the law doesn’t allow visitors to buy voice-call SIM cards. This law, however, doesn’t apply to data-only 3G or 4G SIM cards.
To buy a data-only SIM, head to an electronics or mobile phone shop, which are found throughout the country, often in malls. You’ll be able to buy the SIM card and a prepaid data package. Or, if you prefer a more convenient option, simply buy the data-only SIM card online at the B-Mobile website, where you can order a “Visitor SIM” and have it delivered to your hotel or the post office at your arrival airport.
If you would like to be able to make voice calls on a local phone, you can rent a Japanese phone from a rental shop, such as Rentafone Japan. As for roaming, we suggest checking with your provider before your departure to see if your network is covered in Japan.
Yes, we’re happy to book your JR pass for you. We’ll also include detailed train and bus timetables in your Japan tour package so you can navigate the complex (and incredibly efficient) train system easily.
For the most part, Japan is a plastic-friendly country. All major hotels and department stores will accept common international credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. However, you should know that many smaller restaurants, bars, souvenir stores, and mom-and-pop shops will only accept cash. Most short-distance train tickets can only be bought with cash, but you can pay for all taxis in Tokyo with a credit card.
Although you may see ATMs everywhere in Japan, few will accept foreign ATM cards. The ATMs at ubiquitous 7-Elevens, as well as at JP Bank (Japan Post Bank), will take foreign cards. There may be daily withdrawal limits in the ballpark of 100,000 yen. Since Japan tends to be more of a cash society, it’s best to make sure you carry enough yen. Exchange desks are available throughout the country at airports, banks, hotels, and some department stores.
Here’s a fun fact: With the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, is considered the world’s ‘gourmet capital.’ Eating is serious business in this food-loving country; traditional Japanese cuisine, called washoku, recently became a UNESCO-listed ‘intangible cultural heritage.’
A food-lover’s dream, Japan offers a whole universe of flavors, tastes, textures and dining experiences, from the indulgence of sushi and sashimi to the subtle artistry of kaiseki, set-course meals that are inspired by Japan’s four seasons. One of the beauties of exploring Japan is the variety of traditional dishes and cooking styles from region to region. It’s not unusual for the Japanese to go away for a day or even a whole weekend solely to sample the specialty dish of one particular village or restaurant.
Even if you’re not huge on Japanese food, the endless dining options in almost every city—from ‘family restaurants’ specializing in burgers, pasta, or Korean BBQ, just to name a few, to kaiten sushi where your food is served on a conveyor belt—you’ll be spoiled for choice.
You may be surprised to find that in Japan, which is such a service-oriented country, tipping is not practiced. Immaculate service is not just a point of pride, it’s a given. If you leave a tip at a restaurant, the wait staff will chase you down the street to return your money!
There are a couple of exceptions: at higher-priced hotels or restaurants, a 10 to 15% service charge may be added to your bill. At high-end Japanese inns with individualized maid service, a 10 to 20% service charge may be added. You can also tip tour guides, but it’s best to put the money in an envelope before handing it discreetly to your guide. Giving a small gift is also a nice way to say thank you.
When thinking about accommodations in Japan, ask yourself another question: “How do I imagine my perfect stay in Japan?” Accommodations are so varied in Japan and all are of such high quality that you can really let your imagination take the lead.
Luxurious, Western-style hotels scrape the skyline in almost every major city, while small, boutique inns can be discovered down local alleyways. Or, for a more quintessential Japanese experience, family-run inns, called ryokan, are rustic but delightful. Rooms at a ryokan may feature such timeless cultural details as aromatic tatami flooring, sliding paper-screen doors, a folding futon, and a yukata, a comfy cotton kimono to lounge in. We highly recommend spending at least one night at a ryokan in Japan during your vacation.
You aren’t required to get any vaccinations to travel to Japan, except for yellow fever if you’re coming from an area where the disease is present (some parts of South America and Africa). As always, we advise being covered by a comprehensive medical insurance policy that includes evacuation. Check your government’s travel advisory for Japan for up-to-date information.
The Japanese are an extremely polite people who value decorum. Please try to follow your guide or host’s example, such as bowing when meeting new people and taking off your shoes when entering a person’s home. Dress modestly and respectfully, especially when entering places of worship.
Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
Religious iconography is everywhere in Japan in the form of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Always show respect for these religious sites and objects by avoiding sitting or posing in front of them.
Sights & Experiences
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS & INSIGHTS
In Japan, respect is a ritual and an obligation. The Japanese are very receptive and helpful with visitors, and service tends to be efficient and exceptional. The Japanese are also especially known for being hardworking, detailed, and punctual.
From the icy north island of Hokkaido to the tropical beaches of southern Okinawa, the islands of Japan present a surprising variety of climates — from frigid to balmy. In this volcanic island chain, altitude can also lower temperatures substantially.
Japan’s cosmopolitan cities offer everything from rustic sake bars to trendy nightclubs and a thriving live music scene. For more traditional entertainment, catch local acts like sumo wrestling and Kabuki theatre.
Beyond Shinto Buddhism, origami, Rakugo storytelling, and sumo wrestling, Japan’s tremendous culture is known throughout the world. Japan, however, is also a global, cosmopolitan society, a country where edamame is served at baseball games.
Japanese is the official language of Japan and is spoken by the overwhelming majority of inhabitants. Some regional languages, such as the Ryukyuan languages and the Okinawan Japanese dialect, can be heard locally.
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