Travel Japan Without a Tour Guide
Almost anyone can travel Japan without a guide. To help you along, we give you Japanese travel tips, cultural essentials, travel experience stories and travel journal notes. Japan is safe, clean, diverse and affordable.
Japan Travel Tips
These tips are easy to do and help you enjoy your trip to Japan without worrying. Japan is a beautiful country with very nice people, so relax and enjoy.
Finding Your Way in Japan With Japanese Language Maps. Local maps made in each community usually provide the most colorful, accurate and useful information.
Keeping Active When Flying 10 or More Hours. Travel tips for long flights between North America and Japan
Japanese Accommodations - Hotels, Ryokans, Hostels, Apartments. Expensive by reputation, accommodations in Japan can be very affordable.
Japan Tourist Immigration Procedures. Things to expect before your plane arrives in Japan, including landing cards, customs declarations, health forms and immigration procedures.
Arriving in Japan - Cash, Credit Cards, ATMs, Initial Transportation, Luggage. From ATMs to public transportation, here things you should know when arriving in Japan.
Moving Around Japan on Trains, Buses, Taxis. Choose from trains, taxis, buses, bicycles, rental cars or even domestic air travel if you are going further afield.
Japan Culture Essentials
Language, bathrooms, public baths, shoes, trains, futons—you can relax and enjoy your trip by learning a little about all of these before you head to Japan.
How to Lay Out and Fold Up a Japanese Futon. These step-by-step instructions show you how to be a good guest at a traditional Japanese inn where you often are expected to make your own futon.
Traveling Japan Without Knowing the Language. While you are better knowing some language, bilingual signage and announcement, plus gracious Japanese people help you get along. Here are some tips.
Japanese Shoe Etiquette. Everyone seems to be aware of the no-shoes-inside customs of Japan. How do you wear shoe etiquette seamlessly?
Toilet and Bathing Etiquette in Japan. While Japanese public bathroom manners are extremely tidy, some ways and means may at first make western travelers uncomfortable.
Understanding Japanese Train Etiquette. You feel more comfortable and confident traveling on Japanese trains when you understand some of the etiquette. No one expects perfection.
Japan Travel Experience Stories
Places we visit and things we do in Japan.
Visit Asakusa--Enjoy Authentic Japan on a Human Scale in Metropolitan Tokyo. Walking the sidewalks of Asakusa makes you feel at home in authentic Japan, right in the center of Tokyo.
Carp Streamers, Samurai Armor and Iris Leaves - Boys' Day Festival in Japan. While Japan officially designates May 5 as Children's Day, Japanese families tend to focus more on the traditional Tango no Sekku, the Boys' Day Festival.
Chasing the Vermilion Torii. We enter the Kii Peninsula on a mission, but arrive embarrassingly naked--socially, culturally and linguistically speaking.
Cruising Sumida River - A Leisurely Way to See the Heart of Tokyo. Escape the crowds of Tokyo. Take to the river for a serene view of the city in a relaxed setting.
Unexpected Dream Bell of Happiness. Seeking the Manpa, finding the Dream Bell of Wakaura.
Foxes of Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社. Many believe the Shinto kami Inari sends messages by fox. The foxes in these photos work at Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Green Haven Softens the Busyness of Tokyo. Hamarikyu Garden creates a peaceful oasis of green in the midst of Tokyo skyscrapers.
Hina Matsuri Doll Festival Lifts Up Japanese Girls. This traditional festival honors the girls of Japan on Day Three of the Third Month.
Hirome Market in Kochi Japan. Hungry in Kochi, Japan? Hirome Market sits quietly inside a rehabilitated building a couple of blocks east of Kochi Castle.
Hiroshima: Come for the Atomic Bomb Memorials, Stay for the Varied Cultural Attractions. Beyond the atomic bomb memorials, international travelers visit Hiroshima for its natural beauty and rich culture.
Iwakuni City-- A Day Trip from Hiroshima and More than Worth the Effort. An hour from Hiroshima, Iwakuni claims one of the most beautiful bridges in the world--the five-arch brocade Kintaikyo.
Japanese Convenience Stores. Convenience stores in Japan are well stocked with fresh food plus they are clean, competitively-priced and staffed with knowledgeable, helpful personnel.
Katsurahama-- A Beautiful Beach in Kochi City, Shikoku, Japan. Katsurahama enchants you with its pebble beach, vertical cliffs, giant rocks, powerful water and peaceful character.
Leave the Crowds Behind--Visit Kochi on the Undeveloped Verdant Island of Shikoku. Take a Limited Express train from Okayama City, cross the bridges spanning the Inland Sea dotted small, steep islands. On Shikoku, you find quiet as you head toward Kochi City.
Japanese Lions Dance for Good Luck. Japanese lions dance during the days of new beginnings.
A Day Trip to Miyajima Island--Ferry Ride to a Photographer's Dream. Only a 10-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Miyajima is a photographer's dream.
A Day Trip to Yoshino-yama - Taking the Last Train Home. Mount Yoshino in the Nara Prefecture operates as a natural organic tranquilizer. Even hyper-A-type, anxious, imperative and wound-up folks decompress at least a little.
Shinkansen High Speed Passenger Rails. Developed during a time when other nations expected the demise of passenger rail service, the Japanese Shinkansen meets many of the passenger transportation of Japan.
Sunday Market in Kochi Japan. One of the oldest street markets in Japan, the Kochi Sunday Market started in 1690.
Japanese Way of Supporting the Weak. Creative ways the Japanese underpin weak limbs--in both the young and the old.
Tokyo Kite Museum. Kites originally first flew over Japan as elements of religious celebrations, but soon became popular with almost everyone. You can imagine why.
Ueno Park: Magnet for Museum Aficionados, Zoo Fans and Cherry Blossom Enthusiasts. Ueno Park sits adjacent to one of the busiest train stations in Tokyo, providing easy access to this popular green space.
Views of Fujisan - Mt. Fuji of Japan. With a history of rumbling, smoking and erupting fire, Fujisan today sits quietly 100 kilometers west of Tokyo.
Japan Travel Journal Notes
Enjoy these brief notes about Japanese people, places, things and ideas.
100 Yen Convenience Stores Help Tourists in Japan. 100 Yen convenience stores are good options for hungry foreign travelers and tourists visiting Japan.
Akihabara Chuo-Dori. Akihabara--aka Akiba--houses hundreds of electronics outlets selling everything imaginable, plus duty free shops, pachinko parlors, entertainment venues, anime store and more-more-more.
Arnold Invites You to California. A large poster in Tokyo Station featuring former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger invites Japanese travelers to visit California.
Azaleas in Kairakuen Garden Park in Mito Japan. Colorful azaleas bloom profusely in Kairakuen garden park in Mito City, near Tokyo, Japan.
Bicycle Parking Lot in Niigata Japan. Bicycling is a popular means of traveling short distances, so bicycle parking lots are necessary near rail stations.
Chanoyu! Attend a Japanese Tea Ceremony and Learn How To Do It Yourself. When visiting Japan, you can enjoy a Japanese tea ceremony and learn some of the practice yourself.
Vermilion Symbolizes Life Force, Counteracts Evil. At least 10,000 vermilion torii gates stand on the grounds of Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine in Kyoto.
Construction Site Markers in Japan. Construction sites in Japan use bright orange caution signs or cones, but also critters such as rabbits or frogs.
Cooking Okonomiyaki from Scratch -- Second Try. Make Japanese Okonomiyaki at home using these cooking instructions and ingredients.
Crossing a Busy Street in Osaka Japan. Use an under street passageway to cross busy multilane streets in Japanese cities such as Osaka.
Cute Japanese Girl Photo Tells Different Story Cropped Four Ways. How you crop a photo dictates the story your photo will tell.
Japanese Daruma Doll Tumbling for Good Luck. Daruma--the tumbling dolls of Japan--bring good luck to those who use them. As a daruma doll always lands on its feet, you can hope for good fortune during the year.
Duck Tugs Skirt of Girl in Niigata - A Sculpture in Niigata. Sculptures populate the Shinano Riverside Promenade in Niigata City, Japan.
Falling Behind in Sendai Spring Snow. Under rainbow shelter she lags behind again. Playing in liquid flakes she understands fun in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.
Full Bloom Weeping Cherry in Sendai. A weeping cherry blossom tree in full bloom stands in a Sendai park.
Full Photos of Japanese Construction Barriers. Colorful critters--rabbits, frogs, giraffes--mark construction sites in Japan.
Genmaicha Popcorn Tea from Japan. Genmaicha, or brown rice tea, mixes roasted rice with green tea to create a delicious pale tea with a refreshing nutty flavor and very little caffeine.
Hakodate from Mount Hakodate. Hakodate City sits like an hour glass between Hakodate Bay and Tsugaru Strait. This nighttime scene from Mt. Hakodate is one of the most popular views in Japan.
Hakusan Park Sakura in Niigata Japan. Hakusan Park in Niigata City, opened in 1873 as the first public park in Japan, is a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing.
How to Use a Futon in Japan. Learn how to lay out, sleep in and fold up a Japanese futon.
Japanese Cold Noodle Salad-- Hiyashi Chuka. Hiyashi Chuka chilled noodle salad is perfect for a hot humid day.
Japanese Rush Hour Train in Chilly Rain. Commuter trains are crowded and quiet during a wet Tokyo rush hour.
Japanese School Children During School Rush Hour. During school rush hour, Japanese children of all ages pack public trains, buses and sidewalks, moving in groups without adult guardians.
Kimiidera Temple on the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage. A visit to Kimiidera Buddhist Temple in Wakayama City on the Kii Peninsula of Honshu in Japan.
Kōchi Castle Remains from Feudal-Era Japan. Kōchi Castle, in Kōchi City on the island of Shikoku, remains as one of the few original feudal-era castles.
Koi Nobori Carp Flags for Boys. Streamers mark the coming of Children's Day--more traditionally Boy's Day--on May 5.
"Kumquat!" used to be an insult. A Japanese couple pick kumquats off a tree and offer them to an international visitor.
Lion Bite For Good Luck and Happiness. A protector lion bites the head of a female visitor to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, to bring good luck and happiness.
Mabo Tofu! マーボー豆腐!. Japanese Mabo Tofu recipe has origins in China.
MacArthur Headquarters Building in Tokyo. From his headquarters office in Tokyo, General Douglas MacArthur oversaw the occupation and reconstruction of Japan.
Mt. Fuji from 20,000 Feet. You seldom get to see Mt. Fuji without clouds.
Multicultural Japanese Italian Pizza. Despite the thinness of the crust, you can pick up multicultural Japanese Italian pizza with your fingers and eat it American style.
Night Hanami at Ka-Jo Castle Park. Lighting up the cherry blossoms at night brings thousands of visitors to the famous and popular Ka-jo Castle Park in Yamagata City, Japan.
Nihonbashi Tokyo. Powerful creatures, kirin deliver good luck or bad luck to those deserving luck of any type.
Ohashi Roka and Wakayama Castle at Night. Ohashi Roka is a covered bridge providing passage into the grounds of Wakayama Castle, Wakayama, Japan.
Okonomiyaki from a Mix - a Gift from a Friend. A Japanese favorite food, okonomiyaki sits someplace between an omelet and a pancake, from a Western point of view.
Okonomiyaki! Grilled Veggie and Meat Favorite of Japan. Okonomiyaki! What is it? Who invented it? You can eat it and cook it in Japan!
June in Japan -- People Should Fly. Flight from Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport to Los Angeles LAX en route to Tokyo.
Photos From Behind -- Seeing What Japan Sees. A woman enjoys the shade of an umbrella while viewing Sendai City from the top of Aoba Castle, also known as Sendai Castle.
Riding Japan's Amazing Shinkansen. The Japanese Shinkansen meets many of the passenger transportation needs of this densely populated mountainous country.
Rock Splitting Cherry Tree. A cherry seed of the Edo Higan variety slipped into a crack in a granite rock--a fairly large rock in Morioka, Japan.
Rock Waterfall at Wakayama City Museum. At the Wakayama City Museum in Wakayama, Japan, we noticed a flow of rocks on the concrete wall of the lobby constructed to depict a rock waterfall.
Sad True Love Story of Harimaya Bridge. The true love story involves a Buddhist priest and young woman who fell for each other and met at Harimaya Bridge.
Sakura and Shinkansen in Yamagata City. We catch the shinkansen on camera while touring the sakura at Ka-Jo Castle in Yamagata City.
Saturday Soba Party in Japan. Soba party celebration features local residents and soba noodles made from buckwheat flour that comes from fruit seeds not cereal grains.
Sea of Japan Makes Japan Separate. Artificial breakwaters stretch into the Sea of Japan from the beaches of Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture, Japan.
Seikan Tunnel - 24 Kilometers Under the Sea. Seikan Tunnel passes under Tsugaru Strait a distance of approximately 15 miles that separate Honshu from Hokkaido, the two largest of the Japanese islands.
Shachi Protect Castles from Evil Spirits and Fire. As defensive weapons, shachihoko traditionally provide protection to castles in Japan.
Shy Pigeons of Japan. Japanese pigeons--other than the obvious language difference--behave like their peers worldwide.
Signs of Our (Japanese) Times. When we travel in Japan, invariably we encounter unexpected sights as we visit various locations, including interesting signs.
Small Rooms or Large Rooms When Traveling Japan. When you visit Japan you can stay in large rooms and pay large room rates. You can save big money by staying in small rooms.
The Swastika in Japan (卍). Japanese maps display hundreds of swastikas.
Taking People Pictures in Shy Japan. We find the best way to take people pictures in Japan is simply to ask.
Top Levels of Five-Roof Pagoda. Cherry blossoms frame the five roof pagoda adjacent to Tōshō-gū, a Shinto shrine in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan
Truth About Hedwig - We Promised Not to Tell Until Now. Formerly the snowy owl belonging to Harry Potter, Hedwig today remains alive, well and happy in a Japanese zoo near Tokyo.
Wakayama Castle on a Tiger-Shaped Hill. The unifier of Japan in the last part of the 16th Century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi built Wakayama Castle on a hill overlooking the city of Wakayama.
Walking Japan Blind. Beaded tactile tiles mark obstructions for the blind and near-blind on sidewalks in Japan.
A Woman and Two Tigers at Tama Zoo. Tama zoo, a naturalistic zoo, simulates and emulates the natural environments of many of its residents.
Yasukuni Shrine Security Officer Loses His Hat. A security officer attempts to play with a young shy boy at Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo, Japan.