|Below is a selection of highlights from our tours, click on an image to direct you to all trips in that region.|
|Korakuen Gardens, Japan; Miyanima Island; Yakushima, Japan; ||
|Far Eastern Information|
This tour visits the following countries. Please select one to view its details.
| Japan |
|To see our current selection of tours in Japan click here.|
Except for the Hokkaido area and the subtropical Okinawa region, the weather in Japan is mostly temperate, with four seasons. Winters are cool and sunny in the south, cold and sunny around Tokyo (which occasionally has snow), and very cold around Hokkaido, which is covered in snow for up to four months a year. Summer, between June and September, ranges from warm to very hot, while spring and autumn are generally mild throughout the country. Rain falls throughout the year but June and early July is the main rainy season. Hokkaido, however, is much drier than the Tokyo area. Rainfall is intermittent with sunshine. Typhoons are only likely to occur in September or October but rarely last more than a day.
In Japan, lightweight cottons and linens are required throughout summer in most areas. Light- to mediumweights during spring and autumn; medium- to heavyweights for winter months, according to region. Much warmer clothes will be needed in the mountains all year round. There is much less rainfall than in Western Europe.
377,864 sq km (145,894 sq miles).
337.3 per sq km.
The archipelago of Japan is separated from the Asian mainland by 160km (100 miles) of sea and split into four main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. About 70% of the country is covered by hills and mountains, a number of which are active or dormant volcanoes, including Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak, reaching 3,776m (12,388ft). Japan sits on major seismic fault lines and is susceptible to frequent earthquakes. A series of mountain ranges runs from northern Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. The Japanese Alps (the most prominent range) run in a north-south direction through central Honshu. Lowlands and plains are small and scattered, mostly lying along the coast, and composed of alluvial lowlands and diluvial uplands. The coastline is very long in relation to the land area, and has very varied features, for example, the deeply indented bays with good natural harbours tend to be adjacent to mountainous terrain. Many of Japan's major cities are located on the coastline, and have extremely high population density.
Japanese is the official language. Some English is spoken in Tokyo and other large cities but is less usual in rural areas. There are many regional dialects and there are distinct differences in the intonation and pronunciation between eastern and western Japan.
Shintoism and Buddhism (most Japanese follow both religions, although religion does not play a major everyday role in most Japanese lives). Marriages are traditionally conducted at Shinto shrines and funerals at Buddhist temples. There is a Christian minority.
GMT + 9.
Japanese manners and customs are vastly different from those of Western people. A strict code of behaviour and politeness is recognised and followed by almost everyone. However, Japanese people do not expect visitors to be familiar with all their customs but do expect them to behave formally and politely.
A straightforward refusal traditionally does not form part of Japanese etiquette, and a vague 'yes' does not always mean 'yes'. (The visitor may be comforted to know that confusion caused by non-committal replies occurs between the Japanese themselves.)
When entering a Japanese home or restaurant, shoes must be removed. Bowing is the customary greeting but handshaking is becoming more common for business meetings with Westerners. The honorific suffix san should be used when addressing all men and women; for instance Mr Yamada would be addressed as Yamada-san.
Table manners are very important, although the Japanese host will be very tolerant towards a visitor. However, it is best if visitors familiarise themselves with basic table etiquette and use chopsticks. Exchange of gifts is also a common business practice and may take the form of souvenir items such as company pens, ties or high-quality spirits.
100 volts AC, 60Hz in the west (Osaka); 100 volts AC, 50Hz in eastern Japan and Tokyo. Plugs are flat two-pin plugs.
Head of Government
Prime Minister ShinzĆ Abe since September 2012.
Head of State
Emperor Akihito since 1989.
Influence from the outside world followed by long periods of isolation have characterised Japan's history.In the feudal era (12th-19th century), a new ruling class of warriors emerged: the samurai. One of the most famous and successful samurai, Oda Nobunaga, conquered numerous other warlords and had almost unified Japan when he was assassinated in 1582. Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded him and united the land in 1590 but open war broke out following his death.Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated all rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and was appointed shogun (ruler of Japan). The Tokugawa shogunate began the isolationist sakoku (locked country) policy that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period.In 1854, the US Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world. Ensuing economic and political crises led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralised state unified under the name of the Emperor (Meiji Restoration).The Meiji Restoration transformed Japan into an industrialised world power that embarked on a number of military conflicts to expand the nation's sphere of influence, including two Sino-Japanese Wars (1894-1895 and 1937-1945) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the US naval base in Pearl Harbor. This act brought the USA into WWII and, on 8 December, the USA, UK and Netherlands declared war on Japan. After the devastating atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japan surrendered on 15 August. The war cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the country's industry and infrastructure destroyed. Japan later achieved exceptional growth to become one of the world's most powerful economies.In 2009, Yukio Hatoyama led the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the main opposition party, to victory and became Prime Minister, defeating the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in power almost continually since 1955. However, Mr Hatoyama resigned less than a year later after failing to implement an election pledge to move the US base off Okinawa. Fellow DPJ member Naoto Kan was elected Prime Minister in June 2010 and promised he would continue the programme of reform set out by his predecessor.
Japanese Yen (JPY; symbol „). Notes are in denominations of „10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of „500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1.
All money must be exchanged at an authorised bank or money changer.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and other major credit cards are widely accepted in major cities and towns. A pin number may be required to process the transaction. The Japan Post Bank, Seven-Eleven convenience stores and international banks accept foreign credit cards.
These can be exchanged at most major banks, larger hotels and some duty-free shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Japanese Yen or US Dollars.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding „1,000,000 or equivalent must be declared.
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 153.76 JPY 1.00 USD = 98.91 JPY 1.00 EUR = 130.16 JPY 1.00 CAD = 82.65 JPY Currency conversion rates as of 9 May 2013
Japan is swathed in natural beauty, from the snow festivals and lavender farms of the northern isle of Hokkaido to the sun-drenched beaches and turquoise waters of the subtropical islands of Okinawa. Whether climbing volcanic Mount Fuji, wandering the pine forests of Mount Koya, taking in the springtime beauty of the sakura cherry blossoms or the spectacular maple leaves in the autumn, a journey to Japan is a wealth of unforgettable natural landscapes. In recent years, the powdery snow of Japans ski fields has also been attracting international visitors.
Culturally, Japan offers a unique and exciting fusion of the traditional and the modern. The speed at which new technological developments are realised in Japan is as impressive as the longevity of traditional art forms and customs. Whilst it is no longer the economic powerhouse it was for the greater part of the 20th century, Japan is still a world leader in innovative design and fashion, and continues to offer superb customer service, clean and punctual trains and meticulously prepared and presented cuisine.
Japanese culture embraces the new while celebrating the past. Its not unusual to see kimono-clad geisha singing karaoke in downtown Kyoto, or fully-robed Buddhist monks whizz by on motorbikes in central Tokyo. Cool Japan has become an internationally-recognised byword for Japans popular culture, and Japanese manga, anime and video games have never been more popular. Modern architecture in Tokyo, and other major Japanese cities, is well-regarded for forging radical new styles and using clever combinations of glass and concrete, which hint at traditional architectural forms yet offer minimalist sophistication. However, ancient castles, atmospheric Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and fascinating festivals are never far away.
Despite never having been colonised, the countrys own imperialist ambitions in Asia during the first part of the 20th century had devastating consequences, culminating in the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Japan has also had to deal with a vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis that has caused widespread natural disasters throughout its history. The most recent include the powerful earthquake that hit Kobe, a port city in Western Japan in 1995, and in March 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of North-eastern Japan caused the countrys biggest loss of life since WWII, and resulted in one of the worlds worst nuclear accidents at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
With great challenges of rebuilding and revitalisation ahead, the resilience of the Japanese people is proving to be essential to recovery. Greater emphasis is being placed on disaster preparedness and environmental issues. Renewed efforts to attract international visitors mean there has never been a better time to visit beautiful and fascinating Japan.
From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, May 2013.