Shrines, Geishas & cherry blossom, these are but a few things Japan is famous for. From snow-capped mountains to tropical beaches, super high-tech hotels in Tokyo, to traditional Japanese ryokans in the hills, Japan really is a country of contrasts.
Hiroshima & West HonshuHiroshima & West Honshu
Hiroshima, known forever as the target of the world’s first atomic bomb, is today a cosmopolitan city set amidst pretty gardens. Nearby are the interesting islands of Miyajima and Naoshima, known for their picturesque torii gate and avant-garde art.
Connect with nature in unspoiled Hokkaido, Japan’s least industralised main island. Enjoy the vibrant cities of Sapporo and Hakodate, enjoy superb skiing and relaxing hot spring resorts, and find amazing wildlife including brown bears and orca whales
No trip to Japan’s is complete without Kyoto, its capital for over 1000 years. Discover a dizzying array of historic temples, palaces and gardens, along with silk-clad geisha, some of the country’s most important art and most refined cuisine.
Japan’s southernmost island features dramatic volcanoes, pretty beaches and bubbling hot springs, with a sub-tropical climate. Contrast the cosmopolitan cities of Fukoka and Nagasaki with the steaming springs of Beppu, or surf the Nichinan coast.
Mt Fuji & HakoneMt Fuji & Hakone
100 km west of Tokyo is Japan’s highest and most sacred mountain, Mt Fuji. Take a cable car up Tenjō-zan for fabulous views of Fuji-san and lake Kawaguchi-ko, kayak on scenic Lake Ashi, or enjoy the onsens and open-air museums of nearby Hakone.
Nagano and Japanese AlpsNagano and Japanese Alps
The stunning mountain scenery of Nagano prefecture in the Japanese Alps is an ideal base for nature activities. Trek between traditional mountain villages in the summer and ski in the winter in Jōshinetsu Kōgen NP, home to the famous snow-monkeys.
Stretching over more than 700 miles of Pacific Ocean, the islands of the Ryuku archipelago (Okinawa is the largest) are ringed by coral reefs ideal for diving, with lush interiors and fine sandy beaches. An ideal beach addition to your Japan holiday!
Osaka & KansaiOsaka & Kansai
Neon-lit Osaka, known for its food-loving locals, is the largest city in Japan’s Kansai region, which is also home to the ancient capital of Nara, world-famous Himeji Castle, and stunning Mt Yoshino, covered in over 30,000 cherry trees.
The smallest of Japan’s main islands, off the beaten track Shikoku is a haven for nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Raft the wild Yoshino river or go canyoning in Nametoko Gorge, then wind down at one of the island’s many hot spring resorts
Frenetic and energising Tokyo is the world’s largest city, where behind Shinjuku’s neon, gleaming skyscrapers and the bright lights of hectic Shibuya hide historic neighbourhoods with neatly manicured gardens, tranquil palaces and shrines.
Browse through our suggested itineraries for inspiration. These are just a starting point for your plans – remember that all our itineraries are tailor-made to your specifications.
Classic Japan plus Hokkaido in BloomCombine the essential highlights of Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto, with the off-the-beaten-track delights of Japan's northernmost main island, Hokkaido to see the incredible contrasts Japan can offer.
Eat, Pray, Love – Japan11 luxurious days of Japanese hospitality, combining the major city sights of Tokyo and Kyoto with wellness retreats on Honshu and Hokkaido, focussing on Japan's rich tradition of Eastern healing alongside its temples and shrines and, of course, you'll enjoy fantastic cuisine.
Planning your trip
Quick country facts
- Recommended airlines
BA, JAL or ANA direct to Tokyo
- Flight time
Around 13.5 hours on a direct flight.
- Time zone
- Visa requirements
No visa required for UK passport holders.
Entry Requirements & safety
UK Foreign Office Travel Advisory
Japan Tourism Board UK
Health & immunisations
NHS Travel Health Pro – Japan
General country information
BBC Country Profile – Japan
Whilst we hope direct flights to Osaka will resume, there are currently only direct flights into Tokyo. Indirect flights are possible into Osaka with Cathay, Emirates and so on, and these can be used to create open-jaw tickets into Tokyo and out of Osaka for example. We’ll design most itineraries to start and/or end in one of these two points.
Japan’s excellent high-speed bullet train network is the most time and cost-efficient way to get between major centres in Japan, although self-drive is possible (and fun) on the less-developed island of Hokkaido and if you’d like to visit the southern-most island of Okinawa you’ll need to fly in and out.
Accommodation varies from sophisticated and high-tech city sky-rise hotels to quaint and historic Ryokans (many with traditional decor including floor-mattresses) and rustic spa hotels. Prices are on the high side by UK standards, so the cost of a holiday to Japan adds up quickly., but you can try to avoid the very highest costs by travelling in a less busy season. When travelling with children, note that Japanese hotel rooms are usually not large enough to permit extra beds so two interconnecting rooms (if offered) are often required making this a premium-priced family holiday even when picking simpler hotels. Note that interconnecting rooms and family suites are not widely available but we know the hotels which can offer this.
How Long to Stay
Whilst it’s certainly possible to fly to Japan for single city stay of 4-5 days, given the distance involved and extreme contrasts bewteen Japan’s cities and islands, we would recommend at least two stops and if possible, three or more stops. A 10-night trip would give you a chance to explore three different cities or regions and would make the travel time and time difference worthwhile. For those with more time, many highlights of the country can be seen in 17-21 days but to really explore the furthest extents of the islands a month would be ideal. Japan also pairs well with South Korea, Hong Kong or even as a stop-over on the way to Australia.
Weather and When To Go
Japan is nearly a year round destination but the seasons are as varied (if not more) as the ones we have here in the UK so there are different activities and highlights at different times of the year. Due to the difference in lattitude between the northern-most island and the southern-most, the island’s seasons travel through the islands one by one, so you get different weather on different islands.
December, January and February are chilly but usually dry – this is the season for snow-monkeys and skiing on the island of Hokkaido in the north.
March sees spring starting to warm things up, with changeable weather a little like our own in the UK at that time. Towards the end of the month the cherry blossoms may start to appear in the more southern islands, spreading gradually north throughout April as the weather warms up. It’s absolutely stunning at this time of year but prices are sky-high and it’s very busy.
We love May and early June for warmer weather without the humidity of the summer, and this is the season that Japan’s main outdoor activities can resume properly. From mid-June to the first first week or so of July it’s warm but prone to rain showers. The hiking trails in the Japanese Alps now re-open as the snow has melted. It’s less busy and prices are generally good – just expect as many rainy days as sunny ones.
Towards the end of July the rain eases but then the heat and humidity start – this is the time to head to the cooler northern island of Hokkaido with its amazing scenery and wildlife, or explore Mount Fuji, which is now open to hikers. August is baking hot and very busy due to domestic school holidays – the beaches and cooler mountain boltholes will be jam-packed with Japanese holiday-makers excaping the heat of the cities, sending prices upwards too – at this time of year, the islands of Okinawa are probably the calmest place to be.
September and October are fantastic months to be in Japan, with less humidity but some hot days still to be had (especially in September), and cooler evenings, especially in October. Typhoons (tropical storms) can happen at this time of year and last for a few days, causing disruption to travel plans, but Japan is well-equipped to deal with these and it should not put you off travelling, as long as you are working with an agency (like us) that has a team on the ground to help sort out any affected travel plans with ease, and keep you safe if a typhoon warning happens. The wonderful autumn foliage starts in the northern islands in October and gradually works its way south throughout this period, lingering on into November in the central cities, even as it starts to get chillier. Crisp, cool days and snow in the mountainous areas mark this month, with decent prices and few crowds.
There’s always something great happening on one of the islands at any time of year and such contrasts between them in terms of weather that we can always put toghether a great itinerary that makes the most of whichever month you choose to visit. For first-timers hopoing to try and see the main cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, May, early June or September/October are our favourite months to visit. We recommend booking flights and accommodation at least 6 months in advance to ensure you get the best there is to offer.