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japan travel factsheet

CULTURE

The Japanese are renowned as being a very polite although English is not widely spoken outside of the main cities. Despite this you can expect a friendly response to your enquiries. Japan really is one of the safest countries to travel in the world. The food is excellent and most restaurants have pictorial menus to enable you to sample the local delicacies.

No visit to Japan would be complete without a visit to an ‘onsen’ – a public spa bath. In fact most campsites provide ‘onsen’ rather than showers. You will need to get into the Japanese way of life – bathing is usually communal, separated by the sexes and bathers enter naked.

CURRENCY IN JAPAN

Japan is mainly a cash society. The Japanese currency is the Yen. You may have difficulty using credit and debit cards issued outside Japan. Cirrus, Maestro, Link and Delta cash cards are not widely accepted. Japanese post offices, 7-Eleven stores and Citi Bank have cash machines, which will accept some foreign cards during business hours. Cash machines at banks and post offices generally close at 9pm or earlier and may not operate at the weekends or on national holidays. However, ATMs in convenience stores and some shopping centres are available 24 hours a day. Check with your bank before travelling and take sufficient alternative sources of money for the duration of your stay.

JAPAN TIME ZONE

Japan is 8 hours ahead of UK time.

WEATHER IN JAPAN

Winter, from December to February, is quite dry and sunny along the Pacific coast and the temperatures rarely drop below 0°C. The temperatures drop as you move north, with the Central and Northern regions experiencing snowfall. Southern Japan is relatively temperate and experiences a mild winter.

Spring is from March to May. Temperatures are warm but not too hot, plus there isn’t too much rain. The famous cherry blossoms are out during this time and there are plenty of festivals to enjoy.

Summer begins in June and the country experiences a three to four-week rainy season during which the farmers plant their rice. It is hot and humid during this time and temperatures are often in the high 30’s. Summer finishes in August.

Autumn is from September to November and is characterised by light breezes and cooler temperatures of around 8-10°C. It’s during autumn that many exhibitions, music concerts and sports tournaments are held in Japan.

DRIVING IN JAPAN

Driving on the left is a big advantage – the roads are narrow but so are the motorhomes. Once out of the metropolis, the roads are quieter with amazing sights and scenery. Drivers are, as you would expect, polite and law-abiding. An International Driving Permit is required.

As well as Western style campsites, many Japanese campers use the network of ‘michi no eki’ across the country. A ‘michi no eki’ is an overnight sleeping area with public toilets, at least one shop and usually a restaurant. They are perfectly safe and you will see many Japanese families using them as an overnight stop. An added bonus is that they are free of charge.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN JAPAN

Japan is considered one of the safest places to travel in the world. Japanese people have the utmost respect for other people and their property. Crime levels are low. It is generally safe to walk about at night and to travel on public transport, but you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home and take sensible precautions.

Tokyo’s entertainment districts, like Roppongi and Kabuki-cho (near Shinjuku station), are considered higher risk areas for crime, in particular at night. There are reports of foreign nationals being targeted for drink-spiking, credit card fraud, extortion, robbery, assault and sexual assault in clubs and bars.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may make specific travel related recommendations for visitors to Japan. 

HEALTH

We recommend you check with your doctor before travel as to whether any vaccinations are needed for Japan.

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

If you have a ‘British Citizen’ or ‘British National (Overseas)’ passport, you can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

TAKING MEDICATION TO JAPAN

The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law. This includes Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems and even some mild painkillers like those containing codeine. Customs officials may not be sympathetic if you claim ignorance. If in any doubt, check with the nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate before you travel.

SHOPPING IN JAPAN

Japan is a shopping paradise with a wealth of stores selling everything from traditional souvenirs and local food to the latest electronics and hottest fashion brands. Both domestic and foreign brands are represented, as are stores for all budgets, from the 100 yen shops to high-end fashion boutiques and department stores.

Large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, sport several shopping districts, each with their own unique character, usually grouped around major train stations. Shops are also found in shopping centres, along covered shopping arcades and in extensive underground malls. Outside of the city centres, large big box retailers, outlet malls and suburban shopping malls compete for shoppers with lots of variety.

BRINGING GOODS INTO THE UK

Alcohol allowances

You can bring in either, but not both, of the following:

  • 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume
  • 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22 per cent volume
  • Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in one litre of fortified wine (half your full allowance) you can also bring in half a litre of spirits (half your full allowance). This would make up your full allowance. You can't go over your total alcohol allowance.

In addition you may also bring back both of the following:

  • 16 litres of beer
  • 4 litres of still wine

Tobacco allowances

You can bring in one from the following list:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g of tobacco

Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes (half your full allowance) you can also bring in 25 cigars (half your full allowance). This would make up your full tobacco allowance. You can't go over your total tobacco allowance.

You cannot combine alcohol and tobacco allowances.

Other goods including perfume and souvenirs

You can bring in other goods worth up to £390 without having to pay tax and/or duty. If you bring in any single item worth more than your allowance, you must pay duty and/or tax on the full item value, not just the value above the allowance. You also cannot group individual allowances together to bring in an item worth more than the limit. If you want to bring back more, you will need to declare this to customs on your way back and pay Customs duty and VAT. For more information, visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/custom.

TIPPING IN JAPAN

Tipping is not expected in Japan, and to offer a tip can be seen as an insult. It is best not to even offer.