Asia Travel Travel Tips

Japan: All you need to know about travelling to this Asian country from Hong Kong


The Basics

Population: 128 billion
Capital: Tokyo
Currency: Yen
Language: Japanese. Hotels and tourist spots may speak English, but don’t count on it
Religion: Shinto and Buddhism
Emergency number: 119

Visa, Please

Who needs one?

Countries with visa exemptions include the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and most of Europe. Stays are generally allowed for three months at a time. South Africans need to apply for a visa. A complete list of exempted countries is available at

Getting it sorted in Hong Kong

Visit the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong for information.

Health Hints

  • There is an ongoing risk of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with the safety procedures of where you are staying, just in case. Check to keep updated.
  • Steer clear of the exclusion zones around Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Learn the Lingo


Hello: Konnichiwa
Good evening: Konbanwa
Sorry: Gomen nasai
I am lost: Michi ni mayotte shimaimashita
Wait a minute! Chottomate kudasai!

“One must learn, if one is to see the beauty in Japan, to like an extraordinarily restrained and delicate loveliness.” – Miriam Beard, author

“Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.” – Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte in Lost in Translation

“No one will understand a Japanese garden until you’ve walked through one, and you hear the crunch underfoot, and you smell it, and you experience it over time. Now there’s no photograph or any movie that can give you that experience.” – J. Carter Brown


Hot Spots

Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Osaka, Okinawa, Fukuoka, Niseko

Itinerary Ideas

  • Honshu: Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoyo
  • Kyushu: Fukuoka – Nagasaki – Aso – Beppu – Yufuin
  • Hokkaido: Sapporo – Ashahikawa – Furano – Tomakomai

Times & Dates

Flying time

4 hours

Time difference with Singapore

An hour ahead

When to go

Late March to April is cherry blossom season, a very popular yet crowded time to visit.

June tends to be wet, and heat and powerful storms can strike throughout July and August, with the exception of Hokkaido, mountaintop resorts like Hakone and the Japanese Alps. The autumn months of September to November are cooler and aesthetically beautiful. December typically kicks off the ski seasons in the north. Snow-covered landscapes in Japan are lovely, yet obviously very cold.

Key dates

  • 1 January: The most important holiday in Japan. “Year forgetting” parties are held to leave the old year’s troubles behind, houses are cleaned, and relatives visit.
  • 11 February: National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinenbi). Celebrating the crowning of the first Japanese emperor in 660 BC.

Culture Corner

Before you go, watch…

Godzilla (1954). Conceived as a monstrous metaphor for nuclear weapons, the film has Godzilla leave a trail of destruction in his wake on the streets of Tokyo.

Babel (2006). Four interlocking stories connected by a gun, including one part focusing on a deaf girl dealing with the death of her mother while living in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo.

Before you go, read…

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Follows the struggles and successes of a geisha working in pre- and post-Second World War Kyoto

While you’re there, please don’t…

  • use the term “chin chin” when making a toast; in Japanese, this expression refers to the male genitals
  • forget to learn the characters for “male” and “female” unless you want to end up walking into the wrong room full of naked people in a hot spring (onsen). (This one is from the personal experience of an Expat Living editor…)