Japan Travel Checklist – Things To Know Before You Go

japan travel checklist

Konnichiwa! Using a little of my experience and a lot of research, I created the following Japan travel checklist so you will ensure your trip to Japan goes as smooth as possible.

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  • Passport and Visa: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date. Check if you need a tourist visa to enter Japan through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
  • Special Entry Requirements: Check the latest requirements for entry due to Covid and/or any other reason through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
  • Travel Insurance: Consider getting travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost luggage. I recommend Freely travel insurance.
  • Flights: Book your flights well in advance to get the best deals. Keep electronic or physical copies of your tickets. Check Skyscanner for the latest flight deals to Japan.
  • Accommodation: Reserve hotels or accommodations for your entire stay. Make sure to mention any special requirements you or your family might have. Be sure to checkout my recommended Ryokans in Kyoto, Hakone, Kusatsu, and Tokyo. Don’t know what a Ryokan is? Read this article to find out. I highly recommend experiencing a Ryokan in Japan.
  • Itinerary: Plan your itinerary with a mix of popular tourist spots and hidden gems. Research worthy locations and experiences in advance starting with this list of the top 11 landmarks in Japan. Your itinerary will vary depending on your length of stay, however the must see locations include Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. East Japan and West Japan are different culturally, so you will likely want to experience both.
  • Japanese Language: Brush up on some basic Japanese phrases or have a translation app handy. I personally don’t think anything beats Google Translate where you can translate real time on your phone with video/pictures. If you have some time to study up on the language, definitely check out Babbel.
  • Currency: Japan is a cash culture (yes, still) although things are moving to accept credit cards more. I always exchange cash with my US bank prior to our trips, but that is just a matter of convenience. I’ve always thought the exchange rates at Narita or Haneda are reasonable, but you can sometimes find a better deal with your personal bank. I always try to bring enough cash so that I do not have to use an ATM in Japan. The fees depend on your bank, however just finding an ATM can be challenging and time consuming, so I always try to avoid it. If you do exchange currency ahead of time, ask for all large bills. If you don’t, you will likely receive some 2000 yen notes that are rarely used in Japan and are sometimes hard to use.
  • Electronics: Bring universal power adapters and chargers for your devices. Japan uses Type A and Type B sockets which are compatible with standard US electric cables.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Check the weather forecast for your travel dates and pack accordingly. Japan’s climate can vary greatly by season and by location in Japan.
  • Transportation and JR Pass: If you plan on traveling between cities, consider a Japan Rail Pass. It can save you money on long-distance train travel. Note that the JR Pass does not work for subway travel in Tokyo or other cities. For local travel in Tokyo, check this article to see which pass option is best for you.
  • Local SIM Card or Portable Wi-Fi: Stay connected by getting a local SIM card or renting a portable Wi-Fi device. I recommend Sakura Mobile for either option. If you prefer an eSIM, check out Airhub.
  • Food Allergies/Dietary Restrictions: If you or your family members have specific dietary needs, research restaurants and phrases to communicate them.
  • Culture and Etiquette: Learn about Japanese customs and etiquette to be respectful during your stay. Check out these 10 things NOT to do when visiting Japan.
  • Medications and Health: Bring any necessary medications and have a basic first-aid kit. Research healthcare options in case of emergencies.
  • Technology: Pack your camera, laptop, and any other equipment you need to stay connected and capture your experience in Japan. Don’t forget chargers and extra batteries. I recommend this Power Bank to ensure you don’t get caught without a charge. It is large enough to keep you charged and small enough not to give you trouble when bringing it on a plane.
  • Emergency Contacts: Have a list of emergency contacts, including the nearest embassy or consulate.
  • Travel Apps: Download travel apps for maps and transportation schedules.
  • Souvenir Budget: Allocate a budget for souvenirs and gifts, as Japan has unique items you might want to bring back.

Remember to adapt this checklist to your family’s specific needs and preferences. Enjoy your trip to Japan!