Always wanted to visit Japan? Now could well be the best time to discover this charming Asian nation
New research shows that Japan is one of the hottest destinations for travellers this year – and with good reason.
Foreign exchange specialists ICE has reported a 700% increase in travellers purchasing Japanese Yen when compared with August 2018. This could well have something to do with the Rugby World Cup, which gripped nations across the globe this year. The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020, set to be held in Tokyo, will surely draw the numbers in too.
However, it’s likely also down to the country’s increasing accessibility (a growing number of affordable flights now serving the region), coupled with its beguiling culture, stunning scenery and the promise of the world’s best sushi.
ICE’s Head of UK, Louis Bridger, said: “We’re expecting that interest in Japan will continue to skyrocket after the World Cup as it’s sure to inspire holidaymakers to tick it off their bucket lists.”
So it seems that now is the time to visit Japan. So we’ve got tips on how to beat the crowds, get a great deal, and see the cherry blossom on your Japan holiday. Here’s everything you need to know.
Where to go in Japan
From buzzing Tokyo, with its dazzling neon signs and night life, to islands reached the traditional way in small wooden fishing boats, this ancient land is like no other.
The capital will be the focus in summer 2020 when the Olympic Games come to town. The city was also a key location for the Rugby World Cup, which means that investment in entertainment, infrastructure and tourism has never been higher – and visitors will reap the rewards.
Here you can experience the weird and the wonderful that Japan is famous for, including designer shops and robot waiters. Shibuya Crossing in the heart of the city’s shopping district is a sight not to miss. When the lights change, up to a thousand people cross at a time from eight different points. It tells you something about Japan that it’s achieved without a cross word.
Another must-see is Senso-Ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The buildings are spectacular, and in the grounds you can cure ills by wafting smoke from a giant incense burner over the relevant body part.
Leaving Tokyo, catch the super-fast shinkansen (bullet train) to explore Hakone National Park, where on a clear day you can see the imposing Mount Fuji. Afterwards, witness the sights of the cultural capital Kyoto, then weave your way through the beautiful Japanese Alps.
The northern island of Hokkaido is also easy to access on the bullet train. Thanks to its unspoilt natural landscape, the island – the second largest of Japan’s four main islands – is the perfect place to hike and cycle in summer, whilst winter attracts skiers and snowboarders.
Foodies should head to Osaka, the country’s culinary heartland. You should also aim to see Fukuoka, home of ramen, or Sapporo, famous for its beer and its annual snow festival.
When to visit Japan
The best time to visit Japan is in late spring (March-May) and late autumn (September-November), when you can expect for mild temperatures and low rainfall. Book now for spring or autumn 2020 and you’ll be laughing – not least because you’ll miss the summer rush for the Olympics.
When can I see cherry blossom in Japan?
Cherry blossom season lasts from March to May, and is the most spectacular time to visit Japan. The pink blooms are celebrated all over the country with festivals and picnics.
You won’t just find cherry blossom (sakura) on the trees: it’s in snacks, on souvenirs, and even sprinkled on Starbucks drinks. The arrival of the blooms is even forecast on television: a petal-by-petal analysis of Japan’s most enchanting season.
Plenty of flights serve Tokyo’s airports from the UK, often requiring a stopover in Europe. The main airport is Tokyo’s Narita Airport. BA now also flies to Osaka’s Kansai Airport. Riviera Travel runs spectacular 13-day escorted tours to Japan from £3,549 per person.
Words: Lottie Gross, Gilly Pickup, Rebecca Gamble and Dale Walker