Top events in Japan

July
31

Fans of manga and anime from all over the world gather in the costumes of their favourite characters at this annual event in Nagoya.

August
06

Firework makers from all over Japan show their skills at this impressive fireworks festival that draws several hundred thousand spectators to the...

August
16

Massive bonfires in the shape of Chinese characters and other forms are lit on five hills surrounding Kyoto, to bid farewell the ancestral spirits...

Mount Fuji, Japan
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Mount Fuji, Japan

© 123rf.com / Craig Hanson

Japan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

377,915 sq km (145,913 sq miles).

Population

127.3 million (2013).

Population density

336.7 per sq km.

Capital

Tokyo.

Government

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state

Emperor Akihito since 1989.

Head of government

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe since 2012.

Electricity

100 volts AC, 60Hz in the west (Osaka); 100 volts AC, 50Hz in eastern Japan and Tokyo. Plugs are flat two-pin plugs.

Japan is swathed in natural beauty, from the snow festivals and lavender farms of the northern isle of Hokkaido to the sun-drenched beaches and turquoise waters of the subtropical islands of Okinawa. Whether climbing volcanic Mount Fuji, wandering the pine forests of Mount Koya, taking in the springtime beauty of the sakura cherry blossoms or the spectacular maple leaves in the autumn, a journey to Japan is a wealth of unforgettable natural landscapes. In recent years, the powdery snow of Japan’s ski fields has also been attracting international visitors.

Culturally, Japan offers a unique and exciting fusion of the traditional and the modern. The speed at which new technological developments are realised in Japan is as impressive as the longevity of traditional art forms and customs. Whilst it is no longer the economic powerhouse it was for the greater part of the 20th century, Japan is still a world leader in innovative design and fashion, and continues to offer superb customer service, clean and punctual trains and meticulously prepared and presented cuisine.

Japanese culture embraces the new while celebrating the past. It’s not unusual to see kimono-clad geisha singing karaoke in downtown Kyoto, or fully-robed Buddhist monks whizz by on motorbikes in central Tokyo. ‘Cool Japan’ has become an internationally-recognised byword for Japan’s popular culture, and Japanese manga, anime and video games have never been more popular. Modern architecture in Tokyo, and other major Japanese cities, is well-regarded for forging radical new styles and using clever combinations of glass and concrete, which hint at traditional architectural forms yet offer minimalist sophistication. However, ancient castles, atmospheric Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and fascinating festivals are never far away.

Despite never having been colonised, the country’s own imperialist ambitions in Asia during the first part of the 20th century had devastating consequences, culminating in the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Japan has also had to deal with a vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis that has caused widespread natural disasters throughout its history. The most recent include the powerful earthquake that hit Kobe, a port city in Western Japan in 1995, and in March 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of North-eastern Japan caused the country’s biggest loss of life since WWII, and resulted in one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

With great challenges of rebuilding and revitalisation ahead, the resilience of the Japanese people is proving to be essential to recovery. Greater emphasis is being placed on disaster preparedness and environmental issues. Renewed efforts to attract international visitors mean there has never been a better time to visit beautiful and fascinating Japan.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 30 July 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility identified by the Japanese authorities.

The typhoon season runs from June to December with most activity between July and September. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms and follow instructions issued by the local authorities.

There may be some disruption to transport and other infrastructure in the parts of north-eastern Honshu most affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Check with the local authorities or your travel company before you go.

There is a continuous risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan. Latest warnings and advisories are published on the Japan Meteorological Agency website. See Earthquakes and tsunamis

The Japanese government introduced a new residency system for foreign nationals in July 2012.

There is a low threat from terrorism.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks

191,900 British nationals visited Japan in 2013. Most visits are trouble free.

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