Backpacking Japan

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!

Are you ready for a trip to one of the most unique countries the world has to offer? Are you ready for a country that will take you to a totally new world? If you can answer these questions with a definite YES, then you are ready for backpacking in Japan. You’ll notice right away that Japan and the Japanese themselves are in fact beautifully unique, and as soon as you travel through the country, you’ll find out why. Japan is (probably) completely different than what you’re used to or ever have experienced, and you’ll never cease to be amazed.

Japan is really a progressive country, as far as technology goes, and is a few steps ahead of the rest of us. You’ll see that here, even the impossible is possible. Yes, Japan makes just about anything possible. The hustle and bustle in the big cities can be inspiring and impressive, but it can also be a bit intimidating at first. Don’t worry though, Japan also has a quiet side. As soon as you leave the city centre, you’ll realize that backpacking in Japan is one thing above all: a paradise of nature.

Many national parks, mountains, and a variety of flora and fauna attract backpackers from all over the world. Japanese religious monuments are also incredibly impressive, and the gigantic temple complexes just might surpass anything you have ever seen. And even when you think you’ve seen everything, a new facet of Japan emerges, waiting to be explored. Japan offers an incredibly diverse array of activities for all kinds of backpackers – there’s truly something for everyone's taste. Some may underestimate Japan, but your trip will prove just how important it is to travel to new countries, to leave your comfort zone, and to dive into new adventures. Backpacking in Japan will immerse you in a colourful and lively culture, and also take you to some of the planet’s most beautiful places.

Culture shock is inevitable on every trip to Japan – but not in a negative way. Japan is endlessly fascinating: with its curious customs and traditions, it’s an amazing place to visit. Japan is the definition of high tech, and even going to the toilet can be a new experience (the country is the world's leader in the toilet industry!). You can not only choose between up to 30 different flushing functions, but also have a heated seat and can play music.

Japan is an exciting mix of tradition and modernity. The modern technology forms an extreme contrast to the century old temple buildings and traditional Japanese handicrafts. Japan is a land of geographical diversity, too. The country consists of almost 7,000 islands, so whether you want to lie on the beach of a subtropical island or go skiing in the Japanese Alps, both are possible here. A contrast to the ultra-modern mega-cities are the sparsely populated rural regions and picturesque national parks. But Japan is not only a country full of extremes, but also a perfect gateway country for backpacking in Asia.

Japan’s technology boom is very much reflected in their infrastructure. The modern Shinkansen trains, for example, are the fastest bullet trains in the world. However, they’re not cheap, so if you’re on a budget, you’ll have to get an alternative economy pass for another form of public transport. With the Seishun 18 ticket, five train rides cost only 90 euros (not valid for the Shinkansen-Express). For all low-budget backpackers, we recommend the Willer Express buses, which will take you all over Japan in a cheap and comfortable way. With the Willer Pass, you get seven rides for 110 euros.

Japan is safe, organized, modern, and extremely clean. The cuisine is incredibly varied, and the people are always friendly and helpful despite any language barrier. The cost of living and travel can be compared to those in Western Europe, but you can also travel around Japan on a small budget with a little bit of research and some of our tips.

The Land of the Rising Sun checks all the boxes for an unforgettable backpacking trip. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s start your Japanese adventure!

See below for the perfect Japan itinerary for an unforgettable trip:


Important Basics

Official Language ( Japanese )
EnglishJapanese
HelloKoni-chi-wah
GoodbyeSai-o-nara
ThanksAri-gato
YesHai
Noee-eh
Capital City

Tokyo

Form of Government

Parliamentary Monarchy

Phone Country Code

+81

Currency

Japanese Yen

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 22 to 28 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: 2 to 10 degrees Celsius

Fun Fact

There are more than 15,000 earthquakes a year in Japan

Cities

Tokyo

Over 37 million people live in the Japanese capital. Here, you can get a great first impression of Japanese culture, visit countless sights, and experience the “ordered chaos” of the mega-city.

Visit the Meiji Shrine, walk through the Yoyogi Park, and stroll around Harajuku, the city’s trendy shopping district. Get to know traditional Japan in the Nakasu-Kawabata district with the famous Kushida shrine. Throw yourself into the vibrant nightlife in Akasaka and Rappongi or visit one of the iconic karaoke bars.

We also recommend a full day bus tour from Tokyo to Mount Fuji – the highest mountain in Japan. Discover its picturesque beauty and the surrounding Fuji Five Lakes region. Experience the mountain in all seasons in Fuji Airways' 4D flight simulator and visit Lake Kawaguchi and some of the ponds in Oshino Hakkai. Explore a ninja-themed village and enjoy a delicious Japanese lunch at Oshino Shinobi no Sato. Including transfer, entrance fee, guide, and food, you can book the Fuji tour starting from 92 euros.

Stay overnight in Tokyo at a hostel for 20 euros in a 10-bed dorm.

Kyoto

A visit to the former capital is an absolute must-do on every trip to Japan. Countless historical buildings and over 1,000 temples invite you to take a journey back in time. The Kinkaku-ji (or Golden Pavilion) and the Fushimi Inari shrine with thousands of orange gates are especially popular.

Visit the temple complex of Kodaiji, surrounded by a zen garden and bamboo forest, and Gion, one of the last remaining geisha districts in Japan. Every spring, the Japanese celebrate the beauty of life with hanami, the practice of viewing of cherry blossoms. Kyoto has very popular places for this spectacle because of its numerous cherry trees.

The city is full when the trees are in bloom, so you should definitely book a room in advance. Save a few bucks and stay in a six-bed dorm for 23 euros.

Hiroshima

Your journey continues by bus to Hiroshima. Many people usually associate this city with the atomic bombing in 1945. Even today, monuments such as the Peace Memorial Park, National Peace Memorial Hall, and A-Bomb Dome remind us of the former destruction of the city. Hiroshima Castle, which was rebuilt after the original was destroyed in 1945, is also worth seeing.

Hiroshima’s surroundings also offer numerous attractions. Visit the impressive Kintai Bridge south of the city or take a trip to Miyajima Island, located in Hiroshima Bay. On this island, you’ll find the famous Itsukushima Shrine with the Torii Gate standing proudly in front – one of the most common photos of Japan.

An overnight stay in a hostel costs 23 euros for a six-bed dorm.

Kumamoto

The Shinkansen Express takes you from Hiroshima to Kumamoto for 60 euros. The landmark of the city is the reconstructed Kumamoto Castle, seated atop a hill. The impressive building was set on fire during the Satsuma rebellion in 1877. Today, it’s the city’s most popular attraction and is shining again in its former splendour, despite some ongoing renovations due to the 2016 earthquake.

Sleep at a hotel for 24 euros in one of the typical capsule rooms – a must do in Japan.

Kagoshima

Next stop on your trip is Kagoshima. Take the Shinkansen Express for about 30 euros from Kumamoto to this seaside city on Japan's Kyushu Island. Once in Kagoshima, stroll through the Tenmonkan shopping district, visit the Kagoshima City Aquarium or check out the picturesque Kagoshima Bay, where you might be lucky enough to see dolphins.

The most popular attraction of this port city is Sakurajima Island, which can be reached by ferry. The 1,117-meter-high Sakurajima Volcano is still active today and its underground magma creates numerous hot springs – some of which are open for swimming. The majestic silhouette of the volcano is best admired from the Arimura Lava or Yunohira observatories.

Spend the night in a guest house in a six-bed dorm for 17 euros.

Okinawa

Flights to Okinawa from Kagoshima start at as little as 100 euros. The Okinawa Prefecture consists of 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited. Because of the turquoise-blue water, the dreamy beaches, enchanting landscapes, and the year-round warm climate, the Okinawa Islands are truly breath-taking, but (thankfully) are much quieter than most holiday destinations and fascinate visitors with the unique changing colours of the sea. This is especially beautiful in the north of the main island, Okinawa Honto, where the emerald-green sea meets the snow-white sand of Emerald Beach.

Visit Moon Beach and try out various water sports such as diving, water skiing, surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, and windsurfing. Explore the neighbouring islands, go whale-watching, and take a glass-bottom boat ride.

On Okinawa Honto, you can pay 21 euros for a night in a ten-bed dorm at a hostel.

Flights back to Tokyo (where you can get your return flight home) start from 50 euros.


Tokyo

Tokyo

Over 37 million people live in the Japanese capital. Here, you can get a great first impression of Japanese culture, visit countless sights, and experience the “ordered chaos” of the mega-city.

Visit the Meiji Shrine, walk through the Yoyogi Park, and stroll around Harajuku, the city’s trendy shopping district. Get to know traditional Japan in the Nakasu-Kawabata district with the famous Kushida shrine. Throw yourself into the vibrant nightlife in Akasaka and Rappongi or visit one of the iconic karaoke bars.

We also recommend a full day bus tour from Tokyo to Mount Fuji – the highest mountain in Japan. Discover its picturesque beauty and the surrounding Fuji Five Lakes region. Experience the mountain in all seasons in Fuji Airways' 4D flight simulator and visit Lake Kawaguchi and some of the ponds in Oshino Hakkai. Explore a ninja-themed village and enjoy a delicious Japanese lunch at Oshino Shinobi no Sato. Including transfer, entrance fee, guide, and food, you can book the Fuji tour starting from 92 euros.

Stay overnight in Tokyo at a hostel for 20 euros in a 10-bed dorm.

Kyoto

Kyoto

A visit to the former capital is an absolute must-do on every trip to Japan. Countless historical buildings and over 1,000 temples invite you to take a journey back in time. The Kinkaku-ji (or Golden Pavilion) and the Fushimi Inari shrine with thousands of orange gates are especially popular.

Visit the temple complex of Kodaiji, surrounded by a zen garden and bamboo forest, and Gion, one of the last remaining geisha districts in Japan. Every spring, the Japanese celebrate the beauty of life with hanami, the practice of viewing of cherry blossoms. Kyoto has very popular places for this spectacle because of its numerous cherry trees.

The city is full when the trees are in bloom, so you should definitely book a room in advance. Save a few bucks and stay in a six-bed dorm for 23 euros.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Your journey continues by bus to Hiroshima. Many people usually associate this city with the atomic bombing in 1945. Even today, monuments such as the Peace Memorial Park, National Peace Memorial Hall, and A-Bomb Dome remind us of the former destruction of the city. Hiroshima Castle, which was rebuilt after the original was destroyed in 1945, is also worth seeing.

Hiroshima’s surroundings also offer numerous attractions. Visit the impressive Kintai Bridge south of the city or take a trip to Miyajima Island, located in Hiroshima Bay. On this island, you’ll find the famous Itsukushima Shrine with the Torii Gate standing proudly in front – one of the most common photos of Japan.

An overnight stay in a hostel costs 23 euros for a six-bed dorm.

Kumamoto

Kumamoto

The Shinkansen Express takes you from Hiroshima to Kumamoto for 60 euros. The landmark of the city is the reconstructed Kumamoto Castle, seated atop a hill. The impressive building was set on fire during the Satsuma rebellion in 1877. Today, it’s the city’s most popular attraction and is shining again in its former splendour, despite some ongoing renovations due to the 2016 earthquake.

Sleep at a hotel for 24 euros in one of the typical capsule rooms – a must do in Japan.

Kagoshima

Kagoshima

Next stop on your trip is Kagoshima. Take the Shinkansen Express for about 30 euros from Kumamoto to this seaside city on Japan's Kyushu Island. Once in Kagoshima, stroll through the Tenmonkan shopping district, visit the Kagoshima City Aquarium or check out the picturesque Kagoshima Bay, where you might be lucky enough to see dolphins.

The most popular attraction of this port city is Sakurajima Island, which can be reached by ferry. The 1,117-meter-high Sakurajima Volcano is still active today and its underground magma creates numerous hot springs – some of which are open for swimming. The majestic silhouette of the volcano is best admired from the Arimura Lava or Yunohira observatories.

Spend the night in a guest house in a six-bed dorm for 17 euros.

Okinawa

Okinawa

Flights to Okinawa from Kagoshima start at as little as 100 euros. The Okinawa Prefecture consists of 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited. Because of the turquoise-blue water, the dreamy beaches, enchanting landscapes, and the year-round warm climate, the Okinawa Islands are truly breath-taking, but (thankfully) are much quieter than most holiday destinations and fascinate visitors with the unique changing colours of the sea. This is especially beautiful in the north of the main island, Okinawa Honto, where the emerald-green sea meets the snow-white sand of Emerald Beach.

Visit Moon Beach and try out various water sports such as diving, water skiing, surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, and windsurfing. Explore the neighbouring islands, go whale-watching, and take a glass-bottom boat ride.

On Okinawa Honto, you can pay 21 euros for a night in a ten-bed dorm at a hostel.

Flights back to Tokyo (where you can get your return flight home) start from 50 euros.

Japan Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Tokyo
Home - Tokyo
Flight
250
ten-bed dorm
20
2. Tokyo
Tokyo
-
ten-bed dorm
20
3. Tokyo
Tokyo
-
ten-bed dorm
20
4. Tokyo- Kyoto
Tokyo- Kyoto
Night bus (bus pass)
75
six-bed dorm
23
5. Kyoto
Kyoto
-
six-bed dorm
23
6. Kyoto
Kyoto
-
six-bed dorm
23
7. Kyoto - Hiroshima
Kyoto - Hiroshima
Bus (bus pass)
23
six-bed dorm
23
8. Hiroshima
Hiroshima
-
six-bed dorm
23
9. Hiroshima - Kumamoto
Hiroshima - Kumamoto
Shinkansen train
60
private room
24
10. Kumamoto
Kumamoto
-
private room
24
11. Kumamoto
Kumamoto
-
private room
24
12. Kumamoto - Kagoshima
Kumamoto - Kagoshima
Shinkansen train
30
six-bed dorm
17
13. Kagoshima
Kagoshima
-
six-bed dorm
17
14. Kagoshima
Kagoshima
-
six-bed dorm
17
15. Kagoshima - Okinawah
Kagoshima - Okinawah
Flight
100
ten-bed dorm
21
16. Okinawah
Okinawah
-
ten-bed dorm
21
17. Okinawah
Okinawah
-
ten-bed dorm
21
18. Okinawah
Okinawah
-
ten-bed dorm
21
19. Okinawah - Tokyo
Okinawah - Tokyo
Flight
50
ten-bed dorm
20
20. Tokyo
Tokyo
-
ten-bed dorm
20
21. Tokyo - Home
Tokyo - Home
Flight
250

Total price.

Flights 600,00
Transportation 165,00
Tours 92,00
Accommodation 422,00
Total1279,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Rice and miso soup: A small portion of rice and a warm miso soup is the typical way to start the day in Japan.

Soups

Udon Soup:  Udon noodles are cooked in soup, usually in a fish broth, and topped with a protein, like beef or tofu, and various garnishes.

Ramen: Probably the most famous (to us) Japanese soup, this dish is made with Ramen noodles cooked in a broth with chicken or beef and mixed with vegetables.

Main courses

Yakitori:  A beloved staple in Japan, this dish consists of chicken that is cut into small pieces, skewered on bamboo sticks, and grilled.

Udon noodles: These thick noodles are a comfort food for many Japanese people. You can simply order them with broth, a little bit of soy sauce, and fried vegetables.

Nabe: This stew is perfect for cold days. You prepare it yourself with raw meat and vegetables and cook the ingredients you want in a small hot pot on the table.

Omurice:  A very simple dish, yet very popular. The omelette is filled with rice and comes with different side dishes like meat or salad.  

Soba:  These buckwheat noodles are often served chilled with a dipping sauce or hot in a noodle soup.

Drinks & Snacks

Sake:  This Japanese rice wine is a specialty you can’t miss. An absolute must drink!

Green tea: This is the most popular tea in Japan, especially in the afternoon.

Japan

The exchange rate for 100 Japanese Yen (JPY) is around 0.83 euros (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of Living 

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

Slurp your noodles (loudly). What we consider to be bad table manners is considered as a compliment to the cook in Japan. So, enjoy! Where else can you eat noisily on purpose?

Respect the traffic rules. Paying proper attention is very important and when it comes to traffic in Japan, you should be overly cautious. It’s better than breaking one of the rules.

Don'ts

Don't eat while walking. Eating on the go, like we often do, is not the best thing to do in Japan, so you should take some time to look for a table where you can eat.

Don’t tip the waiter. Even though you have good intentions, this gesture is seen completely differently in Japan. Tipping can even be an insult. Therefore, it's best to avoid it.

Don’t make calls on the train. If someone calls you during a train ride, decline it! It’s absolutely forbidden in Japan to make or receive a call during a train journey. Silence is of the upmost importance, and you should not disturb it.

Don’t blow your nose in public. If you must, then do it quietly because blowing your nose loudly is considered to be absolutely inappropriate.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents must be valid for the duration of the intended stay. Please also inform yourself about the current entry regulations regarding the corona virus. You can find up-to-date information on the Foreign Office.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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