Mar 15, 2023



Travel Inspiration

Your First Time in Japan: What to Expect

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

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Traveling to Japan for the first time and unsure what to expect? The short answer: your first time in Japan will be amazing. 

The long answer? Connect with a Fora Advisor and they can help you with everything from the best places to visit in Japan for first-timers to booking all your accommodations. In fact, when you book your trip through an advisor, you’ll gain access to VIP travel perks like upgraded rooms and property credits — all for the same price as booking alone (if not better).

Read on for fun Japan travel tips.

What to expect for your first time in Japan


Here are a few travel tips for your first time in Japan.

Be prepared for a culture shock (in the best way) 

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, you should know that respect and courtesy are important facets of Japanese culture. In fact, the differences are pretty striking — from a no-shoes policy in certain buildings to high-tech toilets that sing (really). 

Our guide to cultural exploration in Tokyo and the culture enthusiast’s guide to Naoshima offer more examples, if you’re curious.

Japan is exceptionally safe, even for first-time travelers

Even among developed countries, Japan is incredibly safe

However, as with travel to any new place, travelers should always exercise caution.

Don’t tip at restaurants, but slurp your noodles 

A few things may stand out when you’re eating at restaurants during your first time in Japan. For one, the food — authentic yakitori, sushi, ramen — is amazing, and few countries have as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Japan. 

That said, tipping is generally considered rude, or at least unnecessary, in Japan. The cost of service is included in your bill. Another surprising turn: (gently) slurping noodles is considered proper. 

See our foodie’s guide to Japan for dining ideas, or chat with a Fora Advisor for personalized recommendations. Some of the best places to visit in Japan for first timers happen to be restaurants, so it’s definitely worth planning your meals with someone in the know.

Public transportation in Japan is excellent, and traveling by train is the way to go

It’s worth learning how to use public transportation, especially if it’s your first time in Japan. The country has arguably the best railway system in the world: virtually every major city in Japan is connected, and intracity travel is unbelievably convenient. 

There’s (usually) no need to rent a car, which can be challenging for American travelers used to driving on the right side of the road.

The only downside is that the system can be a little overwhelming at first. There are so many options, but it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it.

…But that doesn’t mean you need a Rail Pass for your first time in Japan

While Japan offers tourists unlimited rail passes for a reasonable sum, they’re not always necessary. For example, if you’re visiting Tokyo with no plans to leave the city, it may be a waste to invest in a Japan Rail Pass.

When you plan your trip with a Fora Advisor, they’ll let you know if it makes sense to get a pass.

Accommodations in Japan are top-notch (a Fora Advisor can help)

Boasting top resorts like Aman Tokyo and Hoshinoya Fuji, the coolest hotels in Japan compare well with many of the best hotels in Europe and the Americas. 

Whether you’re deciding where to stay in Tokyo, where to stay in Kyoto or anywhere else, your Fora travel advisor will make sure your first time in Japan is an unforgettable experience. 

And Fora Advisors can help you with just about any travel destination imaginable. Want ideas for a Colorado bachelorette party? Wondering which Hawaiian island is best for kids and families? Trying to find the best Vegas hotel for couples? Just ask your travel advisor.

Places to visit in Japan for first-timers: Japan travel itinerary ideas


One of the questions Japan travel advisors receive the most is, “where should I stay for my first time in Japan?” There’s no easy answer here. A lot depends on your preferences, which an advisor would be happy to help you decipher. Looking through our list of the best places to stay in Japan is a good start, though.

Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are the top places to visit in Japan for first-timers if you only have 1 week or so

Most Japan first-timers travel to Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. These three cities represent the best of Japan’s urban experience, with a unique blend of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. 

Tokyo has the most to offer, especially if you want to sample as much as possible, or if you’re looking for Japan’s best nightlife. Kyoto leans toward traditional Japanese culture and architecture. Osaka is similar, but its central location and harbor have cultivated an incredible gastronomic scene.

Any of the three is an ideal choice if you’re only able to spend one week in Japan.

Visit a second city, Mount Fuji, or Niseko if you have 2 weeks in Japan

If you have a little more time to explore, it’s worth traveling to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. You can also check out one of Japan’s natural wonders, like Mount Fuji, or Niseko’s ski resorts (see our Niseko itinerary for more). Some of the best places to visit in Japan for first-timers are a bit off the beaten path, so don’t be shy. A Fora Advisor can help.

With 1 month in Japan, you can tour all of Japan’s major cities and catch a few unique places, too

If you have at least a month to spare for your first time in Japan, you’ll have plenty of time to visit all the major cities. Plus, the countryside and mountainous regions are filled with many of the most unique places to visit in Japan.

Need help deciding when to visit? Our guide to the best months to visit Japan covers when to see the cherry blossoms, avoid crowds and more. Plus, you’ll be able to fill your first time in Japan with tons of the country’s most popular places to visit.

Plan your first time in Japan (or your tenth) with a Fora Advisor


Your first time in Japan will be special no matter what, but planning a trip to Japan with a Fora Advisor is the best way to get the most out of your visit. 

Whether you’re looking for the coolest hotels in Tokyo or deciding where to stay in Osaka, your advisor can help you sort through the top options and destinations while supplying you with expert recommendations on dining (like the best restaurants in Tokyo), transportation and more.

And if this isn’t your first time in Japan, don’t assume that a Fora Advisor can’t be of service. In addition to our Japan regular’s guide, advisors can still hook you up with VIP travel perks and recommendations for cool places you might’ve missed on previous sojourns — all for the same price as booking alone.


    Author - Fora Travel

    Fora Travel

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