Best time to go: March – May and September – November. Avoid the peak times during this period (cherry blossom and autumn foliage times, Golden Week and Obon)

Best for: Traditional Performing Arts, Architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Capital: Tokyo (TYO)

Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)

Language: Japanese. English is widely understood, but may not always be spoken.

Dialling code from SA: +81

Time Zone: UTC / GMT +9 (7 hours ahead of South Africa)

Side of the Road: Left. An international drivers permit is required, and you should carry your South African drivers licence.

Plugs: 100 volts, A.C. There are two kinds of frequencies in use; 50 Hertz in eastern Japan and 60 Hertz in western Japan (including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka). 2-flat-pin plugs.

Drinking Water: Mains water in hotels and towns is safe to drink. Bottled water is widely available. If travelling to the Fukashima area, avoid drinking tap water and bottled water sold in the area.

Health: There are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services upfront. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended. Medications containing stimulants or codeine are illegal. Should you bring medication on your travels, you should check to make sure that they do not contain these ingredients (certain medications which are commonly available in South Africa, such as nasal sprays, will therefore not be allowed into Japan – check with the Japanese embassy if unsure). If you are bringing medication on your travels, it should be in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing exactly what it is and why you need it.

Customs: Japan has a strict social etiquette and expect visitors to be polite and respectful. Shoes should be removed when entering a person’s home or restaurant. Bowing is a common greeting, but handshakes are becoming more common. Table manners are important – if using chopsticks do not position them upright in the bowl. Do not douse your rice in soy sauce. The Japanese people are very tolerant of visitors, and will appreciate attempts to respect their social values.

Local Offences / Laws: Identification should be carried at all times. Penalties for crimes tend to be severe and prison life is strict. There is a zero-tolerance for drug-related crimes.

Travel Tips / Warnings: If travelling to Fukashima, avoid buying food and water. The most common dangers to travellers are natural disasters – typhoons (August – October) and earthquakes. Although credit cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants and stores, Japan is a cash society.

Duty Free: The following goods may be imported into Japan by travellers 20 years of age and older without incurring customs duty:
• 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco or 500g of a combination of these.
• 3 bottles (approximately 750ml each) of alcohol.
• 60ml of perfume.
• Other goods up to the value of ¥200,000.

Prohibited Imports: Prohibited items include narcotics, firearms and ammunition, explosives, counterfeit money, obscene material, and articles which infringe upon intellectual copyright. Restricted items include animals, plants, medicines and cosmetics, hunting guns, air guns and swords. You should be aware that in Japan cold and flu medication containing stimulants are illegal. You are not permitted to take commonly available nasal decongestant medication such as Sudafed and Vicks inhalers into Japan.

Prohibited Exports: Narcotics and stimulants, child pornography and goods that violate design copyrights, trademarks, patents, breeding and intellectual copyrights.

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