South African passport holders do require a visa for Japan. For details please contact our office.
Narita International Airport in Tokyo
Kansai International Airport in Osaka
Tokyo International Airport in Haneda, Tokyo
The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt, which is different from North America (120V), Central Europe (230V) and most other regions of the world. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins, as shown above. They fit into North American outlets.
Japanese power outlets are identical to ungrounded (2-pin) North American outlets. While most Japanese outlets these days are polarized (one slot is slightly wider than the other), it is possible to encounter non-polarized outlets in some places.
We recommend that you check the weather forecast prior to your departure so that you can pack accordingly.
Best time to visit:
Except for the Hokkaido area and the subtropical Okinawa region, the weather in Japan is mostly temperate, with four distinct seasons. Winters are cool and sunny in the south, cold and sunny aroundTokyo (which occasionally has snow), and very cold around Hokkaido, which is covered in snow for up to four months a year. The Japan Sea coastline also often receives heavy snowfall during winter.
Summer, between June and September, ranges from warm to very hot with high levels of humidity in many areas. Typhoons, or tropical cyclones, with strong winds and torrential rains often hit Japan during August and September, but can occur through May to October. Strong typhoons often affect transport systems, causing rail and air services to be stopped, and there is a danger of landslides in rural areas.
Spring and autumn are generally mild throughout the country, and offer spectacular views of pretty sakura cherry blossoms and colourful autumnal leaves, respectively. Rain falls all over Japan throughout the year but June and early July is the main rainy season. Umbrellas are a daily essential during this season. Hokkaido, however, is generally much drier than the Tokyo area.
In Japan, lightweight cottons and linens are required throughout summer in most areas. To avoid sunstroke and sunburn it is advisable to wear a hat. According to the region, light to medium weight clothing is best during spring and autumn; whilst medium to heavy weight clothing is recommended for winter months. A light rain coat or jacket is useful during the rainy season in June and July. Much warmer clothes will be needed in the mountains all year round. Thermal innerwear is recommended if trekking, climbing or skiing. It’s best to purchase all necessary clothing before arriving in Japan, as it can be difficult to find larger sizes.
Example packing list:
- Your travel documents and passport- including a photocopy of your passport in case it is lost or stolen while you are abroad. Keep one photocopy at home and take another photocopy on your trip with you
- Main luggage & luggage padlocks
- ‘Day bag’ – a smaller bag to carry with you during the day
- Money belt to carry passport, cash, credit cards, airline tickets, etc
- Trousers (or long skirts for women)
- Shirts or long-sleeved tops of light cotton material
- Walking shoes and socks – it is important to have sturdy and comfortable shoes for sightseeing every day
- Sun protection – hat, sunscreen and lip balm
- Personal medical kit including insect repellent
- Antibacterial wipes – wipes such as ‘Wet Ones Anti-bacterial’ to clean hands before eating
- Tracksuit/similar outfit of soft material is recommended for the overnight train journeys
- A water/windproof jacket
- Light jumpers or thermals are great for layering
- Torch, conversion plug and spare batteries – batteries available to buy in Japan tend to be unreliable
- Scarf or bandana – useful to protect your face against dusty winds at high altitude
- Spare glasses – it is difficult to get any prescription lenses repaired or replaced in Japan
- Snacks – tea bags/coffee, milk powder or sachets, instant soups or noodles, or anything you can’t go without!
- Camera and spare film/memory card
The Japanese currency is the yen (円, en). One yen corresponds to 100 sen. However, sen are usually not used in everyday life anymore, except in stock market prices. Bills come in 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen (very rare), 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen denominations. Coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen denominations. Counterfeit money is not an issue in Japan.
Customs & 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.
Keeping In Touch
Japan is a leader in mobile phone technology and use. In addition to calling, email and messaging, Japanese mobile phones were some of the first to widely adopt features such as internet browsers, games, cameras, televisions, electronic wallets, train passes, gps navigation and music players.
The biggest Japanese mobile phone companies are NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and Softbank (formerly Vodafone, and before that J-phone). There are also a few smaller carriers, some of which provide specialized services such as prepaid voice and mobile internet to residents and travelers.
Internet & Email
There are a variety of ways to stay connected to the internet while traveling in Japan. However, this is a quickly evolving industry where services and rates are constantly changing. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the common solutions currently available.
A majority of hotels in Japan offer free internet in their guest rooms. A few hotels, typically the higher end Western chains, charge for internet access based on 24 hour periods. Access is usually provided as wired internet via LAN cable or as a wireless network. At older hotels you may have to borrow and install some hardware in order to connect to the internet in your room.
Internet in the room is much less common at ryokan. Instead, many ryokan provide wireless internet or a public computer in their lobby. However, there are also some hotels, ryokan and minshuku that do not have internet access of any kind, especially in remote places, such as national parks or rural hot spring resorts.
Many hotel reservation websites, such as Japanican, have details on internet availability for their listed properties and offer the option to filter for places with internet access.
Wireless (Wi-Fi) Hotspots
Both paid and free wireless (Wi-Fi) hotspots are available in Japan. Laptops and mobile devices can connect to publicly accessible hotspots found around airports, train stations, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Japan is 7 hours ahead of South Africa.
Health insurance is strongly recommended, owing to the high cost of treatment for those outside the Japanese national healthcare system. Confirm that your health care policy fully covers travel to Japan before departure, as you will be expected to pay the full amount of any treatment you receive.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.iamat.org) provides a list English-speaking doctors. There are hospitals with emergency and outpatient facilities in all major cities. Throughout Japan dial 119 to call an ambulance. Because emergency operators may not speak English, assistance from a local person, if possible, would be helpful when making an emergency call.
If bringing small amounts of personal medications into Japan, whether they are over the counter or prescription, make sure they are in clearly marked containers. Larger quantities or devices may require a special certificate which must be obtained before departure to Japan. Consult the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website (www.mhlw.go.jp) for more detailed information. Visitors should be aware that in Japan medications containing stimulants or codeine are illegal. You are not permitted to take commonly available nasal decongestant medication such as Sudafed and Vicks Inhalers into Japan.
Food and drink:
If travelling to the area near the Fukushima nuclear accident it is advisable to take supplies of food and water. Produce from the area near the Fukushima nuclear accident, which is still being sold in some supermarkets nationwide, should be avoided due to the lack of a centralized testing system in Japan for radioactive contamination in food, and discrepancies between Japanese and international standards for safe levels of radioactive substances in food.
Tap water in Tokyo was declared not safe for consumption after the accident, although the government has since stated otherwise. Nevertheless, if travelling with children it is advisable to take precautions. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website (www.mhlw.go.jp) has updates on contamination levels in tested food. In other parts of Japan, food and drink are generally considered safe.
Only eat raw fish, seafood and meat from recognised establishments, and be aware that there is a risk of parasitic infection and toxins if these foods have not been prepared properly. E-coli food poisoning outbreaks tend to occur in Japan during the warmer months (June-September), and it is advisable to take precautions when consuming perishable foods at outdoor summer festivals, where refrigeration may be an issue.
You should make sure you are up to date with routine vaccinations. Influenza and measles epidemics have occurred in recent years and precautions should be taken. Tuberculosis and hepatitis B occur and vaccination is sometimes advised. Typhus occurs in some river valleys. Japanese encephalitis may occur. Vaccination is recommended for long-term travel (greater than one month) in rural areas. All normal precautions should also be exercised to avoid exposure to sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
If spending prolonged periods outdoors during the summer months when heat and humidity can be extreme, make sure to have plenty of fluids on hand to avoid dehydration and wear hats and other protective clothing to avoid heatstroke.
Personal Medical Kit
Take all pharmaceutical products that you may require on your tour; do not rely on being able to purchase these during your holiday. You will see pharmacies all over China, but they stock local traditional medicine and many unregulated brands of western medicine. You are also very unlikely to find anyone who can speak English, nor any products with English writing. Consider taking a ‘personal medical kit’ containing any medication or medical equipment you may need during your time in Japan:
- All prescribed medication (with a cover note from your doctor)/ copy of repeat prescription
- Headache tablets
- Anti-diarrhoea tablets
- Cold and flu tablets
- Travel sickness tablets
- Insect repellent and bite/sting relief
- Antibacterial hand wipes and/or hand wash
- Spare pair of glasses/contact lenses