Ultimate Checklist for Japan Travel [2023]

We have put together this detailed checklist for Japan travel to help you plan your trip step by step. This Japan travel checklist is sequenced in order to help you plan your Japan trip in the right sequence to ensure you do not miss out on key activities.

To help you go through the pre-departure process, we have put together a printable checklist, which you can use to tick things off as you finalise your preparations.

Travelling to Japan? Click here to download your free Japan Travel Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip!
Travelling to Japan? Click here to download your free Japan Travel Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip!

Contents

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and Discord Server

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and our new Japan Travel Planning Discord Server – they are great resources to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Before Booking Your Trip to Japan

1. Visa for Japan

Check on this link to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan to see which nationalities are part of the visa waiver program and which nationalities need to apply for a visa. If your country is part of the visa waiver program with Japan, it means that you do not need to apply for a visa.

If you need to apply for a visa start that process immediately with your local Japan Embassy as it can often take several weeks to be processed. Also note that you will need a passport to apply for a visa, so you may need to get it first if you do not already have a passport with sufficient validity.

Make sure you do not book flights until after your visa has been approved.

2. Passport for Japan

Ensure you have a valid passport with at least six months remaining before it expires on your date of arrival into Japan, otherwise, you risk not being allowed to enter Japan on arrival. Make sure you obtain your passport early, as you will need to have it available to apply for a visa (if required), book your Japan Rail Pass and book your Ghibli Museum tickets.

3. Review Your Travel Insurance Options for Japan

Research your travel insurance options for Japan. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, pregnancy or other reasons which could make it difficult to get travel insurance, you will need to take action early to obtain a policy, preferably before you book your flights. Our recommended travel insurance providers are as follows:

  • Residents of the USA. If you live in the USA, we recommend that you check out Travel Insurance Master, which provides comparisons of a large selection of travel insurance products to help you find the one which suits you best.
  • Residents of Australia. If you live in Australia, we recommend that you check out Cover-More and Travel Insurance Direct.
  • Residents of the United Kingdom. If you live in the UK, we recommend that you check out Moneysupermarket, which provides comparisons of a large selection of travel insurance products to help you find the one which suits you best.
  • Residents of Other Countries. For residents of other countries, check out your local travel insurance providers.

4. Plan Your Japan Itinerary

Now for the fun part – developing your itinerary!

  • Review our Best Time to Visit Japan article.
  • Consider your personal options to visit in terms of the best time of year and how long you will have available.
  • Consider your budget for the trip
  • Develop a rough itinerary – see our articles on 10 day and two week itineraries as a starting point. On these articles, you can also sign up for our email list to receive our Japan itinerary spreadsheets.
  • Check out the package tour options available through Tour Radar – sign up for their email list to receive regular deals to get up to 60% off package tours. Also, consider whether you may want to add additional days before or after the tour period.
  • (USA Readers) Sign up to Going (previously called Scott’s Cheap Flights) to receive flight deals.
  • Purchase a guide book to help you learn more about Japan to plan your itinerary.
  • Once you have developed an initial draft itinerary, post it to the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group to get feedback from group members.

Put all of this information together to create an itinerary which works for you, and you are then ready to book!

Sakura Season in Ueno Park in Tokyo
Sakura Season in Ueno Park in Tokyo
Travelling to Japan? Click here to download your free Japan Travel Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip!

Ready to Book Your Trip to Japan

5. Book Flights and Package Tours

You are now ready to make the step to commit to your trip to Japan! Step one is to book your flights and package tour. We recommend that you take this step 6-12 months before your trip, however, understand that many people book their trip a much shorter time ahead.

  • If booking a package tour, book the tour first and receive confirmation before booking your flights.
  • Check out the latest flight options using Skyscanner.
  • Then book your flights. Be very careful when entering your details, double check them before choosing to proceed with your booking. Check that the passenger names are correct, and also that you have selected the correct flight and dates.

If you have connecting flights, check the time gap between flights and also the specific arrival and departure airports. A classic issue for Japan flights is when people book a flight which arrives at Narita Airport and then their connecting flight departs from Haneda Airport (or vice versa). The two Tokyo airports are 80km apart so transport between the airports can be a major issue, and extra time is required to transfer.

6. Book Travel Insurance for Japan

Plan to book your travel insurance policy as soon as you book your flights and package tours to Japan, as your policy will then provide you with insurance coverage in the event you need to cancel your flights or package tour due to an acceptable cause – note you cannot book a policy after you depart.

Note that most travel insurance policies will not cover you for COVID19 unless you have purchased your policy at least 3 weeks or more prior to your departure date – so book early!

  • Residents of the USA. If you live in the USA, we recommend that you check out Travel Insurance Master, which provides comparisons of a large selection of travel insurance products to help you find the one which suits you best.
  • Residents of Australia. If you live in Australia, we recommend that you check out Cover-More and Travel Insurance Direct.
  • Residents of the United Kingdom. If you live in the UK, we recommend that you check out Moneysupermarket, which provides comparisons of a large selection of travel insurance products to help you find the one which suits you best.
  • Residents of Other Countries. For residents of other countries, check out your local travel insurance providers.

7. Book Accommodation for Japan

We recommend that you book your Japan accommodation as soon as you have booked your flights. You can often get a much better price by booking early, and if you book a cancellable option, you can always change your accommodation as new or cheaper options pop up closer to your departure date.

If you are a family or larger group, it is better to book early, also if it will be a peak time like the cherry blossom season or a popular location. Note that many accommodation providers in Japan only release room availability from 3-6 months prior.

We always book our own accommodation through Booking.com, as it provides an easy way to have all of your accommodation in a single app.

8. Money for Japan

You can easily use credit and debit cards to pay for items and draw funds while in Japan. Ensure that you check out the fees associated with these transactions with your bank – they should be listed on your bank’s website.

While in Japan you need to understand that you cannot draw funds from any Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). The key thing to understand is that the only places you can draw cash using a credit or debit card from outside Japan are from an ‘International Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)’. International ATMs are only available inside 7-11 convenience stores or at post offices. Few other ATM machines will work.

If you are interested to get a multi-currency debit card, we recommend that you check out Wise for international banking options, which include the option to convert and hold Japanese Yen. You can get a debit card, and you can also use Google Pay and Apple Pay options. Plan to set up your account at least two months prior to your departure.

Ensure that you notify your bank prior to your departure to advise them that you will be travelling overseas – either through your online account or by phone. Otherwise, you risk that they could suspend your account when they see transactions coming from an unusual location!

We recommend exchanging at least $US200 into Yen in cash prior to departure so that you have some cash in your pocket on arrival to pay for trains etc. You should be able to purchase currency at your departure airport or local bank.

9. Pre-Order Ghibli Museum Tickets

Ghibli Museum tickets can be hard to get. The easiest option is to pre-order your Ghibli Museum tickets through Viator as soon as you have booked the rest of your trip, as they only have a limited number of pre-order tickets available each day. Click here to pre-order your Ghibli tickets through Viator.

We also have a detailed article to help you learn more about visiting the Ghibli Museum, Click here to check out our detailed article on how to visit the Ghibli Museum.

How to buy Studio Ghibli Museum Tickets for Tokyo, Japan

Two Months Prior to Departure

Two months prior to your departure date, there are multiple things you need to book in advance to ensure you are able to have specific experiences during your trip to Japan.

10. Prescription Medicine for Japan

If you require prescription medicine, ensure that you have refilled your medication scripts prior to your departure.

Be aware that Japan has strict controls on what medications and medical equipment can and cannot be brought into Japan. Check out this link for further information and ensure that you comply with the stated requirements. You need to apply for import permission at least one month before you depart so don’t wait if you have any medications which are on the controlled list. Your local Japan Embassy should also have a specific application process for your country, so ensure you check out their website.

11. Purchase Ghibli Theme Park Tickets

The new Ghibli Theme Park near Nagoya makes it quite challenging to purchase tickets. They now have a direct purchase option for international visitors, which enables you to visit only the Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse area of the theme park in limited timeslots. No third-party ticket sales are yet available. Click on this link to see the latest information about the international ticket sales option. Expect they will sell out quickly shortly after ticket sales open, so plan ahead to be ready to book.

12. Purchase Disneyland and Disneysea Japan Tickets

Currently, it can be hard to get Disneyland and Disneysea entry tickets as they are regularly selling out. Order your ticket two months prior to your planned visit. Click here to book your Disneyland and Disneysea tickets through Klook.

Klook.com

13. Purchase Universal Studios Japan Express Passes

In the busy periods, the skip the queue Express Passes for Universal Studios Japan regularly get sold out in advance. To enable you to have the best experience in USJ we recommend that it is very worthwhile to pay the extra money to enable you to skip the queue. Click here to check out our detailed article about how to purchase USJ entry tickets and Express Passes.

Klook.com

14. Purchase Sumo Wrestling Tournament Tickets

Sumo Wrestling is a great experience for your Japan trip, however, tournaments are only held six times per year and tickets sell out quickly. Book at least two months ahead. Click here to check out our detailed article about how to purchase your sumo wrestling tournament tickets.

How to Buy Sumo Wrestling Tickets

If a tournament is not on in the period you plan to visit Japan, a great alternative option is to visit a sumo stable to view their training. Book at least two months ahead as these tours regularly sell out. Click here to check out our detailed article about the sumo stable training experience and how to book.

Sumo Training Tokyo

One Month Prior to Departure

15. Purchase Your Japan Rail Pass

When travelling in Japan many visitors purchase a Japan Rail Pass, as they provide a cost effective and easy option to get around Japan using both the shinkansen inter-city train, as well as other local Japan Rail train, bus and ferry services.

For further information click through to our dedicated article on How to Purchase the Cheapest Japan Rail Passes. You should plan to order your Japan Rail Pass at least two full business weeks before you depart, and preferably earlier than that!

Japan Rail Pass

16. Drivers Licence and International Drivers Permit (IDP) for Japan

If you are planning to hire or drive a vehicle in Japan or drive a street kart, you will also need to carry both your Drivers Licence and an International Drivers Permit (IDP).  Click on this link to find out more about where to purchase an IDP.

17. Purchase teamlab Planets Tickets

teamLab Planets is the very popular digital art Museum in Tokyo, and ticket availability can be challenging. Click here to book your teamLab Planets tickets through Klook.

Klook.com

18. Book your Japan Street Karting Experience

Street Karting in Japan is a very popular activity, so to get your preferred timeslots we recommend that you book this activity at least one month prior. Click here to check out our detailed article about Street Karting options in Japan.

19. Book Your Fuji-Q Theme Park Tickets

While you are completing your bookings, also plan to book your Fuji Q theme park tickets. Click here to read our detailed article about how to purchase tickets for Fuji Q.

How to Buy Fuji Q Tickets
How to Buy Fuji Q Tickets
Klook.com

20. Review Your Japan Packing List

We recommend that you review our packing list article for Japan, and if there are any items you need to purchase you can take action to ensure they are delivered prior to your departure. Click here to check out our packing list article for Japan.

Two Weeks Prior to Departure

These final activities can be done any time up until you depart on your trip – but based on our experience, the final weekend before a trip is one where you may be quite busy preparing your home and visiting family prior to your trip. So if you take action to complete these activities two weeks prior to departure, you are less likely to have a pre-trip overload before departure.

21. Register on the Visit Japan Website

Visit Japan Web is the official online service for Quarantine, Immigration and Customs procedures in Japan. You fill out your details on the website in advance, and it enables you to have a smooth path through Quarantine, Immigration, and Customs declaration procedures after you arrive in Japan. Here is the link to the official Visit Japan Web site.

22. Finalise Your Japan Phone Data Options

Review and decide whether you will use your existing phone plan’s international roaming option (hint – they can be very expensive!), or decide whether to purchase an eSim Plan if you have a newer generation phone, local sim card or rent a pocket wifi device. Book your preferred option at least two weeks prior to your departure date.

23. Review Flight Details

Review your flight details, as they may have changed since you made your initial booking. Sign up for flight alerts if this option is available so that you receive notifications of changes. Also, confirm how early you will need to plan to be at the airport for your departure flight.

We use a great app called TripIt to load and keep track of our itinerary on the go. The premium Tripit option will send you flight alerts as you travel and is a great service. The Tripit app makes it really easy to keep track of all of your bookings in a single app.

24. Plan your Departure and Return Airport Transfers from Home

Do your homework for how you will get to your departure airport and also how to return home after your trip. Allow extra time to get to the airport, post COVID19 the processes to get through check-in, security and immigration can take a lot longer than they used to. For international travel, I would personally plan to be at the airport at least three hours prior to your flight departure time.

Check out whether you can have a friend or family member drive you to and from the airport. Alternatively research your local public transport, self drive and airport parking options, and also shared and private transfers.

If you are travelling long haul or overnight, expect you will be tired after you return to your home airport, so driving your vehicle is not always the safest option.

25. Plan Your Arrival Airport Transfer

Common arrival airports in Japan include Narita and Haneda Airports near Tokyo, and Kansai Airport near Osaka. You may not realise that Narita Airport is located 70km / 44 mi east of central Tokyo, whilst Haneda Airport is located 19km / 12 mi south of Central Tokyo. Also, the Tokyo Public Transport system is one of the most complex in the world. So trying to navigate the local public transport after a tiring long-haul flight or late at night is not always a great option – as we discovered personally on our first visit to Japan.

As a result of our experience on that first visit, on our subsequent visits to Japan, we have instead booked private transfers to get to our accommodation. We have felt so much more relaxed with this option as you can just hop off your aeroplane, go through customs and immigration and have a driver waiting for you at the exit – and then head off and enjoy the ride direct to your hotel.

Klook has great affordable private transfer options which you can check out and book at the below links for group sizes of up to 20 people. This is the option we have used ourselves and are very happy to recommend it. After booking and receiving your confirmation, expect that your driver should reach out to you on Whatsapp the evening prior to confirm your arrival details, also enabling you to easily communicate with your driver about any delays or the time you expect will get through security. Click here to check out and book your private airport transfer from either Narita or Haneda Airports to Tokyo or Kansai Airport to Osaka or Kyoto through Klook.

Alternatively, if you want to check out the other options to transfer on arrival in Japan then check out our articles below:

Klook.com

26. Read Your Government Travel Advisories for Japan

Read your government travel advisories for Japan – and also subscribe to receive updates. Take note of your government guidance, cautions and areas to avoid when you visit Japan.

Here are the links to the Japan travel advisories from the USA, Canada, UK and Australia. For other countries search on Google to find your own government information.

27. Load Japan Travel Apps onto Your Phone

Spend some time loading apps for Japan travel onto your phone before you depart. Check out our detailed article on travel apps for Japan for details of what to load.

Top 16 Phone Apps for Your Japan Trip

One Week Prior to Departure

Travelling to Japan? Click here to download your free Japan Travel Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip!

28. Book Your Mt Fuji Day Tour

First, check the weather forecast for which day will be the best weather to visit Mt Fuji. Then book your Mt Fuji one-day tour. You can check out the day tour options in our Mt Fuji Day Tour article.

Best Mt Fuji One Day Tour from Tokyo
Klook.com

Japan Travel Checklist Wrap Up

After following this checklist, you will be as well prepared as possible for your trip to Japan. Like any travel experience, expect there will be popups which you could not have planned. Plan to be patient when unexpected things do happen. Japan is an amazing destination to visit, so we wish you all the best for your trip!

Checklist for Japan Travel
Travelling to Japan? Click here to download your free Japan Travel Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip!

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and Discord Server

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and our new Japan Travel Planning Discord Server – they are great resources to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.