Japan is a country like no other.
An amazing mix of ancient traditions and modern technologies, it’s somewhere that both respects its past and rushes headlong into the future.
Boasting unique natural wonders, a proud heritage, and a fascinating culture, it’s no surprise that Backpacking in Japan has become so popular.
The “land of the rising sun” offers innumerable tourist attractions, with a diversity that anybody backpacking Japan won’t forget in a hurry.
However, with so much to see and do here, it helps to have a plan before you backpack in Japan!
Looking to make the most of your Japan backpacking experience?
Keep reading for a set of travel tips and Japan itinerary suggestions to help you have the best time possible!
Heads up, this post contains affiliate links.
5 Tips for Backpacking Through Japan
Keep the following things in mind when planning to go backpacking through Japan!
1) Know the best time to travel to Japan.
“The land of the rising sun” attracts travelers all year round. There’s no real ‘high season’ in Japan!
Some people go to ski resorts in winter, others want to visit the Sakura blossoms in spring, and many more can’t wait to soak up the sun on the beaches of the Japanese coast in summer.
Think twice about going to Japan for the May holidays.
Late April to early May is the “Golden Week” when national holidays are held for 6 consecutive days.
At this time, the whole country has a free weekend- and everybody goes traveling! Train tickets are sold out, housing becomes more expensive, and crowds of tourists fill the temples, parks, and museums.
2) Keep the Japanese Climate in Mind
The Japanese archipelago stretches from north to south, which affects the climate.
Before travelling with a backpack in Japan, try to familiarize yourself with the climatic features of different regions:
- Hokkaido is the coldest island, with warm summers and long snowy winters- when monsoons from the mainland bring Siberian frosts to the island.
- The climate is subtropical in southern Honshu and Kyushu; continental in northern Honshu. On the Pacific coast, you get cold winters and warm, humid summers. In the Inland Sea area, the differences between seasons aren’t so pronounced, because the mountains hold back the monsoons.
- In the north, Shikoku has a Mediterranean feel; in the south – a subtropical monsoon climate.
- The Ryukyu Islands is a place with a subtropical climate. It’s warm here even in winter!
3) Know the National Currency of Japan
Don’t forget to take the right currency with you! The national currency of Japan is the Japanese yen (JPY).
Fun fact for you, the banknotes depict various prominent residents of Japan and popular attractions in the country. For example:
- A light green 1000 bank note shows the bacteriologist Noguchi Hideyo,
- A blue 2000 bank note shows the gateway of Sureamon to the castle of Shurijou in Naha.
- The violet 5000 depicts writer Higuchi Itiyo.
- The light brown 10000 has the philosopher and enlightener Fukuzawa Yukichi.
Heads up, most people pay by cash in Japan, so be sure to stock up on cash when planning your Japan backpacking itinerary.
You can pay by card at most places, but it’s helpful to have cash on hand.
4) Understand Japanese Hospitality and Rules of Conduct
Contrary to some accounts, the Japanese have a culture that’s incredibly polite and helpful!
It pays to understand the ‘rules of engagement’ when backpacking alone in Japan though. After all, you don’t want to offend anyone.
For example, handshakes are less accepted here, and bowing is considered a sign of respect. A good little bow can express greetings, farewells, humility, and apologies!
5) The Cost of Trip to Japan
There’s a common assumption that the cost of backpacking Japan is too high.
Now, it’s true that a trip to Japan isn’t as cheap as places in Southeast Asia, or even some European countries. However, that doesn’t budget backpacking in Japan is off the table.
After that, it’s perfectly possible to travel around on the cheap. Accommodation in Japan costs about the same as in Europe, and you can safely save on food!
Thankfully, though certain food in Japan can be an ‘acquired taste’, shall we say, the majority of it tends to be the perfect combo of tasty and cheap.
Packing List Essentials for Japan Backpacking
The following gear should come in handy for anybody going Japan Backpacking.
1) Outdoor Gear
Japan is full of incredible natural landscapes that you’ll love to explore.
One of the most epic outdoor challenges when backpacking around Japan, though, is the conquest of Mount Fuji.
Thankfully, most routes up the mountain offer shelters where you can buy food and drinks, as well as spend the night. However, you’ve got to be prepared for the cold! The higher up you go, the colder it gets and the harder the wind blows.
Be sure to bring sunscreen, a rain jacket, a flashlight, and comfortable hiking boots.
Heads up, you might like my guide to the best hiking boots out there!
Top Hiking Boots Pick for Men & Women: Columbia Newton Ridge Plus
2) Medicine and First-Aid Kit.
Make sure you have a first-aid kit with you. Japan isn’t a dangerous place, but it always pays to have a well-stocked medical kit, just in case of an emergency.
Top pick: Surviveware Small First Aid Kit
3) Phone, Camera, and Powerbank
Don’t forget your electronic goods!
Make sure you have the right travel adaptor to charge your items, and think about carrying a power bank, just in case you need an extra boost of juice on the move. Travel with a camera? Take an additional memory card too.
Japan is a picturesque country, with endless photo opportunities. Having the extra storage space is sure to come in handy.
Heads up, you might like my guide to the best backpacking cameras!
Top Tip: Don’t worry about travelling with an overloaded backpack!
You can easily send them from one destination to another via a courier service known as “Kuroneko TA-Q-BIN” (in English – “Black Cat”). All hotels in Japan work with it in general.
If you plan to move from one city to another, it’s easy to send your suitcases by delivery, rather than carrying them with you.
Top Powerbank Pick: Anker Powercore Portable Charger
10 Places to Go & Things to Do When Backpacking Japan
Having trouble planning your Japan itinerary? Visit the following 10 places and you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime:
1) Fuji Hakone Izu National Park
Fuji Hakone Izu National Park is one of the most incredible natural places in Japan, which receives about 20 million tourists each year.
It’s the location of the infamous Mount Fuji, as well as 5 large mountain lakes located nearby at an altitude of more than 1000 meters.
Throw in the hot springs, waterfalls, islands, beaches, as well as ancient Buddhist and Shinto temples, and you’re in for a treat.
Want to check out Fuji Hakone Izu National Park? You might like this scenic bus tour from Tokyo! It gives you a full day’s guided tour around the park.
2) Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
One of the largest parks in Japan, Shinjuku Gyoen is a favorite green space of both locals and travellers in Tokyo.
Fames for its beauty and diversity, you’ll enjoy 3 large gardens: classic Japanese, a “regular” French garden and a landscaped English garden.
You’ll be blown away by the beauty here.
3) Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s original castles and a perfect stop for any history and architecture buffs.
With black walls and roofs covering 5 floors, Matsumoto is called the “Crow Castle”- thanks to its colour and wing-like structures. This is a unique historical site that any backpacker in Japan isn’t going to forget in a hurry.
4) Itsukushima Shrine
Get ready for one of Japan’s national treasures. Itsukushima Shrine is an ancient Shinto shrine that’s located in the Inland Sea of Japan. Surrounded by green mountains and the bays of Itsukushima Island (better known as Miyajima Island), it’s a tourist hotspot located in unparalleled natural beauty.
5) Miraikan Innovation Museum in Tokyo
Looking for an insight into Japan’s technological expertise?
Well, you’ll love the Miraikan Innovation Museum in Tokyo. Japan’s renowned for its respect of ancient traditions.
However, it’s also world-famous for its development of new technologies. Head to this unique Tokyo museum for a look into the future!
Not got long in Tokyo? You could try this full day private sight-seeing tour! Be sure to check it out.
6) Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa
Kenroku-en is one of 3 ‘perfect gardens’ in Japan.
It’s incredibly picturesque, making it the perfect place to spend the day. Nature-lovers rejoice! Kenroku-en boasts more than 8,000 species of trees, shrubs, plants.
If you’re on the west coast of the country and need a taste of greenery, then this inner-city park is the place to go.
7) Hiroshima Peace Memorial
One of the most tragic parts of recent Japanese history was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The bombs wreaked untold devastation on these cities, and the memory of that terrible time lives on to this day.
Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial for an insight into what happened.
8) Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto.
This is a real oasis in the center of Kyoto! Bamboo trees grow to an impressive 40 metres in height, creating an unforgettable spectacle for any visitor. The atmosphere of peace and tranquility in this place must be seen (or felt) to be believed.
9) The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
Into your art more than your history?
Well, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo will be something of a ‘must-visit’. Any art lover is going to have a field day.
You’ll find an impressive collection of paintings by Picasso, Modigliani, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Rousseau, Bacon, Chagall and other famous artists.
10) Seigantoji Pagoda and Waterfall.
Last but not least is this truly unmissable place in the Wakayama Prefecture, located in the southeastern corner of the country.
The ancient Buddhist Seigantoji Pagoda is, quite simply, magical. It’s situated in majestic nature, surrounded by forest-strewn hills, and a magnificent 113-meter tall waterfall.
There’s a mystical atmosphere unlike anywhere else. Don’t miss it!
Get Ready to Go Backpacking in Japan!
Backpacking in Japan is a special experience for anyone lucky enough to do it.
With friendly locals, a unique culture, mind-blowing natural beauty, awesome food, and an intriguing history, there’s a lot to love about Japan. To visit this country is to have an unforgettable time.
Hopefully, the backpacking Japan tips in this post will help you plan your forthcoming trip and ensure you see the best it has to offer!