Pan National Tourist Organisation
2-10-1, Yurakucho - Cable: Organtourist,
Telefax (03) 3214-7680
Tel. (03) 3216-1901

Physical geography

Japan consists of four main islands - Hokkaido (78,073km2), Honshu or the Mainland (227,414km2), Shikoku (18,256km2) and Kyushu (36,554km2) - and over 3,000 minor islands extending for some 2,600 kilometres off the coast of the Asian Continent in the north Pacific.

The chief geographic features of Japan are the abundance of mountains and their rich scenic variety. Of the numerous peaks, Mt. Fuji in Honshu is the highest with an altitude of 3,776 metres and enjoys worldwide fame for its graceful contours. Also well known are the lofty peaks in the Japan Alps in central Honshu, which offer visitors the thrill of climbing and skiing amid magnificent scenic beauty.

In between the mountain ranges stretch fertile lands dotted with lakes of mystic beauty. Rivers thread way through the peaks forming lovely waterfalls and ravines in the upper reaches. Hot springs are found in all parts of Japan and because of their recognised medicinal value and scenic environs, they have actuated the development of a great many thriving spa towns. The picturesque seascape created by the indented coastline and the pine-clad islets is also worthy of note.


Japan's climate resembles that of the middle belt of the United States or the Central and southern parts of Europe.

Economic geography

The economic development of Japan in recent years is really astounding and the swift and ever widening expansion of its activities in this field has been duly recognised among business and industrial circles throughout the world.

Japanese cameras, video sets and TV sets and pearls, example, have won worldwide fame as gift items or trade products. Equally as interesting is their manufacturing process, often a unique blend of Japanese dexterity and advanced techniques.

Demography (as of March 1994)

Total population of Japan is 124,300,000. The main cities: Tokyo (agglomeration) - 7.9 million, Osaka - 2.535 million, Nagoya - 2.101 million, Yokohama - 3.2 million, Kyoto - 1.415 million, Kobe - 1.46 million, Sapporo - 1.7 million.

A brief history

Until the seventh century AD, Japan struggled to unify itself and it witnessed the introduction of Chinese thought and culture as well as Buddhism. In 646, the imperial system was introduced, but so was the shogun system (the shogun was a military commander) with the Fujiwara family. The shoguns soon removed the executive power from the emperor's hands and various families fought for the shogunate. The shogunates lasted until 1867.

The Mongols were repulsed in the 14th century, Christianity was introduced into the land a century and a half later though Christian influence was banned later.

The emperor Mutsu Hito (Meiji) put an end to feudality in 1867 and proclaimed a constitution. Victorious in the Russo/Japanese war of 1904/1905, Japan looked towards the continent and occupied Korea in 1910.

In 1941, Japan entered war against the United States on the Axis side. Despite early successes, Japan was defeated. But it rapidly recovered economically to become a world economic power.


The three most popular religions in Japan are Shintoism Buddhism and Christianity.

Languages spoken by nationals

Japanese: the Japanese people use two kinds of 46 syllabic characters - hiragana and katakana - and also thousands of Chinese characters - kanji.

English and other languages such as French, German, Spanish, Russian and Chinese, are also taught at Japanese colleges.


Time in Tokyo at Greenwich noon: 9.00 p.m. Summer time 8pm.


Conversion table (floating rate, as of June 1996). 100 Japanese yen = US$0.9, £0.59, Fr4.8, Mark 1.39, ChF 1.14.

Official holidays (offices are closed but shops are open)

1 January, New Year's Day -15 January, Coming of Age Day - 11 February, National Foundation Day - 20 March or 21, Vernal Equinox Day - 29 April, Greenery Day - 3 May Constitution Memorial Day - 5 May, Children's Day - 20 July, National Day - 15 September, Respect for the Aged Day - 23 September or 24 Autumnal Equinox Day - 10 October, Health-Sports Day - 3 November Culture Day - 23 November, Labour Thanksgiving Day - 23 December, Emperor's Birthday.

What one should not fail to see

In Tokyo: Imperial Palace, Hibiya Park, National Diet Building, Ginza-Nihombashi Shopping Centre, Kabukiza Theatre, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Japan Folkcrafts Museum, Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, Kodokan Judo Hall, Rikugien Garden, Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum, Asakusa Kannon Temple, Kiyosumi Garden, Tokyo Disney Land.

In Kamakura: the great Buddha, Enoshima.

In Fuji-Hakone-Izu: Lake Hakone, Atami spa, Mt. Fuji.

In Nikko: Toshogu Shrine, Kegon Waterfall, Lake Chuzenji. In Ise-Shima: Ise Grand Shrine, Mikimoto Pearl Island, Kashikojima Island.

In Kyoto: the Heian Shrine, the Higashi and the Nishi Honganji's temples, the Ginkakuji Temple, the Kinkakuji Temple, the Sanjusangendo Hall, the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, the Kiyomizu Temple, the Katsura Imperial Villa.

In Nara: the Kasuga Shrine, the Todaiji Temple, the Horyuji Temple, the Kofukuji Temple, the Deer Park.

In Nagoya: the Nagoya Castle, the River Nagara in Gifu, well known for cormorant fishing.

In Osaka: Osaka Castle, Midosuji and Sennichimae shopping centre.

In Kobe: Port Tower, Sorakuen Garden, Rokko Mountain with a bird's-eye view of the city, Motomachi Shopping Centre.

In Inland Sea: voyage to Takamatsu in Shikoku and to Beppu in Kyushu from Osaka or Kobe. In Miyajima: Itsukushima Shrine.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

March, April, May, September, October and November in terms of climate.

How to dress

Light clothing for summer, cool weather clothing for spring and autumn and cold weather clothing for winter.

Main holiday resorts

Akakura, Inner Nikko, Shiga Heights, Sugadaira, Minakami Yuzawa, Mt. Zao, Goshiki, Owani (all skiing), Tomakomai Hachinohe, Karuizawa, Nikko, lakes Yamanaka, Kawaguchi Matsubara, Suwa, Tade-no-umi (all skating); lakes Towada, Ashi Chuzenji (summer angling) and lakes Kawaguchi, Yamanaka Haruna and Suwa (winter angling), Atami, Hakone, Matsushima Okayama, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Mt. Aso.

Main holiday sports

Swimming, skiing, tennis, table-tennis, fishing, judo, golf, yachting, hunting, bowling, baseball. Winter sports are also popular.

What to eat and drink

Food: sukiyaki, tempura, sushi and mizutaki (chicken or beef cooked in broth) are representative dishes that have won international fame.

Beverages: Japanese sake, made from rice, beer, whisky, wine and other high grade alcoholic drinks are obtainable at a wine shop in all parts of the country.

What to buy

Lovely Japanese silks, cultured pearls, typical porcelain and pottery, cloisonne work, lacquer ware, damascene charming little dolls of various types, Noh masks, lanterns, fans, bamboo ware of all types, woodblock prints, objects in silver, bronze, crystal, hand-made paper, silk parasols, rush and straw products, folk crafts, wood-carvings, cameras, binoculars, transistor radios, watches, portable TVs.

Frontier formalities

Passports and visas

A valid passport is required of all nationals.

Visa exemption: exempted from obtaining visas are: nationals of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, provided their stay does not exceed six months - nationals of Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, USA provided their stay does not exceed three months. All provided visitors do not engage in any business during their stay. Shore excursion: visa not needed for maximum of 72 hours ashore at a Japanese port. Overland tour: no visa for landing in transit for sightseeing for a maximum of 15 days between ports of call in Japan, provided passengers travel by the designated route and leave by the same ship. Overland tourists are not permitted to extend their stay without visa.

Health regulations

No inoculations are required to enter Japan from any country.


Can be imported duty free: 100 cigars or 400 cigarettes or 500gr other tobacco, three bottles of alcoholic beverages, two ounces of perfume.

You may bring in duty and tax free articles other than those items in the above list not to exceed 200,000 Yen in total value.

Currency regulations

Travellers may import and export an unlimited amount of any currency.

Main travel routes

Tokyo - Yokohama - Hakone - Atami (or Shizuoka) - Nagoya - Kyoto; by rail or road.

Nagoya - Toba - Ise - Kyoto - Nara: by rail or road. Kyoto - Osaka - Kobe (by rail or road) - Takamatsu - Beppu (by rail or road or sea) - Kumamoto - Unzen - Nagasaki: by rail or road. Tokyo - Sapporo: by rail or air.


Events in Japan

January: Annual Firemen's demonstration, Tokyo, Grass Fire on Wakakusa Hill, Nara - February: 'Setsubun' or Bean Throwing Festival; Snow Festival at Sapporo, Hokkaido - March: 'Omizutori' or Water-Drawing Festival of Todaiji, Nara - April: Spring Festival of Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo - May: 'Aoi Festival' or Hollyhock Festival of Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines, Kyoto; Sanja Festival of Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo Grand Festival of Toshogu Shrine, Nikko - June: Takigi Noh' Performance at Heian Shrine, Kyoto - July: Lake Festival Hakone - September: 'Yabusame' at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kanagawa Pref.- October: Marimo Festival on Lake Akan, Hokkaido, aJidai Matsuri' or Festival of Eras at Heian Shrine, Kyoto - November: Daimyo Procession at Hakone Kanagawa pref. - December: 'Okera Mau i' at Yasaka Shrine Kyoto.

Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass, good for unlimited travel on JR (Japan Railways) trains and ferries which cover all Japan is available to Japan-bound tourists.

Method of sales: an Exchange Order should be purchased before entering Japan at Japan Air Lines overseas ticket offices (only for bearers of a JAL ticket) or at an authorised agency. This Order must be exchanged for a railpass within three months of the date of issue.

Issuance of railpass: on arrival in Japan, railpass will be issued, in exchange for the Order at JR Travel Service Centres in 40 locations: New Tokyo International Airport (Narita), Kansai airport Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Shimonoseki Kokura, Hakata, Kumamoto, Nishi-Kagoshima, Sendai, Niigata Sapporo, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Fukushima, Yamagata, Misawa and others.

Types of railpasses and prices: seven days Standard Class Y 27,800 - 14 days - Y 44,200, 21 days - Y56,600 First Class: seven days - Y 37,000, 14 days - Y60,000, 21 days - Y78,000 (Half price for children 11 years of age and under).

Japan Travel-phone service

Japan Travel-phone, which was inaugurated at April 1982, is a toll-free telephone information service from any corner of Japan except Tokyo and Kyoto, where JNTO Tourist Information Centres (TIC) are located. To use this service, dial the following numbers: 00 88 22 4800 (for information on east Japan), 0120-444 800 (for information on west Japan). In Tokyo and Kyoto 3502 1461 for Tokyo TIC and 371-5649 for Kyoto TIC Service hours of Japan Travel-phone service are 9:00 a.m. through 5:00p.m. every day throughout the year.

Representatives abroad

Japan National Tourist Organisation is in:

Australia: Level 33, The Chiffey Tower, 2 Chiffey Square, Sydney NSW 2000.

Brazil: Av Paulista 509-S405, 01311 Sao Paulo.

Canada: 165 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5H 3B8.

France: Rue Sainte-Anne 4-8, 75001 Paris.

Germany: Kaiserstrasse 11, 60311 Frankfurt-am-Main

Hong Kong: Suite 3606, 3704 05 37F, Dorset House Taikos Place, Quary Bay, Hong Kong

Korea: 10 Press Center Bldg, 25 Taepyongno 1 ga, Chung-gu Seoul.

Switzerland: Rue de Beme 13,1201 Geneva.

Thailand: Wall Street Tower Bldg, 33/61 Suriwong Rd, Bangkok 10500.

USA: 401 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 770, Chicago, Illinois 6061. 624 South Grand Ave., Suite 1611 Los Angeles, Calif. 90017.

One Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250, New York, NY 10020 360 Post Street, Suite 601, San Francisco, Calif. 94108.

UK: Heathcoat House, 20 Savile Row, London W1X 1RE.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on JAPAN thanks to the co-operation of the Japan National Tourist Organization in Geneva