Way of the Samurai - Japan's Nakasendo Trail
The archipelago of Japan is separated from the Asian mainland by 160km of sea and split into four main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. It lies in the Pacific Ocean, east of China, Russia and Korea and is sometimes referred to as the 'Land of the Rising Sun'. About 70% of the country is covered by hills and mountains, a number of which are active or dormant volcanoes, including Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak and most sacred summit, reaching 3,776m. A series of mountain ranges runs from northern Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. The Japanese Alps (the most prominent range) run in a north-south direction through central Honshu. Lowlands and plains are small and scattered, mostly lying along the coast, and composed of alluvial lowlands and diluvial uplands. The coastline is very long in relation to the land area, and has very varied features, for example, the deeply indented bays with good natural harbours tend to be adjacent to mountainous terrain. Many of Japan's major cities are located on the coastline, and have extremely high population density.
Japan Time Zone is GMT + 9hrs
Japanese is the official language. Some English is spoken in Tokyo and other large cities but is less usual in rural areas. There are many regional dialects and there are distinct differences in the intonation and pronunciation between eastern and western Japan.
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 around Tokyo, 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. 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 in the north, however, is generally much drier than the Tokyo area.
Currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY). For up to date exchange rates please visit: www.xe.com
To enter Japan, a passport valid for the duration of intended stay is required but not a visa for citizens of the UK, EU, USA, Canada and Australia. Many governments advise their nationals to have at least 6 months' validity remaining on their passport from planned date of return. Nationals of other countries should check the visa requirement with the relevant embassy in their own countries.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, & Hepatitis ‘A'. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk