A holiday in Japan is an odyssey for the senses - a bracing clash of the ancient and the futuristic unlike anything else on Earth. Of course, the capital city of Tokyo is one of the world's great cities, but there are also lesser known, historic hotspots like the city of Kanazawa. A must-see landmark is the towering and iconic Mount Fuji - climbing season runs between July and August. Pure Far Eastern enchantment can be found at the famous Ritsurin Garden on the island of Shikoko - entering it is like stepping into the landscape from a fairy tale.
Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines and British Airways all offer direct flights to Japan from London Heathrow, with a journey time of around 12 hours. It's an expensive option, though, and if you're prepared to change en route then you can make significant savings on your Japan holiday by taking an indirect flight from one of several major UK airports.
While the major international gateways are Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport, if you're taking an indirect flight then there are many other airports you can choose to arrive at. So it's worth planning your holiday in advance and working out which areas of the archipelago you'd like to visit before deciding on the airport most convenient for you.
As far as transport within Japan goes, the rail network is one of the finest in the world, and offers the best way to get around (British tourists may be stunned to discover they actually run on time, too). Rail passes are available, but check to ensure which services they cover. Fantastic as the trains are, you'll need to fly if you want to reach certain islands, and domestic carriers like Japan Airlines offer special discounted fares to foreign tourists on the condition that you book domestic flights while purchasing tickets to the country itself.
There's a huge variety of hotels in Japan, from the cheap capsule hotels to Western-style chains to the wonderfully traditional Japanese inns known as ryokans, familiar to anyone who's seen films about Japan. They tend to be set in picturesque, rural areas, and if you're thinking of staying in one it's important to check ahead that they accept non-Japanese guests. To save money, you can try the lower-end version, known as a minshuku, where facilities are simpler and bathrooms may be communal.
You can eat very well on your holiday in Japan without spending a fortune. Look out for teishoku, which are all-inclusive set meals offered at many restaurants at very good prices. And if you want to save money AND save face, never, ever tip: it can be seen as an insult!
Updated 22nd May 2013
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