Planning a visit to Japan is a trip, literally and figuratively. With train tickets, popular attractions, and how to stay connected, there’s a lot to think about. Feeling overwhelmed? Take the pressure off with our step-by-step booking guide: it counts down to your adventure, making sure you’re all set.
tl;dr: Book adventure essentials like flights, digs, Wi-Fi and tickets to the most popular stuff (sumo, go-karts, teamLab etc.) ASAP. You can leave the rest till a little later.
6 months – 3 months before your trip to Japan
Hooray — you booked your flight. What’s next?
1. Book accommodation
Yes, there’s still a lot of time before you depart, and you may be in the early stages of planning your itinerary and where you want to go. But accommodation in Japan books up fast.
Hotels typically begin releasing rooms six months ahead (though this can vary). One universal thing is the longer you wait, the more expensive they get! Booking a few months before your departure is always a good idea to lock in the best prices. Check our Tokyo accommodation guide for tips on where to stay.
2. Rent Wi-Fi
Check this off the list now, to avoid stress later. At peak times of the year, like cherry blossom season and the fall leaves season, Wi-Fi bookings fill up fast. You can make your reservation with Ninja Wifi now, and change or cancel it up to four days in advance — so it’s no biggie if your plans change.
Everyone in your group can connect quickly and easily with 3, 5, or 10GB per day of high-speed data. There’s no need to stress about additional charges if you go over the limit, because slow-down is the only thing that happens if you do. It’s also convenient, because you can pick up your device at any of Japan’s major airports — or have it delivered to your accommodation.
3. Draft your itinerary
No matter what type of traveler you are, kick off with a killer itinerary. Even a rough guide is vital to nail down the places that need extra planning and tickets.
3 months – 1 month before you fly
1. Book tickets to popular attractions
Scoring tickets for hotspots like the Pokémon Cafe or Ghibli Museum is practically an Olympic event. Be swift, get your browser battle-ready, and prepare to click! Tickets can vanish in minutes for some of these attractions, so here’s the lowdown on when to nab them.
Ghibli Park (Nagoya)
Tickets go on sale three months in advance. Check out our Ghibli Park Guide for more details. If you’re keen on the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, too, read on for more details about that hotspot.
teamLab digital art experiences (Tokyo and other locations)
Disneyland and DisneySea (Tokyo)
Universal Studios Japan (Osaka)
Tickets go on sale two months in advance. Want to know how to book ’em? Read more in our guide to buying USJ tickets and fast passes.
Pokémon Cafe (Tokyo and other locations)
Tickets go on sale 31 days in advance, at 6 pm JST. Be ready! Take a look at our Pokémon guide to Tokyo, for more info.
Ghibli Museum (Mitaka, in Tokyo)
Tickets go on sale every 10th of the month, at 10 a.m. JST, for the next month. Read more about visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.
Shibuya Sky Observation Deck (Tokyo)
Tickets go on sale 30 days in advance. But honestly, Shibuya Sky is one of the ones you could risk booking closer to the time — even risking it on the day — if you need to.
Go-karts (Tokyo and other locations)
This is one you do not want to wait on — popular street-kart providers book up a month ahead. And don’t forget your International Driver’s Permit; it’s a quick process, usually done in a day at your local road office. Read about go-karting in Tokyo.
Traditional experiences (Tokyo and other locations)
Plan and book those bucket-list experiences in advance. From geisha performances to sumo and other “only-in Japan” activities, secure your spot online.
2. Order your Japan Rail Pass or bullet-train tickets
Nailing train tickets in Japan is a breeze — unless it’s peak season! During holidays, unreserved tickets may be available on bullet trains (Shinkansen), but then crowded trains may mean standing-room only.
Do you want to plan ahead? Go for it and book within a 1-3 month window. Contrary to the buzz, a JR Rail Pass isn’t always a must, especially with price hikes. It’s golden for major city-hopping, but think twice before splurging unless you’re on a train marathon. Check out our Shinkansen fare finder to budget out your trips.
3. Make restaurant reservations
Top-tier and omakase joints (Michelin stars included) often require reservations at least 1-2 months — or even 6+ months in advance. Read about making a restaurant reservation in Japan, and get on it.
2 weeks before you fly to Japan
Not long to go now! There are two main things you need to take care of:
1. Order Japanese yen
Cash is still king in Japan, but cards (increasingly) play too. Before you jet off, hit up your bank to give them a heads-up about your trip and order some yen. Find out the lowdown on withdrawal rates in Japan, or snag a travel-savvy card for the road.
2. Buy travel insurance
Book a solid travel and medical insurance plan, for peace of mind, if that’s your jam. Read about travel insurance for Japan.
1 week before you leave for Japan
It’s the final stretch! Here’s your to-do list.
1. Book your pocket Wi-Fi
If you haven’t done this yet, now’s a good time. Don’t gamble on Wi-Fi in Japan! Book your pocket powerhouse in advance so you can snag it on arrival at any of Japan’s major airports. We recommend getting a Ninja WiFi pocket Wi-Fi router.
2. Arrange airport transfers
Prepare for landing! No sweat; tons of transfer options await, and you can usually get tickets after you land. But for those jetting in at odd hours or wanting one less thing to worry about on arrival, lock in your ride now. Trains, buses, taxis, or private drivers, take your pick for a hassle-free kickoff to your journey. For trains and buses, remember to check the schedules beforehand.
- Getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo
- Getting from Haneda Airport to Tokyo
- Getting from Kansai Airport to Osaka/Kyoto
3. Make last-minute restaurant reservations
Booked your top-notch restaurants? Smart move! If there are more spots on your list, snag those reservations online now, or through your hotel concierge after touchdown.
3 days before your flight
You can just about taste the ramen! So close …
1. Check the weather
Now is a great time to check the upcoming weather forecast, to ensure your wardrobe is weather-ready and your plans are rock-solid. No one wants to do Disney in a typhoon!
2. Download useful apps
Gear up with the essentials: Maps, translation, Disney, USJ and maybe the cherry-blossom forecast, too. Parents, you’ll want to download an app called “Mama Papa Map”, to find changing and nursing facilities around the country.
1 day before you fly
1. Pre-register for Immigration
Zip through Immigration and Customs! Pre-register at the Visit Japan website and use the app when you land.
2. Do a passport and luggage check
Make sure you have everything you need. You’re off to Japan, baby!
3. Buy an eSIM
For extra calling power, you can book an eSIM for your phone, if you need it.
After you arrive in Japan
Here’s a quick list of what to do immediately after landing in Japan.
1. Get connected
Pick up your pocket Wi-Fi at the airport (or maybe you had it delivered to your accommodation already), and get connected right away! Now you can navigate with maps, communicate via translation apps, and post all your Insta-worthy snaps.
2. Buy a transportation (IC) card
Zoom around public transit easily with an IC card like Suica, Pasmo, or ICOCA — same deal, different names. Airports and major stations have got you covered with temporary tourist cards. But if you can’t find a card? No sweat. Download a digital card to the wallet on your phone, or grab paper tickets before trips, and you’re still good to roll. Read all about Suica and other IC cards.
If you haven’t yet, you can also grab train tickets (NEX, Haruka, Skyliner, Rapit, etc.) to get you out of the airport and into the city.
3. Arrange a luggage transfer
Navigating packed public transit with luggage is a nightmare! Thankfully, luggage transfer is your city-hopping hero. Hit up counters at airports, hotels, and convenience stores; they’ll zip your luggage off to meet you at your next stop, and you can explore unburdened. This is also something you can arrange ahead of time, if you prefer.
This is the easy part. Welcome to Japan, and have a blast!