To save you losing sleep over choosing where to visit next, here are a few tips to help you with the decision: Japan or South Korea?
|Most popular destination||Kyoto||Busan|
|Natural attraction||Mount Fuji||Namiseom|
|Nightlife destination||Shinjuku, Tokyo||Incheon|
What type of traveller is best suited to Japan?
Japan is home to some of the best experiences in the world that are bound to suit the needs of all travellers. Thrill seekers can perch themselves on top of the Tokyo Tower to enjoy the sweeping views of the city from hundreds of meters in the air, or if you prefer to keep two feet on the ground, there are plenty of traditional Japanese spa experiences to be enjoyed. For the food lovers out there, of course, there are millions of new flavours and delicious cuisines that can be found across the country.
So basically, what we’re really trying to say is that anyone can visit Japan!
Should you book a tour to Japan?
For travellers wanting an in-depth cultural experience, a multi-day tour is one of the best ways to go when visiting Japan. Not only will you get to learn all about Japan from your local guide, you can surround yourself with other like-minded travellers on your tour.
If you are determined to see Japan on your own, there’s always an option to join a self-guided tour so you can move at your own pace while exploring away from the beaten path.
What is the best time to visit Japan?
Peak season for travel in Japan is dictated by the patterns of the colourful cherry blossom trees which causes a steep price hike during this time. The cherry blossom season is typically in full swing in early April, and between late-April to the start of May, the majority of the Japanese population take this week off work, and this is often referred to as ‘Golden Week’. If you are planning on travelling during this time, be wary that crowds at popular attractions will be much higher, and hotel rates will jump.
If you’re happy to settle for slightly cooler temperatures, late May to early June is a pleasant time to visit Japan as hotel accommodation prices will drop and crowds will lessen. Late-autumn through to early-spring is also an ideal time to visit Japan, although temperatures will be colder during this time.
- Spring – March, April and May
- Summer – June, July and August
- Autumn – September, October and November
- Winter – December, January and February
See Also: Hiking the Japanese Alps in Winter
What are the must-visit sites in Japan?
An undeniable icon of Japan is the beautiful and majestic Mt Fuji. Japan’s tallest peak can be seen up close with a drive up to the volcano’s 5th station, where travellers can enjoy the sweeping views of Japan’s countryside. Those seeking picturesque views of Fuji from afar can visit surrounding locations such as Lake Ashi.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
An endless stream of red torii gates, weaving and guiding travellers throughout a vibrant green mountain; the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a highlight that cannot be missed when visiting Kyoto. The shrine was founded in 711 AD and is comprised of over 10,000 torii gates. Although walking through the tunnels can be time-consuming, visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of Kyoto city.
Takeshita Street is a buzzing and colourful shopping lane of Tokyo, lined with unique stores, eateries and clothing boutiques. The spot is extremely popular due to its trendy stores which contain unique accessories that cannot be found elsewhere.
Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Arcade
Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple, surrounded by charming and entertaining market strips. The temple was opened in 645 AD and still stands today as a much-loved tourist destination. Visitors can enter through the temples thunder gate and amble along the Nakamise Shopping Arcade through to the vibrant and grand structure.
Enoshima is a small island, located approximately 1 hour south of Tokyo that can be accessed by car. Travellers can walk through the narrow shopping streets past traditional restaurants, through to the Enoshima Shrine. Trek through the shrine, respectfully participating in an array of Japanese customs before reaching the peak of the island for sweeping views of the surrounding area.
What are the must-try dishes in Japan?
- Sashimi: Thinly sliced raw meats, with the most popular being fish and seafood.
- Miso Soup: A soup made from fish stock, miso bean paste, green onion, and tofu. Commonly served alongside traditional Japanese meals.
- Tempura: Battered seafood and vegetables.
- Udon: Wheat flour noodles commonly served in soups.
What are the best local experiences in Japan that I need to make time for?
Ride the Shin Kasen
Japan’s extensive bullet train system is easily the most convenient and efficient method of getting between major cities. Reaching speeds of approximately 320 kilometers per hour, the trains are comfortable, spacious and popular among locals and travellers.
Wander among a bamboo forest
The opportunity to walk through a bamboo forest is an experience that simply cannot be overlooked in Japan. Walk beneath the towering tips of the bamboo, surrounded by greenery and fresh air.
Feed the deer at Nara Park
One of Japan’s oldest parks, Nara Park is home to hundreds of roaming deer. Travellers come from all parts of the world to visit these creatures, with some even bow before receiving a treat.
Eat sushi in Tokyo
High upon many Japanese bucket lists is the opportunity to eat sushi while visiting, and Tokyo provides countless places to do just that. The city holds plenty of traditional sushi restaurants with a range of flavours to sample.
What do you need to know before visit Japan?
JR Rail Pass
The JR Rail pass allows travellers visiting Japan to ride the country’s bullet train system, for one fixed price, over a specific duration of time (7 or 14 days). This extremely cost-effective option is ideal for those wishing to venture between major cities. However, it should be noted that the pass must be purchased from home countries and can only be activated in Japan.
Learn a few phrases
While it is often easy to get your point across without the need for English, it may be worth learning a few phrases in case you find yourself in a situation where verbal communication is needed. Otherwise, online translators may be worthwhile. Here are a few Japanese phrases to help you with your journey.
- I don’t need it
- Excuse Me
- I don’t understand
What type of traveller is best suited to South Korea?
Most travellers might be under the assumption that South Korea is a conservative place, however, in reality, this is not so much the case. South Korea is built for the curious traveller; someone who isn’t afraid to navigate the busy streets or to get lost and learn from locals who no doubt have a story to share. From the vibrant city of Seoul to the Seoraksan mountain in Gangwon and more, South Korea is filled with enough experiences to keep you entertained for a lifetime. Travellers with an open mind and an thirst for new experiences would be best suited for a trip to this exciting destination.
Should you book a tour to South Korea?
A multi-day tour of South Korea may be a good idea for those visiting for the first time. Aside from the obvious benefits of travelling with a local tour guide and a group of travel buddies, a tour can highlight the best secret places to visit that you might not find on your own.
What is the best time to visit South Korea?
The peak season for travel in South Korea is during the summer months of the year. During this time, crowds, hotel accommodation, and temperatures are at an all-time high.
The best time to visit South Korea is in spring and fall. Crowds are much lower than the peak season and weather is overall quite pleasant. Hotel rates are also much more reasonable.
- Spring: March, April and May
- Summer: June, July and August
- Autumn: September, October and November
- Winter: December, January and February
What are the must-visit sites in South Korea?
The vibrant area contains big brands, department stores and charming eateries to enjoy. The streets are bustling with many tourists seeking delicious food and an energetic nightlife.
N Seoul Tower
Opening in 1980 and standing at an impressive 236m, N Seoul Tower is the perfect spot for those wanting to gain a unique perspective of the city. Some of the tower’s best features include a panoramic viewing platform, multiple restaurants, and a digital observatory.
Also located in the city of Seoul is Changdeokgung, a grand palace from the Joseon Dynasty. Within the grounds of the palace is a flourished, palace park, a rear garden and a residence for royal family members.
South Korea’s biggest theme park, Everland, is beloved by countless locals and tourists every year. The park houses thrilling rides, festivals throughout the year and a zoo. The park also features a wooden roller coaster, which is popular among guests.
What are the must-try dishes in South Korea?
- Korean spicy rice cakes (Ddeokbokki): Made of rice cakes, a fish cake, and sweet chilli sauce. The dish is popular in street markets.
- Pan fried chicken (Dakgalbi): A stir-fried, spicy, diced chicken dish served with sliced cabbage.
- Red bean shaved ice (Patbingsu): A popular dessert. The shaved ice is topped with sweet flavours, such as fruit syrup, and red bean paste.
- Stir-fried octopus (Nakji Bokkeum): Served with udon noodles and a spicy sauce.
What are the best local experiences in South Korea to make time for?
Try Korean BBQ
For those looking to indulge in some traditional foods while visiting South Korea, Seoul is home to some of the best Korean BBQ restaurants. For those unsure about what Korean BBQ is, a grill is built into the table and guests purchase raw meats, commonly beef, pork and chicken to cook.
A way of life for people of all ages in South Korea, Karaoke is a fun way for travellers to sing their hearts out in a unique, welcoming setting. It is very easy to come across a Noraebang when visiting, as they are scattered thoroughly around major cities.
Visit a temple
An excellent way to experience the remarkable history of South Korea first hand, the country is home to countless Buddhist temples to wander among and enjoy. Some of the must-see colourful temples include the Bongeunsa Temple and Haedong Yonggung Temple.
What do you need to know before visit South Korea?
Getting around the major cities of South Korea is very simple due to the country’s extensive and cost-effective public transport system. Purchasing a T-money card is a wise investment, as it can be topped up and used on public buses and subways. It also allows travellers to avoid purchasing a single ticket whenever the subway is used
See Also: 12 Safest Countries in Asia for 2018
Learn a few phrases
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