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Everything Vancouver travellers need to know about visiting Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun is brimming with unique attractions and things to do.
Find out everything you need to know about travel from Vancouver to Japan, including how to get the cheapest flights out of YVR Airport.

Flights from Vancouver to Japan have never been cheaper, offering an affordable-(ish) way to experience one of the world's most exciting destinations.

Tokyo is the largest city in Japan and offers seemingly endless things to see and do. From breathtaking temples and shrines to elevated dining experiences, exciting nightlife to peaceful gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The city has a vibrant, bustling atmosphere, and many locals don extravagant styles on its streets. For instance, the Harajuku style includes a variety of brightly coloured clothes, garish costumes, teased hair, and sky-high shoes.

Visitors may also explore Mount Fuji, the Ghibli Museum, the Zao Fox Village, Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant, and much more.

Find out everything you need to know about planning your trip to Japan from Vancouver.

What airlines should I fly with to Japan?

From Vancouver International Airport (YVR), travellers can fly direct to Narita International Airport (NRT) or the Haneda Airport (HND), which are both located in Tokyo. There are also a couple of routing options that involve one or more stopovers and could save significant money on the popular route. 

Airlines that fly to or partially to Tokyo via one of their airline partners include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Asiana
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • Delta
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Hawaiian Ajrlines
  • Japan Airlines (JAL)
  • Korean Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Sichuan Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Starlux Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines
  • WestJet 
  • Zipair 

When should I book my ticket to Japan?

Generally, tickets to Japan should be booked a few months in advance to snag the best deal. However, there are some deals available that may be booked closer to the date of departure, but you might need to be flexible with the days of the week that you travel. 

Flights during peak travel times, around summer or winter holidays, or during popular festivals in Japan, will cost significantly more. 

What is Zipair and why might I be interested in flying to Japan with it?

Zipair doesn't consider itself a budget brand, but flights via the Japanese carrier cost less than half the price of a regular round-trip ticket connecting Vancouver and Tokyo — and the flights are direct.

Flights from YVR will commence in March with a thrice-weekly service to NRT. While many of the early dates have sold out, there are still some options left in the late summer for a steal.

For example, a flight that departs YVR on Monday, Sept. 2, and returns from NRT on Monday, Sept. 9 costs $744 including all taxes and fees. However, to score the budget price, the tickets need to be booked separately.

These prices are extremely affordable for a trip to Japan. The least expensive flights for similar trips to Tokyo typically cost between $2,200 and $4,050, according to Google Flights.

When is the best time of year to visit Japan? 

Japan is a year-round destination but many people prefer to visit during the spring and fall when the climate is mild. Travellers who visit the country during late March and into April have the best chance of viewing the cherry blossoms in full boom. That said, the delicate flowers attract copious tourists, so you might be fighting crowds. 

Is it safe to visit Japan? 

Canada advises travellers to take normal security precautions when visiting Japan, meaning there isn't an elevated risk to tourists when visiting the country. Violent crime rates are relatively low.

But there are still some important safety considerations to keep in mind.

Petty crime rates are low but purse or bag snatching does occur, particularly in popular tourist areas. Remain vigilant in areas with big crowds, during large festivals, or at events. 

Women who travel alone may be inappropriately touched on busy subways and trains and/or subject to verbal abuse. There are women-only train cars during rush hour on some subway and train lines.

There has been an increase in travellers who have "been used as unwitting drug couriers." If you are caught transporting a package, even if you do not realize you doing it, you may be charged and face a long jail sentence.

"Be wary of individuals, even those you know, who ask you to carry a package to Japan on their behalf," states the advisory.

Tensions along the Korean peninsula could escalate rapidly, "during and after North Korean nuclear and missile tests" and military exercises and activities. If this happens, you should stay informed by local authorities on the evolving situation and follow their instructions, "including the Cabinet Secretariat's guidance on civil protection."

Japan is also located in the seismic "ring of fire" and is prone to "earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, and volcanic eruptions. Strong earthquakes occur, as well as tsunamis."

Important considerations in Japan for tourists to know

Taxis are typically safe but you should only get in one that is officially marked. Try to negotiate your fare in advance or insist your driver uses the meter (tourists may be overcharged).

It may also help to write your destination in Japanese because your driver may not understand English.

Alternatively, Japan's rail system is quick and convenient. Many signs in larger cities and near tourist destinations are also written in English, although other places will only have Japanese ones. 

Do I need to get any special travel vaccines ahead of visiting Japan?

Visit a travel medical clinic before you book a ticket. The health-care professionals will inform you about what vaccinations you require and what you can expect on your trip. 

There is a risk of contracting chikungunya in Japan, which is a disease spread by mosquitoes; it typically causes fever and pain in the joints and this pain "can be severe and last for months or years."

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

There is also a "sporadic risk" of dengue fever in Japan. Dengue causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.

The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally and varies from year to year. Mosquitoes carrying the virus tend to bite more during the day, particularly around sunrise and sunset.

What kind of activities can I enjoy in Japan?

The Land of the Rising Sun offers some of the most unique travel opportunities in the world. 

If you are a Disney aficionado, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea should be high on your "must-visit" list. 

"The Kingdom of Dreams and Magic consists of seven themed lands, each offering fun attractions in line with its theme, as well as a variety of unique shops and restaurants," according to Disney.

The Japan National Tourism Board has also prepared a guide for travellers on a budget, as well as a guide to seven spellbinding, historic pilgrimages you can take across the country to witness its natural beauty firsthand. It also provides a list of upcoming art exhibitions that you may want to book your travel dates around.

Do I need a visa to visit Japan?

Your Canadian passport must be valid for the entirety of your stay in Japan. However, it is a good idea to ensure your passport will be valid for six months before the date you are due to return home in case of an emergency. 

Customs officials may also ask you to show them a return or onward ticket, confirmed accommodation arrangements, and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.

You do not require a visa for stays under 90 days in Japan.

How much money will I spend on accommodation?

While many people think of Tokyo as one of the world's most expensive travel destinations, there are some more affordable accommodation options in the city — but you won't exactly be staying in luxury. 

Folks who are simply looking for a clean place to lay their heads down that's close to the heart of the city can stay in the Focus Kuramae for only $38 a night or stay in a bed at the mixed dorm Wasabi Mita Hotel for a jaw-dropping $29 a night.

At the other end of the spectrum, big spenders can indulge in a glamorous experience in places like the stunning Aman Tokyo, which soars from the heights of the Otemachi Tower. Suites come equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant sliding doors, and relaxing stone baths for a relaxing soak.

The price for the posh accommodation? Over $2,000 for a night.

Travellers who would prefer to skip the dorm experience but aren't willing to fork out big bucks on a luxury experience aren't out of luck. Numerous options range between $90 and $400 and feature a range of amenities.  

Find more information about exciting destinations in B.C. and across the globe, as well as travel deals and tips, by signing up for V.I.A.'s weekly travel newsletter The Wanderer. Since travel deals can sell out, find out the day they are posted by signing up for our daily Travel Deals newsletter.

Want to learn more about a specific destination or simply have a travel concern or idea that you would like V.I.A. to write about? Email us at elana@vancouverisawesome. Send us stories about recent holidays that you've been on, or if you have any tips you think our readers should know about.