An effective approach to trip planning has become indispensable for many travellers when researching their next trip.
To consistently experience exceptional travels in Japan, it helps to have a list of the best Japan travel websites and resources.
That’s what this post is about.
Here you’ll discover some of my favourite trip planning resources, along with some others I suggest you consider. If I've used them, you won’t just see what I use, but also how I use them.
Let’s get into the good stuff, shall we?
38 Japan Travel Sites and Resources Every Traveller Should Know
by Rob Dyer
Although numbered, the list isn't in order of recommendation. Instead, it broadly follows the 5 steps of trip planning. From dreaming, through planning, to booking, and so on. All of the sites included in this guide are available in English, or have an English language version. Some are available in multiple languages.
Japan Tourism Websites
1.) JNTO, The Japan National Tourism Organization Website
JNTO, The Japan National Tourism Organization website, is the ultimate gateway online to travel information about Japan. It's an absolute must bookmark and a site I use on a regular basis.
The extensive site includes details on destinations (islands, regions, prefectures, cities, towns and villages), things to do (seasonal, activity and interest categories and itineraries), planning (first-timer info, transportation, travel guides, etc.).
They also have a big selection of articles, blog posts, FAQs, and you should also check out their Japan Monthly Web Magazine - an online magazine hosted on the site.
2.) JAL Interactive Map of Japan
Tucked away on the Japan Airlines (JAL) website is a really useful interactive map of the country. Search by region, destination A-Z, or just zoom in on the map, and start browsing around.
Click on an area and an overview of it pops up, click again for more detailed info. Or click on one of the highlighted places on the map and be taken to a dedicated page, and get practical information on where to eat, where to stay, and a location map.
Alternatively, use the categories section to focus on things like nightlife, shopping, activities, culture, food, transportation and more. I've written about the JAL interactive map in this post: Fantastic Interactive Map of Japan.
Best Airline Websites
These are the best flight booking and flight deal services available right now. I have personally used each of these flight services and I am a member of both JAL and ANA's Frequent Flyer programs. Both are synonymous with the most outstanding customer service at an affordable price.
3.) All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA is Japan’s other major airline and again, booking your flights through them can be a great idea. Don’t forget that you can also earn valuable points with their frequent flyer program, too. I am a member of their frequent flyer program and recommend joining it.
I have flown with ANA several times over the years and have only good things to say about their excellent service. ANA offers special deals for foreign tourists through their ANA Experience Japan Fare, where prices are significantly lower than their standard domestic flights. You can read more about this special fare in this article.
This is a similar flight search functionality to that found on Skyscanner, but with a little more flair. You get more options so that you can be sure you’re getting the best deal on your chosen flight. Its interface is also a little prettier and less utilitarian than Skyscanner’s, too.
5.) Japan Airlines (JAL)
JAL offers a range of different flight options, including the popular JAL First Class seats. JAL is a major player in the Japanese air travel market and there are plenty of other benefits of booking your flights through them besides getting top flight service.
I am a member of their frequent flyer program and advise joining it. In my decades of flying to Japan, I have flown more times with JAL than any other airline.
JAL also offers an excellent flight deal, which is only available to foreign tourists, called the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. You can read my guide to those fares in this post.
Skyscanner is the first place we look for flight deals. It’s fast, easy and free to use. You can search by country, airports, times and airlines.
All the necessary details are laid out clearly in front of you so that you can analyze and compare flight options quickly. A list of suggested destinations also provides ideas for your trip if nothing else is coming up.
Best Accommodation Booking Sites
Booking.com is an excellent site to book accommodation whenever you’re in Japan (or anywhere else for that matter). There are thousands of options available, so finding the best deal is a breeze (they also price match). They also offer some great deals on hotels when booking during peak periods. They also negotiate favourable cancellation terms with accommodation, meaning last minute cancellations without any charge are commonplace.
With the option to book it as far in advance as a year in advance, this is my go-to site for accommodation. Be sure to create an account with them to get access to discounted pricing not shown to the general public.
Look out too for their Genius Loyalty Program where the more you stay the more you unlock additional benefits such as bigger discounts, free breakfasts and free room upgrades.
If it's hostels you're interested in then Hostelworld now offers over 500 properties in 86 cities across Japan.
If you're on a budget, or simply want to try staying at a hostel in Japan as part of your trip then there's few English language sites as quick and easy to use as Hostelworld.
If you've never stayed in a hostel, or ruled them out in the past thinking they'll be a bit rough and ready, then trying a hostel in Japan could give you a different perspective on the entire concept.
If you like the idea of a site dedicated only to places to stay in Japan, but want a wider choice than that offered by Japanese Guest Houses (below), then bookmark Jalan.
On Jalan, in addition to ryokan and minshuku, they also include 'regular' and chain hotels, hostels, guesthouses, but also holiday rental homes (which they call villas). They work with over 20,000 establishments across all five main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa).
I like that their site is 'cleaner' and less cluttered than the bigger global players.
10.) Japanese Guest Houses
Although the big sites like Booking.com have added considerably to their niche accommodation offering in Japan in recent years, there's still nothing like a site dedicated to accommodation in Japan. Which is where the superb (English language) Japanese Guest Houses comes in.
As their name suggests, the focus here is on traditional Japanese accommodation, such as ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), minshuku (family-run 'bed and breakfasts') and shukubo (Buddhist temples). They work directly with over 600 ryokan throughout Japan.
They have every style represented, from simple through to luxury.
Official Japan Rail Pass Agents
The Japan Rail Pass is only available for purchase through officially approved agents worldwide. The awarding of the agency status is controlled by the Japan Rail Pass consortium itself.
Some travel agents in your home country may sell the pass but the best choice is online. There are several websites that offer a global or international service. There's not a great deal to choose between them as retail pricing is controlled by the JRPass company.
Some websites are better than others in terms of presentation and many 'throw in' one or two sweeteners, such as country guide ebooks, to get your business and to try and stand out from their competitors.
11 - 12.) Klook + Voyagin
However, if you're already using booking portals like Klook and Voyagin (more on those below) it can make a lot of sense to book your Japan Rail Passes while shopping with them (and you can often get discounts the more you buy through the one site).
So, depending on your preference, both Klook and Voyagin are safe bets for reserving your Japan Rail Passes.
Of the dedicated players, I really like the design of the JRPass.com website. The one I recommend is JRailPass.com. All their passes come with their own free Japan travel guide.
14.) Japan Rail Pass (Official)
It is possible to buy the rail pass inside Japan but it is more expensive. By the way, the official Japan Rail Pass website can be found here.
Tour & Trip Booking Platforms
As a long-standing independent traveller, I used to turn my nose up at guided tours. But having used several down the years, these can be some of the most efficient and easiest ways to explore Japan, often guided by a passionate local.
There are a lot of companies in this space (and the topic is worthy of an in-depth article in its own right), so for our purposes here I'll highlight just a few key players. As with the accommodation platforms, register where you can for access to subscriber-only deals.
None of those listed here are all-include package tours, meaning they'll offer tour services once you are inside Japan. You'll need to add the cost of getting here to their prices.
Full Country Tours
15.) G Adventures
Started in 1990, G Adventures is an independent company dedicated to responsible, small-group travel. Their tours help support local communities and they use local tour guides, only they call them Chief Experience Officers!
Their handful of Japan itineraries include Back Roads of Japan, and often combine culture and history with Japanese foods such as with their Ramen and Railways, Castles and Cuisine, and Speed Trains and Street Food tours.
Intrepid is a small company with a good reputation. They have a small selection of Japan-only tours ranging from family holidays, to cycling, adventure, food themed and more. They also provide Lonely Planet Experience trips, made for travellers who value their independence but also want the benefit of a local leader and a group of like-minded travellers.
Intrepid's more hands-off approach means they can offer low prices. Just be clear on what is and is not included as it varies from trip to trip.
For full country itineraries the TourRadar portal is a reliable starting point. They have several tours (offered by a small selection of specialist providers) that are ideal for first-time visitors who don't want to stick rigidly to the Golden Route.
They also offer some more niche and specialist-interest tours. Prices are very reasonable and they frequently have seasonal sales offering some hefty discounts (subscribe to my Japan Travel Bulletin https://www.therealjapan.com/subscribe/ to get updates on their sales).
Experiences, Short Guided Tours and Day Trips
On my Recommended Resources page I've split out short tours and day trips from experience booking services. But there's a lot of overlap between the two and some sites feature more than once. Here, I'll just combine the two categories, but if you'd like to see them seperately I suggest taking a look at that page.
GetYourGuide has their headquarters in Germany, but they've built up an impressive global network of trips and experiences by partnering with local experts and companies. Their range of Japan activities includes tickets to popular attractions, things to do, and day tours lasting from 1 hour to 1 day.
Popular sightseeing aside, they also provide some very niche private experiences in some of the more remote regions of Japan, meaning it's worth spending some time browsing around their site - which is made easy by a simple filtering tool.
Launched in 2014 and headquartered in Hong Kong, Klook is now an established name in the travel activities and ticket booking platform space.
Their bread and butter has been attraction tickets, often with e-ticket, fast-track and last-minute booking options. They're great for family-oriented activities and for young travellers keen to share their Japan vacation on Instagram (and possibly TikTok for all I know these days!).
Over time, they've steadily broadened their target audiences with more adventurous and off-the-beaten-path experiences now available through the platform. I love the clean design and use of high quality photos and graphics on their website, which makes browsing it more of a pleasure than some of their competitors.
20.) Magical Trip
Magical Trip is a smaller Japanese company that encourages deeper travel using local guides. But that's deeper within the familiar big cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, rather than in the less touristy parts of Japan.
Think bar hopping, historical bike tours, area walking, photography, sake/craft beer/vegan tasting, craft and fashion tours. Their range is modest but is supplemented with a number of virtual tours and livestreamed experiences.
Tiqets was founded by four experienced Dutch entrepreneurs who’d experienced the struggles of traveling first-hand. Although their Japan-based offering is limited when compared with some others in the competitive 'ticket booking' space, Tiqets sets itself apart (and earns its place here) by concentrating on cultural experiences.
There's no go-karting or theme parks here. Instead you'll find a hand-picked selection of cultural and historical based attractions with the emphasis on top museums and hidden gems.
The TripAdvisor owned Viator has a nicely varied selection of activities, trips and short tours in Japan. Although there is some overlap with the two regional specialists Klook and Voyagin, it has enough unique offers to make it one worth bookmarking. (Check out this post on 10 Top-Rated Virtual Japan Tours it has available.)
The granddaddy of Japan-focused experiences, Voyagin is part of the mighty Rakuten group of companies. If you want plenty of choice and keen pricing, this is the perfect place to start.
Their selection is possibly the broadest of anyone out there and as such, they tend to do a lot of volume rather than specialise in any particular line of service. But there are plenty of short guided tours and day trips to browse through.
Food Experience Platforms
If food is a bit part of your travel, several of those mentioned above have food-based experiences you can research and book. However, there's a couple of platforms solely dedicated to food in Japan you need to know...
24.) Arigato Japan
If you would like to experience a Japanese food tour, Arigato Japan has the popular destinations covered. They have 70 local experts offering 40 foodie tours in 5 culinary destinations (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Mt. Fuji).
They also offer a range of online experiences, so you can get a taste of Japan from the comfort of your sofa, if you can't be there in person. The Online Experiences start really cheaply, from just 1,650 Yen. In person city tours start at 16,800 yen.
Aside from the well-known city area tours, they also offer a Hidden Gem Food Tour (Tokyo), a Wine Country Day Trip from Tokyo in Yamanashi where you can visit Japan's oldest family-run winery, as well as sake, whisky, and matcha tours in Kyoto.
byFood's tagline is "A Bite of Japan, A World of Smiles" and they aim to put a grin on your face through two main booking categories: Experiences and Restaurants. Its restaurant reservation service is particularly useful if you don't speak Japanese.
They work with over 1,600 restaurants and your search can be quickly narrowed down by using filters including Areas, Cuisine, Dietary Restrictions, Price Range, Michelin Star holders, and more.
On the Experiences side, activities are classified into Food Tours, Cooking Classes, Dining Experiences and Tastings. A nice social touch is when you make a reservation or booking via their platform byFood donates 10 school meals to children in need for each guest booking.
If you want to actually get hands on then Cookly is the ideal place to start your research. They offer the chance to experience local food culture through cooking classes. And not just in Japan, but across the globe.
Choose a location in Japan or search using tags that match your interests. There's tags for everything from Solo Traveller and Sushi Making, to Vegan/Vegetarian Option and Organic Garden/Farm Tour.
If you've a specific cuisine you'd like to try your hand at (sushi, ramen, soba, takoyaki, tempura, etc.) just select it from the tags. There's sake tasting, wagashi (traditional sweet) making, tea tasting, market and city food tours.
Availability on each class is clearly shown, including if they're available tomorrow, start time, duration and customer star ratings to help you decide and choose which to book.
Bus, Ferry, Train Timetable Sites
27.) 12Go Asia
This platform is dedicated to providing instant seat confirmation for buses, ferries, flights and railways in Japan and throughout SouthEast Asia.
Aside from some destination travel guides, a few country FAQs and a travel news page, 12Go Asia's simple interface focuses on quickly searching for seat and ticket availability. Perfect for backpackers and independent travellers who want to pre-book tickets in advance (which is sometimes essential on some routes and in some seasons).
Although well-known for their popular phone app, this train and highway bus timetable service also has a website portal. It was created and is maintained by the Japanese company Hitachi. Searches can be made in English, Japanese and Chinese.
Choose your start and end points, date and departure time, then apply any filters, such as the type of service (bullet train, limited express, sleeper service, etc.) and hit search. The results page will return multiple options and list any change of service. The detail and accuracy of the information is impressive, listing arrival and departure track numbers and how long to allow for transfers between services.
For the highest connectivity and minimal difficulties navigating in Japan, I strongly recommend hiring a mobile WiFi. It's my No.1 'Must Have' piece of tech while exploring the country, and really is the best way to stay connected.
There are a range of services available with little to choose between many of them. Some companies operate under more than one brand name. Japan's excellent mobile phone network ensures you'll get a strong, fast signal even in the farthest reaches of Japan's islands. Provided you go with a reliable provider.
29. ) Japan Wireless + 30.) Mobal WiFi
Two other companies that are equally reliable are Japan Wireless (use my discount code: JWREALJAPAN for 10% off), and Mobal WiFi. I particularly like Mobal as a company because they donate a majority of their profits to charities helping underprivileged children in Africa.
31.) Ninja WiFi
Ninja WiFi is my main recommendation. Although you can order online directly from the company themselves, you can get exactly the same router and connectivity at a lower price by ordering via Voyagin's website. (Want to know more? Read my Review: Ninja Pocket WiFi)
32.) Mobal SIM + 33.) SIMcard Geek
Japan Travel Guide Books
I've written in detail about how to actually go about choosing a guide book to travelling in Japan (you can read that post in full here). In that article I say determining which is the best guide for you is a little like choosing your ideal partner, or your favourite album of all time – it's a very personal thing.
34.) The Rough Guide To Japan + 35.) Lonely Planet Japan
Still, for my money (and I spend wisely when I do!), the two big names in the field deserve their reputations. So take a look at The Rough Guide To Japan (my personal favourite) and Lonely Planet Japan. Read this post for the pros and cons on each.
36.) Japan By Rail
If, like me, you're a keen train traveller, then there's no better guide to using Japan's excellent (and extensive) rail network than Japan By Rail published by Trailblazer. It includes a rail route guide, multiple network maps and 30 city guides.
Meet And Greet Service
For stress-free travel in Japan, you might want to consider a personal concierge service. These are available at major airports and rail stations to assist with things like travel documentation, ticket purchases, Japan Rail Pass voucher redemption, currency exchange, and WiFi/SIM card rental.
I have used and can recommend Airserve. It's a Japanese company, part of the Hankyu Hanshin Toho Group. Book via Voyagin website.
Camper Van Rental
38.) Dream Drive
Your average-sized American RV would struggle to navigate its way around many of Japan's narrow and winding roads, which is where Dream Drive comes in. The compact but comfy camper vans at Dream Drive are tailor-made for the landscape. Their custom vans comfortably sleep 1-4 people.
A Few Words About Phone Apps
I haven't included any phone apps in this list as I will be publishing an article dedicated to the best and most useful apps when travelling in Japan. And this list is pretty long as it is.
But if you'd like to know more now, in my book How To Travel In Japan Without Speaking Japanese, I list 8 Japan travel apps I recommend taking a look at, and 11 Japanese free translation apps for both Android and Apple phones.
Well, that's quite a list!
Be sure to bookmark this article so you have quick access to all of these, or...
If you have any go-to resources for your Japan trip planning, be sure to tell me and share your recommendations with others by leaving a comment below...
About the Author
A writer and publisher from England, Rob has been exploring Japan’s 6,800 islands since 2000. He specialises in travelling off the beaten track, whether on remote atolls or in the hidden streets of major cities. He’s the founder of TheRealJapan.com.
My Complete List of Recommended Japan Travel Resources
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