- The population of Japan is about 126.8 million (August 2019).
- As of 2018, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area had a population of 36 million. The population of the 23 wards which make up the city of Tokyo was about 9.3 million (2016).
- About 80% of the land area (377,435 sq. km) in Japan is mountains.
- The above figures go a long way to explaining the incredible density of people in the cities.
- The Japan archipelago is surprisingly long – 3,008 km (1,869 mi) northeast to southwest
- Japan is a parliamentary democracy.
- The average life expectancy in Japan 84.2 years. A good diet is widely thought to contribute to the high life expectancy and such a large number of centenarians.
- Japan is world’s third largest economy. A large creditor nation, structural reform progresses slowly.
- Religion in Japan is a blend of Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, and new religions.
- Society is generally affluent, but ageing, and with younger generations with considerably different habits and aspirations.
- Compulsory education lasts 12 years. Further and higher education rates are high, but competition is fierce for places at certain universities.
- Inbound tourism has boomed in the last 20 years, from about 4.75 million (2000) to 31.19 million (2020). This is putting significant pressures on the infrastructure to accommodate rapidly growing numbers of tourists.
Travel & transport
- Four main airports act as hubs for long haul flights: Narita and, increasingly, Haneda airports in the Tokyo area, Kansai International near Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, and Chubu Centrair near Nagoya (flights to/from Detroit, Honolulu, Helsinki, and Frankfurt in summer 2019).
- Most cities have, or are pretty close to, airports – there is a comprehensive network of domestic flights that aren’t too expensive.
- Japan has over 18,000 miles of railways criss-crossing the country. Germany has about 26,000 miles. Trains are managed and run with breath-taking efficiency, making it an excellent way to travel around the country. Be aware of rush hours, though. Japan has 46 of the 50 busiest stations in the world!
- Make use of Japan’s excellent railways! To avoid having carry heavier baggage on train journeys, use a courier service (takkyubin) to transport your luggage to your next accommodation. This can normally be done overnight. Your hotel will help will this.
- They drive on the left in Japan. This became law in 1924. Except in Okinawa, where they changed from the right side to left in July 1978, when America returned the islands to Japan.
- If you have an international driving permit, renting and driving a car in Japan is quite straightforward. Most of them have English language SATNAVs.
- Cyclists commonly cycle on pavements. Pedestrians beware! Bicycle numbers have grown dramatically in Tokyo since the earthquake in 2011, when city subways and trains stopped, and the roads were gridlocked. Many had to walk long distances to their homes in the suburbs.
- Most people in Japan only cross busy streets at pedestrian crossings which are controlled by lights. And they only walk when they see the green man. Be careful if you cross when the pedestrian light is red, people around may just follow you, without checking, thinking it’s green!
‘Think global, act local’. Hike Japan does both.
A long-haul holiday, and particularly the long flights generally needed to get to Japan, raises the question of how green your decision to visit Japan will be.
Aviation is responsible for 2% to 3% of global, man-made CO2 emissions. If visitors are going to fly to Japan, then we would advise flying with an airline which is firmly committed to reducing its carbon footprint. KLM, for example, which is one of the carriers with a great service between Europe and Japan, is one such airline. You can find out what this means here:
Hike Japan is a small company. We specialize in small group travel, and itineraries which deliberately visit parts of Japan which other operators don’t reach. Much of our business is with smaller, local business and individuals. This all means that more of your money goes directly to benefiting the communities you’ll visit, rather than supporting the big businesses which shunt big groups along the well-trodden ‘Golden Route’ (which includes Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Nagano, and now even the Nakasendo area).
Many of our clients comment how happy they were to meet people and visit places they would never have got to, let alone known about, without our help.
Apart from when one of our UK directors, Bob Heffill, founder of Hike Japan, and a professional Japanese linguist and traveller with over 45 years’ experience of living in Japan and working with the Japanese, leads a trip, we use our network of local, professional guides. Guides lead all our tours, and we use local experts to guide our groups on days, for example, when we visit places such as Nara.