As mentioned above, Japan is an island nation situated in Northeast Asia. There are thousands of islands which make up Japan and the main islands, moving from north to south are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The Ryukyu islands are a chain of islands found to the south Kyushu and these are known as the Japanese archipelago.
Many of the big cities in Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are heavily populated and this is due to the nature of the land in Japan. Over 70% of Japan’s land mass is forested and mountainous, which makes setting up home their difficult. However, each of the major cities in Japan are a pleasure to visit, very safe and the volume of people adds to the experience.
Japan is in a volcanic zone and the country was once connected to the Eurasian mainland but over time the plates have pulled Japan to the east and thus created the Sea of Japan.
Having a basic knowledge of Japanese history will help in understanding the contemporary Japan you will see on a Japan golf holiday.
Japan was blocked from visitors outside the country until the 1500’s, when Japan was ruled by the Shogun, who were warlords who respected the emperor. During this era, missionaries and traders started to arrive from Europe and the most famous Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, established his reign in Edo, which is the site of modern day Tokyo.
However, due to the spread of Christianity, foreign travel was not allowed for the Japanese and throughout this period Japanese art and social status developed, seeing the rise of the samurai, with peasants and artisans below them in the class ladder.
Tokugawa held onto power until the late 1800’s and power was restored to the emperor, who moved to Tokyo. Having made moves to modernise all aspects of life, Japan were then involved in wars against its neighbours and joined the Allies in World War I. However, following invasions of Indochina and other countries including India and Hawaii, the US declared war on Japan in 1941.
Having refused to surrender, the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and with the Soviet Union joining the war, the emperor agreed to surrender.
This was the turning point in Japan’s history and since then, the economy and growth has been massive, making the Japanese economy the second largest in the world.
Shinto and Buddhism are the two major religions in Japan, despite the country having full religious freedom based on Article 20 of its Constitution.
Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan, dating back to start of Japanese culture and it is estimated between 80% and 90% of the population subscribe to this religion. Buddhism was imported from the mainland in the 6th century and the two religions have co-existed without many issues and even compliment each other to a degree.
Religion does not play a large role in the lives of most Japanese people today other than for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals.
Japan has four distinct seasons but the climate can change depending on where you are in the country. When planning to play golf in Japan, it pays to remember Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu have extratropical climates, Hokkaido has subarctic climates, and the southern islands have subtropical climates.
The rainy season is between early June to early July in Honshu and from mid-May to mid-June in Okinawa, while Hokkaido remains largely unaffected. Winter is between December and February, with Southern Japan mild and pleasant.
Spring is nice with the plum blossom, remaining quite dry with clear skies, thus the months between March and May are a good time for playing golf in Japan. The same can said for the autumn in September, October and November.
The summer can be wet and very hot, with many Japanese heading to the mountain resorts for cooler temperatures.
Passport and Visas
As with any country, you must have a valid passport to enjoy a golf holiday in Japan and it must remain valid for the duration of your stay.
Visas are not required for some visitors to Japan and there is a huge list of countries on the official Japanese tourism website which highlights who can stay for ninety days without a Visa. These include nationals from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Ireland.
While there can be a few exceptions, the basic rule is no tipping in Japan. This may seem strange to those visiting from a culture where tipping is prominent but most Japanese people who work in services do not expect to be tipped and that includes golf related activities.
If you do leave a tip there is a good chance the tip will be refused.
The only exceptions to this rule come if you hire a guide and if you stay in a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn. It is not required but if you have asked for something additional, which was not originally included, may consider leaving a tip.
You will have little trouble getting around during a golf holiday in Japan. The public transport system is second to none and if by the off chance a train does arrive a few seconds late, you will receive a full apology.
Whether you are using city subways, cross-country trains, bullet trains, highway buses, local buses, ferries, monorails, domestic flights or taxis to get around Japan and play golf, you will find the service and standard of transport is very good.
Thanks to the bullet train, you can cover huge distances in Japan and this makes visiting golf courses in different regions of the country very easy and adds to the experience.
Japan Golf Destinations
There are several regions in Japan which offer great golf courses and while it would be tough to play them all in one visit, the excellent transport means you can probably cover more than you would in other Asian countries.
Beginning close to Tokyo, which will be the starting point of many Japan golf holidays, Chiba is home to a wealth of excellent golf courses.
Encompassing Tokyo's eastern outskirts and the rural Boso Peninsula, Chiba is home to many golf courses produced by the leading names in golf course design. Oak Hills Country Club and Shibayama Golf Club were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Desmond Muirhead respectively and Taiheiyo Club Narita Golf course was designed by the legendary Gary Player.
While the courses in this region of Japan many not feature in many top-ten lists, they provide a good and convenient way to begin playing golf in Japan.
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands and the second largest in the country. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu via an undersea railway and the capital city is Sapporo.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to playing golf in Hokkaido and there are several tremendous courses to play. Again, you will find golf course designed by the big names including Sapporo Kitahiroshima Golf Club and Niseko Golf Course which were created by Robert Tent Jones Jr. and Gary Player.
Interestingly, out of all the golf courses in Japan, only few boast fully vented turf and North Country Golf Club is one of them. This course has been described as the perfect blend between the beauty of Augusta and the challenge of St Andrews and it has hosted many big tournaments, including the Sega Sammy Cup.
Other golf courses in Hokkaido include Clark Golf Country Club, Hokkaido Golf Club, Hokkaido Brooks Country Club and Niseko Villa Course. If you are planning on spending all your time in one place, Hokkaido is a great destination for golf in Japan.
Okinawa is the most southernly of all Japan’s prefectures and is home to some lovely golf courses. The Atta Terrace Golf Resort has lovely views of the East China Sea and coupled with the surrounding mountains creates a stunning environment to play golf in Japan.
The course is mainly flat throughout and the 16th hole is exceptional thanks to the views of the ocean and hills.
The Southern Links Golf Club offers a nice contrast between inland and seashore holes, with two special holes featuring shots over the ocean from a 40-metre cliff. The resort has guest rooms, so you can stay there, enjoy the views of the sea and a great round of golf.
Other courses in Okinawa include Palm Hills Golf Club, Kanucha Golf Course and Orion Arashiyama Golf Club.
If you are starting and finishing your Japanese golf holiday Tokyo, Kanagawa prefecture is the perfect place to play golf in Japan.
The prefecture is in the Kanto region of Japan and is home to two of the top day trip attractions from Tokyo, Kamakura and Hakone. There are four brilliant golf courses to play in Kanagawa and Daihakone Country Club is regarded by many as being the best.
The 18-hole, par-73 course is a parkland style course situated in lovely surroundings, with the majestic Sengokuhara plain and the outer rim of the Hakone Crater in the background. The top female players visit this golf course every year to play in the CAT Ladies Pro Golf Tournament and the adjoining Hakone Sengokuhara Prince Hotel is the perfect place to stay.
With Mount Fuji providing the backdrop, Hakone-en Golf Course is another picturesque venue to play golf in Kanagawa and the Fujiya Hotel Sengaku Golf Course plus Hakone Yunohana Golf Course combine to make this a tremendous region for playing golf in Japan.
Mie prefecture, within the Kansai region of Japan’s main island of Honshu, boasts a wealth of golf courses, with over 15 different courses to play.
The only problem you will encounter when playing golf in Mei is which courses to include on your itinerary. Here you will find the only golf course in Japan to host an LPGA official tournament, Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club and here you can enjoy a good test of golf in addition to the nature and coast of Ise Shima.
However, if you would like to play three amazing golf courses in one venue, head to Cocopa Resort Club. Here you will find two 18-hole golf courses and one 36-hole course, the latter of which is called Hakusan Village Golf Course and has played host to the Japan Senior Open Golf Championship. With Mie Hakusan Golf Course and Mie Phoenix Golf Course also on offer, the Cocopa Resort Club is a fantastic place to stay and play golf in Japan.
The Shizuoka prefecture is on the central Pacific coast of Honshu and is the home of Mt. Fuji, the highest peak in Japan. Fuji is a great place for hiking and if you have time away from the golf course when in Japan, this is a good place to explore.
The golf courses in Shizuoka offer some of the best views of Mt Fuji you will find anywhere in the country and will have a tough time keeping your camera in your pocket. Kawana Hotel is home to two golf courses, the Fuji Course and the Oshima Course. Both 18-hole courses come highly recommended and you can make a reservation at the hotel to enjoy both the golf courses and the facilities.
Gotemba Golf Club is another top course in Shizuoka and may seem straight forward on arrival but the wind and creative layout make for a good test, especially on the back nine holes. With accommodation, a restaurant, onsen and its own brewery, Gotemba Golf Club is a superb place to play golf in Japan.