It’s easy to make assumptions on what you can do when, based on your own country or what you’ve experienced in other countries. This can lead to frustration when you plan to see something and suddenly discover it’s closed that day, or opens later than you expected. Here’s some general guidelines on opening hours in Japan, although do check hours for specific establishments.
These can vary quite widely, but as a general guide, shops open from 10am to 8pm, seven days a week. This applies particularly to department stores and shopping malls.
Smaller shops and shopping areas may have more limited shopping hours. In cities, some shops may not open until midday, while in some small towns (eg Kurashiki) shops may close around 6pm. It’s also quite common for shops in suburban shopping streets and in small towns to have a closing day, which could be a weekday.
There are some shops which may open longer hours, until 9 or 10pm, or even 24 hours. Larger branches of Don Quixote are well-known for this.
Be aware that markets, such as Nishiki market in Kyoto or Omicho market in Kanazawa, are daytime markets, with most shops closing in the evening. Japan does not have the night markets common elsewhere in Asia.
Museums, castles and historic buildings open around 9 or 10am, and stay open until 5 or 6pm. There is sometimes a late night once a week or once a month. Most have a closing day, usually Monday, or Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday. They will also close for a few days around New Year. Some museums may close when exhibitions are being replaced.
Gardens have quite variable hours. Some of them follow the same pattern as museums, but others open quite early in the morning, particularly in the summer. Some gardens operate on reduced hours during winter when daylight hours are shorter.
Observatories and towers often have long hours, from 10am to 10pm or similar. This enables sunset and night viewing.
Temples and shrines are extremely variable. There are some that are accessible 24 hours a day, such as Fushimi Inari and Yanaka shrines in Kyoto. Others have hours that are very similar to museums, although they are generally open seven days a week. A number of temples and shrines open very early in the morning, so that early morning worshippers can attend prayers. Examples are the Honganji temples in Kyoto and Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima. All temples and shrines will be open at New Year because of the religious ceremonies that happen at this time.
What to see when
Early morning – it sometimes seems to the jetlagged tourist as though everything is closed early in the morning, just when they are wide awake. Look for early opening temples, shrines and gardens. In the hotter summer months, this can be a good time to look at gardens, before the heat affects the plants.
Middle of the day – many things are open but check opening times and days before going anywhere a bit out of the way. For more popular sights, also check Google to see when the busy times are.
Evening – many shops are open, making it a great time to buy souvenirs. Towers and observatories are often busy at this time with people wanting to look at the sunset. Also check to see if any museums on your list have late opening hours.
Night – this is a great time to get beautiful views of city lights from observatories and towers. Some historic buildings are lit up at night – examples are Sensoji temple in Tokyo and Matsumoto castle.
(Update on 2 August 2019, in response to a reader question)
ATMs in 7-Eleven stores and some Family Marts accept international cards. They are available the same hours that the store is open, which is often 24 hours. Japan Post also provides banking services with ATM machines. These are inside the post office, so they are available during opening hours which are 9 to 5 at smaller offices, but can be much longer at larger offices. Some post offices, such as the one near Kyoto station, have an ATM lobby which is open for extended hours.
Do you have any questions about opening hours, or anything else about visiting Japan? Please feel free to contact me.
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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.