Japan is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean with high-rise-filled cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Japan can be divided into the four areas (islands) of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Tokyo, the capital, is known for its neon skyscrapers and pop culture. In contrast, Kyoto offers Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, gardens and cherry blossoms. Sushi, the national dish, is served everywhere from casual pubs to gourmet restaurants.
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Shrines and Temples are a wonderful way to better understand Japanese culture: shrines are a place for enshrining the ancient gods of Japan & temples came into existence after Buddhism was introduced into Japan.
Cherry Blossoms are associated with Japanese spring. Drinking sake beneath the cherry trees in full blossom, perhaps even singing karaoke beneath the trees is a tradition not to be missed.
Onsen (hot springs) are part of the Japanese lifestyle and a must for any visit to this country. Many of Japan’s mountains are active volcanoes and there are hot springs all over the country. You can enjoy stand-alone hot springs or stay in a resort that has hot springs on site.
Traditional experiences such as Tea Ceremony, Kabuki, the Sapporo Snow Festival, Kimono classes, Ikebana (flower arrangement) can be added to your itinerary ensuring an exceptional experience.
Active travelers can enjoy a diversity of options ranging from camping to skiing to bicycling to hiking. A hike to the top of Mt. Fuji is a bucket item for many travelers.
Culinary enthusiasts can enjoy an array of choices. There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of ramen on a cold night or enjoying fresh sashimi just around the corner from Tsukiji, Japan’s famed fish market. Tempura, soba, yakitori, sake – something for everyone.
Coastal areas and islands bless Japan from the Hokkaido region to Okinawa. There are tiny islets, coral reefs and the scenery of beautiful seas rich in variation.
Sapporo – Situated on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, this city contains many essential sites. The Sapporo Clock Tower has been marking time for over a century. The annual Snow Festival in February transforms Sapporo’s Odori Park into a winter wonderland. One of the premier snow festivals in the world, it is a must do for winter visitors. While you’re there, enjoy magnificent powder skiing followed by a relaxing soak in the Jozankei Onsen (hot springs). Of course, no trip to Sapporo is complete without a stop at the Sapporo Beer Factory.
Kyoto – The former capital of Japan, this city is world famous for its shrines and temples. There are three major festivals in early summer, mid-summer and fall. The Gion District, considered the most prestigious downtown area in Japan, is also famous for Geisha. Meeting one of Kyoto’s Geisha is a magical and memorable experience.
Tokyo – This vibrant capital city has everything. For historical Tokyo, visit Asakusa. For the shopaholics, Ginza. Meet up at Hachiko in Shinjuku to take a walking tour through this trendy district, where every street and area has a completely different atmosphere. If you’re looking for electronics, Akihabara has it all! Nightlife is everywhere, but Roppongi is the center of it. The Tsukiji fish market is quite the spectacle for early risers. Auctions begin at 5:00AM. But never fear, you can sleep in a little and arrive between 6:00 and 10:00AM and still get the full experience.
Okinawa – Crystal blue seas, white sand beaches and colorful marine life make up the 160 islands of Okinawa, the perfect destination year round. Each island of the Churaumi Sea has its own history and culture. Replete with rare ferns and orchids, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Seifa-utaki Forest is considered a power spot. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Shuri Castle, home of the King of Ryukyu.
Shikoku – Enjoy an exhilarating trip over the ocean by bicycle on the Shimanami Kaido Expressway. There are lots of spots to stop along the way. Art enthusiasts should visit Ikuchijima, an island of art and creation and birthplace of the painter, Ikuo Hirayama. Enjoy Sanuki-udon noodles in Takamatsu. The Awa-Odori Folk Dance Festival in August brings Awa dance groups through the streets of Tokushima. Watch a Kabuki performance in April at Kanamaru-za, the oldest existing playhouse in Japan. Go rafting on Koboke-kei, the wildest torrent in Japan.