For more great ideas and travel tips for Japan, check out these informative articles.
Japan is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean with dense cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet has also been quick to adopt and created the latest modern fashions and trends. Japan is truly timeless, a place where ancient traditions are fused with modern life as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Japan is a long and slender, highly volcanic archipelago. It's over two-thirds mountains, with bubbling hot springs at every turn. In the warmer months there is excellent hiking, through cedar groves and fields of wildflowers, up to soaring peaks and ancient shrines. In the winter, all this is covered with snow and the skiing is world class. Meanwhile in the southern reaches, there are tropical beaches for sunning, snorkeling, diving, and surfing.
The neon-lit streetscapes of Japan's cities look like sci-fi film sets, even though many of them are decades old. Meanwhile, cities such as Tokyo and Osaka have been adding new architectural wonders that redefine what buildings - and cities - should look like. There's a fixed buzz to these urban centers, with their vibrant street life, 24-hour drinking and dining scenes, and creative hubs that turn out fashion and pop culture trends consumed the world over. Travel is always smooth and efficient, whether you're using the subway to get around or the shinkansen (bullet trains) to go from one city to the next.
Because of these sci-fi looking structures and futuristic appeal, Japan appears exceedingly modern on the surface, but travelling around it offers numerous opportunities to connect with the country's traditional culture. Spend the night in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, sleeping on futons and tatami mats, and padding through well-worn wooden halls to the bathhouse. Chant with monks or learn how to whisk bitter matcha (powdered green tea) into a froth. From the splendor of a Kyoto geisha dance to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveler.
Wherever you are in Japan, it seems, you're never more than 500 meters from a great meal. Restaurants often specialize in just one dish and pay close attention to every stage, from sourcing the freshest, local ingredients to assembling the dish attractively. Moreover, you don't have to travel far to discover that Japanese cuisine is deeply varied. The hearty hotpots of the mountains are, for example, dramatically different from the delicate sushi for which the coast is famous. It's also intensely seasonal, meaning you can visit again at a different time of year and experience totally new tastes.
Japan has many attractions and points of interest, including its ancient shrines and temples and modern skylines, but there is plenty more to see and do in this fascinating country. The main islands of Kyushu, with Okinawa's subtropical beaches, is a popular attraction. Honshu, home to Tokyo and Hiroshima's atomic-bomb memorial, is also a popular location. Hokkaido, Japan's Northernmost island and an icy frontier. Famous for its wide open spaces and snowy winters, it's a favorite place for skiing and winter activities. Tokyo, the capital, is known for skyscrapers, shopping and pop culture. You could also visit one of Japan's 12 original castles, the only ones not rebuilt after wars or edicts for removal. See one of Japan's amazing Gardens, or experience some of their supreme culinary offerings. See the beautiful cherry trees in full bloom during the spring months. Enjoy a relaxing soak in one of Japan's famous Onsen hot springs. See Mt. Fuji, the symbol of Japan and maybe take the journey to the top. Experience the home of Manga and Anime, watch some Sumo Wrestlers, or learn the ancient Sword techniques from a Samurai descendant. There are so many amazing things to do in this country, that you'll find yourself wanting to plan a return trip!