The high-tech, high-rise metropolis of Japan's modern capital Tokyo is a city of sheer energy and vibrancy. As one of the most forward-thinking cities in the world, Tokyo is a dream for gadget lovers, and the flashing neon lights, innovative gizmos and robot conventions make this fascinating city feel as though you've stepped into a sci-fi film. Wacky and wonderful in equal measure, Tokyo is home to anime, quirky fashion, 24-hour karaoke bars and more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. It also has surprising pockets of Zenic calm with beautiful gardens, hidden temples, lakes, beaches and hot springs in and around the city.
From Tokyo, head southwest to snow-capped Mount Fuji, a tribute to Japan’s sublime beauty. Towering at 12,388 feet, it is Japan’s highest mountain and can even be seen from Tokyo on a clear day. Revered as one of Japan’s ‘Three Holy Mountains’, it attracts thousands of pilgrims every summer who hike to its sacred summit.
Japan's 'city of 10,000 shrines' offers a stark contrast to high-tech Tokyo. This stunning imperial city is the Japan of your imagination with picture-perfect temples, traditional wooden houses, colourful geishas and serene Zen gardens. Wander the evocative streets of the geisha district of Gion to discover traditional tea houses and merchant houses. At Nijo Castle try to tread lightly on the ‘nightingale floor’ which was designed to alert residents to an intruder's presence. Kyoto is also renowned for its rich history, woodblock painting and excellent vegetarian restaurants serving shojin ryori, or Zen Buddhist temple cuisine.
Despite its tragic past Hiroshima has emerged from the dark cloud of the devastating 1945 nuclear bombing as a vibrant and thriving city that boasts tree-lined boulevards, fantastic museums, historic monuments, enchanting gardens and excellent cuisine. Ride one of Japan's last remaining tram systems to the Peace Memorial Park and museum to learn about Hiroshima's tragic history; or take a picnic to the serene Shukkeien Garden, a quintessential Japanese garden with a koi-filled pond, beautiful landscaping and traditional tea houses. The city is also the gateway to the picturesque island of Miyajima, the Island of Shrines, which is famously home to the striking 12th-Century Itsukushima Shrine.
Japan’s second largest city is a buzzing aquapolis often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its numerous canals and river channels. Osaka is also known as the ‘gastronomist’s town’ and ‘the stomach of Japan’ and it embraces its status of a food-loving city, boasting an array of restaurants and food stalls and within its underground maze of shopping malls.
As the final destination on the famous Silk Route, Nara adopted influences from a wealth of different cultures and it is a veritable repository of cultural and historic treasures including some of the country’s oldest temples. The fascinating city can easily be explored in a day.
This dramatic series of mountains bisect the main island of Honshu and host several hot springs, known locally as onsen. This region provides a tranquil contrast after exploration of the bustling cities and journeying through the Alps is a feast for the eyes as spectacular mountain and valley scenery rolls by. Charming mountain towns such as Matsumoto, Kanazawa and Takayama offer an intriguing insight into some of the lesser-visited parts of Japan.
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