There is beauty to every country in this world, but there are some places that captivate our soul more than others. Japan is one of these places. It’s the perfect blend of tradition and innovation. It’s a country of endless possibilities: karaoke, sushi, anime, origami, tea ceremonies, vending machines, 3D nails, Hello Kitty, samurai, cherry blossom, and much more. The first time you set foot in Japan it becomes obvious that you are about to experience some unique things for the very first time in your life.
In the Japanese language, Nihon or Nippon (literally means “the origin of the sun”) is the source of popular epithet “Land of the Rising Sun” – and indeed Japan is all that. For many years, it has been a favourite travel destination for wanderers, history buffs, students and tourists. There are so many things about this country that attract those with various interests; but one thing is for sure, it’s a place that always leaves you craving for more. Whether the secret lies in its history, nature or people, Japan has this amazing capacity to keep you coming back – again and again. With breathtaking beauty, captivating history, alluring traditions and a delicious variety of Asian food, this eternal hot spot will leave you completely intoxicated.
The capital city, and one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world, is a must-see for any travel lover. The city offers an amazing fusion of ancient culture and ultra-modern architecture, numerous parks and gardens, and Tokyo Harbour. It is a home to the new Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in both Japan and the world, and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Some would describe Tokyo as either strange or fascinating, but if anywhere in Japan, this is the place you would less likely feel “Gaijin,” which is how they describe a Western foreigner.
The city has it all! Old temples and shrines, weird and wonderful museums, vibrant city streets and numerous activities to choose from. Shibuya area in Tokyo is well known as a popular shopping district, one of the fashion centres of Japan and major nightlife area. Takeshita Street, in colourful Harajuku district, gives you opportunity to experience vintage stores and popular themed cafés. Ginza Six is a sparkling new shopping complex that spans a whole city block with over 240 shops throughout luxurious interior design. Ryōgoku Kokugikan arena hosts three annual official grand sumo tournaments under its green, pavilion style roof. Official tournaments last just over two weeks each, which means that any visit should be planned well in advance. And if you love to enjoy early mornings, Tsukiji Fish Market is the place to go. Tourists arrive hours before 5 a.m. to catch a spot open to the public for observing the market′s tuna auctions. All in all, Tokyo is a never-ending thrill ride for any visitor and every visit makes you love this place even more.
2. Izu Ōshima
Izu Ōshima is the largest (and the closest) of Tokyo′s outlying islands. It is an inhabited volcanic island, in the Izu archipelago in the Philippine Sea, off the coast of Honshu, Japan. The island is reachable by either plane or ferry and offers plenty of hiking routes, water sports and hot springs so it is best to give yourself a day or two to enjoy this spectacular place. It was featured prominently in films The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Ring, and Pokémon franchise – so you don′t want to skip paying a visit.
3. Tokyo Disneyland And Disneysea
Located in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, Disneyland and DisneySea are must-see amusement parks in Asia. An interesting fact is that these parks are the only Disney parks not wholly or partly owned by the Walt Disney Company. But it doesn’t mean you and your family won’t get your money’s worth. There’s plenty to see and do, and both parks will provide all day enjoyment for the entire family.
Considered to be the one of the most traditional cities in the country, Nagoya surprisingly offers a variety of amusement for travellers. Situated on the Shinkansen route (a Japanese high-speed railway route between Tokyo and Kyoto) it’s a convenient stop for adventure seekers. Its Sakae area is most popular for karaoke bars and “nomihodai” (all you can drink) restaurants and clubs. Women travellers can experience rides in women only subway carriages. Families can enjoy a trip to the Nagoya Zoo, City Science Museum or Legoland. There’s a variety to choose from, but keep in mind that museums in Nagoya could be challenging for non-Japanese speaking tourists as only little information is given in English.
What was once the capital of Japan, now is one of the most important places to visit for any history lover. Kyoto is famous for its numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, imperial palaces and some of the most beautiful gardens. A two-day visit provides plenty of time to enjoy all of its beauty and splendour.
The vibrant and lively city of Osaka is a commercial centre of Japan – famous for its nightlife and street food. While in Osaka, try some of the most delicious food that actually isn’t sushi. We recommend takoyaki – fried spheres filled with chopped up octopus, onigiri – rice balls filled with seafood or vegetables and okonomiyaki – a combination of crispy pizza and pancake filled with delicious ingredients of your choice.
7. Shirakawa-gō Village
One of the most beautiful and captivating places to visit, famous for its traditional farmhouses and rice fields, Shirakawa-gō village is a UNESCO World Heritage site situated in the remote mountains of Gifu Prefecture. The famous architectural style developed over many generations is designed to withstand large amounts of snow during winter. Enjoy the exquisite beauty of this area or engage in rice planting activities for a complete local experience.
Narrow streets of its historic district are lined with wooden merchants′ houses dating to the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868). When visiting, make sure you enjoy Hida beef specialties and take time to watch the making of Sarubobo doll amulets, which are traditionally made by mothers for their daughters as charm blessings for a happy marriage and smooth birth delivery. Both are particularly associated with this area.
A modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Today, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the 1945 event. This interesting and completely rebuilt city is an important historical area to visit due to it being an educational and memorable piece of history.
10. Mt. Fuji
Mount Fuji, commonly called “Fuji-san,” is an active volcano and the country′s tallest peak at 3.776 metres. A pilgrimage site for centuries, it’s considered to be one of Japan′s three most sacred mountains. Every year, many locals and foreigners try to climb the summit and experience the perfect sunrise – one of the most magical scenes!
Whether you visit all of these places or just a few, you will undoubtedly have some of the most memorable experiences of your life. In the world of endless knowledge, experiences and opportunities, it is only natural to follow the voice within to explore and put yourself in the midst of change by embracing a chance to create a better tomorrow. We live, we travel, we grow! What an amazing way to grow with a piece of Japanese beauty that we can carry within our souls.