Rich in history and tradition, Japan offers visitors from abroad a kaleidoscope of cultural experience. Japan’s beautiful, volcanic mountainous terrain and vibrant cities offer something for every traveller. In the cities colourful paper lanterns line the front of shops and the night sky is lit up with neon signs. In contrast, the villages and countryside are tranquil havens, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, especially in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Japan truly does offer tourists a land full of surprising discoveries and beauty.
The Best of Japan Sightseeing
Japan is a beautiful jumble of the ancient mixed with the modern. From the glittering streets of Tokyo to the quiet gardens of Himeji and magnificent shrines of Kyoto, there is certainly plenty to keep visitors to Japan busy.
The lively city of Tokyo is the country’s largest city and the capital of Japan. There are dozens of shrines, gardens and museums to fill the itinerary of those who want to experience the culture of Japan. There are also fantastic shopping spots in Tokyo where you are bound to find a good deal, no matter what you’re looking for. The metropolis of Tokyo offers such a wide range of sightseeing attractions tourists could easily spend an entire trip just in this amazing city. Sites not to be missed include Sensoji temple, Gokoku-ji temple, where you can experience a Japanese tea ceremony, the exquisite Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo National Museum and the Imperial Palace. The palace is closed to the public for most of the year but if you book long in advance you can arrange a guided tour. Shopaholics will want to visit the bustling shopping districts of Shibuya, Takeshita-dori and Akihabara.
Situated on the island of Honshu, Osaka is Japan’s third largest city that can be reached by overnight bus from Tokyo, by Shinkansen (bullet) train, or by air, via Kansai Airport. The city is a fascinating combination of ancient and modern it makes for interesting sightseeing for tourists. Highlights include Osaka Expo Park, full of cherry blossoms in the spring and gorgeous hues of red and orange in autumn, Osaka Castle, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and the 8-story Osaka Aquarium.
Just west of Osaka is the city of Himeji. Here you will find Japan’s most spectacular feudal castle, Himeji Castle, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The gorgeous wooden interiors and Japanese architecture make this a must-see on any tourist’s itinerary. When you’re in the city you should also visit Kokoen Gardens and Mount Shosha, which was featured in the film “The Last Samurai” and is the site of the Engyoji temple complex.
Famous for its thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kyoto is the ideal tourist destination if traditional culture is your thing. It takes 3 hours to reach Kyoto by bullet train from Tokyo. Tourist attractions include the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji), Ryoan-ji Temple, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the district of Gion, where you may catch a glimpse of a geisha or maiko.
In spite of its tragic history, Hiroshima is a great tourist destination with plenty to see. Attractions include Miyajima Island, Shukkeien gardens, and the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, built to commemorate the atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and the devastating consequences. It makes for a very emotional visit.
Located to the north of Tokyo, the small city of Nikko has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. Tourists flock to see the lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine, and appreciate the beautiful landscapes and the Yumoto Onsen hot spring in Nikko National Park. Just outside Nikko, surrounded by forests and waterfalls you’ll find Lake Chuzenji. It’s is one of the most stunning sights you’ll find in Japan in the autumn when leaves create a picture-postcard scene of every shade of orange, red and yellow imaginable. Chuzenji Onsen is a beautiful hot spring resort that can be reached by bus from Nikko.
Custom, Culture and Cuisine
Japan is a cultural delight for tourists, from brightly coloured festivals and delicious food to exquisite temples and traditional art.
Common dishes in Japanese cuisine include sushi, tempura and seafood dishes that usually conclude with cup of green tea. Tourists who want to experience genuine Japanese sushi without the expense of a pricey sushi restaurant should visit the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. It is the biggest wholesale fish market in Japan and offers sushi at reasonable prices. If you would prefer to eat at a sushi restaurant, reasonably priced restaurants can be found in the Kawaramachi area of Kyoto and the Dotonbori area in Osaka. The Edo Ichi Honten restaurant in Tokyo offers an English menu and is reasonably priced.
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when trying to conjure up images of Japan is the beautiful painted, white face of a geisha. Geishas study the arts of music, singing, traditional dance, the tea ceremony, ikebana (flower arranging), poetry and literature. The apprentice geisha is known as a maiko. Today geisha are a rare sight. Although the number of geisha in Japan is declining you may still be able to catch a glimpse of these kimono-wearing entertainers in the Pontocho and Gion districts of Kyoto. Other cultural highlights in Japan include tea ceremonies, which you can experience at one of the many teahouses in Tokyo, and Sumo wrestling, which you can watch at Tokyo’s Kokugikan sumo stadium in January, May and September.
The juxtaposition of old and new in the “Land of the Rising Sun” is fascinating. Japan is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a holiday out of the ordinary. Spring is the best times of year to visit thanks to warm temperatures, lively festivals and the stunning cherry blossoms (sakura) that bloom in March and April.