Japan, also known as Nihon, is one of the most dynamic and diverse country in the world. The contradiction it shows in its temples, shrines and carefully preserved historical monuments on one hand and the modern architecture, skyscrapers on the other, is truly mesmerizing. The natural and manmade beauty, breath-taking panorama, and the inherent uncanny ability of the Japanese to find and show beauty in each and every thing is truly admirable.
Welcome to the futuristic modern world where modern technology goes in hand with traditional history, where skyscrapers and neon lighted streets are as common as temples, shrines and gardens.
Facts about Tokyo:
Tokyo, capital of Japan, is also one of its 47 prefectures. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. It is the seat of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese government. Tokyo is in the Kantō region on the south eastern side of the main island Honshu and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Formerly known as Edo, it has been the de facto seat of government since 1603 when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters. It officially became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from the old capital of Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Tokyo is often referred to as a city, but is officially known and governed as a “metropolitan prefecture”, which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo. The prefecture is part of the world’s most populous metropolitan area with upwards of 37.8 million people and the world’s largest urban agglomeration economy. The city hosts 51 of the Fortune Global 500 companies, the highest number of any city in the world. Tokyo ranked third in the International Financial Centres Development IndexEdit. The city is also home to various television networks like Fuji TV, Tokyo MX, TV Tokyo, TV Asahi, Nippon Television, NHK and the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
Tokyo ranked first in the Global Economic Power Index and fourth in the Global Cities Index. The city is considered an alpha+ world city – as listed by the GaWC’s 2008 inventory – and in 2014, Tokyo was ranked first in the “Best overall experience” category of TripAdvisor’s World City Survey (the city also ranked first in the following categories: “helpfulness of locals”, “nightlife”, “shopping”, “local public transportation” and “cleanliness of streets”).
In 2015, Tokyo was ranked as the 11th most expensive city for expatriates, according to the Mercer consulting firm, and also the world’s 11th most expensive city, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s cost-of-living survey. In 2015, Tokyo was named the Most Liveable City in the world by the magazine Monocle. The Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world. Tokyo ranked first in the world in the Safe Cities Index. The 2016 edition of QS Best Student Cities ranked Tokyo as the 3rd-best city in the world to be a university student. Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics, the 1979 G-7 summit, the 1986 G-7 summit, and the 1993 G-7 summit, and will host the 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2020 Summer Paralympics.
Fun things to do in TOKYO:
There is something for everybody to do or see in Tokyo! You name it and Tokyo has it. Tokyo has an eclectic mix of the urban, and the futuristic, the traditional and aesthetic, you can roam around the streets of Akihabara for an entire day shopping and would still end up just scratching the surface.
You would just enjoy riding on and off the numerous sub-way metro train stations and lose yourself in these wonderful maze of train stations, never wanting to get out. You could walk the entire Omotesando alley and marvel through the shop windows at the treasures kept inside and wanting to be treated like royalty, and the list goes on.
A special mention is needed for Ginza, which is a world famous shopping district and the home base of some famous international brands; for eg : Shiseido, and for the rich and famous a preferred shopping destination. Out of the only three Disneylands in the world, one is in the outskirts of Tokyo, with a DisneySea and Disneyland Resort covering an entire island! This is must see/ do things while you are here and a major tourist attraction.
If you really like Japanese cuisine, Tokyo offers a huge, mind boggling range of options to eat anything from Ramen shops to udon, soba noodles and sushi bars. Whatever your budget, there will be a place where you can eat your fill and still want more. There are special food tours which you can take with us to explore the gastronomical delights and hidden gems in this city.
Some of the famous tourist spots in Tokyo are:
Tokyo tower/Skytree, Imperial Gardens, Asakusa Shrine, Odaiba, Akihabara, Ginza, Disneyland & Sea, Tokyo National Museum, and more.
Osaka (大阪, Ōsaka) is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. It has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for many centuries. Osaka was formerly known as Naniwa. Before the Nara Period, when the capital used to be moved with the reign of each new emperor, Naniwa was once Japan’s capital city, the first one ever known.
Also known as the gastronomical capital if Japan and a major tourist attraction, Osaka is famous for its food, its night markets, its skyscrapers and of course, its home to Universal Studios where fans can just lose themselves in the fairy-world it takes us to.
Fun things to do in Osaka:
What is true with entire Japan, we can see with Osaka as well. This city has everything for everybody. Apart from the usual run-of-the-mill tourist spots, Osaka offers unusual and unique destinations for the travelling soul. You have the utmost modern Osaka city skyline, its museums, aquariums, gardens, observation towers, and that too world class and worth a visit.
At the same time, if you interested in looking at the other side, you can also visit the outskirts of Osaka, where day trips to nearby interiors can give you the real feel of the countryside. Day trips to Kobe, Nara, Kinosaki, Mt. Koya, Himeji, Nagomi, etc. will show the spiritual, natural and scenic beauty Japan is known for.
Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan by population and most populous municipality of Japan. It is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu. It is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area.
Being a port city, this was the first international city of Japan, having many firsts, like the first photography in Japan, the first foreign settlements, first ice cream, first beer in Japan, etc. Yokohama also has a huge number of immigrants from China, Korea, Philippines and Brazil. The Yokohama Chinatown, is the largest in Japan, and one of the largest in the world.
Fun things to do in Yokohama:
Yokohama keeps the tradition of the country wherein the entire city is a tourist attraction. The port, is a world class port with having the fame of being the most productive port in the world. The historic downtown port district, location of the first foreign settlement, is known as Kannai. Next to the waterfront Yamashita Park is the museum ship, Hikawa Maru, and the Yokohama Marine Tower, the tallest inland lighthouse in the world. Further inland lies Yokohama Chinatown, the largest Chinatown in Japan and one of the largest in the world. Nearby is Yokohama Stadium, the Yokohama Silk Museum, and the Yokohama Doll Museum. The food tourism locales of Isezakichō and Noge offer many colourful shops and bars that, with their restaurants and stores catering to residents from China, Thailand, South Korea, and other countries, have an increasingly international flavour.
Tourists who love skating can visit the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center and enjoy world class skating facilities.
The small but fashionable Motomachi shopping area leads up to Yamate, or “The Bluff” as it used to be known, a 19th/early 20th century Westerners’ settlement overlooking the harbour, scattered with foreigners’ mansions. A foreigners’ cemetery and the Harbour View Park (港の見える丘公園 Minato no mieru oka kōen) is in the area. Within the park are a rose garden and the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature.
There are various tourist attractions in the futuristic Minato Mirai 21 harbourside redevelopment. The highlights are the Landmark Tower which was the tallest building in Japan (until surpassed in 2014 by the Abeno Harukas building in Osaka), Queen’s Square Yokohama (a shopping mall) and the Cosmo Clock 21, which was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world when it was built in 1989 and which also doubles as “the world’s biggest clock”.
The Shin-Yokohama district, where the Shinkansen station is located, is some distance away from the harbour area, and features the 17,000 capacity Yokohama Arena, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum and Nissan Stadium, known as the International Stadium Yokohama when it was the setting for the final for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Sankei-en is a traditional Japanese-style garden in Naka Ward. Designed by businessman Tomitaro Hara, it contains seventeen old buildings brought from all over Japan, ten of which have been declared Important National Cultural Properties.
If you are pressed for time, the One Day Yokohama Tour released by HATO BUS is a good tour to take and see the city in a day, though you might not be able to soak the myriad colours of Yokohama in a day!
Kyoto being an erstwhile capital of Japan, is as historic a place as it can get. So be ready to soak in number of temples, shrines, parks, castles, old districts, festival events, the works.
Kyoto is located in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the Imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, it is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture located in the Kansai region, as well as a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Kyoto is also known as the thousand-year capital.
With over 2000 religious places, hundreds of gardens, and tons of museums and other tourist attractions, as a tourist you are spoilt for choices and may take the well-travelled path. Though we would advise you to stop and smell the roses!
Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu – the largest island of Japan. The city’s name means “Broad Island” in Japanese. It really appears wide, due to its wide roads, spacious areas, huge gardens, a castle bang in the middle of the city, huge departmental stores, TOKYU HANDS, especially, which is a major tourist attraction as well.
Hiroshima is also unfortunately known for being the first place to be victim of the atomic bomb and its horrific aftermath. The Atomic Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, which is also a World Heritage site and a tourist attraction, showcases the horror in form of pictures, videos, artefacts and remnants of the time of the bombing and most of it is heart-wrenching. But its an important and painful reminder of the effects of atomic bombings and aftermath of war.
On the other hand, the way Hiroshima has built itself up post war to be one of the most beautiful, progressive futuristic city of Japan is commendable and worth admiration. Hiroshima is blessed with moderate climate and is pleasant all year round, except August, when it can get hot and humid.
Miyajima Island: – A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is the Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is famous for its natural scenic beauty, the Itsukushima Shrine and Famous Torii gate, a UNESCO world heritage site, which has now become almost the national identity of Japan. The island is full of freely roaming friendly deer, and has a number of temples, including Toyokuni Shrine with a five-storied pagoda, and Daiganji Temple – one of the three most famous Benzaiten temples of Japan. The island is also famous for its upper hill side cherry blossoms and maple leaf autumn foliage.
Okinawa which was formerly the Ryukyu kingdom annexed in Japan, extends from the southern tip of japan to almost Taiwan in the south china sea. With a semi tropical climate, it has a stark contrast with rest of Japan. With its clear blue waters, pristine beaches and natural beauty, Okinawa is a major tourist attraction.
Fun things to do in Okinawa:
Shikinaen Garden was part of the Shuri Castle complex, however today the grounds of Shuri Castle have been reduced, leaving the Shikinaen Garden 1.5km from the center of Shuri Castle. Shikinaen Garden is in the outer suburbs of Naha on the main island of Naha Okinawa and a World Heritage Site. The Shikinaen Garden, constructed in 1799, is a rare and historically significant example of Ryukyun landscape gardening. Shikinaen features elements such as the circular layout which is seen in more modern Japanese gardens, along with a pond with a bridge to a small island which follows the Chinese style. These elements are combined with Ryukuan styled villa. Shikinaen was used as an area for the royals to relax or entertain important guests such as the envoys from China. Shikinaen is designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty.
Shuri Castle in Shuri Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Shuri Castle is a gusuku (Okinawa) style Japanese Castle which dates back to the 14th century, and was constructed by the Ryukyu kingdom. Shuri Castle contained the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1945 the castle was almost completely destroyed by shells from USA war ships. Shuri Castle was reconstructed between 1958 and 1992.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium :-
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is famous for its massive main tank which holds 7,500 cubic metres of water and features panel 8.2×22.5 metres. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium features tropical fish, over 80 spies of coral, sharks, including the massive whale shark and manta ray.
Manza Beach is a white sand beach on part of a peninsula which extends out from the west coast of the main island of Okinawa. The 300 metre long Manza Beach is dominated by the multi story ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort located at its western end.
Kokusai Dori is the main shopping precinct in Naha, with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques along both sides. Historically Kokusai Dori was known as “The Miracle Mile” because of its rapid recovery after World War II.
Forest Adventure Park/Obstacle Course:-
It’s a new rage in Onna, Okinawa, where you get to do 2 hour obstacle course through the jungle, with sling and zip lines and rope walks. It’s thrilling, its fun and its for the adventure hungry. So if you want a break from shrines, gardens and lakes, head here for some adrenaline rush and be refreshed for the rest of your tour!
Hokkaido (literally “Northern Sea Circuit”), formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is the second largest island of Japan, and the largest and northernmost prefecture. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu. The two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaido is its capital, Sapporo.
Hokkaido is one of the best travel destinations in Japan. Located at the country’s northern extremity, this tourist place, accounts for more than 22 % of the Japan’s land area. This makes it one of the biggest islands in Japan. The tourism conditions in Hokkaido are great. The summers are very nice because of the low humidity, and there are great many tourists that are visiting Japan during the summers. During the winter, Hokkaido turns into a snowglobe fairytale, and there are great offers by the winter resorts around the country, and you can enjoy winter sports. Not only during the winter or summer, but this island is becoming a popular tourist destination throughout the year.
Fun things to do in Hokkaido:-
Hokkaido hosts over 1200 festivals throughout the year as per the seasons. The flower shows in Hokkaido during summer are breathtakingly beautiful painting the town lavender! The fall and winter season is when Hokkaido turns into a winter wonderland. Hokkaido hosts many snow festivals and the place erupts with various snow sculptures with myriad colors emitting from the structures. The snow resorts are equally fun with something to do for everyone visiting this fantastic place. There are more than 15 national parks and forest areas, hikes, mountain trails for the adventurous. With its fair share of volcanic mountains and hot springs, lakes and woods, Hokkaido is a nature lover’s paradise. With a high population of brown bears, one should be careful not to run into one in the woods though! Guides are available at every tourist attraction to ease your travel and make it a great tourist experience.
Visit Farm Tomita in Kamifurano for the most amazingly beautiful acres of land filled with rows of flowers, visit an Ainu village to see the local lifestyle. Hokkaido is famous for its agricultural produce and has one of the best sake and beer breweries in Japan. So, sample some sake while you decide, which will be a difficult task, of what to see and what to skip on this wonderful island of Japan!
During the Edo Period, Kanazawa (金沢) served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa in terms of rice production and fief size. Accordingly, Kanazawa grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivaling Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).
During World War Two, Kanazawa was Japan’s second largest city (after Kyoto) to escape destruction by air raids. Consequently, parts of the old castle town, such as the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in considerably good condition.
Today, Kanazawa remains an important city in its region and serves as the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa’s unchallenged main tourist attraction is Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens” and by many considered the most beautiful of them all.
Tourists interested in Japanese history, samurai, geisha and ninjas, etc will therefore will be happy to visit the preserved samurai district, the geisha Chaya district, the kanazawa castle and the ninja temple. Popular sidetrips are the Shirakawa-go (白川郷, Shirakawagō) and neighboring Gokayama (五箇山) regions, which line the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer”, as the farmhouses’ steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.
Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go’s largest village and main attraction, makes a good day trip from Takayama, or a stop on the bus journey between Takayama and Kanazawa. The best way to experience the town, however, is to stay overnight at one of the farmhouses, many of which now serve as minshuku or private lodging.
Gokayama is a little more difficult to access and requires a change of buses in Ogimachi. Less developed and less crowded than Shirakawa-go, its villages are smaller, more intimate and with less intrusion from modern buildings. Gokayama’s nicest villages are Suganuma and Ainokura.
Kamakura (鎌倉) is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, less than an hour south of Tokyo, is a small city and a very popular tourist destination. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments. In addition, Kamakura’s sand beaches attract large crowds during the summer months.
Fun things to do in Kamakura:-
Kamakura has a rich history since it has been a former capital of Japan, and thus houses its fair share of shrines, temples, castles etc. The major attractions are the Daibutsu or Buddha statue which is the second tallest in Japan, and the white sandy beaches of kamakura. Due to its proximity to tokyo, it gets its fair share of weekend travellers, mostly locals, who come to enjoy the seaside and relax in its sub-tropical climate.
- FUJI / THE FIVE LAKES (KAWAGUCHIKO):-
Mt. Fuji, the iconic mountain of Japan, which is also volcanically active, is a most popular tourist destination of Japan. Alternatively, the five lakes surrounding the mountain, which are accessed from the other way round the mountain are equally popular for their natural beauty and scenic panorama.
The Fuji Five Lake (富士五湖, Fujigoko) region lies at the northern base of Mount Fuji about 1000 meters above sea level around the lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko. It is one of the best places to view Mount Fuji from a close distance and a good base for climbing the mountain.
Fujigoko is known as a lake resort area, where hiking, camping, fishing and snow sports are among the popular outdoor activities that can be enjoyed. There are also plenty of hot springs and museums found in the area, along with Fuji Q Highland, one of Japan’s most popular amusement parks with record breaking roller coasters.
Among the lakes, Lake Kawaguchiko is the easiest to access and offers the most things to see and do for the average foreign traveler. The four other lakes are less developed than Lake Kawaguchiko and are not as easy to access by public transportation.
So, soak up in an onsen with Mt. Fuji as your view, or ride the crazy rollercoasters of the Fuji Q Highland park, or go boating at Kawaguchiko. If visiting in season, you can enjoy the Shibazakura festival, which is held annually. The land around the lakes turns pink due to the pink moss which grows there which looks stunning. For the more adventurous, there are various caves which have been created by previous eruptions and
Japan’s first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara (奈良). As the influence and political ambitions of the city’s powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784.
Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.
Nara is also known for its beautiful foliage, which is at its best in the spring and fall season. Yoshino, which is famous for its cherry blosson, the area has over 10,000 cherry trees lined up around a mountain, making it the best spot to view cherry blossom in the country!
Nikko is most commonly visited as a day trip from Tokyo via train (2 hours). If you have more time, you can use Nikko as a base to visit Kinugawa, home of the Edo Wonderland Historical Theme Park, as well as the beautiful hiking, viewpoints, and waterfalls near Lake Chuzenji, 1 hour by bus from Nikko.
Nikko (日光, Nikkō) is a town at the entrance to Nikko National Park, most famous for Toshogu, Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Nikko had been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries before Toshogu was built in the 1600s, and Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails.
Nikko and the Okunikko area around Lake Chuzenji are well known for their beautiful autumn colors (koyo). In an average year, the colors start descending from the higher elevations of Yumoto Onsen in early October, are best around Lake Chuzenji and the Irohazaka road in mid to late October and reach the town of Nikko in the first half of November.
Nikko is located along Japan’s Romantic Road.
Romantic Road:- Japan’s version of Germany’s “Romantic Road” leads over about 350 kilometers from Ueda City in Nagano Prefecture through the mountains of Gunma Prefecture to Utsunomiya City in Tochigi Prefecture.
Various interesting towns, hot spring resorts and lots of natural scenery can be enjoyed along the Romantic Road, including the mountain resort of Karuizawa, active volcanoes, the hot spring mecca of Kusatsu and the world heritage sites of Nikko.