The Land of the Rising Sun as it is often referred to is situated in north-eastern Asia.
Known as Nihon or Nippon in Japanese, this rich country consists of four major islands and surrounded by more than 4000 smaller islands.
With towering mountains, beautiful sceneries and winding valleys spread around the country, Japan’s four major islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The Japanese archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, thus making it home to many active volcanoes and earthquakes scares, the most recent devastating destruction and tsunami onset taking place in the northeast coast of Japan.
The official language is Japanese and English is spoken as well, though not as rampant as a traveller would fancy. Heading to Japan with an easy phrase book can aid in communications.
Japan’s capital Tokyo is a vibrant modern metropolitan with a skyline filled with towering skyscrapers and neon lights flashing all day long. It a city with over 126 million people and walking along its busy streets can sometimes feel like rush hour in New York. Everyone walks in a fast pace towards the subways or bus stops.
As you know, Japan is famous for its Nozomi Shinkansen or more commonly called the ‘Bullet Train’. Commencing operations in 1964, it’s a network of high-speed railway lines operated by four different railway groups of companies. On an average subway ride, you might see passengers viewing Japanese cartoons (anime) or incredibly violent pornography on their communication devices. Even though the distribution of pornography is against the law, a thriving genre of underground pornography in Japan referred to as urabon has become prevalent on the Internet.
The two major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. Shinto is an ancient animist religion while Buddhism from India found its way to the islands about twelve hundred years ago. With these two major religions, travellers will find the country rich in beautiful temples and shrines. In between modern skyscrapers travellers might discover sliding wooden doors which lead to traditional chambers adorned with tatami mats, calligraphy and ongoing tea ceremonies.
Cities are as modern and high tech as anywhere else, but tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to glass fronted designer condominiums. These juxtapositions mean you may often be surprised and rarely bored by your travels in Japan.
Its snowy frontier is home to the native Ainu people and Otaru, the region’s largest port. There are also seven national parks in this region. The only land link that Hokkaido has to the main island of Honshu is the Seikan Tunnel, the world's longest rail tunnel.
This is a rural region best known for seafood and hot springs. This region is home to many historical castles and samurai residences.
Home to the country’s capital Tokyo and Japan’s second largest city, Yokohama. Tokyo’s two main airports are Narita and Haneda.
Home to the city of Nagoya, the Japanese Alps and Mount Fuji, its tourist attractions reside only in the mountains.
Home to the city of Osaka, it was once the ancient region of culture and commerce. Visit the Himeji castle and temples on Mount Koya.
Another rural region and home to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Chugoku is also home to Iwami Ginzan, one of the largest silver mines during the 16th century which is recorded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007.
This region is a famous destination for the Shingon sect of Buddhist pilgrims and also for adventure seekers indulging in white water rafting on the Yoshino River. Marugame, Kochi, Matsuyama and Uwajima Castle are located here.
The main cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu are located here. Miyazaki is the famous tourist surfing spot while the U.S. Navy Base is located at Sasebo, Nagasaki prefecture.
Home to the beautiful diving and snorkelling spots in Akajima, Tokashiki and Zamami in the Kerama islands, 400 types of corals, 5 types of sea turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and many kinds of tropical fish are found here.
Visit the Ritsurin Park:
A beautiful and very large Japanese landscape garden built for the Sanuki and Sasuma lords.
Photograph the Horyuji Temple:
A large Buddhist temple complex situated in the Kansai region.
Take on the holy pilgrimage:
Many Buddhist seek to complete this 1647 km trail around the island of Shikoku.
Hiking and Trekking:
Challenge yourself with the iconic Mount Fuji standing at 3776 meters.
Take a hot springs dip:
Located in Kyushu, the eight different hot springs areas are Beppu, Kannawa, Myoban, Kankaiji, Kamegawa, Hamawaki, Horita and Shibaseki.
Shop for fashion:
Shibuya is known for its streets filled with the latest fashion however note that they cater mostly to Japanese-sized customers and finding anything else for those curvier frames can seem like an impossible task.
Indulge in Japanese cuisine:
Apart from Sushi and Sashimi, try Ramen, Soba, Teppanyaki, Karaage, Sukiyaki, Sake and so much more.
Experience a Festival:
Some of the many famous festivals are the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Omizutori, the Takayama Matsuri, the Nebuta Matsuri, the Awa Odori and the Jidai Matsuri.
Photograph the famous Cherry Blossom during Hanami:
Blooming around March, April and May, Sakura as it is called holds a very prominent position in Japanese Culture.
Visit a castle:
The Himeji Castle is considered Japan’s best preserved feudal castle. There are others of course like the Matsumoto, Matsue, Hikone, Hirosaki, Matsuyama, Inuyama, Kochi Castles and the Imperial East Gardens.
Skiing and Snowboarding:
The best resorts are found in Hokkaido and Nagano. Most visited by foreigners is the Niseko Resort offering powder snow and great views of Mount Yotei.
Head to a Museum:
There are many museums around Japan, some of which are the Abashiri Prison Museum, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, the Meiji Mura and the Historical Village of Hokkaido.
Go gadget crazy in Akihabara:
The district for electronic goods located in central Tokyo.
Tsukiji Fish Market:
The famous wholesale fish market that also has a lovely spread of food stalls and restaurants that open from 5am. Make sure to visit the Tuna Auction which is limited to only 140 visitors per day.
Opened in 1983, the theme park is just a five minute walk from the JR Maihama Station.
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