The ethereal Japan is as stunning as it is unique. A collection of mysterious islands, where past meets future in the most enchanting setting. Throughout the country – elegant temples sit coloured by cherry blossoms, and vast neon skylines crown the skies of huge metropolises such as Tokyo. In contrast – Kyotos streets are peaceful and lined with pretty temples and traditional sweet shops. In-between the cities and quaint towns, youll find lengths of poetic landscapes, lined with lakes and hot springs culminating in dense forested mountains.
Japanese culture is often difficult for westerners to understand – and vice-versa, but from the splendour of a Kyoto geisha dance to the minimalistic charms of a Zen Rock garden – you, just like everyone else before you, will be captivated. Its a destination for all kinds of travellers – whether a full blown foodies – a history-mad family or loved up couples. An intriguing part of Japanese culture comes in the form of its cuisine. Namely a Kaiseki Restaurant. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner known for its impeccable presentation and meticulous preparation techniques. Meals often have more than 14 courses and each meal is the creation of a master chef. Expect to encounter colourful seasonal dishes, pickles, hot pots, sashimi, fruit and everything in-between. The rest of Japanese cuisine is no less mouthwatering – from Osakas savoury pancakes, udon noodles and takoyaki and Kanazawas traditional seafood fare, through to well known staples of Japanese cuisine such as sushi and miso soup.
Tokyo is perhaps one of the most unique cities in the world and frankly one of our favourite. There are 50 neighbourhoods to explore such as Shinjuku – which is home to towering skyscrapers and all kinds of people, and Ginza which is great for shopping, to the colourful Harajuku and Shibuya areas – which are fantastic for a little people-watching – spotting the weird and wonderful fashionistas that inhabit Tokyo and Roppongi, which is well known for its nightlife. Kyoto is a city for history lovers – and is home to an astonishing 17 World Heritage sites and literally thousands of temples, from the Kiyomizu and Sanjusangendo Temples, through to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and the UNESCO listed Nijo Castle. One of our favourite spots is the Kinkakuji buddhist temple – a former retirement villa, which is perched on the banks of a quiet pond and surrounded by lush green gardens. Nagasaki is perhaps the most culturally diverse city in Japan, showing the influence of many cultures such as Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese – as it was until recent history the only port that allowed passage to foreign ships. Its home to plenty of tourist sites as well as a busy harbour but our favourite thing to do here is the Lantern Festival, which is held each year in the early part of the year for Lunar New Year. Large lanterns are displayed on street corners and throughout shopping arcades until some 20,000 more are let go by the river in the evening.
Nature & the Old World
Perhaps the crown on Japans beautiful outdoors is the majestic, snow-topped Mt. Fuji – which on the clearest of days is visible from hundreds of kilometres away. Though the best place to view the mountain is the Fuji Five Lakes region, followed by Hakone and of course from Tokyo – where there are several observation decks across the city. Lake Kawaguchi, the and the Peaceful Deer Park in Nara are all worth exploring too. One of our favourite old towns in Japan is Takayama which is nestled quite comfortably in the Japanese Alps and full of absolutely beautiful, though quaint, Japanese scenery. Another intriguing option on a visit to Japan is Miyajima (or Itsukushima), which is an island famed for its UNESCO listed Itsukushima Shrine – a Shinto shrine, which in turn is known for its “floating” torii gate, which waits to greet visitors to the island.
Japan’s location at the outermost edge of Asia has had a huge influence on the countrys history. Just close enough to mainland Asia, yet far enough to keep itself distant. Its comparable to the relationship between Britain and the rest of Europe, but with much more extreme outcomes. Recorded history begins in the 5th century, although archaeological evidence of settlements stretches back 50,000. Indeed the history of Japan, whether its royal history its natural history can be traced all over the country. We recommend Kyoto to explore the countrys more peaceful past. If youre interested, then a tour of Hiroshimas Peace Memorial Park can be both moving and poignant.
If youre all ready to book your holiday to Japan, then youll find that we have a great selection of offers available – take a look here – and remember – when you book with us you can save up to 5%.