Japan is like two sides of a coin. The one you see immediately is cosmopolitan and hectic, the hub of the newest technologies. Alongside this, there’s its ancient civilization, the culture of which is so strong that it colors Japanese modern society till today.
Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The largest amongst these are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.
Tokyo, Japan’s overwhelming capital city is located on the main island of Honshu. It is a fascinating mix of modern and traditional, in some ways a trailer of Japan as a whole. The sheer mass of humanity living at such a fast pace can be dizzying for some first timers. Once you get used to the lights and sounds of the city, you’ll notice how beautifully new age technology merges with old world manners. Get your Tokyo fix by sampling delicious foods such as sushi , udon noodles and wagashi, visiting the Meiji Shrine, Sensoji and other temples in addition to the sprawling Roppongi Hills which serves as the cultural hub of Tokyo. And then of course there is the Sumo wrestling, an absolute must to watch if you’re in Tokyo when the Sumo tournament is on. When you’re starry eyed from kaleidoscopic city lights, ask your Japan travel guide to show you the way to the city’s beautiful gardens. A top choice for a relaxing stroll, or even a picnic lunch, is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Visit in end March or early April to experience the mesmerizing cherry blossoms in bloom!
Osaka is where you head to if you enjoy tingling those taste buds. This city is known for the grub it offers, and if you’re into Casual Street dining, you’ve hit the jackpot. Do sample everything from takoyaki (octopus balls) to shabu shabu (thin slices of beef), and wash them down with the famous sake (Japanese rice wine). And if you manage to look up from your plate, find the time to check out the Osaka Castle, the Bunraku puppet theatre, Osaka Aquarium and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics.
Kyoto If Tokyo is a reflection of the Japan of today then Kyoto is a window through which a visitor can get a glimpse of characteristic Japanese culture of yesteryears. Once a capital city, Kyoto has a delicate and unique kind of culture, which over the years has become the essence of all Japanese culture. For this reason, the city is often called ‘Japan’s Heartland’. Kyoto is where you want to be if you’re looking to soak up thousand year old temples, beautifully landscaped gardens and glimpses of traditional geishas. Go exploring on a bicycle; Kyoto is Asia’s most cycle-friendly city!
Kusatsu Located 200 kilometers north-northwest of Tokyo, Kusatsu Onsen is a small hot springs town of seven thousand people that welcomes up to three million visitors each year. The main draw is the town’s hot springs, famous for being therapeutic in nature. This is a must visit even if you’re not in need of any ailment recovery. Don’t forget to do a tour of its many waterfalls and crater lakes.
Hiroshima This little city became world famous when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on it during the Second World War. Nearly seventy years after the tragedy, Hiroshima has rebuilt itself and has included memorials of its frightful past. Visit the A-Bomb Dome and Children’s Peace Monument for a perspective on what the city as well as Japan went through.
Sapporo Sapporo is situated on Japan’s northern most islands, Hokkaido. A comparatively new city, its modern infrastructure makes it a perfect location for festivals that take place throughout the year. Sapporo’s ski-fields are very popular with adventure sport enthusiasts, its mountains home to some very inviting resorts and the annual snow festival. You must also try some of the beer produced at its namesake famous brewery!