Things to do in Japan
Things to do in Japan
From the frenetic capital of Tokyo to the natural wonders of Mount Fuji, you are almost guaranteed not to run out of things to see and experience in Japan.
This is an exciting city of bustling squares, flashing neon lights, high-rise department stores, noodle bars and top class hotels. Take a walk around Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, one of the city’s most vibrant shopping and entertainment districts, home to glass skyscrapers and the world’s busiest intersection.
People-watch in Harajuku district, an area renowned for its distinctive street fashion where young people congregate every Sunday dressed in a variety of weird and wonderful urban styles. Also worth visiting are the Imperial Palace gardens and Tsukiji fish market.
South-west of Tokyo lies Mount Fuji, an active volcano and Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776 metres, known for its perfect conical shape and natural beauty. The best spot to appreciate the volcano is Hakone National Park, a region of lakes, peaks and volcanic hot springs. There is a fantastic cable car ride from Mount Soun-zan, offering superb views of Mount Fuji when the weather is fine. At the bottom, take a cruise on the beautiful Lake Ashino-ko. It is worth spending an evening or two at a traditional onsen (hot spring) hotel here to further enjoy the clean air and scenic landscape of Hakone National Park.
Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan from 794AD to 1868 and is still considered by many to be the cultural heart of Japan, with its huge array of temples and shrines, and jaw-droppingly beautiful gardens. The Kinkakuji temple (‘Golden Pavilion’) is one of Japan’s most celebrated sights. Set in well-tended gardens beside a small lake, this glittering temple is covered entirely in gold leaf. Kyoto is also famous for geishas, which frequent the Gion district. The area still has a number of quiet lanes lined with teahouses where you can glimpse geisha and maiko (geisha in training).
Nara was Japan's first real capital. From 710 to 794AD the city was the centre of Japanese cultural and political life. Today, Nara is a small and welcoming town, famous for its deer park as well as its shrines and temples, among which are a total of eight Unesco world heritage sites.
Now a vibrant city, Hiroshima has moved on from the sad memories of the second world war, although the Peace Memorial Park is still a sobering experience. Close to Hiroshima is Miyajima Island where the famous floating shrine, Torii Gate, is located. This is a good place to experience traditional Japanese hospitality and stay in a ryokan.
The island of Hokkaido in the far north has spectacular mountainous scenery with lakes, gorges, waterfalls, and beautiful flora and fauna. It’s a great place to enjoy a more isolated experience. Go hiking and birdwatching in the national parks; stop in small fishing towns; visit the world’s first underwater drift ice observatory; or venture out into the Sea of Okhotsk on a cruise. The main entry point to this area is the city of Sapporo. Although it is the fifth largest city in Japan, it has a more relaxed atmosphere with numerous parks, wide avenues and celebrated breweries.
According to Japanese legend, the country’s first emperor, Jimmu, began his campaign to unify Japan from Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. A mild climate, hot-spring spas, beautiful countryside and national parks make Kyushu a popular destination.
The lively city of Kumamoto is home to the majestic Kumamoto castle and the spectacular Mount Aso, one of the world’s largest volcanic craters. Learn more about Japan’s recent past in Nagasaki, now a beautiful coastal town but with a haunting second world war history. Kyushu is known for its pottery so make sure to take a tour of Kyushu pottery museum and stop at Imari town to see its porcelain workshops.