One of the lesser-known highlights of Japan is its beautiful scenery; sacred Mount Fuji, emerald green rice paddies and the tropical islands of Okinawa. See Geisha girls in the ancient city of Kyoto, marvel at Sumo Wrestlers in futuristic Tokyo and join pilgrims visiting the sumptuous shrines of Nikko.
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Flying time from London 12 hours
Official language(s) Japanese
Time difference +9 GMT
Visa requirements If you have a ‘British Citizen’ or ‘British National (Overseas)’ passport, you can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket.
The Japan Experts
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Experience flavours favoured by the locals with the popular Okonomiyaki the signature dish of Hiroshima. Literally meaning ‘to one’s liking’, Okonomiyaki is a popular pan fried food consisting of batter and cabbage and a selection of toppings, varying from meat and seafood to wasabi and cheese. Visiting the specialist restaurants is an experience in itself, with diners sitting around an open bar watching their food get prepared by the chef you will find a vast number of okonomiyaki restaurants across Hiroshima, particularly in Okonomi Mura, where every restaurant serves the city’s speciality.
Escape urban Japan
For more than 1000 years, garden design has been an important Japanese art form. From the abstract sculpture gardens in Hakone, to the breath taking Bamboo Groves of Arashiyama, there are a variety of styles across Japan. The Okochi Sanso Gardens in Kyoto are a particularly outstanding example of a traditional Japanese garden, with impressive architecture, a traditional Japanese villa, tearooms and Shinto shrines.
Meet the local wildlife
The forests of the Jigokudani valley in Yamanouchi are home to the Japanese Macaques, or snow monkeys. The monkeys are native to northern Japan, with brown-grey fur and red faces, with remarkably human like mannerisms. Often caught bathing in the man-made pool, the monkeys are particularly photogenic when the area is covered in snow.
Stay in a ryokan
No trip to Japan is complete without staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Sample the local hospitality, sleep on futons on the tatami mat floor, experience hot spring baths and eat delicious local cuisine.
Experience vibrant festivals
Japan has many famous festivals, including the Aoi festival in Kyoto, which dates back to the sixth century, and the Toshogu festival in Nikko, which features a procession of more than 1,000 people dressed as samurai. Kyoto's largest festival, the Gion festival, spans the entire month of July and is crowned by a beautiful parade, the Yama-boko Junko. The Sapporo snow festival is one of Japan’s largest winter events, when up to two million people come to Sapporo to see the large number of splendid snow statues and ice sculptures that line Odori Park, the grounds at Community Dome Tsudome, and the main street in Susukino.
See cherry blossom season
During cherry blossom season, locals gather below trees to celebrate the beautiful flowering of the trees. Everything turns pink, with themed chocolate, beer and clothing hitting the shops. There are even ‘sakura (blossom) forecasts’ with pink dots covering maps of Japan on the television and in the daily newspapers.
Bathe in an onsen
The Japanese Alps in the Nagano prefecture feature some of Japan's most dramatic scenery and picturesque rural villages. The area is also famous for its many onsen, or hot spring, resorts. The most celebrated of these is the Jigokudani onsen, or Hell’s Valley hot springs, in Yudanaka where wild snow monkeys gather to bathe in the natural hot pools.
Join the monks for morning prayers
Travel to Mount Koya in Wakayama prefecture, one of the holiest mountains in Japan. There are more than 100 monasteries here surrounding the head temple. Stay overnight in the complex and rise early to avoid the crowds and see the monks at morning prayers.
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"The contrast between high-tech Tokyo and the Bullet trains, and the tranquility and peace of the Rock Garden and the floating gate at Hiroshima. The two nights in the Ryokens were memorable experiences. We also deliberately chose to go in November to experience the Autumn colour, and we were not disappointed."
Ms Janice Murton
Travel in the Far East
Find out more about what you can expect from travelling in the Far East – from internal flights to accommodation standards and local transport.