Because Japan has always been dedicated to the unique, it’s fitting that the country has a dazzling group of volcanic islands forming its own culture in the Pacific. Nothing is copied. Whether it’s ancient Buddhist temples, ebullient fish markets, or neighborhoods flashing with neon, the country screams of originality at every turn. Almost every city street is an attraction, the ethereal concoction of sights and sounds providing endless entertainment. But contrast iconic cities with snow-capped Mount Fuji or white Okinawa beaches that make tropical postcards look dull. Even the forests are inimitable, flickering between immense stretches of green bamboo, coy carp filled rivers, and delightful blossoms. Like the classic Manga comic, you have an effervescent collection of stories to discover, each radiating a commitment to showcasing local culture.
Even transportation exudes originality. Bullet trains speed across the country and connect distant lands in astonishingly punctual luxury. You may even travel around in a yet-to-be exported model from one of the huge automobile companies. The world’s most sophisticated transportation infrastructure is just another smooth edge that makes traveling through Japan wonderfully easy.
Every Japan journey is a riveting ride through glorious tradition and contemporary elegance, with hypnotic stops at the futuristic brilliance and natural splendor. Just like the classic Manga comic or the Murakami novel, your journey is infused with a radiant array of narratives, each oscillating from the sublime to the surreal. Strange juxtapositions envelope the country, often unfathomable to the Western mind, yet infused with absolute normality. For example, take a speeding elevator to the 40th floor, and then open a cute sliding wooden door and sit on a tatami floor mat to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony while gazing out over a hundred skyscrapers.
Japan’s immense capital shines with lights and bursts with colors, offering an insatiable feast of fresh experiences. Distinct neighborhoods unveil an elaborate array of novel superlatives, from the flashing neon of Akihabara to the famous pedestrian crossing in Shibuya. From the painted faces of sub-cultured Harajuku to ancient temples hidden from urbanity. Not only is there something for everyone, but there’s also something at every turn; immense fish markets where tuna is auctioned, rooftop restaurants with fabulous panoramas, skyscrapers in Shinjuku or tradition in Asakusa. Tokyo isn’t merely a sightseeing experience; it’s a fully immersive jump into one of the planet’s most iconic and original cities.
Perfectly preserved and dancing with enchantment, Kyoto serves up a sublime blend of ancient Japan in all its nuances. No fewer than 17 World Heritage sites dot the city, epitomizing Kyoto’s regal history and showcasing the center of a mesmeric cultural heartbeat. A pervasive atmosphere of tranquility accompanies the sights, with the serene Buddhist undercurrent bringing indelible spirituality to the architectural eminence. Then add in sculpted gardens and delightful flower blossoms and it’s hard to imagine a Japan itinerary without Kyoto.
Hiroshima will be forever etched in world history, yet this blossoming city is far from a mournful ode to an unfortunate past. While the poignant A-Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park are essential stops, Hiroshima is engulfed in enthusiasm and vibrancy, epitomized by food stalls that line quaint, wide boulevards. Like most of Japan, your local itinerary can head into the future (like visiting the Mazda car factory) or revel in a glorious past (the seemingly floating red shrine gate of Grand Torii).
While nearby Kyoto laps up the fame, 8th century Nara prefers its role in the metaphorical shadows. In Nara, you’ll find the world’s largest wooden building, Japan’s biggest collection of national treasures, the tallest pagoda, and the largest Buddha statue. However, Nara’s greatest appeal is the hypnotic harmony and preservation of these ancient wonders, and the serene capital never relinquishes its evocative deliverance of charm.
Japan isn’t the first country that springs to mind when it comes to white sand and turquoise ocean. But let’s remember, these are Pacific Islands, as unforgettably imbued by tropical beauty as any other in the world’s largest ocean. Okinawa epitomizes the idyllic beauty, mile after mile of pristine island beaches fulfilling the most demanding of getaway dreams. There’s a different rhythm out here, one of swaying palm trees, lush jungle clad retreats, and irresistible marine adventures.
Ever since the 7th century, Osaka has been a land of conspicuous consumption and elaborate luxury. It’s a city of indulgence, one of the finest on the planet for eating like royalty and thoroughly treating yourself. While the flashy city lights are integral to the city’s attraction, it’s easy to escape into millennia old shrines, endless spring cherry blossom, and intricate puppet theaters.
Nestled on forested mountain slopes and swimming with charm, the historic villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama take you into another brilliantly original Japanese narrative. Thatched roof gasshō-zukuri homes fill the villages, indicative of a longstanding dedication to tradition and a harmonious adaptation to an isolated environment. Recognized as World Heritage sites, and dazzling amongst a white blanket in winter, they provide the intermediate stop between Japan’s ancient traditions and modern wonders.