Temples, gardens and cherry blossom – it has to be Japan
Japan is a holiday destination inspiring such a vast array of images, thanks to its bustling cities and beautiful landscapes, for example Tokyo has the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world where as Nara City boasts beautiful tranquil temples.
Japan’s capital Tokyo is weird, whacky and busy! This combination found in few other cities is what makes it so appealing to many different travellers. Most tours and holidays begin here as it is the main gateway to Japan and a good way discover the hustle and bustle of Shibuya and the serene public parks, as well as the gaming district – popular with most men! For anyone who has seen the film Hachi about the dog that loyally waits for his owner to return from work, you can visit the statue that was erected in his memory just a short walk from Shibuya. This area is the Tokyo you visualise when you close your eyes, with the large billboards and crowded streets.
It can be a bit overwhelming when you arrive in Tokyo, however there is an information centre near to the station that will provide you with free maps and help you find your way around. The Yamanote train line connects major districts and the signs are all bilingual so once you get used to it, it is fairly easy to navigate.
Once you have seen the iconic billboards and sea of pedestrian’s, head over to Shinjuku Gyoen where you can relax in the peaceful surroundings the park offers, be sure to go in spring when this is one of the best places to see the iconic cherry blossoms.
Allow a day to get out of the chaos of the city and retreat to nearby Mount Fuji to view this impressive mountain and Lake Kawaguchi. The climb is not easy, so do be prepared if you want to reach the summit. Most people want to be at the peak to witness the sunrise, however don't leave at night to achieve this as it makes the climb even more challenging, rather stay overnight in one of the huts. It will be very busy and sleep may be a distant dream, however this will be preferable to not stopping for a break at all and the view from the top is most definitely worth it.
Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is not just idyllic, it is the Japan you picture in your mind. I would advise keeping to the back streets where you will find the real Kyoto, where Japanese traditions have been preserved. If you head to Gion this is Kyoto’s most renowned geisha district. There is a geiko performance twice a year, once in the autumn and once in the spring and this is a rare chance to see geisha’s in person. Kyoto is also home to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine and this is where you will find the famous orange gates, so iconic of Japan, that stretch 4km to the shrine.
For a lesser seen Japan you should head to the Tohoku region where, although rural, there is a sprinkling of castles and temples as well as Sendai, a city known for its lacquerware and dolls. This area also covers the north-eastern section of Honshu which is the largest of Japan’s many islands.
If you are planning to visit multiple cities on your holiday, then we would advise buying a Japan Rail Pass, this also allows you to utilise the famous bullet trains. Taxis are only worthwhile if you are going a very short distance and don’t want to walk. They can take a long time and are not an ideal way to travel in Japan, the trains are definitely the most time saving way to get around.
Whether you want to escape the daily grind to have a calm and relaxing break visiting the Japan of days gone by, or if you prefer to immerse yourself in the technology and gaming districts of the country, you will not be disappointed. Although often wacky and so far removed from the society we are used to in the UK, Japan is a jewel in Asia which offers more than you could see in a lifetime, we really do recommend you consider visiting this unique and mystical destination.