Japan is a world apart – a cultural Galápagos where a unique civilisation blossomed, and today thrives in delicious contrasts of traditional and modern. The Japanese spirit is strong, warm and incredibly welcoming.
Standing at the far-eastern end of the Silk Road and drawing influences from the entire continent, the Japanese have spent millennia taking in and refining the cultural bounties of Asia to produce something distinctly Japanese. From the splendour of a Kyoto geisha dance to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveller. And traditional culture is only half the story: emerging from Tokyo’s Shibuya Station and soaking up the energy, lights and sound of the city is like stepping out of a time capsule into a future world.
Since the Jesuits first visited Japan in the 17th century, travellers to Japan have found themselves entranced by a culture that is by turns beautiful, unfathomable and downright odd. Staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is utterly different from staying in a hotel. Sitting in a robe on tatami (woven floor matting) eating raw fish and mountain vegetables is probably not how you dine back home. And getting naked with a bunch of strangers to soak in an onsen (hot spring) might seem strange at first, but try it and you'll find it's relaxing.
Savouring the delights of Japanese cuisine on its home turf is half the reason to come to Japan and you can easily build an itinerary around regional specialities and sublime restaurants. Eat just one meal in a top-flight Tokyo sushi restaurant and you’ll see why. The Japanese attention to detail, genius for presentation and insistence on the finest ingredients results in food that can literally change your idea of what is possible in the culinary arena.
The wonders of Japan’s natural world are a well-kept secret. The hiking in the Japan Alps and Hokkaidō is world class, and with an extensive hut system you can do multiday hikes with nothing more than a knapsack on your back. Down south, the coral reefs of Okinawa will have you wondering if you’ve somehow been transported to Thailand. And you never have to travel far in Japan to get out into nature: in cities like Kyoto, a few minutes of travel will get you into forested mountains.
Why I Love Japan
By Chris Rowthorn, Author
I’ve spent most of my adult life in Japan and now it feels like home to me. I love the food: it’s incredibly varied and nourishing and there seems to be no end to the culinary discoveries one can make. I love the combination of a hike in the mountains followed by a long soak in an onsen. But, most of all, I love the meticulous and careful nature of the Japanese people, reflected in every aspect of Japanese life, from trains that run right on time to sublime works of art. Put it all together and you come away with a country that still intrigues me even after almost 20 years of living there.
Best places to stay in Japan
Japan travel guide
From the splendour of a Kyoto geisha dance to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthral even the most jaded traveller.
Highlights of the Yokohama Triennale 2014 art festival
Though Yokohama may stand in the shadow of big brother Tokyo, in terms of artistic energy Japan’s second biggest city is a powerhouse of creativity. This is on full display at the Yokohama Triennale 2014 (yokohamatriennale...
Hiking and skiing in Japan
Japan's best traditional and modern architecture
Discover Japan travel guide
The orchestrated clatter of Tokyo, the powdery slopes of Niseko, the history of Takayama – Japan's a journey for the senses. Get lost in a flurry of cherry blossoms or the pluming steam from a bowl of udon noodle soup. You'll love it.
Yoking past and future, Tokyo dazzles with its traditional culture and passion for everything new. Why I Love Tokyo By Timothy Hornyak I’ve spent over 10 years in Tokyo, but this capital of the shōgun always renews its spell.
The tastes of Okinawa: food and drink in Japan's Southwest Islands
Already know your sushi from your sashimi and can slurp ramen like a local? Why not jump off the Japanese mainland and head southwest to discover the surprising flavours of Okinawa. Here an array of tempting native ingredients makes for a cuisine that is distinct from the rest of Japan...
Japan's sento and onsen
Japan - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Japan starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on the best of Japan's ski resorts.
Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi and Bullet Train Day Trip from Tokyo
Discover some of Japan’s most famous highlights on a full-day guided tour from Tokyo. Travel to Mt Fuji’s bustling 5th Station and learn about the revered mountain. Continue to nearby Lake Ashi for a short boat cruise, followed by a ride on the Mt Komagatake Ropeway.
Kyoto and Nara 2-Day or 3-Day Rail Tour by Bullet Train from Tokyo
Leave Tokyo on the bullet train to visit the heritage-filled cities of Kyoto and Nara, staying overnight in Kyoto, on your choice of a guided 2-day or 3-day excursion. Visit Nara’s many gorgeous temples and shrines on the first afternoon, then have a full-day tour of Kyoto’s highlights on the second day.
How to travel Japan in a wheelchair
I'd been in Japan for only three days when my friend and tour guide (who is fluent in Japanese) delivered the bad news. 'I need to return to the US tomorrow,' he said. 'It’s an emergency.' I understood completely, but I felt vulnerable. In 24 hours I would be lost in translation...
Hiking in Japan - Planning & Environment (Chapter)
This chapter contains the Route Descriptions, Planning, Environment and History & Culture of Hiking, Majestic Fuji-san and Onsen chapters from Lonely Planet's Hiking in Japan guidebook.
Sights in Japan
Activities in Japan
Tours in Japan
Restaurants in Japan
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
For fans of traditional Japanese culture, Kansai is an unmissable destination. Nowhere else in the country can you find so much of historical interest in such a compact area. And, since plenty of international carriers now fly into Kansai International Airport, it is perfectly possible to make Kansai your first port of call in Japan.