Sushi & More
Not only does Tokyo have more restaurants than any other city in the world, it also has more great ones. Whether it’s a top-flight sushi-tasting course in Ginza or a late-night bowl of ramen, you will eat well – very well – here.
Past, Present & Future
Tokyo is famous for its pop culture – its eccentric street fashion, lurid anime and kawaii (cute) characters. But there is so much more to the city: dig deeper in its excellent museums and look to the future on those giant video screens. Tokyo is a city always in flux, which is one of its enduring charms.
Shop, Shop, Shop
Didn’t think you were getting out of here empty-handed, did you? Tokyo is a shopper's paradise, offering everything from traditional crafts to the latest lifestyle gadgets and fashion boutiques galore.
Mt Fuji & Around Tokyo
Hot Spring Getaways
Some of Japan’s most beloved onsen towns are just a few hours from Tokyo. Each offers its own regional flavour – mountain hideaways to the north, lakeside resorts to the west and laid-back coastal villages to the south.
Mountains & Sea
In addition to climbing the famous Mt Fuji, outdoor activities include hiking among cedar groves, strolling along bluffs, surfing and sea kayaking. Options range from easy Tokyo day trips to ambitious island excursions.
Temples for the Ages
The cultural legacies of different historical eras come to life in the vibrant 17th-century shrines and temples of Nikkō and the more austere ones of medieval Kamakura.
The Japan Alps & Central Honshū
Mountain Hot Springs
The mountainous heart of Japan bubbles over with exquisite hot springs and fantastic inns in which to enjoy them – you're spoiled for choice here. There's nothing like gazing up at snowy peaks while steam rises from your body.
Travel to the remote village of Shirakawa-gō (or, even remoter, Ainokura) and fall asleep to the sound of chirping frogs in a centuries-old thatched-roof farmhouse.
Ski some of Asia’s best slopes, with breathtaking views of the northern Japan Alps. Après-ski soaking in hot springs is mandatory (there's nightlife in some ski towns, too).
Shintō & Buddhist Masterpieces
With over 1000 Buddhist temples and more than 400 Shintō shrines, Kyoto is the place to savour Japanese religious architecture and garden design. Find a quiet temple to call your own for the morning or join the throngs at a popular shrine.
Japan’s Cultural Storehouse
Japan's cultural capital for over a millennium has it all: historic geisha districts and teahouses, classical theatre performances and crafts like lacquerware and washi (Japanese paper).
Kyoto is the spiritual home of kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine); you can also sample humbler tastes in the local market or try your hand at a cooking class.
Get your city fix in one of Kansai's urban centres, like the bold and brash commercial hub Osaka or the cosmopolitan port city Kōbe. Both have vibrant dining scenes, nightlife and shopping districts.
See the remains of Japan's earliest temples – and the Great Buddha – in Nara and Horyū-ji, visit mystical monasteries and walk ancient pilgrimage routes further south.
Castles & Tombs
There aren't many original castles left in Japan but two of the best are here: the 'White Egret Castle' of Himeji and Hikone-jō. The town of Asuka is home to burial mounds from the early days of Japanese history.
Hiroshima & Western Honshū
Naoshima (and the islands in its orbit) in the Inland Sea have become synonymous in Japan with contemporary art and architecture. Come see works from international artists inside buildings that enhance the natural scenery.
Hiroshima is a moving place to reflect on the history of the last century and the way forward. Other areas of Western Honshū were key players in Japan's 19th-century modernisation.
Cycle over bridges linking the tiny islands of the Inland Sea, rent a car and drive through the bucolic rural scenery of Yamaguchi, or head to Tottori's forlorn sand dunes.
Northern Honshū (Tōhoku)
Parks & Peaks
Northern Honshū is blessed with some spectacular mountains. Temperate summers lure hikers, while snowy winters attract powder fiends and snow bunnies.
That image you have of milky-white waters and stars overhead or the steamy wooden bathhouse all by its lonesome in the mountains – that’s Tōhoku.
Festivals & Ancient Rites
Nobody in Japan does festivals like they do up here. Ancient customs and beliefs live on in Tōhoku, preserved by centuries of isolation. Sample food prepared the way it has been for generations, or follow in the footsteps of mountain ascetics.
Sapporo & Hokkaidō
This is big mountain country and big snow country, where skiers carve snow drifts reaching several metres in depth and where hikes through old-growth forests can last for days. There's much to explore here, on foot, by bicycle or by car.
Seafood & Ramen
The cold northern waters produce excellent seafood up here, including prized delicacies like uni (sea urchin) and crab. Capital city Sapporo's specialities are miso-rāmen and its namesake beer.
The culture of Hokkaidō's indigenous people, the Ainu, is represented in museums, on stages where traditional folk songs are sung, and in shops, restaurants and inns run by Ainu descendants.
Japan's Shangri La Valley
A short drive from the mainland madness, Iya Valley has dramatic gorges, ancient vine bridges and a hint of sustainable living. Raft or hike along the pristine Yoshino-gawa.
The 88-temple pilgrimage is a rite of passage for many Japanese who, dressed in white and armed with a walking stick, lower the pulse, raise the gaze and seek to honour the great Buddhist saint, Kōbō Daishi.
There's good surfing, especially at Shishikui in Tokushima and Ikumi Beach in Kōchi; the crowd-free swells at Ōkinohama should be legendary. There's also a slow-life, beach-bum vibe to match.
Saints & Samurai
Christian rebellions led to over two centuries of seclusion, during which Nagasaki's Dejima Island was Japan's window to the world. Visit the city to learn about this fascinating chapter of Japanese history.
Mountains of Fire
Kyūshū is home to two of Japan's most famous – and famously active – volcanoes: always smoking Sakurajima, which lords over the skyline of the southern city of Kagoshima, and Aso-san, a hulking giant in the middle of the island.
In Hot Water – and Hot Sand
Soak away riverside in intimate Kurokawa Onsen or in one of Beppu’s onsen, or get buried in a sand bath in Ibusuki. Even Kyūshū’s biggest city, Fukuoka, has natural onsen.
Okinawa & the Southwest Islands
Splash out on the gorgeous golden beaches of the Kerama or Ishigaki Islands, where you can whale-watch in winter and have the sand all to yourself.
Climb into the green, pulsing heart of Yakushima, where ancient cedar trees grow really, really tall. Looking more like a Star Wars set than Earth, this is the closest we’ve come to an otherworldly experience.
Tuck into a plateful of gōyā champurū, Okinawa’s signature stir-fry with bitter melon. Add some awamori, the local firewater, and you’ll be ready to grab the sanshin (banjo) and party.