Learn About Japan
For many people, the image of Japan is enigmatic, with vague notions about geishas and samurai fighters battling under the neon arches or about frenetic television broadcasts. Japan is indeed a nation of contrasts. However, those who go on a holiday in Japan will better understand the unique culture and traditions of this very beautiful country.
Spring (March to May) is the season when the sky is clear and the cherry trees bloom, probably the most celebrated season. Also the Golden Week (April 29 to May 7) is a time of celebration, but many of the tourist destinations are overcrowded. Autumn (September to November) is an excellent season for travel - temperatures are pleasant and you can admire the picturesque versants, whose leaves change their color. The middle of winter (December to February) can be very cold, while the summer (June-August) can be really hot.
The main cities in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka) seem to be westernized, but the tourist quickly realizes that the modern Japanese culture is mixed well with millennia of tradition, highlighted in Buddhist temples and Shinto scattered in urban centers, in the complicated rituals for eating and welcoming, but also other small things that remind us how long and proud is the history of this amazing country.
Once out of town, visitors can explore a different side of Japan, climbing on one of the 200 mountains in the country, bathing in isolated hot springs, visiting ancient ruins and castles or attending a sumo match.
Must-visit places include...
Tokyo is the most important commercial and cultural center of the country, with over 400 higher education institutions, 50 libraries, the Japanese Academy, 600 cinemas and around 2000 temples. The most imposing building in the city is the Television Tower with a height of 334 meters, offering a superb view over the city.
Nikko is a town an hour away, north of Tokyo, and a day is enough to discover its temples and shrines, and the National Nikko Park along the Daiya River.
Kamakura is an oasis of peace surrounded by mountains and forests, being the first capital of medieval Japan. You can visit the Great Buddha at Kamakura Daibustu – the symbol of the city, initially placed inside the Kotokuin Temple.
Hakone is a small town near Mount Fuji. If you have good weather and luck, you will have some spectacular images of the Japanese Holy Mountain.
In Osaka, go and visit the Kaiyukan Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Osaka Castle Park, with 1,250 Japanese plum trees and 4500 cherry trees, is a popular place where spring festivities are held, related to Sakura bloom. Eevery autumn the Chrysanthemum Festival takes place.
Kyoto prides itself on Nijo-jo Palace, former residence of the Tokugawa shogun Ieya-su and his descendants; Tera Kyomizu Temple – The Temple of Pure Water, with its related commercial area, the Golden Kinkakuji Pavilion Temple, now a Zen temple; Fushimi Inari Taisha from 711; and Gion district in the evening, where you can see maiko-san, the geisha’s apprentices.
Nara is a small town an hour away from Kyoto, which is actually the base of Japanese civilization. Here you can visit Nara-koen Park, where you will meet more than 1,000 deer that run freely through the beautiful temples in the park. In Japan, they are considered sacred animals. Todaiji Temple is a must see, being the home of the largest wooden statue of Buddha: Daibutsuden.
Hiroshima is a place that leaves your stomach empty... when you get to the Peace Memorial Park, the horrors of war are still visible on the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only building left after the launch of the first atomic bomb, on August 6, 1945.
In Miyajima, you can visit the famous Itsukushima Shinto Temple – with the incredible Torii Gate, which gives the feeling that is floating on water.
Whether it's skiing in winter, viewing the cherry blossoms in spring or enjoying the late summer sun, a holiday in Japan is a promising adventure for everyone!
Watch this video to learn more...