About Japan Travel
Tokyo: Japan’s capital, with more than 12 million people, is among the most populous cities in the world. It is the political and economical heart of Japan as well as a major player on the world stage. Tokyo was already a small fishing village named Edo, when Edo Castle was built in 1457. In 1590, the first shogun made the town his base and the center of his nationwide military government. By the 1700s, Tokyo was home to more than one million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world. It suffered two devastating events: Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and bombing in WWII. Tokyo, however, reemerged stronger each time. The well-known area of Ginza is speckled with international designer shops while Akihabara is a busy retail area crammed with electronic stores. Tokyo Tower Observatory offers sweeping panoramas of the city. Asakusa neighborhood is noted for its many temples, particularly Sensōji. Asakusa Kannon Temple is said to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, dating back to 628 A.D.
Kyoto & Nara: The former capital of Japan, Kyoto was the center of politics and culture for more than a millennium before the seat of government was moved to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle are among the city’s 17 historic UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. In 710 A.D., the city of Nara became the capital, and its many temples and shrines were built during that time. A fine example is Todai-ji Temple, which has the world’s largest Buddha statue. Made of copper and gold, it is enshrined in the world’s largest wooden structure. Toshodai-ji Temple was founded by a Chinese priest, who came to Japan to teach Buddhism. Horyu-ji Temple, built in the early 7th century, is believed to be the oldest existing Buddhist temple in Japan. On the lighter side, Nara Park is home to deer, which were once treasured as messengers from the gods.
Hakone & Mt. Fuji: Hakone is located in Fuji Hakone Izu National Park; and, like Beppu, is known as a hot-springs resort area. The city is home to several excellent museums such as Hakone Open Air Museum, Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese works, Pola Museum of Art and Venetian Glass Museum. Hakone features entertaining ways to view the area such as on the Hakone Ropeway Glide, the world’s second-longest cable car; and on the scenic Hakone Tozan Railway. Boats cruise on the serenely beautiful Lake Ashinoko. Mt. Fuji, at 12,388 feet, is the highest mountain in Japan. The summit has been thought of as sacred since time immemorial. Access was forbidden to women until the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912). The first ascent is thought to have been in 663 A.D. by an anonymous monk. The first foreigner to scale the summit was Sir Rutherford Alcock in 1860. An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year. Paragliding is also popular. At the foot of Mt. Fuji are Fuji-Goko (Fuji’s Five Lakes) and Kitaguchi-Hongu Fuji-Sengen-jinja Shrine. The forest at the base of the mountain is rich in folk tales that tell of demons, ghosts and goblins haunting the forest.
Beppu: Beppu is an infant in terms of Japan’s cities, having only been founded in 1924. It gained attention for the thousands of hot springs that occur naturally in the area and are regarded as sacred. The volume of hot water generated is second only to Yellowstone in the USA. Beppu’s nine major geothermal hot spots are sometimes called the “nine hells of Beppu.” Beppu has several comfortable resorts frequented by travelers.
Okinawa: Okinawa is one of Japan’s southern prefectures and consists of hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 620 miles long. The capital, Naha, is in the southern region of the largest and most populous island, Okinawa Island. Okinawan culture was influenced by its various trading partners, including Chinese, Thai and Austronesian. Perhaps Okinawa’s most famous cultural export is karate, probably due to the close ties with China. Some speculate that it flourished as a result of a ban on weapons in Okinawa for two long periods after the invasion by Japan. As a small kingdom, Okinawa prospered in the region, developing its own unique history and culture. The Ryukyu language developed separately from the rest of Japan over 1,500 years. Okinawa has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Museums include Himeyuri Peace Prayer and Memorial Museum, Ishikawa City History and Folklore Museum, Nakagusuku Castle Museum and several craft and cultural centers. Islanders are known for their artistic works in ceramics, textiles and glass. It also boasts a lively contemporary music scene, wonderful beaches and old world markets.
Takayama & Kanazawa: Both Takayama and Kanazawa are fascinating examples of Japan’s ‘castle towns,’ which developed around the castles of feudal lords. Few of those original structures remain, but towns such as Takayama have managed to preserve some of the architectural legacy, and in so doing, retain some of the medieval atmosphere. Many buildings and houses remain from the 1600s when the city thrived as a town of merchants. In old town, some of the shops, coffee houses and sake breweries have been in business for centuries. Hida-Kokubunji Temple is the oldest structure in Takayama. Its three-story pagoda stands beside a ginkgo tree that is more than 1,200 years old. Ankokuji Temple dates from 1408, and is recognized as a national treasure. Kusakabe Folklore Museum was originally one of the early 19th century merchant’s homes. It was the first of several houses designated as national cultural treasures. Kanazawa was ruled by one family for three centuries, and has some 70 temples. Its rainy, temperate climate encourages agricultural production of rice, sake and sweets. The Japanese take gardening seriously as can be seen in the Kenroku-en, one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. Beginning in 1676, it took about 170 years to construct this 1,130,210-square-foot garden. The Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park surround Kanazawa, and two rivers run through it, adding to the relaxed feeling of the city.
Suggested Japan Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Tokyo, Japan
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo / Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto / Tokyo
Day 7: Tokyo / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Hakone & Mt. Fuji (2 days)
Hakone is known for its hot-springs resorts and its proximity to Mt. Fuji, at 12,388 feet it is the highest mountain in Japan.
Beppu (3 days)
Beppu’s reputation stems from thousands of hot springs that naturally occur in the area.
Okinawa (3 days)
The islands offer diverse attractions with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums, markets and galleries as well as breathtaking and often empty beaches.
Takayama & Kanazawa (4 days)
These historic towns are fine examples of medieval castle villages that once thrived in much of the country. An estimated 5,000 castles dotted the landscape of 16th-century Japan.
Sapporo (4 days)
Famous for its Snow Festival in February, the city welcomes people from around the globe who come to see the fantastic and fanciful ice sculptures.