About Japan Travel
Beppu: Beppu is an infant in terms of Japanese cities, having only been founded 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 U.S. Beppu’s nine major geothermal hot spots are sometimes called the “nine hells of Beppu.” Beppu has several comfortable resorts frequented by travelers.
Hakone & Mt. Fuji: Hakone is in Fuji Hakone Izu National Park; and is known as a hot-springs resort area. The city is home to excellent museums – 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 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 3,776 meters/12,388 feet, is the highest in Japan. The summit has been thought sacred since time immemorial. The first ascent is thought to have been in 663 by an anonymous monk. The first foreigner to scale the summit was Sir Rutherford Alcock in 1860. Access was forbidden to women until the mid 19th century. An estimated 200,000 people climb it annually. Paragliding is also popular. At the base are Fuji’s Five Lakes and Kitaguchi-Hongu Fuji-Sengen-jinja Shrine. The forest at the base of the mountain is rich in tales of demons, ghosts and goblins in the forest.
Hiroshima and Miyajima: Hiroshima is known as the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in 1945; however, today, it is a cosmopolitan city with excellent cuisine, art museums, dining, hotels and a bustling nightlife. It has a population of more than one million. Miyajima is reached by ferry from Hiroshima, and has been considered a holy place for most of Japan’s history. In 806 CE, a monk ascended Mt. Misen and established it as a site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were sent away so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled. These days, strict measures are taken to ensure that the island’s sole town retains a Japanese Edo-era appearance.
Kyoto & Nara: Kyoto was the center of politics and culture for more than a millennium. The seat of government moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. With 2,000 religious sites, 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Kiyomizu-dera, a superb wooden temple, and Nijo Castle are among the city’s 17 historic UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. Kyoto offers opportunities to delve into Japanese traditions such as the famous tea ceremony, the art of Kimono wearing, Japanese flower arranging, the arts of origami and calligraphy, dance or cooking. In 710, Nara became the capital, and many of its temples and shrines date from that time. Todai-ji Temple has the world’s largest Buddha statue. Made of copper and gold, it is enshrined in the world’s largest wooden structure. Horyu-ji Temple, from the early seventh century, is believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. Nara Park is home to indigenous deer once revered as envoys of the gods.
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 various trading partners, including Chinese, Thai and Austronesian. Okinawa’s most famous cultural export is perhaps karate, probably due to the close ties with China. 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. 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 music scene, wonderful beaches and old world markets.
Sapporo: Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan by population. It is best known outside Japan for hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first ever in Asia. It is famous for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, which draws more than two million tourists. It is also noted for its white chocolate biscuits called shiroi koibito, sold exclusively in Hokkaido.
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 its architectural legacy and medieval atmosphere. Many structures 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 has a three-story pagoda that stands beside a ginkgo tree that is more than 1,200 years old. Ankokuji Temple dates from 1408. 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 300 years, and has some 70 temples. Its rainy, temperate climate encourages agricultural production of rice, sake and sweets. The Japanese love of gardening 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 massive landscape. The Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park edge Kanazawa, and two rivers add to the relaxed feel of the city.
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 national military government. By the 1700s, Tokyo was home to more than one million, making it one of the largest cities in the world. It suffered two devastating events: Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and bombing in the 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 Sens ji. Asakusa Kannon Temple is said to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, dating back to 628 CE.
Suggested Japan Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Tokyo, Japan
Welcome to Tokyo, Japan’s energetic capital city.
Day 2: Tokyo
This is the largest metropolitan area of the world and the center of power in Japan for centuries.
Day 3: Tokyo / Nikko / Tokyo
Nikko has a rich history which includes its World Heritage Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
Day 4: Tokyo / Mt. Fuji / Hakone
Hakone, a collection of villages in the scenic mountains near Mt. Fuji, is famed for hot springs.
Day 5: Hakone / Takayama
Travel by train to Takayama, which has the feel of a medieval castle town.
Day 6: Takayama / Kanazawa
Drive to Kanazawa, en route stopping at Shirakawago, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 7: Kanazawa
Kanazawa is an old castle town surrounded by Japan Alps and two scenic national parks.
Day 8: Kanazawa / Kyoto
With its 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, Kyoto one of the best preserved cities in Japan.
Days 9/10: Kyoto
Kyoto served as Japan’s capital for 1,100 years and has a wealth of cultural and architectural gems. Learn about Japanese culture by participating in a range of experiences such as cooking, origami or traditional dance.
Day 11: Kyoto / Nara
In 710 CE, Nara became the capital and many of its impressive temples and shrines date from that era.
Day 12: Kyoto / Kansai / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Beppu (3 days)
Beppu’s reputation stems from thousands of hot springs that naturally occur in the area.
Hakone & Mt. Fuji (2 days)
Hakone is known for its hot-springs resorts and its proximity to Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.
Hiroshima and Miyajima (2 days)
Hiroshima was founded in 1589, and today is a thriving cosmopolitan city. The offshore island of Miyajima has a naturalistic, Edo-era look; local deer wander freely through its streets and parks.
Okinawa (3 days)
The islands offer diverse attractions with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums, markets and galleries as well as breathtaking and tranquil beaches.
Sapporo (4 days)
The Snow Festival in February draws people from around the globe to see the fantastic and fanciful ice sculptures.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$800 per person per day