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Introducing Japan

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Japanese cherry blossom © naitokz

Japan Travel Guide

For most people, the image of Japan is an enigmatic one, with a vague notion of geishas and samurai warriors butting up against buzzing neon arcades and frenetic TV game shows. Japan is indeed a nation of contrasts and those who venture there on holiday will gain a greater understanding of the unique ancient culture and traditions of this beautiful country, as well as experiencing the modern innovations and infrastructural genius which has made contemporary Japan a powerhouse.

Japan's major cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka) appear on the surface to be westernised, but visitors quickly realise that the sleek modern culture of Japan is expertly blended with millennia of tradition, evident in the Buddhist and Shinto temples sprinkled throughout the urban centres, intricate social rituals for eating and greeting, and other small reminders of Japan's long and proud history.

Once out of the cities, visitors can explore a different side of Japan, climbing one of the country's 200 mountains, soaking in secluded hot springs, visiting ancient shrines and castles, or attending a sumo match.

Whether it's for skiing in the winter, viewing the cherry blossoms in spring, or enjoying the sunshine of late summer, a holiday in Japan is a rewarding adventure for all.

Best time to visit Japan

April is considered the best time to visit Japan, because of the likelihood of the cherry blossoms being in bloom. Otherwise, the weather in Japan varies dramatically from the north to the south, with the rainy season generally lasting from June to early August. September can be typhoon season; however, October and November tend to be a good time to travel to Japan, as the weather is mild and pleasant. Read more on Japan's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Japan

-Stroll the spectacular grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

-Spot traditionally-dressed geisha in the Kyoto district of Gion.

-Hike Mount Fuji for stunning panoramic views.

-See a traditional Kabuki play at the Minamiza Theatre in Kyoto.

What to do in Japan

-Sing your heart out in a Tokyo karaoke bar.

-Relax in the hot springs of Noboribetsu on Hokkaido.

-Follow the 88 Temples Pilgrimage Circuit around Shikoku.

-Spend a weekend skiing the slopes of Furano in the Japanese Alps. Read more about Japan Attractions.

Getting to Japan

There are a few direct flights to Japan from the UK, mostly from London, but they don't tend to be cheap. Likewise, direct flights to Japan from the US tend to be pricey and depart from cities on the west coast like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Get more information on Airports in Japan.

Read

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, and A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson.

Listen

O-Daiko (Kodo), Kodo (Yoshida Brothers), and I'm Blue (The 5678's).

Watch

Lost in Translation (2003), Kikujiro (1999), and The Last Samurai (2003).

Drink

Sake (Japanese rice wine)

Eat

Sushi

What to buy

Cloissane and lacquerware, or silk kimonos.

What to pack

Slip-on shoes. Japanese temples, museums, private homes and even some restaurants will require that you take your shoes off before entering, so having non-lacing shoes will save a lot of time and effort.

What's on in Japan

Tokyo turns pink each spring during the Cherry Blossom Festival. See fantastical sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival in February. Watch giants face off at Osaka's Sumo Spring Grand Tournament. More information on Events in Japan.

Did you know?

It is common in Japan to eat rice at every meal, including breakfast.

A final word

A holiday in Japan combines the best of both ancient and modern attractions, and makes this enigmatic country a delight to explore.

Our Travel Expert

Carey Finn Hails from Cape Town, lives in Tokyo (until further notice). A writer type with a love for languages, tea and cherry blossom trees, she headed to Japan to teach English “for a year or two”, and for some reason is still there five years later. After spending some time in laid-back Osaka, she moved up to the crazy capital that is Tokyo, where she tries to hold onto as much of her sanity, and yen, as possible. You can find her cheapo travel advice at www.tokyocheapo.com, where she helps people make the most of the city on a shoestring budget.

>Read Carey's tips on Japan
>Ask Carey a question


Become our Japan Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Japan travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Japan or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.


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