Japan is a fusion of the ancient and the modern, offering visitors a unique glimpse into a proud civilisation filled with culture and history. From the curious delights of Japanese architecture, cuisine and nature to the rampant hustle and bustle of the big cities, this is a country that continues to enthrall. Here are some of our top picks when looking for the best of Japan.
No matter what time of year you visit, Kyoto’s ‘Golden Pavilion’ makes for a dramatic sight. Situated within the boundaries of the magnificent ‘Ancient City’, the spectacular Buddhist temple is one of Japan’s most popular structures, inspiring visitors year round with the shimmering reflection from the clear lake below. Although it has been re-built and re-coated over the years, the temple’s long history dates back to 1397. Its splendour is enhanced by the bedazzling gold-foil covering the pavilion’s three distinct levels.
Head to Japan’s snowy ski capital, Niseko, where you can experience the thrill of downhill skiing and snowboarding with a Japanese twist. With its picturesque setting and numerous ski runs, beautiful Niseko attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. This winter wonderland is situated at the bottom of an immense volcano, yet one that is thankfully dormant. Called Mount Yotei, the area’s other big draw is its collection of hot water spring resorts, known individually as the onsen. The perfect après-ski activity, here you can soothe away the tired, aching muscles after a hard day out on the slopes. Niseko though is a year round destination with summer activities including golf, rafting, biking, and hiking.
For an authentic Japanese experience, take a relaxed stroll through the peaceful Bamboo Forest at Arashiyama. Almost like stepping into another world, the soft trees seem to extend up to the heavens, allowing just enough light to penetrate the lush environment. Encasing visitors in a halo of sunlight, the magical grove is best experienced in the mornings, before the crowds descend.
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Now popular the world over, sushi originated in Tokyo, where it was named Edomae-zushi. The delicacy was created by using freshly caught fish from Tokyo Bay. Head to Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market to try the real deal as it was originally intended. Visit at the crack of dawn and do as the locals do; enjoy a sushi breakfast before wandering through the world’s largest, and most thrilling fish market. In Tokyo you’ll not only find the westernised ‘sushi train,’ but popular chain restaurants, quaint family run nooks and pricey high end places too. One of the best places for tasty sushi at a good price are the Japanese chains, Genki Sushi and Ganso Zushi.
Japan’s most iconic natural attraction, the now dormant remnants of the once great volcano known as Mount Fuji dominates the distant skyline to the south of Tokyo. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Mount Fuji is a popular place to enjoy the outdoors. The park features tiered hikes with 10 different ‘stations’ along the way for maximum enjoyment. Hikers can choose a short and easy route, or set forth on a true overnight adventure. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the summit, your Mount Fuji hike will inspire lasting memories of your time in Japan.
This World Heritage listed hilltop castle is one of Japan’s finest examples of original 17th-century architecture. The elegant white plaster exterior earned it the nickname ‘Shirasagi-jo’ (meaning White Egret Castle), and today it’s one of Japan’s most treasured sights. The 83-building compound is surrounded by protective moats and walls, providing a striking location for photography. The castle has recently been reopened after a five-year refurbishment.
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