The southern half of Japan’s main island – Honshu – is a region rich in heritage; sites range from geisha teahouses to impossibly tiered castles. However, led by Hiroshima’s optimism, the bright lights of its cities are firmly set on the future.
Temples and gardens
As Japan’s cultural heart, visits to the region often start with Kyoto and its pretty neighbour, Nara. Serving as the Japanese capital for over a thousand years, Kyoto’s imperial legacy is realised in a vast array of Buddhist temples, grand palaces and gardens that range from intimate Zen squares to whole palatial fields. Spared from bombing in WWII due to its cultural significance, much of its 400 Shinto shrines remain intact and it’s no surprise that it features no fewer than 1,600 Buddhist temples. It’s a world away from next-door Osaka. Here, giant Ferris wheels are perched on top of department stores and neon signs cover entire building sides. The excesses don’t stop there with the city often known as the country’s gastronomic capital, famed for its canalside okonomiyaki restaurants that serve pancake pizzas. Remember to take some time to navigate the grounds and moats of Osaka Castle and summit one of the city’s towering skyscrapers.
Unlike Kyoto, the events of 6 August 1945 have had a profound effect on Hiroshima. However, after you’ve studied its superb Peace Museum you’ll find a city born anew with tree-lined avenues that bring you to art galleries and teahouse-speckled parks. Just outside, on the Seto Inland Sea, are a set of fractured islands that make for pretty cruises to famed floating shrines and hikes past deer and Buddhist temples. Elsewhere, there’s Hagi’s feudal era castle old town – complete with samurai residences – and Kurashiki’s merchant canals, lined with 250-year-old ryokans.
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Explore the coast of Japan during cherry blossom season, sailing in five-star luxury on board the Celebrity Cruises' fully refurbished ship – Celebrity Millennium.
Top itineraries in Honshu
Get a taste of all that this spectacular multi-faceted country has to offer, with private tours of Tokyo, traditional ryokan stays, trips on Japan's 200mph bullet train and visits to world famous temples.
Experience the best Japan has to offer on this 16-day tour, meandering through the modern hi-tech, natural beauty, and the ancient and traditional. Start your tour off in one of the most modern, efficient and largest cities in the world - Tokyo.
Step out of Japan's capital and explore an alpine world of shrines and samurai frozen in time. Board the mighty bullet train, sleep in timber ryokan inns, stay in hot onsen springs and more on this tailor-made journey.
Top places to stay in Honshu
This ‘Lost in Translation’ centrepiece towers over Shinjuku’s contagious energy and makes for luxury stays in the city centre.
Despite being the first luxury international hotel in Kyoto, fine Japanese dining and clean lines complemented by bonsai trees and tatami mats give this deluxe hotel a real sense of place.
Where to go in Honshu
You needn't travel far from Tokyo's neon-hazed streets to escape the world's ultimate metropolis and uncover a softer side to Japan. The quiet mountain town of Nikko, the seaside setting of tranquil Kamakura and the springtime blossoms of Mito's many plum trees are just some of the highlights.
Hakone is well loved for two attractions in particular - the iconic view of sacred, symmetrical Mount Fuji seen across Lake Ashi, and its high concentration of bubbling onsen (hot springs).
As the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, Kyoto is filled with a wealth of cultural treasures - among them 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines.
When to go to Honshu
It’s been more than 20 years since the UK had a direct route to Japan’s second city, Osaka. But now, it's set to be easier than ever to reach as British Airways open up this route once again.
It's not just the ruthless efficiency that makes the Japanese rail network so appealing. On Shikoku, express trains pass hilltop shrines and ancient burial grounds, while main-island Honshu sees routes skirt dramatic coastlines, wind through the Japanese Alps and circumnavigate great lakes.
We take a look at the spectacularly bold travel advertisements of the 1930s and their promise of golden temples in India, lakeside retreats in Italy and deers grazing outside of Japanese temples. You'll be surprised at how much holds true to this day.
Our own Sales Manager, Hannah Busby recently travelled to Japan, and showed us a side of the country most people never get to see.
Meet our Honshu experts
Speak to a tailor-made specialist on 020 7590 0689Meet the team