Where to go in Japan
Japan’s volcanic archipelago offers mountains, island getaways, and the fast pace of some of the world’s most technologically advanced cities. Explore from the northern island of Hokkaido to epic Mt. Fuji, the outdoor haven of Kyushu and subtropical Okinawa.
One moment you could be following in the graceful wake of a geisha past feudal era castles and the next taking a Shinkansen bullet to the heart of Tokyo’s skyscraper jumble. And, it’s not difficult to read between the lines of Kyoto’s grid system to discover golden lakeside pavilions and moss covered temples. Japan’s ancient capital is home to no less than 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, step outside the bustle to discover Japan’s best kept secret – its natural world. Southern islands feature palm tree fringed white sands while northern Hokkaido’s national park lakes, mountains and coastlines are home to everything from sea eagles to the iconic Japanese crane. And, after a day spent on the trails and in the teahouses of the Japanese Alps, return to a ryokan inn where onsen baths, tatami mats and traditional gardens are as welcoming as when they first hosted travelling shoguns.
List of regions
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.
Japan’s northern frontier and second largest island hosts just five percent of the country’s population, despite featuring 30,000 square miles of volcanic peaks, glassy lakes and icy coastline. It’s a world away from main island Honshu’s cram.
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.
Japan's alpine backbone is all forested mountains and steaming onsen (hot springs) extending across much of central Honshu, a landscape that is particularly captivating in autumn when the koyo (colourful leaves) turn to shades of russet and gold.
Honshu is Japan's main island, home to most of the population, major sites and visitors. From the great cities of Osaka and Nagoya to the rural relaxation of the western plateau, Honshu is the cultural heart of Japan.
Kyushu’s dramatic scenery is one formed out of conflict both geographic and anthropological. However, while castle cities and Nagasaki’s world war past have left their mark, it’s the natural world that takes centre stage.
The smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku’s mountainside shrines, manicured gardens and artist retreats are a chance to slow down and experience authentic Japanese culture at its rural best.
Lush jungle, sandy beaches, coral reefs and karate define Okinawa, a holiday-friendly group of more 160 subtropical islands that extend across 700 kilometres of the South China Sea from Kyushu to Yonaguni-jima, almost within sight of Taiwan.
The laidback city of Matsumoto is one of the main gateways to the Japan Alps, lying stunningly in the shadow of seven enormous summits, many above 3000m, and the stunning highlands of Utsukushi-ga-hara-kōgen.