Japan is a big country of stark contrasts. It is a nation of scientific innovation which is forever associated with the modern but also one with strong traditions based on ancient beliefs. Japan is a country where urban metropolises and agrarian fields are found in equal measure. This vast country to explore with its dense wilderness and spectacular coastlines leaves a strong impression on any visitor. But it's not just the sights which will make you feel welcom. Japan is also a nation with a reputation for unbridled hospitality, courtesy and warmth. Japan is a country that can only be enjoyed to the full if you are happy to smile and make friends and have a sense of adventure.
Japan's major city combines ultra high tech with the traditional. Whether you visit a Sushi restaurant, rock club or karaoke bar, a Buddhist shrine, a state of the art shopping centre or one of the many major cultural venues such as the National Museum of art, Museum of Contemporary Art or the world leading National Science Museum, you are guaranteed the experience of a lifetime. Tokyo is one vast sprawl which offers all kinds of excitement in a maze of buildings and avenues. Fortunately for the visitor most attractions can be found within the inner city rail loop.
This is the smallest and least visited of the main islands, a relaxed, tranquil place with lovely scenery, splendid castles, beautiful gardens and hot springs. It's one of the best places to see traditional Japanese life.
Once the Japanese capital this ancient city holds many treasures including Buddhist temples, palaces, traditional wooden houses, inns and restaurants.
Japan's second largest island is sparsely populated and has five national parks. Daisetsuzan, the largest and one of the most beautiful gets very busy in the summer. Famous for its volcanoes, fir and birch forests and the Sounkyo Gorge, it has superb hiking, cycling and skiing territory. Neighbouring Shikotsu-Toya is a place of hot-spring resorts such as Toyako Spa.
The third largest island has Fukuoka as its main city, a place famed for its vibrant nightlife. One of the main tourist attractions on the island is Nagasaki which includes a commemorative museum for the nuclear destruction which was cause there during World War Two. There are also mountains and hot springs to explore.
Japan is made up of islands, extending along the eastern Pacific coast of Asia. The main ones, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu the mainland, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Naha in the Ryukyu region is over 375 miles to the south west of Kyushu. There are also about 3,000 smaller islands.
Most people fly to Tokyo although most major cities have an international airport. Flying across Japan is relatively inexpensive from the main islands to any of the smaller ones. The train network has a reputation for efficiency, speed, frequency, cleanliness and comfort. It's also expensive.
Driving in Japan is relatively easy with good roads and well maintained signs except Tokyo which is heavily congested. Ferries offer a frequent and comprehensive network connecting the mainland islands with the smaller ones. There is a good network of trams and buses which are a cheaper alternative to taxis.
Spring is a perfect time to visit when there are generally clear skies and you see cherry trees in full blossom. Autumn is another good time to visit when temperatures are moderate. December and January can be very cold and the peak of summer extremely hot. Most of the year though the Japanese climate is fairly moderate. Rainfall is frequent especially during June. Generally it is warmer in the south of the country.
Japan has 28 national parks. Fuji-Hakone-Izu includes Mount Fuji near Tokyo. Nikko includes the Toshogu Shrine and has abundant forest, lakes, and waterfalls. The Japanese Alps National Park was the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics and provides good hiking and skiing.
The Great Buddha is Kamakura's most famous sight. Completed in 1252 it was once housed in a huge hall but now sits in the open. Cast in bronze, the statue is 11.4m tall and is found just south of Tokyo.
A dense jungle island with beautiful beaches, rivers, waterfalls and exotic wildlife, including big cats.
Highest mountain in Japan (12,388ft) provides a memorable sight. Even though it is 62 miles away on a clear day you can see this volcanic mountain from Tokyo.
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