Japan is tailor-made for ‘real’ travel. Whether you’re immersed in cities that never seem to sleep, pottering through rural villages that rarely seem to wake, walking ancient trails or relaxing in hot spring resorts, you’ll experience unrivalled levels of customer service, comfort and cleanliness.
Much of Japan is connected by one of the world’s most effective railway systems - in Tokyo, you’ll find the starting station for the first ever bullet train and, as you might expect, the primary hub for an excellent rail network that can whisk you across the country’s four main islands in a matter of hours.
Japan has a reputation for fixating on the future, but this energetic curiosity is securely rooted by unbroken traditions that stretch back thousands of years. Much of the country's cultural heritage stems from nature, with colourful festivals that celebrate the seasons, and leisure that centres on bathing in volcanic hot springs and feeding the body and soul with excellent local food.
And yet, despite reminding us of our favourite samurai epics, this lifestyle is a modern reality. Hot spring resort Hakone might be a world away from Tokyo in terms of landscape and ambience, but it’s just an hour by train. The ancient city of Kyoto - UNESCO protected, 280 miles distant - is two hours and twenty. Hiroshima, increasingly famous for all the right reasons, is less than two beyond that.
Cycling enthusiasts, even those of calmer spirit, will love the Shimanami Kaido. Best approached from the charming town of Onomichi, you'll cross a littering of small islands, each connected by dramatic suspension bridges. Break the journey with a night in a ryokan, before continuing to your finish point in Imabari, only after crossing the 4km long Kurushima-Kaikyō bridge.
One of the challenges of travelling is working out how to get beyond the tourist ‘glitz’ and experience the true heart of each destination and its authentic character. Being welcomed into a typical Japanese home gives you the chance to spend time with remarkable people and experience what everyday life in Japan is really like. No two visits will ever be the same...
Known as 'Art Island', the often misunderstood island of Naoshima has quickly risen to become a much talked about addition to many of our Japan holidays. Just a short ferry ride from Uno or Shikoku's Takamatsu, the picturesque Naoshima hides within its boundaries an inspiring collection of installations, outdoor sculptures and impressive gallery spaces.
Your sumo experience will not - you might be relieved to know - involve trying out this historic martial art. Instead, you’ll visit a heya in the traditional sumo district of Ryogoku, Tokyo, to watch the wrestlers train, culminating in a gruelling trial where one fighter faces a stream of others in the ring with no rest, until he’s defeated.
Wander along the ancient trails of Kumano Kodo and its spiritual shrines, enjoying the peaceful, and enchanting surroundings as well as taking in the hospitality of local families along the way.