Japan is a country that defines individuality and diversity. From the snowy northern mountains to the warm islands in the south, and from the cherry blossom in spring to the red-gold colourscapes of autumn, Japan’s landscapes hold a moment for every mood. Its deep history and everyday embrace of spiritual culture is balanced by the imaginative ideology that keeps it at the forefront of technological innovation; Japan looks back with reverence and forwards with energy. This extraordinary country exerts a constant pull on travellers from across the globe, and no wonder: it’s truly one of a kind.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
The food scene in Japan is epic. It’s been said that Dotonbori’s neon streets inspired the look of Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, and the film certainly shares the district’s sci-fi nightscapes and frenetic nocturnal energy. Throughout Japan, restaurant windows are adorned with unbelievably realistic shokuhin sampuru (wax food replicas) that make it easy to see what you’re ordering, and Dotonbori takes this to another level. Giant, mechanical models look down on you as you pass: a puffer fish, a mechanical clown, and (perhaps most famously) an arm-waving crab. This 350-year-old district is a gastronomic playground. Follow your nose between street food stalls and head straight for the takoyaki vendor with the longest line. If you feel overwhelmed, just watch where the locals go and you’ll find the best food in the city.
Between Shikoku and Honshu, surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea, is a cluster of tiny islands that, over the years, has become a living art project. The most famous of these is Naoshima, home of the famous arthouse accommodation, Benesse House, which itself is part of the canvas. Dotted around each of the islands are art installations, galleries, reclaimed spaces and museums, with more immersive pieces by world-renowned artists added every year. Hire bicycles to see it all over a few days, and make sure to allow plenty of time for relaxation and quiet contemplation. This group of islands has gained a glowing international reputation, and they are collectively considered one of Asia’s best travel experiences.
Many travellers to Japan yearn to see the countryside and the more rural areas. This can become a bit of a quest for the Holy Grail, as many ‘rural’ parts of Japan with any kind of infrastructure are more built-up than you might imagine. However, in the north there is Hokkaido island: a place of fire, effervescing onsen, epic forests, quiet communities and grizzly bears. Hokkaido is less well-known outside Japan than the other main islands, but for those in the know it’s famed as one of the world’s best ski destinations. Trek through the island’s unique winter wonderland to see Sapporo’s otherworldly snow sculptures, and in summer gaze at fields of rainbow-hued flowers stretching to the horizon.
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.