Professional female entertainers who perform traditional Japanese arts: ancient dancing, playing instruments, flower arranging, tea ceremony demonstrations and calligraphy. You can see Japan’s oldest artisans perform in Kyoto or Tokyo in a tea ceremony demonstration or dance performance.
Shopping in Japan is great for electronic bargains and truly original items like kimonos for dogs, robots and youth-inducing collagen marshmallows. From luxury to the bizzare, you can find something to suit all tastes in Japan.
Come dusk Tokyo and Osaka blossoms into a profusion of giant neon lights and paper lanterns, and its streets fill with overworked locals out to have a good time. Entertainment districts are as crowded at 3am as they are at 10pm, and many places stay open until the first subways start running after 5am. Whether it’s jazz, reggae, gay bars, dance clubs, rustic or chic bars Tokyo and Osaka have them all.
Japanese hot spring onsen are the perfect way to relax after a long day sightseeing. There are over 2,000 hot spring areas throughout Japan.
Japan not only offers fantastic sushi but also a wide range of cuisine to suit everyone’s taste buds, from traditional Kyoto kaiseki cuisine to Japan’s version of pizza-omlette-pancake okonomi-yaki.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Japan has long been popular for its futuristic high-tech cities and ancient cities with exquisite gardens and temples, but its fantastic winter resorts have been a well kept secret. There are huge amounts of fresh powder snow every day and there’s no need for a helicopter to get to it – all you need is a lift ticket.
With so many mountains in Japan, hiking has become a major activity for young and old alike. A hike up a mountain is a great way to enjoy the changing seasons of Japan. From the blossoming flowers in spring and early summer to the leaves turning in autumn, Japan’s mountains offer exquisite scenery.
Mountain Biking & Cycling
For something a bit more fast-paced and adrenaline-producing, mountain biking in Japan is the way to go. Outdoor fun and adventures do not come to a halt when the ski season is over. As the snow melts and the mountains show their face again each spring, it is the perfect time to jump on a bike and start exploring all over again. Popular cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto are also fun to explore by bike.
Scuba Diving & Snorkelling
For underwater adventures, head to Japan’s lesser-known small islands. The Okinawa, Izu and Ogasawara Islands are perfect destinations for lovers of marine sports, including scuba diving, the crystal clear waters will reveal spectacular marine life and beautiful coral reefs.
Surfing may be the last thing you would think to do in Japan. You will find plenty of waves without having to travel too far. Kujukuri-hama beach is in Tokyo’s neighbouring, Chiba prefecture and is a rare 66km kilometre coastline. Kamakura in Kanagawa is another beach also close to Tokyo and is quite popular due to its accessibility.
Japanese love outdoor life, and camping has always been popular among the younger set and those young at heart. There are currently more than 3,000 campsites scattered all over Japan, mostly owned and managed by public bodies.
Fancy a few rounds of golf? You can do that too! You are never too far from a golf course in Japan.
Japanese comics read by all ages on a variety of subjects. With a history that dates back to the late18th century, manga is now popular worldwide, with films like Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ even picking up an Oscar. Tokyo’s Akihabara district is the centre for Japanese otaku and manga goods. In Akihabara you will find many electronics stores, but also a huge range of stores specialising in anime, manga, figurines and gaming. In addition to shops, various other anime and manga related establishments have become popular in the area, particularly maid cafes where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters, and manga cafes, a type of internet cafe where customers can read comics and watch DVDs in addition to having access to the internet.
Himiko & Jicoo
Cruise Tokyo Bay in the futuristic Himiko boat designed by famous manga artist Leiji Matsumoto. Mr. Matsumoto designed the boat based on the concepts of, “the image of teardrop” and “a ship that would appeal to children.” At night Himiko turns into floating bar Jicoo, one of Tokyo’s most unique locations for evening cocktails.
The shinkansen, or bullet train, is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan. The shinkansen can reach speeds up to 300km/ph (186 mph) making it fantastic and speedy way to travel in Japan. The shinkansen network currently reaches from Kagoshima at the bottom of Kyushu all the way up to Aomori at the top of Japan’s main island of Honshu. In March 2015, a new bullet train line extension will open to Kanazawa and Toyama. The Japan Rail Pass is a great value pass only available to visitors to Japan. It entitles you to unlimited travel on the Japan Railways network for 7, 14 or 21 days. A 7-day pass costs from just £160 for a whole week of unlimited travel on Japan’s speedy bullet trains.
Harajuku & Omotesando
The Omotesando Boulevard is Japan’s equivalent of Paris’s Champ Elyesses and nearby Harajuku’s Takeshita Street is Japan’s youth fashion Mecca. The two areas are a pleasant stroll apart making it easy to see what’s hot in Japanese fashion – from designer to high street – all in one afternoon.
Want to know what the most popular drink is in Japan? Most popular chocolate bar? Or even the top selling bath salts? Visit RanKing RanQueen, a shop that sells only the top 3, 5 or 10 items in an eclectic range of categories. Rankings are based on sales data from big Tokyo department stores. RanKing RanQueen stores can be founding Tokyo and Fukuoka.
World Heritage Sites
Hiraizumi – Iwate
Hiraizumi features a cluster of temples and ruins left by the Oshu Fujiwara warrior family that ruled Japan’s Tohoku region from the 11th to the 12th centuries. Hiraizumi’s most famous attraction is Chusonji (pictured), a Buddhist temple established in 850 with a stunning Golden Hall.
Ogasawara Islands – Tokyo
The Ogasawara Islands are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo. They are home to over 100 kinds of indigenous plants and more than 14 kinds of animals. The Ogasawaras are popular for whale watching, scuba diving, swimming with dolphin, surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, bird watching and hiking.
Shirakami-Sanchi Mountain Range – Aomori & Akita
The vast primeval beech forest, which is home to a precious population of animals and plants, is just like a forest museum.
Shrines & Temples Of Nikko – Tochigi
Sacred spot of the Edo Shogunate with striking religious architecture in beautiful natural setting.
Shiretoko National Park – Hokkaido
Shiretoko, considered to be the last pristine wilderness remaining in Japan, is a long narrow peninsula located in north-eastern Hokkaido.
Shirakawa-Go & Gokayama Villages – Gifu & Toyama
Remote mountain villages of gassho-style farmhouses in an area of heavy snow.
Historic Monuments Of Ancient Nara – Nara
Nara first developed after being designated the capital of Japan in 710. The Great Buddha of Todaiji remains today an awe-inspiring symbol of the ancient capital of Japan.
Buddhist Monuments In The Horyu-Ji Area – Nara
The oldest wooden building in the world, thirty-eight national treasures and 151 important cultural assets are preserved on Horyu-ji Temple’s vast premises.
Historic Monuments Of Ancient Kyoto – Kyoto & Shiga
Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan for as long as 1,000 years after 794. Thirteen temples, three shrines and Nijo Castle are all registered as World Heritage Sites.
Kii Mountains Pilgrimage Routes – Nara, Wakayama & Mie
This world heritage site incorporates three sacred sites across Nara, Wakayama and Mie prefectures: “Yoshino/Omine”, “Kumano Sanzan”, “Koya-san” and the pilgrimage routes that connect them.
Himeji Castle – Hyogo
A classic example of Japan’s beautiful castle architecture remarkably well preserved.
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine – Shimane
The ancient remains of the mine which produced fine-quality silver over 400 years within an environment abounding in nature, and the landscape which retains vestiges of traditional Japanese lifestyle and culture.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial & Itsukushima Shrine – Hiroshima
A memorial park surrouding the ruins of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall that was destroyed when the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped in 1945 and a majestic Shinto Shrine dedicated to the God protecting people from sea disasters and wars on Miyajima island.
Ryukyu Kingdom Gusuku Sites – Okinawa
Cultural heritage sites are scattered among the southernmost islands of Japan and on the main island of Okinawa. There are nine ruins symbolizing the unique culture and religious beliefs of the Kingdom of Ryukyu that once flourished here.
Yakushima Island – Kagoshima
Enjoy the unspoiled richness of nature on a mysterious island where time stands still.