Whether you’re looking for stunning remnants of the past or cutting-edge glimpses of the future, Japan will satisfy your most diverse travel dreams.
It’s hard to top Japan when it comes to an ideal travel destination. It has that ineffable quality that draws people like moths to a flame, alluring both career globetrotters and people crossing the Pacific for the first time. It’s wonderfully contradictory. For instance, it’s both old and new, rigid when it comes to tradition, but revolutionary in terms of innovation. There are thousands of satisfying experiences to be had in Japan, each one different and vital to what makes the country so special. There’s no better place to satisfy your wanderlust in the coming year.
As Japan’s largest city, Tokyo attracts the lion’s share of travellers. It’s one of those cities to get purposefully lost in, as you’ll discover some incredible things around every corner. There are things here to appeal to every kind of traveller. If you love video games and anime, wander around Akihabara Electric Town, visit anime cafes and shop for manga before you head to the Robot Restaurant for an elaborate futuristic spectacle. If you enjoy a more classical atmosphere, stroll through Ueno Park to see the cherry trees and visit the national museum before you head over to nearby Asakusa to visit Senso-ji, the largest and most significant Buddhist temple in the city.
As well, no place in Japan better exemplifies its coexisting contradictions. One moment, you’ll be strolling through a quiet park and admiring the rustic wood of the Meiji Shrine, one of Japan’s most significant Shinto monuments, and the next you’ll exit the park and take a left and stumble upon Takashita Street, the world-famous avenue where you’ll see some of the world’s most elaborate cosplay and youth fashions. And let’s not forget about the food. Tokyo ranks alongside Paris and Hong Kong as one of the world’s food capitals. High-end travellers will find more Michelin-starred restaurants here than anywhere else in the world, but Tokyo also satisfies the more humble travellers searching out food stalls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. A bowl of ramen from a vendor outside the train station can be as satisfying as the fanciest sushi feast.
Although you could stay in Tokyo for weeks and still have new things to discover each day, you’d be missing out if you didn’t head to other cities, especially Kyoto. The former imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto has a reputation as the country’s most beautiful city—a reputation it completely deserves. There’s a magical atmosphere to the city. You need only stroll through the swaying bamboo stalks of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, gaze upon the golden panels of Kinkaku-ji, or ascend the hillside of Fushimi Inari, passing through hundreds of orange-red torii gates, to tap into this magic.
Nearby Nara is also worth at least a day trip. This compact city was Japan’s first permanent capital and it has a variety of the nation’s greatest treasures, including the Giant Buddha statue that sits within Todai-ji, the world’s largest wooden building. And let’s not forget Nara Park, which has hundreds of partially-domesticated deer that wander freely and interact with people. Rumour has it some of the deer even know how to bow. You’ll have to see if they do when you’re there.
Tokyo and Kyoto are the essential stops in Japan, but there’s a lot more to the country than these two cities. Osaka is almost as large as Tokyo and has a whole world of neon to discover. Its massive castle remains one of the most popular in the country. Hiroshima forever exists in the shadow of the atom bombs that ended World War II. There’s no better place to pay respects to the dead and contemplate a world without war than at the Atom Bomb Dome and Peace Park in downtown Hiroshima. The mountains have their own secrets to reveal to you, from the lovely garden of Kenroku-en in coastal Kanazawa to the wooden hillside homes of tiny Takayama in the Hida region. And the island of Kyushu offers its own wonderland of volcanoes, hot springs, and unbeatable culinary delights.
If you’ve got wanderlust and want to jet halfway across the world to satisfy it, choose Japan as your next travel destination. It’s a country so rich in culture and history and the vibrancy of nature, you may never want to leave.
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