Japan Travel Guide

Japan Travel Guide

From kimono-clad geishas singing karaoke in Kyoto to Buddhist monks whizzing around Tokyo on motorbikes, Japan is a fascinating land of contrasts, a heady mix of tradition and modernity that often bewilders but never bores.

Nowhere in the world blends the old and new quite like Japan. The speed of new technological developments here is matched only by the longevity of its ancient customs and traditions. The country is a pioneer in the fields of design, technology, fashion and cuisine. You can set your watch by the trains, eat meals that look like works of contemporary art and relieve yourself in the most technologically advanced toilets on the planet (some even talk to you).

Paradoxically, Japan’s embrace of the cutting edge is offset by its revered cultural traditions and celebrated historic achievements. Crumbling castles, atmospheric Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and fascinating festivals are never far away, with historic highlights including the striking Himeji Castle and Kyoto’s iconic Temple of the Golden Pavilion. There’s also evidence of Japan’s dramatic recent history in cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the earliest nuclear bombs were dropped with devastating consequences during WWII.

If you love nature, you will adore Japan. This is a country swathed in natural beauty. Ski the powdery slopes of Hokkaido, revel in the springtime beauty of the sakura cherry blossoms, frolic in the sun-drenched beaches and turquoise waters of subtropical Okinawa, or climb up the iconic Mount Fuji. Wherever you go, good food is guaranteed – from fresh sushi and sashimi to robata-fired meats and sizzling sauces, Japan is a joy for gastronomes.

It is also a land of wild eccentricities, where you can buy used underwear from vending machines, watch men strip at the festival of Hadaka Matsuri and get amorous in one of the country’s many short-stay love hotels. These facets might jar somewhat with Japan’s polished image, but they help make it one of the most singular destinations on the planet.

When to Go

Rafting season in Japan depends from river to river. In the Tone River, the best season is considered to be in spring, from the months of April to June. However, canyoning is enjoyable all year round, through the different seasons. In the Yoshino River, the best time to go is from May to October as the rivers have consistently high flows that rafting enthusiasts will certainly enjoy.

The Kunisaki trek is most enjoyable during the months of March through to December. Spring, autumn, and winter are the best seasons for bird-watching as large number of migrant birds make their appearance in Japan during these seasons.
Top Tips

-Stay with your group so you don’t become lost, especially in the mountain trails of the Kunisaki trek.
-Make sure you acclimatize as you go higher. These are big mountains, and they must be treated with respect.
-Always make a point to follow what your guide says as they are locals and know the area and the paths.
-Respect the customs of the locals. Many times you will find yourself in shrines and temples dedicated to deities of the local region, so treat these places with respect. If you meet elderly people, make sure to bow slightly to show respect.

Classic Itineraries

-Go trekking on the trails of Kunisaki
-Visit the different religious shrines and temples, especially in Kumano Mugaibutsu
-Enjoy the rapids of Tone River and Yoshino River
UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Natural Sites

– Shirakami-Sanchi
– Yakushima
– Shiretoko
– Ogasawara Islands

Cultural Sites

– Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area
– Himeji-jo
– Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)
– Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
– Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)
– Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
– Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
– Shrines and Temples of Nikko
– Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu
– Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
– Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape
– Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites
– Fujisan