Ancient culture and futuristic cities

Ashley Owen

Think Japan is just futuristic cities and advanced technology? Think again. Yes, Japan is home to Tokyo with all its gleaming lights, capsule hotels and robot restaurants, but there is also another side to this country, which teems with traditional culture. Travel around and you can stay in ancient ryokans (traditional inns), meditate with monks and explore beautiful countryside.

Japan’s varied geography means there is plenty to explore beyond its cities. More than two-thirds of the country is mountainous, with hiking and hot springs to soothe weary feet and plenty of snow for winter sports enthusiasts. Look out for wildflowers and cherry blossom in the warmer months and head to the southern islands for tropical beaches.

Wherever you travel in Japan, you’re assured of an excellent meal. One of the world’s great cuisines, Japanese food is seasonal, sourced from fresh, local ingredients and incredibly varied. Try ramen in Hokkaido, hotpot dishes in the north and sushi in coastal areas.

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  • Tokyo


    Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, but it’s not just about famous restaurants and high prices...Read more
  • Kyoto


    Kyoto is home to more than 2,000 atmospheric temples and shrines...Read more
  • Takayama


    Little Takayama in Central Honshu is famous for its taste of rural Japan...Read more
  • Matsumoto


    The alpine city of Matsumoto is famous for many things – it’s renowned for producing incredible art and artists, its beautiful setting in the northern Japanese Alps and for being the birthplace of soba (buckwheat) noodles, a Japanese delicacy...Read more
  • Hakone


    Hakone is best known for its natural onsen (hot spa pools) and views of Mount Fuji...Read more
  • Kinosaki


    Kinosaki is the archetypal onsen town — as well as being tourist-friendly...Read more
  • Himeji


    Built in 1580, Himeji-jo has a legitimate claim to be Japan’s most magnificent castle...Read more
  • Takamatsu


    The gardens of Ritsurin Park are one of Takamatsu main attractions and are the perfect place to relax...Read more
  • Osaka


    Japan’s third-largest city might not be its prettiest, but it is one of its most welcoming...Read more
  • Hiroshima


    While modern Hiroshima is a thriving, cosmopolitan city, it will always be known as the city destroyed by the world’s first atomic bomb...Read more
  • Iya Valley

    Iya Valley

    The Iya Valley is a huge expanse of tree-lined mountains and deep river gorges, home to tiny villages, hot springs and great views...Read more
  • Kanazawa


    Kanazawa is capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture and was largely undamaged by World War Two air raids, making it a great place to explore Japan’s historical architecture, such as the Nagamachi samurai district...Read more

Japan food and art trail

Japanese culture in depth
Approx. 15 days
Tokyo (3 days) → Matsumoto (1) → Takayama (2) → Kyoto (3) → Takamatsu (2) → Osaka (4)
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Japan’s cities and countryside

Temples, teahouses and Tokyo
Approx. 14 days
Tokyo (3 days) → Hakone (2) → Kyoto (2) → Himeji (1) → Kanazawa (2) → Takayama (2) → Tokyo (2)
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Cities of Japan

Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and beyond
Approx. 14 days
Tokyo (3 days) → Hakone (2) → Kyoto (3) → Hiroshima (2) → Kinosaki (1) → Osaka (3)
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Rural Japan route

Go beyond the big cities into the heart of Japan
Approx. 15 days
Kyoto (3 days) → Hiroshima (2) → Takamatsu (3) → Iya Valley (2) → Himeji (1) → Osaka (4)
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Where to go in Japan

Our recommended places

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