Back to top

Mount Fuji

Planning a Holiday to Japan


Where to go in Japan?

Let’s go – Tokyo!

Most trips to Japan begin in the truly memorable city of Tokyo, with its buzzing nightlife, flickering neon signs, high-speed trains and almost ten million people. The capital is quintessentially Japanese, skyscrapers sit alongside ancient Shinto shrines and the hi-tech flashing billboards are metres from longstanding low rise streets. To get your first taste of Japanese culture, head to Ueno Park. The area is packed with shrines, temples, museums and galleries, and offers the chance for some fantastic people-watching. If you’re a morning person – or feeling particularly jet-lagged – a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market is the place to be, offering a real glimpse into Tokyo culture (you can do this with us here!).

Fish market Japan
Building Japan

Time-travel to Kyoto!

No trip to Japan would be complete without visiting Kyoto, and our trip allows you to experience this fascinating city. Where Tokyo is futuristic and fast, Kyoto is charming and calm. As with the rest of the country, you can visit Kyoto all year round, but undoubtedly the most magical time to visit is during the cherry blossom season, or during autumn when fiery red leaves decorate the trees.

The best way to get to Kyoto is on the world-famous Shinkansen bullet train, which will get you there in just under two-and-a-half hours. Famed for its Zen gardens and white-faced geishas, this famous city was the imperial capital for more than 1,000 years. It is also the birthplace of many of the best known Japanese cultural traditions, such as the tea ceremony and flower arranging.

Cat crazy?

The island nation of Japan has four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu – but the Japanese archipelago actually consists of a whopping 6,852 islands, from the beautiful to the bizarre. If you have the time, it is worth considering adding some of the smaller islands to your itinerary.

Forget the Cat Café, in Japan there is a cat island, in fact, there are several. The most well known ‘cat islands’ are Tashirojima and Aoshima. The feline residents outnumber their human counterparts and, in what sounds like a gift from the cat gods, dogs are forbidden. Not usually considered a beach destination, Japan has some beautiful coastlines. The best beaches are found in the subtropical Okinawa Prefecture. Home to stunning beaches and coral reefs, the islands are also famous for the longevity of their residents – with the highest number of centenarians than anywhere in the world. A highlight of many trips is a visit to Miyajima, near Hiroshima. The islands key shrine Itsukushima, and the torii gate must be one of the most photogenic places in Japan.

Japan has no shortage of incredible cities and landscapes, but one of the best reasons to visit is to experience the truly unique Japanese culture…

Japan bathing house

Japanese culture

Dunk in an Onsen

A fantastic way to experience Japanese life is to visit one of the thousands of onsens scattered around the country. A part of Japanese life for centuries, onsens are hot springs that are used as bathing houses. Japanese people visit an onsen to relax, socialise or simply to bathe. They are tranquil places, which can be either outdoors or indoors, and vary in size and style. Before dipping your toe in, you will need to familiarise yourself with onsen customs and be willing to bare all as etiquette dictates that you bathe naked (ooer).

If you would like to see how one set of locals do it, head to the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. This is a particular highlight of any winter trip, where bathing macaques surrounded by snow and steam are an unforgettable sight.

Japanese hospitality at a traditional Ryokan

The traditional Japanese inn, a Ryokan, is as far from a charmless international hotel chain as you can find. These inns, so distinctly Japanese in atmosphere and appearance that they could not possibly be anywhere but Japan, are more than just accommodation. They offer travellers the opportunity to experience true Japanese hospitality. Each Ryokan is unique and offers different services.

Common features of these inns are traditional tatami mat rooms with minimal furniture, a futon bed and most offer a multi-course  Kaiseki dinner  and an authentic breakfast. Many Ryokans also have their own onsen. Staying at a Ryokan offers the chance to immerse yourself in authentic Japanese culture. You can stay at a Ryokan in the beautiful town of Takayama with us (read our 5 Reasons to Visit Takayama post too!).

Hot tubs Japan

Embark on a culinary adventure

Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city on the planet – with Kyoto and Osaka coming in at third and fourth place on the list – proving that Japanese food really is some of the best in the world! Tossing out the image of fine-dining and ostentation, many of Japan’s acclaimed eateries are humble budget-friendly affairs. Japan is not known for being cheap – but where else can you get a Michelin-starred meal for less than a tenner? Tokyo’s ramen bar Tsuta was the first ramen shop to be awarded a coveted star. No trip to Japan would be complete without trying what is arguably one of Japan’s most popular exports, Sushi. There are over 5,000 sushi restaurants in Tokyo alone, so you won’t have to search long to find one. A visit to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant makes a great budget meal and, as you can see the food as it makes its journey around the restaurant, you can step away from Google translate for a while. Want to head to all these foodie hot-spots? Head on our Japan in a Nutshell holiday, or read our guide on famous Japanese food to whet your appetite.