Ancient traditions fuse with modern-bustle in timeless Japan, and whether you love the great outdoors, busy cities, or traditional, historic sites, Japan has something wonderful to offer.
With so many destinations though, spread out across 6,852 islands, planning your first trip to Japan can be overwhelming in choosing where to go.
Japan holds many incredible treasures, and is one of those countries which calls you back for more. There’s a lot of opportunity here for traveling off the beaten path, but if you’re planning a first trip and want to start out with the classics, the following places offer a great introductory tour.
Famous throughout the world, Japan’s cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show every spring with visitors coming from far and wide to view the incredible sight.
In Japan this season is called “Hanami” which literally translates to “viewing of cherry blossoms” (the flowers themselves are referred to as Sakura). Cherry blossoms play such a significant role in Japanese culture; they are fleeting, short-lived, and cherished for their ephemeral beauty.
The Hanami season begins in March and lasts until May, and whether you’re visiting busy cities like Tokyo or Osaka, or sourcing out hidden parks and temples, pink and white cherry trees will blanket the country from north to south!
But the cherry blossoms are fleeting, and most cities only offer a short window of 2-3 weeks. Tokyo’s cherry tress are predicted to start blooming from March 22 in 2020, with the best viewing from March 29 – April 6.
So, want to learn more about Hanami? We’ve updated our popular guide with dates for 2020, so you have all the info you need for planning a cherry blossoms trip to Japan, and extra fun facts about its significance to Japanese culture.
Ask a thousand people which countries feature on their bucket list, and most will make mention to Japan. After-all, it’s a melting pot of cherry blossoms, ancient traditions, and beautiful people with deep cultural roots!
There’s also the Insta-worthy food!
Japan is a patchwork of intense urban life mixed with traditional sites; exciting modern architecture sits next to a diverse legacy of beautiful castles and temples from ancient times. Though there are also tropical islands and snowy mountains for skiing in addition to its face paced cosmopolitan cities.
Japan is a country that many say they would love to visit; ‘it’ll happen someday soon‘. But with 2020 fast approaching, and an epic year ahead for the country, it’s time to commit to making it happen!
Here’s why Japan is a must visit destination in 2020.
Besides family and music, my other great passion in life is travel. I have been blessed to have travelled the world, either with my family or touring with bands, and it has enriched my heart and soul and provided so much fuel for the fire when it comes to writing songs.
So many of my songs are based on stories and experiences borne out of globe-trotting – travel is a constant source of joy and inspiration.
Some of these tales I have shared in the liner notes of my albums, but believe me, that just scratches the surface. There is so much more to tell.
To get things started I am going to talk about a country that is a place of complete intrigue for me – the Land of the Rising Sun.
These are my stories – memories from Japan in the 1960’s, and how this fascinating country inspired my songs.
My love for Japan is well documented, and I’ve traveled here more than I have any other country. It’s a truly timeless destination where ancient traditions, futuristic technology, and modern culture have all been thrown into the same melting pot.
Japan might seem small on a map, but don’t be fooled – it’s a very large country. And the mainland is absolutely jam packed with cultural icons. So I don’t blame you if you initially find it hard to decide which cities you’ll focus your attention on.
Thankfully though, you don’t need to settle on a single destination when visiting Japan, since their extensive railway network means you can explore the whole archipelago in a way that’s easy, fast, cheap, and comfortable.
There’s genuinely no better way to get around Japan than by rail, and thanks to the JR Pass for foreign visitors, you can do so quite economically. Read on for everything you need to know about the JR Passes and traveling around Japan.
Come 2020, travelling to Japan will suddenly become a lot easier for those who require a tourist visa.
Unless you’re a citizen of one of the 68 visa-exempt countries, you’ll need a visa to travel to Japan. Until now this has meant applying at a Japanese embassy or consulate. However the government has decided to introduce a new Japan e-visa to simplify the process.
Available to the general public from next year, a tourist visa for Japan will grant you access to the hidden treasures of an intriguing destination; this is a country where traditional culture blends seamlessly alongside and modern dynamic cities; a bucketlist destination it would be a shame to miss.
In the lead up to its much anticipated launch, read on for more information about Japan’s new travel e-visa application process.
People have long fell in love with the beauty of cherry blossom season in Japan. These pink and white flowers bloom en masse every spring, enveloping the country in soft magnificence.
The Cherry Blossom Festival, or Hanami, takes place from March to May and during this time, locals come out in full force, staging picnics, meeting for walks, and other outdoor activities beneath the blossoms to appreciate and enjoy their beauty.
But the blooming season varies across Japan, so picking your destination at the right time is an important part of planning. For example, blooming in Kyoto usually happens around April, while Sapporo experiences their blooms around May.
If you’re planning your Japan trip for April, make sure you visit Kyoto to catch the cherry blossom bloom.
My first ever trip overseas was to Japan when I was 15. It was a language immersion trip with my High School, and my name was pulled out of a hat for one of the coveted places.
And while this introduction to travel involved many cultural highlights like attendance at a local school, a homestay with a Japanese student, and traveling to Hiroshima to place 1,000 cranes, the one day I was most looking forward to was Tokyo Disneyland.
Fastforward 15 years, and I would find myself traveling back to Tokyo, with the sole purpose of visiting Tokyo DisneySea®. And, in a country where embracing worlds of fantasy is part of the cultural fabric, I discovered the same sense of pure joy and wonder as I had felt at age 15.
Tokyo DisneySea is an incredible theme park inspired by the myths and legends of the sea. And in the lead up to my trip, fellow adults would lose their composure and absolutely gush about how incredible their time at the park had been.
In the fierce debate about the best Disney park in the world, I feel confident awarding the title to Tokyo DisneySea. Here’s why.
My love for Japan is well documented; it’s a timeless country that captures your heart, soul and imagination; a place where ancient traditions come together with futuristic technology and modern culture.
Tokyo is a tourist favorite, but did you know that Japan has a whopping 6,852 islands?!
Most travelers stick to the main island, and take in the classics like Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe. But it’s so easy to travel between islands in Japan, that it’s well worth mixing up your itinerary to explore further out.
One island it would be a shame to miss is Kyushu. This is Japan’s third largest island, though sitting in a sub tropical climate on the southwest end, Kyushu remains a hidden gem.
You might picture ancient temples, neon lights, and dizzying skyscrapers when you think of Tokyo, but Kyushu allows you to discover a side of the country you don’t expect; one of Jurassic looking volcanoes, ultra lush forests, tropical coastlines, and bubbling hot springs.
So, after you’ve experienced everything Tokyo has to offer, let Kyushu show you a different side of Japan. Check out these 6 short videos for a virtual trip to both Tokyo and Kyushu Island.
I typically don’t live life with regrets, though if I was pushed to name one regret, it would be not being able to speak a foreign language.
Especially since I used to be able to.
And to be honest it’s quite embarrassing. Being in a foreign country where the locals are making all the effort to speak in English and I can’t string a sentence together in theirs.
Telling people that yes, I did learn Japanese in High school, but now it’s all but disappeared.
So on my most recent trip to Japan I decided that enough was enough. I was done with feeling ashamed and guilty that I hadn’t put the effort into retaining Japanese as a second language, and I wanted to replace that with a feeling of pride at being able to thrive in real world conversations.
I told myself I wasn’t going to travel with a portable translator, and a couple of months before I left I downloaded Rosetta Stone on my desktop and phone.
If you’ve ever heard of the Silk Road, this refers to an ancient network of Eurasian trade routes that once connected the East to the West. These were routes that emerged across both land and sea, along which silk and many other goods were imported and exported.
For many years, this was the primary source of cultural crossover between Europe and Asia. And while the Silk Road stretched all across Europe and the Middle East, it is the Asian stops of the Silk Road that are most worth the trip today.
This is where the Silk Road originated, when China opened up to trade in the first and second centuries B.C. But while goods were obviously traded, imported, and exported in and out of Asia, it has a much greater cultural significance. The constant movement and mixing of populations also brought about the transmission of knowledge, ideas, cultures and beliefs, which had a profound impact on the history and civilizations of the Eurasian peoples.
For those with an interest in history and cultural heritage, the Silk Road is a great path to follow when travelling in China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. Here are 3 must-see destinations you shouldn’t miss.
Japan could easily be considered to be among the world’s most desired destinations. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of watching the sun set over a tori gate, visit the thousands of shrines in Kyoto, or witness dawn from the top of Mt. Fuji?
And in terms of getting around, the country has one of the safest, cleanest, fastest, most efficient, punctual and convenient public transportation networks in the world. But while you might be tempted by the city subways, bullet trains, or even by catching a flight, we opted for an entirely different way of seeing Japan: by bike.
With considerate drivers, great infrastructure, and a well connected network of roads, Japan is a perfect destination for bicycle touring first-timers. We spent 3 months on our bikes exploring Kyushu, Shikoku, and Southern Honsu, but you still can easily cover a wide cross section of Japan in 7 – 10 days.
If you could only ever explore one region of Japan, Kansai would be a good choice. The cultural heartland of the country, which includes the cities of Osaka, Sakai, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto, no other region offers as much cultural and historic significance into such a compact size.
This has been the cultural center of Japan for centuries, having given birth to traditional Japanese theatre styles, Japanese Buddhism, the tea ceremony, and hosted many Japanese capitols throughout time. It is a patchwork of intense urban life mixed with traditional sites; exciting modern architecture sits next to a diverse legacy of beautiful castles and temples from ancient times.
It is a hub of Japanese experiences in food, religion, and ancient tradition, and is the perfect region to sample Japan’s diversity. No other region of Japan offers as much variety as Kansai.
In this increasingly divided world, there are still a few things which remain that unites us all. And one of those is that we all love a good old snooze. However, just as the language we speak and the food we eat differ depending on the country we live in, so too does how we sleep.
Unsurprisingly, our bedtime routines reflect the differences in everything from our environment, to our lifestyles and cultural values. Below are just some of the countless ways in which the world gets its rest on.
One of the most colorful seasons in Japan is Hanami; a season where the country’s famous cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show, a show cherished by tourists and locals alike. Groups gather in city parks to bathe in the pink atmosphere of the flowering cherry and plum trees, and spring parties are thrown which can last well into the night.
The Hanami season begins in March and lasts until late May, and fortunately, some of Japan’s most iconic cities are also the best places to witness the flowering spectacle. But the cherry blossoms are fleeting, and most cities only offer a short window of 2-3 weeks (you can check online flower forecasts to find peak viewing times across the country).
We therefore decided it was best to head on an organized tour. And the great thing for anyone wishing to catch the cherry blossoms in 2018, is that Luxury Escapes is offering 40% off the tour we chose.
Getting to see a volcano up close is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Whether they’re dormant or active, standing on the crater fills you with wonder (and sometimes dread) as you gaze into the maw of these colossi.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve chosen five different countries with live volcanoes. Though some of these have more than one volcano currently active, so keep an eye out for that, too.
Japan is a wonderful country known for it’s blend of traditional culture and modern dynamic cities. And while the buzz is all about it’s pop culture, neon-lit streetscapes and architectural wonders that redefine what a city should be, there is also an incredible outdoors and nature scene.
Over two-thirds of Japan is made up of mountains, perfect for hiking, and there are majestic volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and vast forests inhabited by monkeys, bears, deer, cranes and other wildlife. The tropical beaches of the south are popular for sunning, snorkelling, diving and surfing, and in fact, Japan’s coastline is one of the longest and most impressive in the world.
So to inspire you to make your visit to Japan a little different from the standard Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima itinerary, let me introduce you to 5 beautiful places you shouldn’t miss. Because Japan is much more than one large, densely populated megacity!
To much of the developed world, especially in recent years, tattoos are seen as beautiful/trendy additions to one’s personality, with many tattoos succeeding in telling interesting stories about a person’s past.
But in some countries, tattoos are still seen as extremely taboo. Exposed tattoos in such countries can commonly result in arrests, and where a traveler is concerned, sometimes deportation.
So the following is a list of countries where you should be extra careful about flaunting your ink – otherwise you may end up in more trouble than previously thought!
Osaka is a darling city, offering tourists plenty of attractions without the stressful crowds like that of its larger city counterparts. And while it may prove difficult to pull yourself away from its charms, beyond Osaka itself are some lovely places to experience Japan’s culture and natural beauty.
The following are two great cities for exploring more of Japan, both under an hour away from Osaka, making each perfect for a day trip during your stay.
Whilst Tokyo is the popular big city for tourists, Osaka is the darling sister, holding a charm that can’t be denied. It has all the culture, attractions and delicious food you can expect from a Japanese city, though with the bonus of less crowds and congested streets.
Perfect for families, or those who prefer a slightly quieter, but still fulfilling, Japanese holiday, Osaka is the place to visit. Here is our list of highlights and attractions you shouldn’t miss!
Business or leisure? Why not both? For those lucky enough to travel for business, we suggests turning business trips into mini vacations, or what some call “bleisure” trips.
The cities below are known for their economic prowess as well as their entertainment dexterity, making them perfect for bleisure. With stunning skylines, rich cultural sites, wilderness centers and upbeat night scenes, these cities are the ideal places to blend business with more than just a dash of pleasure.
Japan is a truly unique destination in that each month has something fantastic to offer, and there is genuinely no bad time to go.
Seasons play a huge role in Japanese culture, so visiting at different times of the year will offer different experiences. Many plan their trip around spring to witness the cherry blossoms bloom, though a strong argument could be made that Autumn is the most beautiful time of year! And Kyoto has some of the most stunning fall foliage in the country.
Leaves start changing from mid October and last until mid-December. Hit up the following spots in mid November to see Autumn colors in Kyoto at their best.
Tokyo is a dazzling destination, one popular among travelers for its ability to keep traditional Japanese culture while embracing a passion for everything new. When to visit is a difficult question to answer. Each month has something fantastic to offer, and as seasons play a huge role in Japanese culture, visiting at different times of the year will offer different experiences.
The following are reasons to visit Tokyo during each season. The decision of when to visit is then up to you!