Known as the ‘land of the rising sun’, Japan balances tradition with high-tech modern technologies. Japan is truly a country of contrasts – from the natural spectacle of Mount Fuji and idyllic islands and beaches in the south, to the cosmopolitan energy of Tokyo and Osaka and the ancient temples, shrines and wooden houses of Kyoto. Japan is unlike anywhere else in Asia and is a truly enthralling holiday destination.
Unique experiences in Japan
Japan is abundant in unique experiences. From learning the art of the samurai sword, sushi or sumo, to dressing up as a geisha, discovering the world of anime, visiting a sake brewery or trying your hand at calligraphy, there are so many activities to squeeze into your Japan itinerary.
Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto
The ritual of a tea ceremony is steeped in tradition and closely related to Zen Buddhism which is widely practiced across Japan. Joining a local master for this quintessential Japanese experience in the heart of Kyoto is the perfect way to gain an insight into the customs and history of one of Japan’s oldest traditions.
Cycling in Yudanaka
Whilst Yudanaka is most celebrated for its resident snow monkeys, taking the cycle route from there to Obuse is a true delight and a wonderful way to see the Japanese countryside. The journey is mostly downhill allowing you to take in the superb views as you mosey past local villages and sweeping vistas of the surrounding area.
Cherry blossom festivities
Whether it is taking a picnic under the full bloom of a cherry blossom tree, eating a pink themed bento box or joining a local party beneath the sakura, hanami celebrations are a must in Japan. When cherry blossom fever takes hold, it is almost impossible not to be tempted to join in the festivities. Marking the beginning of spring, the national celebrations which take place throughout the first part of the year are a delight to get involved in.
The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto
Once the commute of a renowned Japanese philosopher, a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path is a walk back in time along an idyllic towpath. The route passes through the heart of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, passing Shinto temples and small shrines on the way. Wandering along the two-kilometre path whilst the renowned cherry blossom is in full bloom makes the stroll even more picturesque.
Street food tour in Tokyo
Whilst culinary experiences abound in Tokyo, the red lantern tour around Shibuya is one of our favourites. This is an unbeatable way to sample delicacies from some of the city’s most famous and exciting eateries. With an expert guide, you can navigate the food stalls of one of Tokyo’s most bustling and vibrant areas, tasting the very best of Japan’s weird and wonderful specialities from each one.
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
Arguably one of Japan’s most iconic shrines, Fushimi Inari is one of the most impressive attractions in southern Kyoto. Thousands of vermilion coloured gates wind their way up the sacred Mount Inari, and encase the entire trail. At New Year, the shrine attracts thousands of worshippers seeking blessings for the coming year yet wandering to the top is a fantastic experience year-round and a must do in Kyoto.
Mount Misen on Miyajima
Miyajima is considered one of Japan’s most scenic spots, best known for the partly submerged Itsukushima shrine on its shores. Yet, heading to the top of Mount Misen is a real highlight too. At nearly 550 metres above sea level, the mountain is home to a unique ecosystem and views from the top can stretch as far as Hiroshima city on a clear day.
Meet a geisha in Kyoto
Open your eyes to the enigmatic world of the geisha for a fascinating snapshot into authentic Japanese culture. Enjoy a cup of tea in the company of a geisha or maiko (trainee geisha), a traditional dance performance or share an evening meal to learn about the lives of Japan’s geishas, the ancient traditions of the teahouses and gain an insight into what is often a misunderstood part of Japanese culture.
Dating back over 2,000 years, Japan’s national sport may look comical, but sumo wrestling is enshrined in Shinto ritual and an important part of Japanese culture. The Japan Sumo Association holds six tournaments (or basho) every year, three in Tokyo and one each in Osaka, Fukuoka, and Nagoya. Each tournament lasts for 15 days. If you are able to get tickets to one of these, it is certain to be a very memorable experience.
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