Gliding into the forefront of train travel in 1964, the bullet train, or Shinkansen, has continued to wow the world with its blistering speed and soundless stealth ever since. Now linking the very north to the south, the Bullet Train has become the reliable backbone of Japan, joining the rural to the cosmopolitan in the blink of an eye. Snaking its way across Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, the bullet train rattles up and down the country at a staggering speed of up to 320km an hour. As synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Mount Fuji, sumo or sushi, the bullet train is arguably the only way to travel in Japan.
Found across Japan, ryokans are traditional Japanese guesthouses which offer the perfect glimpse into Japanese history and culture. Most predominantly located near onsen towns, they are the perfect place to rest travel weary legs along the Nakasendo Way or as an addition to your itinerary on a tour of Japan’s highlights.
Japanese cuisine has taken the world by storm. And whilst sushi bars revolve their way around eateries in cities across the globe, the original home of this deliciously fresh and seasonal delicacy is a culinary force to be reckoned with. With its humble beginnings in street food, sushi has earned its stripes in haute cuisine and now claims many a Michelin star in decadent eateries across Japan and further afield. You only have to watch a sushi master chef in action in Japan to see why. Japanese food is an art form, it is an intrinsic part of the country’s cultural identity and motivation enough to visit.
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.
Hiking in Japan is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Whether its paving the way from village to village in the Japanese Alps, traversing the Big Snow Mountain of Hokkaido, climbing the volcanoes of Kyushu or simply walking in the hills of Kyoto, there is something for everyone to enjoy. We’ve compiled our favourite walking destinations in Japan, ideal for seasoned walkers and wanderers alike.
When to go to Japan
Japan can be visited year-round however there is some variation in climate in different areas. The best and most popular times to visit are the climatically stable seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (late September to November).
Spring - March to May
Spring brings pleasant, warm days. The highlight of spring is the cherry-blossom season, which usually arrives in Japan in March.
Bear in mind, though, that the blossoms are notoriously fickle, blooming any time from late March to mid-April, from warm Kyushu in March to colder Hokkaido around May.
Summer - June to August
The summer (May-August) is warm and humid with rain.
Late June can see torrential rains. The temperature and humidity are at their worst in August. If you don’t like tropical conditions, head for the cooler hills or the northern parts of the country.
Typhoon season begins in August and runs through to October.
Autumn - September to November
Autumn (September-November) sees the arrival of cooler temperatures. ) is the most pleasant season as temperatures cool down to a cosy level and days are often clear and fine.
Autumn also means the return of the dramatic foliage season, when the parks and green areas of the city mellow into varying hues of orange and red.
Winter - December to March
Japan kicks off its year with cold winter days and the odd snowfall. Although temperatures occasionally drop below freezing, winter (December to February) is usually reasonable. Winter days can be a little chilly for some people’s taste, but it's ideal for skiiers. In ski resorts, from December to February the average daytime mountain temperature is -8°C and if skiing at night, it can get down to -20°C. The average annual snow fall is 14 metres.