After you settle on a time of the year, it is time to choose what to visit. Japan is not a big country in area, but it is certainly not lacking places to visit. There are literally hundreds of different Shrines and Temples, all with peculiar architecture, nature and history. The famous Japanese Gardens are often everywhere (most Shrines/Temples also have one), and even simple parks are a sight. A very awe-inspiring moment is when you find yourself in the peace and quiet of nature all around you, with meticulous care to details, and have to make a mental effort to remember you are right in the middle of the biggest urban metropolis in the world (for this experience, try walking in Meiji grounds, Shinkuju-gyoen or some of the many Japanese Gardens in Tokyo)
We have a special tool that will help you find potential cities and sites to explore, but before you try it, lets explore what Japan has to offer:
- Parks and Gardens like no other - From stone gardens to elaborate paths and mounts in planned gardens, Japan is expert in creating "multiple views" in a small patch of ground. A lot of gardens are planned so that, as you follow a path, intricate scenes open up to you
- Nature - A lot of people don't believe how green Japan is. With over 70% of its are mountainous and close to 70% heavy forested, Japan is among the top 5 countries with biggest forest coverage in the world (others like it being Finland and Sweden). So it comes as no surprise, even in big cities, that nature is everywhere, and it makes sense: Both Shinto and Buddhism take nature care extremely important. Tokyo has in excess of 7 Km² of green area just in the central area, summing up almost 10% of the area - to give a perspective, Manhattan has around 6 Km² to a total of only 3% green area, that is about three times green area in central Tokyo than in Manhattan.
- Temples and Shrines - Even if you are not into religion or temples, one cannot deny the beauty and serenity of Japanese temples. There are seldom two alike, and they usually accompany gardens and parks around it. Some are deep in the mountains, by the sea or by lakes and rivers, and even in the middle of the concrete jungle of modern cities, you will find traditional temples lurking in a corner.
- Flowers and Leafs - Thanks to its well defined seasons, Japan is an excellent place to see the Spring Blossoms or Autumn Colors all over the country, again with different perspectives, from stone gardens to skyscraper areas.
- As a modern and old country, Japan has a wealth of Museums and Exhibits, not to mention museums aimed only for future technologies. For those visiting from developing world, the city centers themselves seem out of a sci-fi movie.
- Theme parks and Young Adult areas - No great country would be complete without plenty of entertainment. Japan has Disney and Universal Studios theme parks, as well local Theme parks for nature, anime and even the celebration of the venerable Mt. Fuji. Don't worry, if you are bringing your kids, Japan is kid-friendly from safety and service to entertainment and fun.
- Shopping and Food - It is not far fetched to say plenty of people visit Japan only for their cousine, and while for people coming from developed countries prices from shopping might not always be competitive, it certainly attract its fair share of tech nerds looking for the latest gadgets, if not only to say it was purchased from the source.
- Traditional Japan - Ryokans, Onsens and villages. If you want to leave the small areas of dense urbanization and explore the 70% forested country, there is no lack of destinations even inside big cities. Ryokans - traditional hotels that operate differently from what westerners are used, with personal hosts and tatami-mats as beds, are aplenty, and Onsens (in Ryokans or stand-alone) are all over the country, specially in the mountainous areas. If you don't want to get away from big Tokyo, don't worry, Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba, Tokyo ↗ , an artificial island, is a real onsen with hot water pumped from 1400m underground.
- As a mountainous country, it comes without &saying that hiking trails, ski resorts and mountain paths are everywhere. Sometimes a few minutes from downtown of the biggest cities.
- And lets not forget J-pop and Anime, and all the Otaku culture around it. Some surveys suggest that the Anime and Manga industry expends close to what Hollywood do in movies. Not surprising that such culture spread to the whole world.
If you are still looking for a city to fall in love with, or places to visit in the biggest centers, check our Japan Suggestions page.