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Places to explore in Japan
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Toyosu Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region: Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
Commerce keeps Nagoya’s downtown popping with life, but there’s more than just manufacturing to this industrial powerhouse. Nagoyans meet for plates of crisp-friend miso katsu; make weekend trips to nearby Shinto shrines; and count down the days to the city’s autumn Nagoya Festival.
Fukuoka is a gourmet paradise... "providing you're not vegetarian," say travellers on our Fukuoka forum! It's right on Genkai Sea, and the seafood is fresh and abundant. So is Fukuoka-style ramen, which you can find at the city's famous yatai (outdoor stalls) as well as modern restaurants. Walk off your meal at Ohori Park and the nearby Fukuoka Castle ruins.
Long a popular destination for Japanese travellers looking for a relaxing beach break, Okinawa is gaining international popularity. Coral reefs provide great snorkelling and diving spots, but if you prefer to see beautiful fish without getting wet, Okinawa also has a fine aquarium. The ancient forests around the city offer a chance to view rare flora and fauna.
Probably best known for its eponymous beer, Sapporo—the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island—has maintained the youthful and open atmosphere of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, drawing international visitors for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen. Those seeking out the full diversity of Japanese cuisine will want to visit: a city with a ramen-inspired theme park is one that embraces and pampers foodies.
A trip to Hiroshima is best kicked off with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which contains a museum, the remnants of buildings destroyed by the 1945 atomic bomb and monuments to the people killed by this nuclear attack. Understanding Hiroshima’s relatively recent devastation is key to fully appreciating its beauty and culture. Visit splendidly rebuilt historic sites like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei-en Garden, and don’t miss the Itsukushima Shrine on the nearby island of Miyajima.
If it weren't for the museum dedicated to the devastating 1995 earthquake, you might never know that Kobe had suffered a natural calamity. Today this Japanese port town is a thriving metropolitan city with an international feel. The sake brewing season runs from October to April, and it's the best time to take a tour of a kura (brewery). Alternatively, the Hakutsure Sake Brewery Museum is open all year round. The nightlife is happening, and of course Kobe beef is celebrated worldwide.