Japan: A nation of contrasts

Japan is a truly impressive country. It is a place where ancient traditions intertwine with modern life as if it were the easiest thing on earth.

On the surface, Japan appears exceedingly modern, but traveling around it offers numerous opportunities to connect with the country’s traditional culture. You can spend the night in a traditional Japanese inn, meditate with monks or learn how to whisk bitter matcha (powdered green tea) into a froth.

From the shimmering waterfront of Yokohama to the bustling back alleys of Osaka, Japan presents a charming mix of old and new. Not only does it mesmerize you at every turn, you can travel to Japan at any time of the year. Pick your season and experience the magic of the cherry blossoms in Kyoto in spring, shopping and cultural activities in Tokyo in summer, the autumn maple leaves in Shizuoka or Hokkaido’s perfect skiing conditions in winter.

There’s is so much to do in Japan, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and its most vibrant city, made up of numerous distinct neighborhoods. Shibuya’s Yoyogi Park comes to life on Sundays when a number of rowdy teens, rock’n’roll wannabes and fashion aficionados take to the streets. Nearby Shinjuki is famous for its ‘Golden Gai’ bar district and incredible world-class restaurants.

Wander down the streets of Asakusa and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time. Like so much of Japan, this bustling neighborhood plays host to ancient temples and ageing shopfronts, on plots surrounded by modern skyscrapers and the stunning neon backdrop of Tokyo.

If you’re into the adventurous outdoors, you can climb breathtaking Mount Fuji, go scuba diving in Okinawa or hit the ski slopes of Niseko. Japan is a long and slender, highly volcanic archipelago. It’s over two-thirds mountains, with bubbling hot springs at every turn. In the warmer months there is excellent hiking, in the winter, all this is covered with snow and the skiing is world class. Meanwhile in the southern reaches, there are tropical beaches for tanning, snorkeling and diving.

If you want to learn more about the local culture, you can enjoy an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, a peaceful Zen Buddhist garden or one of six Grand Sumo tournaments.

If traveling for the good food is more your thing, try Tokyo for Michelin star experiences, Osaka, for unbeatable street food or Shizuoka, for sumptuous sushi. However, wherever you are in Japan, you’re never far from a great meal. You’ll quickly discover, Japanese cuisine has great regional variations. The hearty hotpots of the mountains are, for example, dramatically different from the delicate sushi for which the coast is famous. It’s also intensely seasonal, meaning you can visit at a different time of year and experience totally new tastes.

Japan is incredibly easy to get around: the public transport is immaculate. Major cities have subway networks that are signposted in English and these days we’re seeing and hearing more English all over.

Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveler, so whatever you decide to do, Japan will not disappoint!

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