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Where to go in Japan

A vast archipelago consisting of over 7000 islands, Japan offers a multitude of varied and contrasting destinations for visitors to explore.   Four main islands form the most frequented and known areas of Japan, and are home to most of the Japanese population.  The islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku make up 97% of the country's land area.   The main island of Honshu is home to Japan's key destinations, while the other three islands offer varied landscapes and environments for tourists to explore. These include world class skiing areas in Hokkaido, unknown beaches on Okinawa and an island chain that stretches over one thousand kilometers from Kyushu to Taiwan. Most classic itineraries to Japan will explore the highlights of its cosmopolitan capital, Tokyo, the beauty of the infamously shy Mt Fuji, the flourishing city of Hiroshima and the veritable melting pot of UNESCO world heritage sites.   Our inside tip to all would be, take some time to visit Takayama, it’s a charming destination with a unique culture located high up in the Japanese Alps, definitely worth including in any tour.

Those are suggestions from VIP tour Asia as followings:

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is a haunting tribute to the lives lost when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Set in a park, the memorial features Genbaku Dome, the only building left standing in the vicinity after the bomb dropped. This harsh reminder of a world at war reminds visitors of the importance of human life and honors the victims so they will never be forgotten.

Jigokudani Monkey Park
Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park is a famous hot spring area near Nagano,. The name Jigokudani (meaning “Hell’s Valley”), is due to steam and boiling water that bubbles out the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold forests. It is famous for its large population of wild Snow Monkeys that go to the valley during the winter when snow covers the park. The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm hot springs, and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera

The Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple is located in Eastern Kyoto and can be traced back as far as the year 798. An indoor waterfall fed from the outside river keeps the temple in harmony with nature and not one nail was used in construction. While locals used to jump off the edge to have a wish granted (with a survival rate of 85.4%), modern visitors can enjoy the shrines and talismans and artwork on display without risking life and limb.

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle

The Himeji Castle is considered the best existing example of Japanese castle architecture. It was fortified to defend against enemies during the feudal period, but it has been rebuilt many times throughout the centuries and reflects the different design periods. It survived the bombings of World War II and is frequently seen in domestic and foreign films, including the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”. The white exterior and design give the castle the appearance of a bird taking flight, earning the the castle the nickname ‘white egret castle’.

Great Buddha of Kamakura
Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a colossal outdoor representation of Amida Buddha, one of Japan’s most celebrated Buddhist figures. Cast in bronze, the Great Buddha stands at over 13 meters (40 feet) high and weighs nearly 93 tons. The statue reportedly dates from 1252. Although it originally was housed in a small wooden temple, the Great Buddha now stands in the open air as the original temple was washed away in a tsunami in the 15th century.

Todaiji Temple
Todaiji Temple

The Todaiji Temple in Nara is a feat of engineering. It is not only the world’s largest wooden building, it is home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and wildlife, the Kegon school of Buddhism is centered here and the grounds hold many artifacts of Japanese and Buddhist history. Deer are allowed to freely roam the grounds as messengers of the Shinto gods.

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower is a testament to the advancement of technology and modern life. Inspired by the Eiffel tower design, it is the second tallest man-made structure in Japan and functions as a communications and observation tower. Visitors can climb the tower for unparalleled views of Tokyo and the surrounding areas as well as visit shops and restaurants.

Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace

The Emperor of Japan makes his home at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It also functions as an administration center and museum to showcase Japanese art and history. The palace is set on the ruins of older castles that were destroyed by fire or war, and architects have honored the past by incorporating design elements of the different eras into the modern palace. The new palace is surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens and has many reception and function rooms to receive guests and welcome the public.

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters (12,388 ft). The volcano’s exceptionally symmetrical cone is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as a popular tourist attraction for sightseers and climbers. An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year, 30% of whom are foreigners. The ascent can take anywhere between three and eight hours while the descent can take from two to five hours.

Golden Pavilion
#1 of Tourist Attractions In Japan

Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion is the most popular tourist attraction in Japan and Kyoto. The pavilion was originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 14th century. Unfortunately, the pavilion was burnt down in 1950 by a young monk who had become obsessed with it. Five years later, the temple was rebuilt as an exact copy of the original. Emphasis is placed on the building and surrounding gardens being in harmony with one another. The pavilion is covered in gold leaf which highlights the reflection of the pavilion in the pond and the pond’s reflection on the building.

When is the best time to visit?

Japan boasts four distinct seasons in line with the Western Hemisphere. From March to April the climate is pleasantly warm with limited rainfall. This time of year also welcomes the infamous cherry blossoms, a stunning attraction for visitors, but one that draws in the crowds so be prepared not to be the only visitor at this time of year! From June to August, the heat and humidity of summer hits, and temperatures can reach 40 degrees centigrade. As a general rule this isn't the most popular time to travel, though it can mean fewer crowds if you are willing to bear the heat. Another inside tip and great alternative to viewing the spring cherry blossoms are the autumn colors in November. However, this can be a very busy time in specific areas such as Kyoto. With the temperature cooling from September, autumn becomes a very pleasant time of year to visit Japan. With winter come superb skiing opportunities and the chance to try out many of the Onsens (hot springs). These attractions remain open right up to the end of February.

When planning your trip to Japan, it is wise to take into account the Japanese public holidays, as this is the most popular time for domestic travel, meaning not only is availability hard to come by, but hotel rates increase dramatically.  Check with your Exotissimo consultant for exact details, but key holidays to consider include Golden Week (April 27 - May 6), New Years (December 29 - January 3) and the Obon period (around August 15th for 3 days), when everything shuts down.

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