Merging an effortless connection between modern and traditional, Japan’s serene and beautiful countenance reveals a country that’s exciting, exotic and progressive – all while delivering an authentic experience to its many international visitors. Alongside the dazzling modernity and technology of its large cities, an ancient culture is on display abundantly and often in unexpected places.
While this ocean-bound country is actually made up of a string of islands, the main four are the best-known and most populated. They are Hokkaido, Honshū (the largest and also home to the capital, Tokyo), Shikoku (the smallest) and Kyushu.
The geography of the country is predominantly mountainous, with numerous dormant and active volcanoes. That feature, combined with the stunning coastlines, results in a landscape that’s somehow mysterious and quite unlike any other. The natural jewel in Japan’s considerable crown is undoubtedly the magnificent Mount Fuji, the country’s highest mountain.
As a travel destination it is superb, with a highly efficient public transport system you can set your clocks by. But even with tourism as a major industry and accessibility at a premium around the four main islands, for those looking for a more authentic off-the-beaten-track experience, there are still plenty of opportunities to be surprised.
What to Do
Such a diverse country, naturally, offers a wide range of experiences and Japan delivers on many different levels.
For those who want the excitement, contemporary culture and colour of a bustling city, you could spend weeks in places like Tokyo and Kyoto and still just be getting started. The architecture, galleries, museums, restaurants and sophisticated shopping give way to traditional temples, shrines and hidden gardens, lending these cities their unique charm.
But if you want to step off the tourist path and discover some of the quieter, more authentic sites, you can discover a host of ancient sacred sites like the Dewa-sanzan Mountains and the raw, eerie wastelands of Ozore-zan. Nature lovers will be in their element, with numerous National Parks and places of extreme untouched natural beauty to explore, including Daisetsu-zan National Park and lesser-visited islands like Rebun-tō and Rishiri-tō, in the north of Hokkaido.
Of course, for avid skiers, this is one of the most renowned places in the world outside Europe for skiing, and Honshū offers a wealth of opportunities to do just that, along with mountain climbing and hiking.
Like the country itself, Japan’s cuisine is extremely diverse – with a huge range of dishes with regional and seasonal variations. Depending on the area in which you travel, the gastronomic experience can be completely unique, with the traditional dishes of, say, Osaka very different to those you might find in somewhere like Okinawa. However it’s always fresh, delicately flavoursome and delicious.
Aside from miso soup (which you must try) sushi is probably the food that’s most readily associated with the country and, while it’s widely available around the world, it’s an absolute must-try when you’re here. Tempura, too, is not entirely unfamiliar, and the small, lightly battered delicacies of seafood and vegetables are absolutely mouth-watering.
Yakitori is the Japanese version of fast food and not to be missed. It comprises bite-sized pieces of skewered chicken served with mirin, sake or soy sauce and is sold everywhere, from street stalls to fine dining restaurants.
While raw fish is not to everyone’s taste, if you’re ever going to try sashimi, this is the place to do it. The paper-thin slices of fish are cut to precision and served with ginger, wasabi and soy. Do it, if only for the experience…
The climate across the country is quite diverse, with four distinct seasons. It can vary quite a lot from the Pacific Ocean side to the Sea of Japan side. In the northern regions it can be very cold in winter with lots of snow and ice, while in the southern area it has an almost tropical climate. During the autumn and summer there can be quite significant rainfall and there really isn’t a specific dry season.
In summer the temperatures in the hottest month (August) can soar to 35 degrees Celsius in the western areas, while in winter, in the coldest areas of the interior the temperatures can drop to minus 10 in the coldest month of January.
How to Get There
The long-haul flight to Japan takes around 12.5 hours, with multiple airlines offering direct flights from the UK. Depending on where you plan to holiday, you can land at a choice of airports, including Narita (NRT), Osaka (ITM) or Kansai (KIX). It does pay to do some research, though, because costs can be greatly reduced by flying into a different airport.
If you pre-book your onward transfers with Shuttle Direct before you leave home, when you land you’ll have a friendly, professional driver waiting to take you straight to your accommodation.
Travelling to Japan? Don’t Miss…
- The obvious star of the show is Mount Fuji, an attraction that can’t be missed even if you tried! Dominating the landscape and visible from Tokyo, seeing the 3,776m peak of this iconic landmark rising from the flat surrounding landscape is a genuine highlight. You can choose to enjoy it from a distance on the famous Bullet Train or, like more than a million people every summer, climb to the peak (around a six-hour hike from the half-way base station) for the ultimate experience.
- While you’ll encounter numerous Shinto shrines as you travel around the country, there’s none more impressive and important than the Atsuta Shrine, in Nagoya. Dating back to the first century, the shrine is home to one of only three of the famous Imperial ‘grass-mowing’ swords left in existence.
- To experience Japan’s expansive natural beauty at its very best, a visit to Chūbu-Sangaku National Park is one you’ll never forget. Situated at the very centre of Honshū, the park encompasses what are known as the Japanese Alps. The spectacular region is popular with hikers in summer and skiers in winter, with the hot springs and an abundance of flora and fauna major attractions.
About Shuttle Direct
Start your holiday or business travel off in the best way possible by booking your onward transfers online with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. We make it easy to arrange one of our shared or private transfers so that, as soon as you land, a friendly, professional driver will be on hand to get you wherever you need to go. We’ve got a reputation as the best in the business and no matter what style of travel you prefer and what your budget is, we’re here to help.