Japanese Journeys: Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun

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From neon-lit Tokyo cityscapes to the snow-capped peaks of Hokkaido, Japan is a country that wows with flawless diversity and deep beauty. Read on to discover what to see on your Japanese journey.

Japan is a country of a historic and cultured archipelago full of contrasts, where time-proven traditions go alongside the most cutting-edge technology. From the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to serene temples in Kyoto, the country deftly leaps through time and even takes a peek at the future. This exploration is a real dive into the heart of Japan to discover its beauty and diversity. If you want to experience this firsthand, tours to Japan offer a curated journey through the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Bustling Metropolis: Tokyo

Our journey begins in Tokyo, a city that epitomizes the modern face of Japan. The huge city, the great spread of the metropolis, combines so much: style and influence, skyscrapers have grown over traditional wooden houses, and quiet gardens give the possibility to plunge into peace and detachment from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Japanese Journeys: Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tokyo is a bustling metropolis. Photo courtesy Unsplash

At the Meiji Shrine, under a huge canopy of trees in a forested oasis, everything is quiet and contemplative, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort. This contrasts with the frenetic energy of Tokyo, symbolized by crossing the world-famous Shibuya Crossing. Old Tokyo is at full throttle in the historical district of Asakusa, where the ancient Senso-ji Temple and bustling Nakamise Street bustle as if it were 1865.

From Tokyo, your journey to the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto, is made seamless by the Tokyo to Kyoto train, whisking you to the next chapter of your Japanese adventure.

The Cultural Heart: Kyoto

From the modernity of Tokyo, we travel to Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan. This ancient city, the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, is home to more than 2,000 temples and shrines; included are the marvelous Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and the large Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for thousands of vermilion torii gates. The historic Gion District is famous for its wooden Machiya and geisha culture, giving one a feel for stepping back in time. The heritage has been preserved in every bit—tea ceremonies, ikebana (flower arranging), or kaiseki (multi-course) dining of Kyoto—interlaced with modern development in the city.

Shrines in Kyoto

Enjoy the many shrines in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

The Alpine Retreat: Hakone

A couple of hours outside of Tokyo, Hakone is a mountainous area known for its natural hot springs (onsen) and beautiful backdrops. Standing above the landscape of Hakone is the iconic Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest point, gracing it as a symbol of the country’s natural splendor. Hakone Open Air Museum is a place with wonderful collections of outdoor sculptures, which have been set in the background of mountains.

Fuji mountain and cherry blossoms in spring, Japan.

Mount Fuji in Japan. Photo by tawatchaiprakobkit via iStock by Getty Images

A visit to Lake Ashi is an absolute must for your Japanese journey. Cruise across the lake with beautiful views of Mt. Fuji, and ride the Hakone Ropeway for a panoramic view of the whole area.

The Island Sanctuary: Okinawa

To the very south lie the subtropical Okinawa Islands, which reveal another face of Japan, usually hidden from most foreign visitors. With cobalt-clear waters, ivory sandy beaches, and a varied Ryukyu culture, Okinawa seems distant from the mainland.

The world’s largest aquarium, Churaumi Aquarium, hosts the region’s rich marine life, including graceful whale sharks. Historic Shuri Castle is a mirror to the UNESCO World Heritage and, in fact, a window to the island’s pastimes when it was acting as a core for the Ryukyu Kingdom. The distinct nature of Okinawa’s food, fresh from the sea and tropical fruits, only adds to the island’s attractiveness.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan. Photo by Harvey Hung via iStock by Getty Images

The Historical Hub: Hiroshima

The next sober stopping point on our journey is Hiroshima—a city dubbed by history. The Peace Memorial Park and Museum remain as poignant reminders of what nuclear warfare can do and a plea for concordance. The Atomic Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage site, starkly symbolizes the city’s resilience.

View of the atomic bomb dome in Hiroshima Japan. UNESCO World Heritage Site

View of the atomic bomb dome in Hiroshima, Japan. Photo by f11photo via iStock by Getty Images

Miyajima is a holy island just off the coast of Hiroshima and hosts one of the most famous “floating” torii gates at Itsukushima Shrine. The island’s serene beauty and spiritual significance offer a reflective counterpoint to Hiroshima’s somber history.

The Northern Frontier: Hokkaido

Our final destination is Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, known for its wild landscapes and outdoor adventures.

Warehouse District of Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan at the historic shops and restaurants of the Kanemori on a winter evening. Photo by Sean Pavone via iStock by Getty Images

The Hokkaido capital of Sapporo holds an annual Snow Festival, displaying huge ice sculptures and snow art. Other national parks in the area include Daisetsuzan and Shiretoko, regarded as islands of wildlife with perfect peaks for trekking, ski slopes, and hot springs for soaking.

The delicacies in high demand on any Hokkaido visit are fresh seafood, dairy products, and agricultural produce.

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Planning Your Japanese Journey

From neon-lit Tokyo cityscapes to the snow-capped peaks of Hokkaido, Japan is a country that wows with flawless diversity and deep beauty. Every place you visit on your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun has something distinct to tell about its colorful history, culture, and wonders. As we come to a close in our journey, we come out with an even deeper appreciation for the intricate tapestry that Japan is; she keeps fascinating.

We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more ideas on what to see and do when you visit Japan.

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