With its neon-lit cities, ancient temples, steaming hot springs and mouth-watering cuisine, travelling in Japan is an enriching experience. Every region offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience, from glimpsing a geisha to meeting a sumo wrestler, but with so many options planning your trip can get a little overwhelming. That’s why I’ve teamed up with the experts at InsideJapan Tours, who can match all the must-see places and experiences in Japan with a tour that suits your style and interests. Which of the below will you add to your bucket list?
If you’re anything like me you’ll be itching to get out and explore Tokyo as soon as you land at the airport. I suggest giving yourself at least 4 days if you really want to get to grips with all that is wonderful and wacky in this city. Start your orientation with a visit to the infamously busy Shibuya Crossing (Starbucks has window seats if you’d like an aerial view) then head to Shinjuku for a show like none other at the Robot Restaurant. Discover Tokyo’s spiritual side at the Sensoji Temple, the youth culture (and Kawaii Monsters!) in Harajuku and go gadget crazy in Akihabara.
There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo (I haven’t even touched on the shopping) but a fantastic way to get under the surface of this city is with an Insider Experience with a local guide who can share their in-depth knowledge of video games or sumo wrestling, for example. If subjects like anime, architecture or dining at an Izakaya take your fancy, speak to InsideJapan Tours about adding one of these exclusive Insider Experiences to your holiday package.
If food is your thing then you’re going to want to eat your way around Dotonbori in Osaka. Dotonbori’s electric streets are lined with eateries famous for takoyaki (fried octopus), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) plus crab, fugu and ramen specialities. You’ll be able to spot what’s being served by the giant-sized models of the food looming over the restaurants, it’s also a good idea to just join any queue you find – it tends to end in something good! I travelled to Osaka solo and found that many portion sizes were made to be shared so I would recommend joining a Small Group Tour here if you want a more sociable dining experience – it will give you the chance to try even more dishes!
Osaka Castle is also a big drawcard in this area and is a great place to catch sunset views over the city.
The ancient temples, teahouses, gardens and geisha of Kyoto have cast a spell over many a visitor. As the Imperial Capital of Japan for over a millennium, Kyoto has a staggering 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and many more shrines and Zen masterpieces besides them.
From the famed Golden Pavilion to catching sight of a geisha, Kyoto is filled with bucket list material. You may recognise the endless red arcades of Fushimi Inari-Taisha or the bright green shoots of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove from Instagram but to see a side of Kyoto that’s a little less hectic you can book an Insider Experience to learn about Kyoto’s Zen Heritage.
Hop on a bullet train (another must-do in Japan) north from Tokyo to explore the Tohoku region. Tohoku is a region of stunning natural beauty where you can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of bathing in natural hot springs as snow falls on the mountains around you.
For an onsen experience soaked in history head to Nyuto Onsen, a collection of traditional bathhouses hidden in the forest that are famed for their milky outdoor pools and samurai lodges where you can stay for the night. As your first onsen experience can be a little bit intimidating (you must be fully naked and there are certain customs to observe with regards to bathing and dressing), you might prefer to explore Nyuto on a Self Guided Adventure. On a Self Guided Adventure, Inside Japan Tours will arrange all your accommodation and transfers as well as advise on etiquette, but you’ll be left alone for the naked onsen bathing!
At the opposite end of the country are the islands of Okinawa, with their slithers of white sand and emerald waters that wouldn’t look out of place in the South Pacific. There are over 100 islands, some uninhabited, offering superb diving, fresh seafood and stunning vistas, like this one over Kabira Bay.
Mainly frequented by Japanese tourists, the Okinawan Islands can be a little hard to navigate for non-Japanese speakers but that’s where the experts at Inside Japan can help by designing an exclusive private journey to suit your interests.
*Images of Okinawa thanks to Mr & Mrs Romance
Find Out More
To learn more about any of the tours or Insider Experiences mentioned in the article visit the InsideJapan Tours website.
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