Updated: Nov 29
Set so firmly in tradition in so many aspects of life, yet always reaching towards the future, Japan manages at once to conform to your expectations, subvert them, and surpass them, surprising you at every corner. The most diverse activities can be considered typically Japanese, from soaking in a countryside onsen to testing your skills at multi-story video arcades, tasting delicacies at Michelin-starred restaurants or cheap street eats, Noh theater, pachinko parlors and karaoke. With endlessly fascinating cities, spectacular natural beauty and a unique cultural landscape, Japan makes for unforgettable travel.
Tokyo's technological leaps and passion for everything new have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. A city made of smaller cities, Tokyo's neighbourhoods are individual and unique in what each can offer, from cultural sights to vast shopping malls. Get ready for a whirlwind of modernity and tradition in the neon-lit Japanese capital.
Before you set your foot outside the hotel door, be aware of Tokyo’s complicated address system. Very few streets have names and instead are identified by numbers indicating building, block and area. 1-11-18, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku would therefore translate as the 18th building of the 11th block of the 1st area of Shibuya in Shibuya ward. Invest in a bilingual map of Tokyo and don’t hesitate to ask police for directions, as even the locals can get confused. Once you have grasped the navigation system, Tokyo is a delight to get around. The metro is super efficient, the city is clean and people are courteous and friendly. Though addresses may be confusing,
Tokyo is divided neatly into 23 wards, each with a certain distinctive characteristic. Visit Asakusa for old-town charm and temples, Ginza for shopping, Mecca and Akihabara for electronics galore. Blend old and new to get a taste of Tokyo’s great diversity. Variety is Tokyo’s key. Few other world cities are as wonderfully idiosyncratic. International and local influences intertwine in cuisine, festivals, music, galleries, shopping and even accommodation. Bizarre and fast-moving, yet peaceful and intrinsically religious, Tokyo’s identity is above all, distinctly Japanese, despite existing as a world of its own.
Do & See
Whether you’re a techno buff or want to take in some more traditional Japanese sights and sounds, this city can offer it all. Visit splendid Shinto shrines or indulge in some shopping on Tokyo’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue.
For a stunning view over the Tokyo´s harbor you should head over to Rainbow Bridge. It is 798-meter long. There are some lookouts at various locations where you can take beautiful pictures. During the night time the bridge is lit up with colorful lights - very romantic! Be sure not to forget your camera!
The Senso-ji temple is an old-town Buddhism institution. Though a major tourist attraction, this is primarily a traditional, local site where worshippers cast coins, clap ceremoniously and bow in respect to an image of Kannon, the Goddess of Compassion.
This nationally recognized Shinto shrine is considered one of Japan’s primary symbols of the country’s major religion. Take in the huge 11 meter cypress tree torii (gate) before wandering peacefully along winding paths to the wonderful inner buildings.
This amazing fantasyland also exists in Tokyo; a paradise for young and old. Tokyo Disneyland offers seven themed lands like the Adventureland where you can enjoy a jungle cruise or why not explore the Westernland and go on the roller-coaster called Mine Train. There is also the area called Fantasyland where you can wander around at Prince Charming and Cinderella´s castle. In addition, there is Tokyo DisneySea which is located in Tokyo Disney Resort. It also provides seven themed ports with lots of fun for all ages.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen is a popular park among tourist and locals alike and no wonder why - it is one of Tokyo's largest parks. With the large number of cherry (Sakura) trees and amazing greenhouses with tropical and subtropical flowers. This traditional Japanese landscape garden is the ultimate escape for relaxation.
Tokyo National Museum
For a taste of Japanese history this is where you’ll find Japan’s largest collection of Asian artifacts. The main gallery, Honkan, displays an impressive assortment of swords, masks, wood-block prints and kimonos while other "don’t miss" features include the 7th-century bronze-seated Buddhas in the Horyu-ji Homotusukan.
Japanese Cooking Classes
If you really want to dive into the Japanese culture, you can't miss out on getting to know local cuisine and culinary traditions that go back centuries. There are several locations for Japanese cooking classes across Tokyo, some of which include: Maikoya - Kimono Tea Cerimony (& cooking lessons)
Steeped in history, the once-capital of Japan and the former seat of the Imperial House, Kyoto is famed for being home to endless Buddhist temples, Shintō shrines, Zen gardens and palaces, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Aside from the magnificent architecture and fascinating history, the Kyoto of today is a youthful and vibrant city that stays close to its spiritual and historical roots.
Nestled among the mountains of Western Honshu, Heian-kyō (which translates to "capital of peace and tranquility"), the former name of Kyōto, was the capital of Japan and the seat of the imperial court from 794 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The city, built on the model of the ancient Chinese capital, modern-day Xian, was the religious, commercial, and artistic hub during the Heian period, and preserved its significance as a seat of power even after 1868 when the capital was moved to Edo (now Tōkyō).
Nowadays, Kyōto is the 8th largest city in Japan, with a population of close to 1.5 million. With over 1,200 Buddhist temples and 400 Shintō shrines, it is depicted as the heart of Japan where past and present coexist together in perfect harmony. Despite the major industrial revolution of the Meiji period, wandering around Kyōto is still like a blast from the past: the ancient temples, shrines, inns, and palaces are a delight for the eyes, and represent exactly what old Japan is in the global imaginary.
Do & See
Roaming around the charming Kyōto is a feast for the eyes. Visit Kyōto's landmarks, join a class of sadō (the Japanese tea ceremony), unwind in peaceful gardens, or head to Gion district to catch a glimpse of an elegant geisha.
As Kyōto's most iconic landmark, Kinkaku-Ji (literally the "Temple of the Golden Pavillion"), is undoubtedly astonishing. Built in 1397, the complex was the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Soon after his death in 1408, the structure was converted into a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect by his son. Engulfed in flames several times throughout the ages, the current complex was rebuilt true to the original in 1955 (except for the top two floors that were both covered in gold leaf). Thousands of sightseers pack the site to glance at the breathtaking Gold Temple, its reflection shimmering in the serene pond in a picturesque setting. It's best to go early in the morning or just before closing to avoid queuing in notoriously slow-moving lines.
At the foot of Kyōto's eastern mountains, Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavillion) was completed in 1490 by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, and, much like its sibling Kinkaku-ji, it belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect. Despite still being known as the Silver Temple, the Shogun's goal of covering the building in leaf silver was never accomplished. Today, the wooden building is considered a prime example of the Japanese concept of 'wabi-sabi' (embracing imperfection).
Developed in the Sengoku period as a village for the visitors of the nearby shrine (Yasaka Shrine), the historic district is famous for being the home of geisha (the Japanese entertainment). Narrow streets dotted with teahouses, local eateries, traditional wooden houses, and bars and nightclubs are crammed with tourists from all over the world, wishing to see a geisha in their colorful kimono. The best way to explore the picturesque district is from Hanami-kōji street towards Shijō-dōri.
For any visit to Kyōto, a stop at Nishiki Market is a must. The over 400-year-old market with its 126 stalls is a foodie haven. All sorts of scents and flavours, from the sweet savouriness of tamagoyaki (the Japanese rolled omelets) to the fried treats, to the acidic tanginess of tsukemono (pickled goods), fill the thriving narrow shopping street. Besides the delicacies, the market is also famous for kitchen paraphernalia and tools, such as the acclaimed hand-crafted knives of Aritsugu. Fun fact: almost all edibles sold here are served on sticks.
Tōfuku-ji Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Zen temples in Kyōto for its wonderful and extensive gardens. The original buildings were burnt down but rebuilt faithfully to the original in the 15th century. In 1881, a blazing fire destroyed the Buddha hall, which was never again rebuilt. The complex' main gate is the oldest sanmon in Japan and a National Treasure. Today, the temple welcomes thousands of visitors throughout the year; to make their experience even more unforgettable, it offers regular Zen meditation sessions for beginners (only in Japanese). Note that the temple is overcrowded during autumn as a favorites' haunt to witness kōyō (the falling of colorful leaves).
Another beautiful castle in Kyoto and one of the filming locations for the movie "Inception". The construction of this complex was initiated and completed at the beginning of the 17th century by Tokugawa Ieyasu to serve as his residence, when he would spent time in the city of Kyoto. Consequently, the castle is equipped with many defensive structures, despite the fact that the leader spent most of his time in Tokyo. Walk through the magnificent entrance to the complex and explore the estate and its history.
There are many more areas to discover in Japan - Nagoya, Matsuyama, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka.
Join us as we journey to Tokyo- Japan for Japan Cherry Blossom