BEST TIME TO GO
All year round
March – May to see the blossom
September – November to see the colourful autumn leaves
Direct flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo, 11hrs 40mins
An extraordinarily fascinating country with a culture so very different from any other. Japan is a nation that has long relished its four distinct seasons, which is reflected not only in the weather-related activities, most famously, its cherry blossom season (a beautiful but also very busy time of year to visit), and wonderful autumn leaves, but also in the contents of most culinary dishes.
There is so much to see, that we recommend that you try and focus on certain aspects or regions. Travelling around is very efficient and easy, whether you fly, take one of the famous, ultra-reliable, bullet trains (Shinkansen), or take a car – everything is within reach. Immerse yourself in the culture, sample the food, enjoy the intricacies of tea ceremonies and the formality of Japanese manners and custom.
Tokyo is definitely worth at least a few days, it is worth getting up early to visit the vast Tsujiki Fish Market, check out the shopping, just people watch (you will see kimono-clad ladies delicately shuffling along with their “punked-up” daughters with blue hair and oversized coats), visiting the perfectly manicured gardens, and sampling the delicious food, raw fish, succulent melt in the mouth wagyu beef, crispy tempura, or shabu-shabu (hot pot in which you cook slices of meat). If you’re timing is right, see some Sumo wrestling or an act or two of a Kabuki play.
Each region is very different with its own cuisine and feel. Kyoto is amazing for its blossom in May, rustic coloured autumn leaves, its traditional quarter with the perfectly turned out Meiko and Geiko (geisha), and wonderful temples. Osaka, Japan’s second city, is known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. The main historical landmark is the 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, surrounded by a moat and park dotted with plum, peach and cherry-blossom trees. It is also home to Sumiyoshi-taisha , one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. Hiroshima is worth a visit for its historical significance. Kanazawa, boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences, and districts, as well as modern museums. It is home to some highly skilled artisans, such as wood turners, ceramicists and gold leafers. But Kanazawa’s undoubted main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s best landscape gardens.
Highlights and Activities in Japan
Himeji Castle, Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, Yakushima National Park, Meiji Shrine, Buddhist temples, gardens and changing autumn leaves, Shiretoko National Park, Kashima Island, Senso ji Temple, Osaka Castle, Arashiyama district for walking, Lake Ashi, Tosho-gu shrine, the Bullet Train, Arima Onsen – hot natural springs in winter, traditional ryokan (authentic Japanese hotel), skiing and snow sports, Lake Ashi, Itsukshima Shrine, Chinatown in Yokohama, Izumo Taisha Shrine and Mount Fuji.