There are so many reasons to visit Japan, but our experts at the Japan National Tourism Organization have compiled their top eight, that we’re sure will get you itching to visit this eclectic country.
1. JAPANESE FOOD
Contrary to what some people might think, Japanese food is so much more than just ‘raw fish’, although what better place is there to try the freshest, tastiest sushi than its birthplace?
If you prefer your food cooked, try sukiyaki (beef, vegetables and tofu simmered in a sweet-soy broth), okonomiyaki (a savoury Japanese pizza containing pork or seafood and cabbage), yakitori (skewered meat and vegetables grilled over charcoal) or tempura (lightly battered and deep-fried prawns and vegetables) to satisfy your palate.
Do you fancy fine dining instead? Tokyo alone has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world!
Kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) is a highly recommended dining experience. Often served at a ryokan (higher-end Japanese-style accommodation) featuring several courses served in small portions, painstakingly prepared from the colour and combination of ingredients to the way they’re sliced and arranged.
Japan truly is a paradise for food-lovers!
2. JAPANESE GARDENS
Japanese gardens are intricately designed by reproducing scenes of beauty such as the ocean, mountains and even ancient castles! Utilising limited space, they are broadly classed into three types: Tsukiyama (miniature landscape), Karesansui (dry sand or gravel gardens) and Chaniwa (gardens adjacent to ceremonial teahouses).
Found in both temple and castle grounds, Japanese gardens are admired by visitors during any season. In addition to the popular cherry blossoms in spring, the gardens look particularly impressive bathed in autumn colours as well.
Fine examples of Tsukiyama gardens include Rikugien in Tokyo, Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu. Karesansui style gardens can be found in Daitokuji and Ryoanji in Kyoto and Chaniwa gardens can be found throughout Japan.
Onsen are geothermal hot springs found throughout Japan. The natural mineral content of the water can vary from region to region. Soaking in an onsen is thought to produce health benefits from softening skin to relieving aches and pains.
Bathing in Japan is just as much for relaxation and socialization as it is for purity. All visitors must be thoroughly cleaned before entering an onsen. Try a rotenburo for a real Japanese experience, these outdoor baths can offer garden, ocean and mountain views from the one spring!
4. CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
Japan has many authentic cultural experiences that you can enjoy, such as dressing up in a kimono, learning the art of a traditional tea ceremony, or trying your hand at flower-arrangement, origami or calligraphy.
For a truly memorable experience, it is highly recommended you see a geisha performance. Although few in numbers, if you head to the geisha quarters of traditional towns like Higashi Chaya in Kanazawa or Gion in Kyoto you may see them hurrying between appointments.
5. ‘OMOTENASHI’ HOSPITALITY
In Japan, there is a deep-rooted culture of hospitality called ‘omotenashi’, meaning ‘to wholeheartedly take care of your guests’.
Omotenashi is seen in many instances, from being greeted as you walk into a store with a deep bow, to having your shopping painstakingly gift-wrapped.
Where in western countries tipping can be a form of appreciation, in Japan it is neither required nor expected. A simple ‘arigato’ is all you need to show your gratitude.
6. EASE OF ACCESS
Japan is relatively easy to get around particularly in the popular tourist areas and larger cities. Signs at train stations, airports, hotels, stores and, more recently, restaurant menus have English translations. Travelling by train in Japan is safe, reliable, clean and above all punctual.
An experience not to be missed is a ride on the bullet train. You can ride the Tokyo to Kyoto line in two hours and reach speeds of over 250 kmh while enjoying views of Mt Fuji on a clear day.
7. SOMETHING TO DO IN ANY SEASON
Japan is a county of four distinct seasons, each of which brings a variety of different attractions and experiences.
Spring is the most popular season. People travel to Japan from all over the world to see the blooming cherry blossoms around the country.
Summer is generally full of spectacular fireworks festivals which take place across the country. The festivals are often accompanied by street fairs with vendors offering up tasty delights.
Autumn in Japan is a season of vivid colours. The leaves changing colour sweeps the countryside with hues of yellow, orange and red.
Winter is a very popular season for Australian travellers with many taking to the ski slopes of Hokkaido, Nagano and Niigata to enjoy unbelievable powder.
Japan truly is the land of endless discovery, with year-round opportunities for all travellers!
8. DIVERSITY OF THE DESTINATION
One thing you’ll notice when visiting Japan is the co-existence of traditional and modern side by side. In Tokyo, you’ll find ultra-modern high-rise buildings, but stumble through the right backstreet and you could happen across a tranquil, leafy shrine.
Japan’s preservation of its rich heritage and culture is widely recognized, including traditional arts and crafts, architectural techniques and more.
However, despite a great desire to uphold tradition, Japan is still a powerhouse of technical innovation. It offers travellers all the modern comforts and conveniences you’d expect of a first-world nation, while still experiencing traditions that lie undisturbed for hundreds of years.
Japan’s geography, with its unique elongated shape, is diverse. It offers travellers a winter wonderland in the North island of Hokkaido or emerald waters and white sandy beaches in the South island of Okinawa, all on the same trip!
Explore this eclectic, contrasting country on one of our Japan group tours
Jewels of Japan
Trails of Japan