Exploring the best of Japan's islands and cities
The more you put into a holiday, the more you get out of it. So why not see more of Japan’s islands, cities and rural landscapes on your holiday? Most travellers will certainly start their trip in Tokyo, but with excellent rail travel and a wide choice of escorted tours, you can tick so many more place off your bucket list. The classic route of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, is perfect for first time visitors, but there is a whole lot more uncover.
Why not add an extra dimension to your holiday and combine a city break in one of Honshu’s cities, with a stay on the southern island of Kyushu? Stop off in Hiroshima en route, then take a bus over the world’s longest suspension bridge, which links Honshu with the island of Shikoku. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known in Japan as the Pearl Bridge is a remarkable 1,991 metre long.
Set your sights even higher and you can top off your Japanese explorations, with a trip up north, to Hokkaido for dazzling nature parks and world-class winter sports.
Japan consists of four main Islands. The main island of Honshu is in central Japan, where you’ll find the tantalising city of Tokyo, cultural Kyoto and majestic Mount Fuji to name just a handful of its bountiful attractions.
This is where most visitors to Japan head to and it’s no wonder. You’ll get your fill of culture, heritage, a variety of glorious landscapes as well as incredible food. Tranquil temples, soaring skyscrapers and a myriad of other sensory treasures can be found here too. Ride the bullet train and get out and about to places like Hiroshima, for a humbling stroll through the Peace Memorial Park. Marvel at the mountain ranges and quaint villages within the Japanese Alps. Or go and watch the much-loved macaques enjoying their hot baths in the spring waters at Yudanaka.
Hokkaido, is Japan’s second largest island and is located in northern Japan. An unspoilt island of contrasts, with national parks, lakes and fantastic hiking opportunities in the summer months. During winter, adventure lovers can seek out the glorious powder snow on the slopes of Furano or Niseko. Or if skiing isn’t your thing, you can keep off the chill with some fabulous onsen experiences. Soak in the volcanic hot springs and let the healing waters ease, rejuvenate and relax you. Check out the pink cherry blossoms in spring and the golden trees during Autumn, here in Hokkaido. Discover remote regions of the countryside on a self-drive holiday and get up close to the island’s stunning scenery and wildlife.
Shikoku and Kyushu are two islands in southern Japan, an area of rural landscapes and dramatic scenery. Visitors are drawn here for the onsen springs and great hiking opportunities. Shikoku has pretty gardens and traditional villages, as well as innumerable temples. Tick one more experience off your wish list and take a trip from here to explore the Okinawa Archipelago. The subtropical climate of these islands warms the white sand beaches, making the southern islands a great place to chill out and relax after your hectic adventures on the mainland.
Combining rich history with ultra-modern architecture and technology that's constantly evolving, Japan's cities offer a whirlwind of excitement, colour and culture. Whether you fancy discovering them all on an epic tour or choosing one to explore every corner of, each city has its own personality and charm.
Explore the most high-tec city in Japan. Consisting of four districts, each with their own unique character, the frenetic city of Tokyo will have your senses spinning. Head to the top of the famous Tokyo Tower in Shiba Park – the 2nd tallest building in the world. For all things gadgety and electronic there’s the Electric City of Kihabara. Escape the hustle and bustle at the Meiji Jingu Shrine and stroll through the Shinkjuku district for bright lights and a taste of typical Tokyo, as well its beautiful gardens at Shinjuku Gyoen Park. Visit the grand Imperial Palace set amidst Tokyo’s most up-market district in Ginza, where you can also shop for luxury brands. Or go further afield to Tsukiji, to check out the tuna and sushi at Japan’s largest fish market. Get around with ease on the super-fast efficient metro to experience all the temples and tech you can in Tokyo and glory in the stunning cherry blossoms that flower each spring. You can even hop on a bicycle, with cycling tours of Tokyo becoming increasingly popular.
An hour and a half from Tokyo is Mount Fuji and the Hakone National Park. The iconic snow-capped peaks of Mount Fuji tower over the national park, providing an area of outstanding beauty. The surrounding areas are picture perfect, so don’t forget your camera. Mount Fuji is often hidden by cloud, but if you’re lucky you can capture the perfect symmetry of this magnificent rock, whose image has been evoked for centuries throughout Japanese art and culture. Take a boat trip on Lake Ashi and admire the spectacular mountain scenery and relax a while in your traditional ryokan before continuing your adventure.
No trip to Japan would be complete without a few days spent in Kyoto. Once the capital of Japan, the city boasts grand palaces, shrines and picture-perfect gardens. A modern city, you can still get an intoxicating glimpse into Japan’s fascinating heritage, where emperors and samurai once walked and who have left a plethora of opulent Zen gardens and buildings. See graceful geisha women in their colourful kimonos and immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of this city, with a delightful stay in a traditional and welcoming ryokan.
Only 30 minutes by train from Kyoto, lose yourself among the landscaped grounds of Osaka Castle Park, Sumiyoshi shrine and the museums, soaking up the culture in this major city. Your visit to Osaka will be much enhanced from experiencing the fabulous restaurants. Take your pick from fine dining Michelin-starred restaurants or delightful local cafes that are abundant on the streets. In between you can snack with a bit of tasty street food - you’ll need to keep your energy up before heading to Universal Studios Japan! The first theme park under the Studios brand to be built in Asia, the attractions promise a fun day out for couples and families alike. Another great day out for the whole family, is a visit to Osaka Aquarium. One of Japan’s most spectacular aquariums, there are 15 tanks, in which marine life is represented from specific regions of the Pacific Rim.
See the best of Japan with these recommended tours