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  • Overview

    Japan is an isolated archipelago off the coast ofmainland China, Russia, and Korea, separated from its Asianneighbours by the Sea of Japan. Between 1639 and 1859, Japanelected to cut itself off from trade or traffic with the rest ofthe world, except for marginal contact through the southern Kyushuisland ports.

    Since reopening up its doors around 150 years ago,the densely populated islands have developed in leaps and boundsand much of the country is now covered by sprawling neon-lit citiesand the world's most sophisticated public transport networks.

    Modern it may be, but Japan still retains plenty ofits mystical oriental charm. From the intricacies of etiquettedemanded in social situations, to the minimalist décor behind ricepaper screens, traditional Japanese culture is alive and well,making a visit to Japan a fascinating experience.

    The modern metropolises are dotted with numerousancient shrines and temples, while the countryside is riddled withhundreds of volcanoes and hot springs overlooking pastoral paddyfields. Parks are festooned with rigidly raked white gravel Zengardens or coated with layers of lilac and cherry blossom.

    Japan's islands are mountainous in the interior - 75percent of the country's landmass is made up of mountains - andmost of the people are tightly packed within the limitations of thecoastal plains, particularly on the main island of Honshu. Tokyo,the capital and largest city, situated on Honshu's east coast, hasa population of 12 million.

    Despite this huge mass of humanity, Japan is wellordered. Everything runs on time, and crime levels are almostnon-existent. It is still possible to find beautiful vistas andwide empty spaces in the countryside, and when you are forced tomingle with the urban throngs you will find the Japanese to becharming, courteous, and friendly to foreign faces.

    The fascinating land of pink cherry blossoms, sushi,and manga comics, Japan is a cultural explosion of historicattractions, neon-lit cities, and exquisite mountainous landscapes.Thankfully, this mystical country retains plenty of its ancientcharm resulting in an experience of a lifetime.

    Head to the capital of Tokyo for a spot of shopping,sample authentic Japanese cuisine, and maybe even enjoy a littlekaraoke. Although famous for its glitz and neon glam, thisimpressive modern metropolis also has ancient shrines and templesround just about every corner, making the sightseeing a wonderfulcombination of old and new.

    Head south to the city of Hiroshima, the country'smost famous tourist destination, where thousands of visitors make apilgrimage to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, taking in themuseums and lively city that has emerged triumphantly from thehorror of the atomic bomb dropped during World War II. Hiroshima isa must for anybody interested in modern history and is a deeplymoving place to visit.

    Once you have had enough of Japan's cities, visit thecountryside and witness picturesque volcanoes, take a dip in thehot springs, and explore the mountainous interior of the islands.Japan is a beautiful country and even in the cities the parks arepunctuated with cherry blossom trees and mathematically correct Zengardens which never cease to amaze foreigners.

    Tokyo Imperial Palace

    Japan's Imperial Palace is regarded as the heart and soul ofTokyo, standing on a huge site that still bears the remains of EdoCastle, stronghold of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The present palacewas completed in 1888 and is still home to the emperor of Japan.The palace is off-limits but its grounds and surrounds provide amuch-needed green open space for the city with Higashi Gyoen (EastGarden), site of the Edo Castle keep, open to the public. OnJanuary 2nd and December 23rd each year, visitors are able to enterthe inner grounds and see the Imperial family make publicappearances from the balcony. Guided tours of the palace areoffered but only in Japanese, although an English pamphlet andaudio guide are provided. These tours must be reserved in advancethrough the Imperial Household Agency. Be sure to take along yourpassport when you go to reserve a spot. In spring, the gardens areawash with colour when the cherry blossoms are in bloom,particularly along the castle moat. The Imperial Palace is bustlingthroughout the year, with lots to see including a few smallmuseums, some wonderful landscaping, and many symbolic ornamentaltouches like the plants from every prefecture dotted around thepalace.

    Opening time: East Garden is closed on Mondays and Fridays.Otherwise it is open daily 9am-4pm (until 3:30pm between Novemberand February). Gardens closed from 28 December to 3 January andwhen Imperial Court functions take place.
    Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo Imperial Palace Fg2
    Yasukuni Shrine

    To the north of the Imperial Palace lies the controversialYasukuni Shrine, built long ago to commemorate those Japanese whodied in war and now regarded as home to the souls of about two anda half million who perished in conflict, mostly in the Pacific Warof World War II. Japanese soldiers fought in the knowledge thattheir spirits would find rest and honour at Yasukuni in theafterlife. The shrine has caused controversy for various politicalreasons over the years since it was built in 1869 in honour ofsupporters of the emperor who were killed in the run up to theMeiji Restoration. More recently, with regard to the country'sconstitution that requires the separation of state and religion,cabinet ministers have been criticised for attending anniversariesof Japan's defeat in World War II held at the shrine. The shrine isconfined behind a huge steel torii (gate), opening onto a longavenue lined with gingko and cherry trees. The Worship Hall itselfis a simple Shinto style building. North of the shrine is theYushukan Museum, containing war memorabilia, some of which isdisturbing and thought-provoking such as the human torpedo andkamikaze suicide attack plane. The shrine and museum will befascinating for those interested in military history.

    Address: 3-1-1 Kadunkita, Chiyoda-ku
    Transport: Subway to Kudanshita Station
    Opening time: Shrine open 24 hours daily. Museum open daily9am-4:30pm.
    Torii gate, Yasukuni Shrine Torii gate, Yasukuni Shrine
    Edo-Tokyo Museum

    Tokyo's museum dedicated to detailing the city's history, art,culture, and architecture through the medium of visual displays isan impressive attraction not to be missed. Edo was the old name forTokyo when the country came under the rule of the warlord, TokugawaIeyasu. Exhibits include a replica of an ancient Kabuki theatre,maps, photographs, and portrayals of the lives of the city'smerchants, craftsmen, and townspeople in days gone by. It is a hugemuseum which takes a few hours to explore properly and shouldcaptivate people of all ages. There are numerous interactiveexhibits and many intricate models with such wonderful detail thatbinoculars are provided for visitors to better appreciate them.Traditional performances are held in the recreated theatre, whichis not the only historic building to be recreated life-size. If youare interested in Tokyo's general history then this is the bestmuseum to start with to get an overview of the city's development.Volunteers give regular free tours of the museum and many of themspeak fluent English. There is good English signposting andinformation throughout the museum.

    Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku
    Opening time: 9.30am - 5.30pm. Saturdays: 9.30am - 7.30pm. Closedon Mondays.
    The Edo-Tokyo Museum The Edo-Tokyo Museum Wiiii

    Tokyo's electronic wonderland has become world-renowned. In asmall area west of Akihabara Station lies a bright cluster ofelectronics shops, manga and anime stores, and video game outlets.The suburb has been specialising in electrical equipment since the1930s and is now regarded as the world's biggest and bestelectrical equipment enclave. Although the cheap and impressivetechnology draws many visitors, this is also a paradise for gamers,geeks, and anime and manga fans, with shops full of merchandise andnumerous arcades. The arcades carry everything new and novel butalso have many of the vintage games that are difficult to findthese days. The neighbourhood is a riot of colourful advertisingand a fun place to do some people watching, if nothing else. Thereare a lot of restaurants and fast food joints to try out and somefunky eateries. Akihabara is also an entertaining area to strollaround at night, when everything is lit up in neon.

    Akihabara by night Akihabara by night IQRemix
    Senso-ji Temple

    The Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo draws visitors to admire thecity's oldest temple, Senso-ji, founded in 628 AD with a quaintlegend attached to it. The story goes that two young brothersfishing in the nearby river netted a golden image of Kannon, theBuddhist goddess of mercy, and the statue kept turning up in theirnets no matter how many times they threw it back. The brothers wereinspired to enshrine it in a temple dedicated to the deity. Thestatuette is still inside, but never shown to the public, thoughpilgrims flock here every day seeking the favour of the goddess.There are also numerous festivals associated with the shrine, and ahugely popular firework display is held on the Sumida River everysummer. Tourists enjoy the visit to the temple mainly because theapproach is a colourful pedestrian lane, Nakamise Dori, lined withshops and souvenir stalls. The area has become touristy but it isstill a stronghold for ancient traditions and a wonderful place todo some people watching. For many tourists the temple is one of thehighlights of a visit to Tokyo; the temple complex is usuallybustling with activity and there is lots to see and do. Nearby, theDemboin Garden is a good spot to grab a break from the citycrowds.

    Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa Taito-ku, Shitamachi (downtown)
    Opening time: Main Hall: 6am to 5pm (from 6.30am between Octoberand March). Temple grounds are always open.
    Senso-ji Temple Senso-ji Temple Fg2
    Tokyo Disney Resort

    There is plenty of fun to be had for the young and young atheart at Tokyo's Disney Resort, in many ways virtually a carboncopy of the theme park found in California in the United States.The Tokyo amusement park was opened in 1983 and it has graduallydeveloped a character of its own, growing into one of the mostpopular amusement parks in the world and considered by many to havesurpassed its American predecessor. The park now has many uniqueattractions and an interesting fusion of American and Japaneseculture, but you will still find all the old favourites. The resortconsists of Disneyland Park and DisneySea Park, along with severalhotels. It is divided into seven different themed lands: WorldBazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland,Toontown, and Tomorrowland. Visitors can expect attractions likethe Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and many more,which are all included on this huge site, and are verywell-maintained and presented. The Tokyo park is known for itscleanliness and smooth operations but visitors should expect crowdsand come prepared for some queuing. The premier attraction for kidsin Tokyo, the Disney resort is unmissable for families.

    Transport: The park is reached via the JR Keiyo Line or JRMusashino Line from Tokyo Station; disembark at Maihama Station(South Exit) where there is a Disneyland WelcomeCentre.
    Opening time: Check website for details, as hours vary according toseason and day of the week. Generally open daily 8am-10pm withshorter hours in winter.
    Tokyo Disneyland Tokyo Disneyland fortherock
    Tokyo National Museum

    Close to Ueno Station and enclosed in the beautiful, spaciouspark of the same name, the National Museum is host to the largestcollection of Japanese art in the world. Exhibits range fromantique kimonos and delicate pottery to woodblock prints andarchaeological finds. The vast collection is displayed on arotating basis with at least 4,000 artefacts visible at any time,so the museum always has something new to offer. The museumconsists of five different buildings containing numerous galleries,so one needs sufficient time to do it justice. The Imperial GiftPark is a lovely place to enjoy a stroll, with big ponds and shadedareas to rest; the grounds also contain some other culturalinstitutions, including a zoo, the Metropolitan Art Museum, BunkaKaikan Cultural Hall, the Western Art Museum, and the NationalScience Museum. There should be something here to interest thewhole family and all the educational attractions can easily fill awhole day of sightseeing.

    Address: 13-9 Ueno Park,Taito-ku
    Opening time: Daily 9:30am to 5pm, depending on season; closedMondays. Closing times vary with the seasons, visitors are advisedto check before arrival.
    Tokyo National Museum Tokyo National Museum PHG
    Kyoto Imperial Palace

    Japan's imperial family lived in the Kyoto palace from 1331until 1868 (when they moved to Tokyo), and today visitors can viewthe furnishings and delicate decorations. Once only accessible viaa guided tour that required advanced booking, the palace groundscan now be entered and viewed at the visitor's leisure without anyprior arrangements. English guided tours are possible, and thoseinterested should book a space in advance in order to avoiddisappointment by calling at the Imperial Household Agency office.Visitors should note that even on the official tours it isimpossible to enter any of the palace buildings, although youshould be shown a video and photos showcasing the interiors. Thereare lockers at the site to store anything you don't want to carrywhile walking around the complex.

    Address: 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto
    Kyoto Imperial Palace Kyoto Imperial Palace Greg Palmer

    To-ji is a Buddhist temple founded in 794 as guardian of thethen young capital city. Today, it sits about 10 minutes' walk tothe south of Kyoto Station, drawing curious tourists to admire itsfive-storey pagoda which was rebuilt in the mid-17th century. Overthe centuries, a treasure trove of statues, calligraphy, andpaintings has been collected at the temple, now housed in thevarious historic buildings making up the complex. The statuesinclude a six-metre-tall Senju Kannon (thousand-armed BuddhistGoddess of Mercy) carved in 877. The gardens at the temple arelovely and the temple is an active place of worship which holdsmany ceremonies and religious services, giving the place a sereneand authentic atmosphere which the popular tourist templessometimes lack. Although many foreigners do choose to visit To-ji,the majority of people at the temple are locals there to pray andworship. There are many temples in the area but To-ji stands outbecause of its historic pagoda.

    Address: 1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku
    To-ji in spring To-ji in spring robertpaulyoung

    The temple of Rengeoin, in eastern Kyoto, is better known by itspopular name of Sanjusangen-do. Inside the longest wooden buildingin Japan stand row upon row of life-sized statues of Kannon, thegoddess of mercy, carved from Japanese cypress and covered in goldleaf, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. There are 1,000statues altogether and each is unique, bearing a religious symbolor making a religious gesture. The statues surround the large,central figure of a seated Kannon, carved in 1254 in the KamakuraPeriod. The building and statues were once part of a large Buddhisttemple complex known as the Lotus King Temple which was sadlydestroyed leaving only a few buildings intact. The effect of allthe golden statues, which create a kind of yellow haze, is mysticaland somewhat hypnotic, giving credence to the local myth that ifyou stare at them for long enough one of the statues will assumethe form of a loved one. No photos are allowed inside but you arepermitted to photograph the outside of the building and the lovelygrounds. There is a gift shop where you can buy some souvenirs at areasonable cost. There are guides and prayer books in English forthose who want more information.

    Address: Shichijo Dori
    Sanjusangen-do Sanjusangen-do Eric Salard

    Most visitors to Japan are fascinated with traditional geisha:white-faced kimono-clad women specially trained to entertain andspoil men in a soothing setting. Kyoto boasts one of the mostfamous geisha districts in the country, a neighbourhood of plainwooden buildings to the east of the Kamo River known as Gion. Therewere once thousands of geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha)performing their genteel tasks in this area. Today, the number hasdwindled to a few hundred, but visitors who stroll HanamikojiStreet at sunset, past teahouses and restaurants, will probablycatch a glimpse of one or two en route to the geisha houses intheir wooden shoes and full traditional finery. The geisha housesthemselves are sadly strictly off-limits to anyone not properlyintroduced and invited, but from behind the paper screens you willhear the strains of music and laughter. It is fascinating to readup on the geisha tradition before visiting the area but it alsoseems fitting that they still retain their mystery behind the paperscreens. While geisha-spotting in the Gion district, take in theYasaka Shrine, with its many paper lanterns and the Minamiza KabukiTheatre.

    Address: Gion, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
    Geisha Geisha Robert Young

    Meaning 'pure water', Kiyomizu-dera is one of Japan's mostcelebrated temples. Founded in 780, it is associated with NaraBuddhism, the oldest sect in Japan. The temple is a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site and one of its main features for tourists is thelovely view afforded of the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto from itsterrace. Below the terrace is the spring from which the temple gotits name; visitors can sample the water, which is said to havehealing powers. Nearby is an interesting three-storey pagoda, andthe Otawa Falls. The approach to the temple, along Kiyomizu-michior Gojo-zaka, is steep and narrow, the streets lined with storesspecialising in local sweets, pottery, and the inevitablesouvenirs. Behind the temple is the Shinto Jishu Shrine, dedicatedto the god of love. There is lots to see and do in the templecomplex, which tends to be bustling with visitors and worshippers,and provides a fascinating cultural and historical experience forforeigners. The gardens are beautiful and, like many in Japan, areat their best when the cherry blossoms bloom in spring or when theleaves are at their most radiant in autumn. It is especially lovelyto stay until it is dark (when possible) to see the temple light upat night.

    Kiyomizu-dera Kiyomizu-dera Richard Summers
    Inokashira Park

    Inokashira Park is a tranquil oasis amid the bustle of Japan'scapital city and is often lauded by locals and visitors as the besturban park in Japan. The park contains a temple dedicated to thegoddess of love, a petting zoo, and an aquarium, and is lively withmusicians, artists, and street performers. There are frequent freemagic shows and other entertainments for kids to enjoy. One of themore popular attractions in Inokashira Park is the Ghibli Museum,featuring displays on popular animated films from the studio of thesame name, including Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Thepark is beautiful all year round but the best time to visit is inspring and autumn when the colours are at their most magnificent.Inokashira Park gets very crowded in the spring when the cherryblossoms are flowering. It's best to arrive early in the morning toavoid the crowds and make the most of the spectacle. Possibly thebest activity to enjoy in Inokashira is a drift in one of theswan-shaped paddle boats around the lake. Floating along in thereflective water is particularly romantic in March and April whenthe trees overhanging the water are in full bloom. The park is amust for anybody visiting Tokyo.

    Address: Gotenyama 1-chome, Kichijoji-Minami-cho 1-chome, MusashinoCity
    Inokashira Park Inokashira Park kanegen
    Peace Memorial Park

    Around the epicentre of the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshimain 1945, a complex of buildings and monuments has been erected inthe Peace Memorial Park to commemorate the earth-shattering event.The park is dedicated to the promotion of world peace. Central tothe park is the only remaining city building damaged in the blast;it was formerly the Industrial Promotion Hall, but is now known asthe Atomic Bomb Dome and has been declared a UNESCO World HeritageSite. The park also contains the Peace Memorial Museum, featuringexhibits portraying the horrible effects of the bomb on the cityand its citizens. Between the museum and the dome stands theMemorial Cenotaph containing a stone chest, inside which is a listof all those killed in the explosion or who died subsequently fromthe long-term effects caused by radiation. The Cenotaph also housesthe peace flame, which will burn until nuclear war is no longerconsidered a threat to humanity. Other monuments include the Statueof the A-Bomb Children and the Atomic Bomb Memorial Moundcontaining the ashes of tens of thousands of unidentifiedvictims.

    Address: 1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku
    Peace Memorial Park Peace Memorial Park Geert Orye
    Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

    Hiroshima boasts the first public art museum in Japan devotedexclusively to contemporary art. The museum was founded in 1989 andis housed in an interesting building designed by Japanese architectKurokawa Kisho, based on the shape of a Japanese warehouse (kura).The building is set high on a hill in Hijiyama Park, famed for itscherry blossoms and splendid city views. The museum itself containsthe works of established and up-and-coming Japanese artistscovering a range of different mediums and hosts regular temporaryexhibitions. For those not familiar with Japanese art, the museumhas provided information books on the individual artistsrepresented, written in English; however, aside from these, thereis very little signposting or information in English. There is anoutdoor sculpture garden to enjoy in the lovely grounds and theHiroshima Manga Library is also located here. The museum is alittle bit out of the way, but those interested in contemporaryJapanese art should find the effort rewarding, and a stroll in thegrounds is pleasant.

    Address: Hijiyama Koen
    Hiroshima City Museum of ContemporaryArt Hiroshima City Museum of ContemporaryArt Taisyo
    Hiroshima Castle

    Hiroshima's original castle, built in the late 16th century, wastotally destroyed in the atomic blast during World War II but hasbeen reconstructed as a perfect replica. When the castle wasestablished by a feudal lord in 1589, Hiroshima didn't exist; thecity that grew around the fortress took its name. At the time, thearea was called Gokamura, meaning five small villages, and the lordruled over a vast territory spanning nine provinces from thestronghold. The castle now houses a museum detailing the region'shistory up until World War II and particularly the historic feudalsystem. The exhibits include some models of ancient Hiroshima andthe castle and, for those who like playing dress-up, there are evensome traditional costumes to try on. The museum is informative andeasy to navigate with plenty of information in English. There is agreat lookout point at the top of the castle which affords somenice photo opportunities. The grounds are also lovely, housingthree trees - a eucalyptus, a willow, and a holly - which survivedthe bombing in 1945 and endure to this day. One of the most populartourist attractions in Hiroshima, the castle is definitely worth avisit for anybody with an interest in history.

    Address: 21-1 Motomachi, Naka-ku
    Hiroshima Castle Hiroshima Castle Fg2

    The romantic little island of Miyajima lies about eight miles(13km) off the mainland in the Seto Inland Sea. Apart from beingscenically beautiful with steep wooded hills, the island is famousfor its Itsukushima Shrine featuring a massive red wooden torii(gate). The shrine is partially built over water, and was foundedin the 6th century. During high tide the shrine stands in theocean, which is particularly picturesque when the building isilluminated at night. The route from the ferry to the shrine islined with food stalls and souvenir stands to cater to all thetourists and although the shrine can get crowded it is a charmingattraction. The Daisho-in Temple is situated about half way up themountain with incredible views and a pathway strewn with hundredsof statues. There are also temples and shrines near the summit ofMount Misen which are worth exploring. The island offers greathiking opportunities, particularly in spring when the many cherrytrees are in bloom, and in autumn, when the colours are at theirmost vibrant. Famously, tame deer wonder free and even bow if yougive them a cookie, while monkeys chatter happily in the woods.

    Miyajima with Itsukushima Shrine Miyajima with Itsukushima Shrine xxspecialsherylxx
    Sandankyo Gorge

    The erosion of a limestone plateau has left a beautiful deepgorge, stretching for about 11 miles (18km) of primeval forest,waterfalls, monkeys, and unusual rock formations. The OnbashiBridge formation is the largest natural bridge in Japan. SandankyoGorge is one of only five ravines in Japan that have beendesignated as National Scenic Beauty Spots and the country takesgreat pride in the beautiful area, which is a favourite withhikers. It is closed in winter because snow makes the ravineimpassable and dangerous but visitors are welcome between the endof April and November. As with most scenic spots in Japan, theravine is at its most lovely in spring and autumn. One of the mostpopular walking trails is a round-trip that begins at the Sandankyofront gate with the lovely Kurofuchi pool as the turning point. Thehike only takes about an hour each way and is not overly strenuous.The Kurofuchi pool is known for its emerald green water and it ispossible to take a short ferry ride across it to a restaurant onthe far bank. On this route you will also see the Shimai waterfalland Ishidoi rapids.

    Sandankyo Gorge Sandankyo Gorge Kuruman
    Shofukuji Temple

    The Shofukuji Temple was the first Zen temple to be built inJapan. It was founded in 1195 by the priest Eisai who introducedthe Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism into Japan from China. The woodenbuildings have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over thecenturies but they are exact replicas of the original structures.In the temple grounds are the remains of two other ancient temples,Jotenji and Tochoji, as well as a number of other structures.Unfortunately, the ancient buildings cannot be entered but visitorscan explore the lovely grounds and examine the exteriors.Photography is welcome. Although the temple complex is a historicand ancient site, it is not frequented by tourists and is seldomcrowded, although locals do visit regularly. As a result, it is apeaceful and serene place which affords a nice break from the busycity; the age and history of the temple is almost palpable. It is alovely spot for a walk or rest and there is a lot to see in thecomplex, although there is little information provided on what youare seeing.

    Address: 6-1 Gokuso-machi, Higashi-ku
    Shofukuji Temple Shofukuji Temple STA3816
    Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

    Fukuoka's Asian Art Museum is housed in a new complex in theShimokawabata district of Hakata Ward, in the heart of the city.The museum houses a collection of more than 1,000 works includingpaintings, sculptures, prints, and handcrafts. It also serves as acentre for art education. This popular modern museum offers a widearray of contemporary Japanese art and art from many other Asiancountries. If you are lucky, you will even get the chance to watchsome local artists at work in the museum. It is a small museum butgives an impressively comprehensive overview of current trends inthe region. The permanent collection is wonderful and should appealboth to the uninitiated and those well-versed in Asian art. Thereare regular temporary exhibitions and special events as well. Thereis a lovely little cafe attached to the museum, which isparticularly nice on sunny days when visitors can sit outside.There is also a gift shop with gorgeous postcards, prints, andbooks for souvenirs, and a children's play area to keep the kidsoccupied. The museum is situated in an interesting part of town,and it is fun to stroll around the area and explore a bit afteryour visit.

    Address: Riverain Complex, 3-1 Shimokawabata-machi,Hakata-ku
    Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Fukuoka Asian Art Museum angelune des lauriers
    Kushida Shrine

    One of Fukuoka's best-known shrines is Kushida, founded in 757.It is situated in the heart of ancient Hakata with a huge gingkotree, said to be 1,000 years old, shading its forecourt. The shrinehonours the grand deity, Ohata Nushina-mikoto, and was built duringthe Heian Period for the common people. Today it is very muchenjoyed by locals and visitors alike during the summer's majorevent, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. On the last day of thefestival, the Kushida Shrine becomes the starting point for thisfun run where hundreds of young men clad only in loin cloths carryheavy wooden shrines through the streets along a set route, vyingto clock the fastest times. The shrine itself contains severalitems of interest, particularly the Eto Arrow plate bearingcarvings of the Chinese zodiac and a brace of anchor stones,recovered from the harbour, that were once attached to ships of theMongolian invasion fleets. The Hakata Historical Museum is alsosituated in the shrine grounds, which are pretty and well-kept.There is lots of shopping and many food stalls to enjoy in the areaand the shrine complex is great for a stroll, a rest, somemeditation, and some historical sightseeing.

    Address: 1-41, Kamikawabatamachi, Hakata-ku
    Kushida Shrine Kushida Shrine David Pursehouse
    Historical Village

    Situated in a corner of the Hokkaido Nopporo ForestPark in Sapporo, this impressive and entertaining outdoor museumvillage depicts Hokkaido life in days of old. The site featuresrestored or recreated buildings from the Meiji and Taisho periods,and includes edifices like the old Sapporo railway station, oldOtaru newspaper company buildings, fishermen's cottages, andmountain villas. Horse-drawn trolleys run through the village andin winter horse-drawn sleighs carry visitors around the site. Thehistorical village should entertain the whole family for a fewhours. Those particularly curious about the local culture andhistory of the area should not miss the Hokkaido Ainu Centre, whichis a free attraction a little further out of Sapporo. The Ainupeople, with their unique culture, have lived on the island ofHokkaido for hundreds of generations. The Ainu Centre details thehistory and culture of the island's indigenous people usinginteresting exhibits and demonstrations and makes the perfectcompanion attraction for the historical village.

    Address: Konopporo 50-1, Atsubetsu-chyo
    Hokkaido, Sapporo Hokkaido, Sapporo Kzaral
    Sapporo Beer Museum

    For beer lovers, a visit to the beer museum in the historicSapporo Brewery building is a must, together with a tour of thebrewery itself, which, of course, ends with a tasting. The redbrick brewery building was opened first as a sugar factory in 1876,and has been the home of Japan's famous beer since 1887. One-hourtours are conducted at 15-minute intervals every day throughout theyear; however, these are in Japanese only. It is possible to bookin advance and request an English interpreter and the people at thefront desk will happily provide an English leaflet detailing abrief history of Sapporo beer. Despite the fact that the exhibitsare almost totally in Japanese it is still interesting to see theold photographs, memorabilia, and visual evolution of the brand.There are lockers at the entrance so you don't have to carry stuffaround and there is a little gift shop for souvenirs.

    Address: 9-1-1 Kita 7-Jo Higashi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo 065-0007,Hokkaido
    Vintage Beer Display Vintage Beer Display Toby Oxborrow
    Mount Moiwa

    Fondly known as Sapporo's 'backyard ski resort', Mt Moiwa offers10 different courses for all grades of skiers from beginners toadvanced. There are fun family slopes and a children's play area aswell as some more challenging options; advanced skiers may find ita bit too friendly but all levels are ultimately catered for. It ispossible to rent all the equipment you might need. Most of theslopes are well lit to enable visitors and locals alike to enjoythe fun of night skiing, taking in the breathtaking view of thecity as they fly down the sparkling slopes under the stars. Thereis an observatory on the mountain which can be reached by cablecar, and even if you have no intention of skiing it is worth a tripup to this platform to enjoy the incredible views. There is also arestaurant, a souvenir shop and some tributes to lovers including abunch of love locks (padlocks bearing the initials of couples andlocked to signal eternal love). The best time to go up the ropewayis in the evening so that you can enjoy the daytime views of theslopes and city, and stay as darkness descends to see the citylight up beneath you. The cableway may stop running in bad weatherbut is usually operational.

    Mount Moiwa Mount Moiwa world_waif

    The famous hot-spring resort of Noboribetsu Onsen is situatedinside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The spa complex is one ofmany found in Hokkaido, but being closest to Sapporo is verypopular. Hot mineral springs gush out about 10,000 tons of water aday, and it is said to have healing properties for a range ofdisorders. There are more than 30 hotels and bath houses groupedtogether along a narrow street along with shops, souvenir stores,and whatever else visitors may need. The area is also known for itscherry trees, which make a stunning sight in spring, and there aresome worthwhile hiking trails in the park. If you're after luxury,you can find high-end accommodation and spa treatments that areseen as some of the best in the country but there are also cheaperoptions for those travelling on a budget. It is possible at somespots to bathe in the natural springs outdoors, which is the mostatmospheric option. The springs are a popular excursion fromSapporo and the trip can easily be made in a day, which is all youneed to enjoy the relaxing hot water.

    Noboribetsu Onsen Noboribetsu Onsen Kentaro Ohno
    Tokyo Tower

    The Tokyo Tower is modelled in the vein of the Eiffel Tower inFrance, only in true Japanese style, it is more colourful andserves a technological purpose. Tokyo Tower functions chiefly as atelevision and radio antenna but it is also Tokyo's premierlandmark and a proud symbol of Japanese culture, celebrating thecountry's industrial and technological success. At 1,091 feet(332m) it is the tallest structure in Tokyo and a great vantagepoint from which to take in the city. There are two observationdecks in the tower, both with magnificent 360 degree panoramicviews. Admiring the city from this high vantage point is only oneaspect of the tourist's experience at the tower, however. At thebase of the tower, tucked snugly under its 'legs', is thefour-storey FootTown. Inside FootTown visitors will find shops,restaurants, a wax museum, the Guinness Book of World RecordsMuseum, an aquarium, and the Mysterious Walking Zone, a fascinatingdisplay of holographic technology and imagery. The top floor ofFootTown is an interactive art gallery, featuring optical illusionswhich can be manipulated by visitors. There is lots to see and doand the Tokyo Tower should delight people of all ages.

    Address: 4-2-8 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku
    Opening time: Daily 9am-11pm. The Special Observatory is currentlyclosed for renovations.
    Tokyo Tower Tokyo Tower Andreas
    Meiji Jingu

    Close to the Harajuku Station, the Meiji Jingu is an easilyaccessible shrine and worthwhile stop for tourists in Tokyo. Builtin homage to the Emperor Meiji and his wife, the Empress Shoken,this monument is located in a 175 acre (70ha) evergreen forest andconsists of two main areas. In the inner Naien, there is a gardenfeaturing shrine buildings and a treasure museum holding articlesbelonging to the Emperor and Empress. In the outer cloister, theGaien, the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery presents murals depictingsignificant events during the Meiji rule. It also consists of asports arena, the National Stadium, and the Meiji Memorial Hall,which was an important political meeting place during the MeijiEra. Today, traditional Shinto weddings are held in the hall andnewcomers to Japan are always intrigued when witnessing the uniqueShinto wedding procession. The lush grounds are wonderful toexplore early in the morning when they are peaceful and empty, andthe gardens provide sanctuary from the busy city at any time ofday. There is a lot to see and do in the complex, which can easilytake a few hours to explore properly and should delight the wholefamily.

    Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku
    Opening time: Daily from sunrise to sunset. Hours vary month tomonth.
    Meiji Jingu Meiji Jingu shinythings
    Minamiza Kabuki Theatre

    Kabuki is a traditional Japanese dance-drama knownfor its stylised take of performance and the elaborate make-up wornby some performers. It is a very old art form, which had its goldenage in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Today it is the mostpopular style of traditional Japanese drama and its star actors canbe seen in television and film roles as well as on the stage. Whilethere are many wonderful places in Japan to view Kabuki theatre,the Kyoto Minamiza Theatre is one of the principal venues for suchperformances and a major hub for the art form. The building itselfis an architectural wonder, built in a traditional style in 1929,on the edge of the Geisha district of Gion. Visitors can pay to seeindividual acts of plays or to see the entire performance. Becausethe theatre has become popular among tourists, an Englishvoice-over or purchasable programme explains the show toforeigners. A trip to the theatre is a fascinating culturalexperience and shouldn't be missed by any tourists with an interestin theatre and Japanese culture. For the uninitiated, one act isgenerally enough. It is often best to begin with an individual actand then book for a full performance if you enjoy it.

    Address: 198 Nakanomachi Yamatooji Nshi-iru, Shijo Ohashi,Higashiyama-ku
    Kabuki performer Kabuki performer lensonjapan
    Tokyo Joypolis

    Every child's dream come true, Tokyo Joypolis will thrill andentertain children of all ages. Offering rides, games, and muchmore, kids will be kept busy for hours on end in one of the world'smost famous theme parks and enjoy rides such as Geikon Live Coasterand games such as Halfpipe Tokyo, Let's Go Jungle, and The House ofthe Dead. There is also a 3D cinema, a caricature booth, and astage for live entertainment. Apart from all the rides and games,there are several shops and a wide selection of restaurants tochoose from (visitors should note that they can't take any food orbeverages into the park with them). The park is lots of fun, evenfor adults, and its reputation is justified; however, althoughJoypolis once seemed almost futuristic, with groundbreaking formsof entertainment and gaming, the rest of the world has since caughtup and things like 3D cinema are no longer as novel as they oncewere. Despite this, the park provides hours of entertainment forthe whole family and is a wonderful attraction for a rainy day. Thequeues can get frustratingly long so it is best to go during theweek, either early in the morning or in the evening.

    Address: 1-6-1 Daiba Minato-ku Tokyo
    Opening time: 10am to 10pm.
    Joypolis Sega Joypolis Sega Stefan

    Japanese Phrase Book

    Japanese English Pronounciation
    Hello Kon ni chi wa
    Goodbye Sayoo na ra
    Please One-gai-shi-masu
    Thank you Arigatoo (gozaimasu)
    Yes Hai
    No Lie
    My name is... Watashi no namae wa...
    How much...? Ikura desuka...?
    Where is...? Wa doko desuka...?
    Do you speak English? Anata wa eigo o hanashimasu ka?
    No, I don�t understand Lie, wakarimasen
    One, two, three, four, five Ichi, ni, san, shi, go
    I need a doctor Byouin ni ikitai

    The weather throughout the four main islands thatmake up Japan is generally temperate, with four distinct seasons.The climate varies according to island and terrain, so visitorsshould be sure to check the weather for the region they arevisiting.

    The weather can get very hot during the summer months- June, July and August - which can also be humid. In the south,winters are cool but sunny, as one moves further north temperaturesdrop and snow falls. The island of Hokkaido in the far north ofJapan is bitterly cold in the winter, with snow guaranteed. Therainy season runs from June to early August and August, Septemberand October are typhoon season in Japan.

    The best time to visit Japan varies depending ondesired activities and regions, but April is a wonderful month tovisit as the cherry blossoms are usually adorning the trees makingit the prettiest time of year in the country.

    September, October, and November - the autumn months- are also a pleasant time to visit, although it is typhoon season.Japan is popular year-round as a travel destination because itattracts winter sports enthusiasts in the cold months andsightseers the rest of the year, but spring and autumn are the mostcomfortable weather-wise.


    This well-known establishment has become something of a touristlandmark in Roppongi, probably because of its delicious yakitoricuisine and reasonable prices. Yakitori is the Japanese version ofthe barbecue, with chicken, beef, pork, or fish kebabs grilled overoak coals, served with large bowls of crudité vegetables like crispraw cabbage, carrots, and courgettes. Nanbantei offers bargainlunch menus and specialities like namban-yaki (grilled beef dippedin hot miso) and asapura-maki (green asparagus wrapped in thinlysliced pork). Open for dinner only, Monday to Saturday, with thelast order at 10.30pm.

    Address: 4-5-6 Roppongi, Minato-ku
    La Tour D’Argent

    Decidedly opulent, the lavish La Tour D'Argent, like its famoussister in Paris, sets the standard for French haute cuisine. Thehigh standard of the food and décor is only matched by the pricesin this celebrated establishment situated in the New Otani Hotel.The house speciality is the duck, specially flown in daily fromBrittany in France. Other highlights on the menu are pigeon andfricassee of lobster. It is all prepared by chefs trained at theParis restaurant and an impressive wine list accompanies theoutstanding menu, which changes seasonally. Closed Mondays. Dinneronly. Reservations essential and dress code is jacket and tie.

    Address: New Otani Hotel, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku
    What the Dickens?

    Good old English steak and kidney pie in the heart of Japan?Charles Dickens himself would feel at home in Tokyo's British pubwhich serves up a variety of ales and a down-to-earth atmospherehelped along with wooden beams, sprung floors, hand-painted pubsigns, and dried hops. It also offers live music every night of theweek. The menu is reasonably priced and consists of severaltraditional British favourites such as cottage pie, accompanied byheaps of potatoes, and vegetables. Closed Mondays.

    Address: 4th Floor, Roob 6 Building, 1-13-3 Ebisu-Nishi,Shibuya-ku
    La Granata

    The twin restaurants of La Granata and Granata Moderna aresituated in the basement of the Tokyo Broadcasting Systemsbuilding, but the Italian cuisine on offer is top level. La Granataoffers a traditional ambience with check tablecloths and brickwork,while Granata Moderna is elegantly modern with mirrors and stainedglass. Both offer delicious pasta specialities.

    Address: TBS Garden building, basement, 5-1-3 Akasaka

    It is worth waiting in line to sample the fare at Tokyo's mostrenowned tonkatsu (deep fried pork) outlet. Waiters take orderswhile patrons queue for a spot at the well-worn Formica-toppedtables, watching the hustle and bustle of the dozens of busy cooksin action. The reward is delectable treats like hirekatsu (filletof lean pork) reishoki, or rosukatsu (loin cut), crunchy on theoutside and melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside, or perhaps atasty kushikatsu (skewered meat with onions). Tonki is closedTuesdays and the third Monday of every month.

    Address: 1-1-2 Shimo-Meguro, Meguro-ku

    Roti serves some of Tokyo's most authentic American grill androtisserie cuisine. The ambience is relaxed and causal, thewaitstaff friendly and helpful, and the food delicious. Many expatsfrequent this eatery due to its wide selection of beers and oldfavourites such as the deluxe blue cheese burger, char-grilledsteaks, and sticky Shanghai style pork ribs and the classic Mexicantortillas and jalapeno cheese dip. Open daily for lunch and dinner.Booking recommended.

    Address: Piramide Building, 1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku
    Tokyo Narita International Airport
    Location: The airport is located about 45 miles (73km) northeast ofTokyo.
    Time: GMT +9.
    Transfer Between Terminals A free shuttle bus connects the three terminals.
    Getting to the city: Terminal 1 has a separate railway station from Terminal 2 and 3.Terminal 1 uses Narita Airport Station and Terminal 2 and 3 useAirport Terminal 2 Station. Different train services on the JR orKeisei lines serve Tokyo and surrounding destinations. The journeyto Tokyo takes at least one hour. Buses connect to the domesticairport and hotels in the city centre; the journey takes betweenone and two hours from the pick up at departure lobbies ofTerminals 1, 2 and 3.
    Car Rental: Car rentals can be organised at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Fixed fare taxis are available from outside the airport'sarrival area, and there are assistants available at the designatedfixed fare taxi stands in the airport.
    Fascilities: The facilities at Narita Airport are extensive and include shops(including duty-free), banks, ATMs, currency exchange bureaux,massage services, baby changing areas, a pet hotel, beauty salonsand left luggage. A variety of restaurants catering for Japanese,Chinese and Western tastes are available. Both terminals haveshower facilities and Day Rooms (bedrooms which can be hired by thehour).
    Parking Terminal 1 parking is in P1 and P5, while Terminal 2 parking isin P2 and P3. Parking at Tokyo Narita International Airport startsat ¥260 per 30 minutes for the first three and a half hours, with aflat rate of ¥2060 for anything between three and a half and 24hours.
    Matsuyama Airport
    Location: The airport is located four miles (6km) from Matsuyamacity centre.
    Time: Local time is GMT+9
    Getting to the city: Limousine bus services are available to various areas of thecity.
    Car Rental: Car rental agencies at the airport include Europcar andHertz.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available to transport travellers to their requireddestination.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include shopping (including duty-free shops),restaurants, a business lounge, waiting rooms, wifi, a hospitalitycorner and parking.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport and costs ¥100 for the firsthalf an hour, thereafter ¥150 every hour. The daily rate is¥800.
    Yamaguchi Ube Airport
    Location: The airport is located three miles (4km) from Ube citycentre.
    Time: GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Shuttle buses connect the airport to the train stations in thearea. Taxis are available for hire.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRent-A-Car, Nissan Car Rental and Times Car Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxi transportation is available from the airport.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include shops and food vendors, an ATM, alounge, a luxury waiting room (for a fee), an event hall and anursing room.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.
    Tokyo International Airport
    Location: The airport is located about 12 miles (20km) south ofTokyo.
    Time: GMT +9.
    Transfer Between Terminals The terminals are connected by a free shuttle bus, the monorailline and an underground passageway.
    Getting to the city: There are both railway and monorail connections for getting intoTokyo from Haneda Airport. Nonstop express routes take roughly 30minutes to get into downtown Tokyo.
    Car Rental: There are car rental facilities in the airport, including Orix,Nippon, Nissan, and Toyota.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the airport, with taxi stands outsideeach terminal. Taxis into town tend to be very expensive,however.
    Fascilities: Services and facilities provided at Tokyo Haneda Airport includewifi, currency exchange, ATMs, disabled facilities, hair salons,banks, a post office, medical clinics, baggae storage, a lost andfound, and nearly a dozen information desks.
    Parking Long and short-term parking is available in four parking lotsadjacent to the terminals.
    Aomori Airport
    Location: The airport is located seven miles (11km) from Aomoricity centre.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: There is bus service from the airport, timed to coincide witharriving flights. The journey takes about 35 minutes.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRent A Car, Nissan Rent A Car, Times Car Rental, Europcar, and OrixCar Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available from the airport.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a waiting room, shopping (includingduty-free shopping), an airport lounge, restaurants and cafes.
    Parking The airport has a multilevel parking area. The airport also hasoutdoor parking, bicycle parking and bays for people withdisabilities. Parking has a basic cost of about ¥200, and overnightparking is ¥820.
    Fukuoka Airport
    Location: Fukuoka Airport is located less than two miles (3km) eastof Hakata Station in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9.
    Transfer Between Terminals The Domestic and International Terminals are connected by ashuttle bus that runs every ten minutes.
    Getting to the city: Several buses depart from the Domestic Terminal to various partsof Fukuoka. Buses from the International Terminal are more limited.The Kuko line of the subway also runs from the airport into thecity, and connects with the Hakozaki and Nanakuma lines.
    Car Rental: Car rental reservations can be made at the Information Desk ineach terminal.
    Airport Taxis: Taxi stands are located outside each Arrivals Terminal, and areoperated by the Fukuoka City Taxi Association.
    Fascilities: The airport offers banking services and currency exchange, apost office, left luggage facilities, lockers, a smoking area, cellphone rental service, nursing room, clinic and pharmacy, and VIPlounge, as well as a number of restaurants, bars, and shops.Duty-free shopping is available in the International Terminal.
    Parking Car Parks located near the Domestic Terminal charge ¥200 up to11 hours, and ¥2,400 for 24 hours. Another car park is locatedacross from the International Terminal, and charges ¥200 everyhour, for the first four hours, and ¥1,000 after the first fourhours, up to 24 hours.
    Osaka Kansai International Airport
    Location: Kansai International Airport is located on an artificialisland in the middle of Osaka Bay, 30 miles (50km) fromOsaka.
    Time: GMT +9.
    Transfer Between Terminals The terminals are approximately two and a half miles (4km)apart, and are connected by a free shuttle service.
    Getting to the city: Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise and other bus operatorsoffer scheduled express bus services, called "Airport Limousines",for Kansai International Airport. Trains connect the airport toTennoji, Shin-Osaka, and Kyoto Station. Other trains are availableto Kyobashi Station and Namba Station, from which variousconnections can be made. There are also high-speed ferry servicesfrom Kansai to Kobe Airport.
    Car Rental: Rental cars are available at the airport from Nippon, Nissan,Toyota, Orix, and Times Car Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available and it is possible to book shuttles andtaxis (either single or shared) from several operators at theairport, however these must be booked well in advance.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include an airport hotel, banks and ATMs,currency exchange, baggage storage and delivery, coin lockers,porters, mobile phone and wifi router rentals, children's playareas and baby rooms, a post office, medical and dental facilities,meeting points, battery charging ports, a pet hotel, prayer room,police services, airport lounges, showers, relaxation areas,smoking rooms, conference facilities, tourist information desks,and a variety of shopping and dining options.
    Parking Parking is free for the first 30 minutes, then charged from ¥100to ¥110 per 15 minutes up to six hours, after which a flat fee of¥2,570 is charged for the first 24 hours. From the second day, adaily rate of ¥1,540 applies.
    Hakodate Airport
    Location: The airport is situated five miles (8km) east of HakodateStation in Hakodate.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Buses depart from the ground level of the airport to Hakodatetrain station and various other destinations every 15 to 30minutes. Taxis are also available.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include NissanCar Lease, Toyota Rent a Car, Times Car Rental, Nippon Car Rental,Orix Car Rental, Honda Rent a Car and Budget Car Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are readily available outside the entrance of the domesticarrivals lobby.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, lockers, an art gallery, copyand fax machines, a post box, a smoking room, massage chairs, abookstore, a snack shop, a bar, a duty-free shop (for internationalflights only), restaurants and cafes, an observation deck and akids' corner.
    Parking 24 hour airport parking is available at a rate of about ¥150 perhour, and a flat rate of about ¥800 for five to 24 hours. The first30 minutes are free.
    Hachijo Jima Airport
    Location: The airport is situated in Hachijo Jima, on the southernIzu Islands.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: The bus service in Hachijo Jima is used to transport travellersfrom the airport to the town centre. The bus departs from theairport six times a day between 7.30am and 5.30pm. Taxis areavailable outside of the airport. There are also sightseeing taxisavailable at the airport.
    Car Rental: Car rental is available at the airport. Please note that thereare no petrol stations north of the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the airport. There are also guidedsightseeing taxis available.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a restaurant, snack stands and giftstores. There is no ATM or post office, but these facilities are afive-minute drive away from the airport.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.
    Hiroshima Airport
    Location: Hiroshima Airport is located in the city of Mihara, 31miles (50km) east of Hiroshima.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Buses are available from the airport (outside the domesticarrival lobby) to the city centre. The journey time is about 45minutes.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include TimesCar Rental, Toyota Rent A Car, Nissan Car Rental, Nippon Car Rentaland Orix Rent A Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are readily available outside the domestic arrivalslobby.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a PC Corner (computers, internetaccess and plugs to charge devices), a shopping area, a lounge, anobservation deck, a restaurant, baggage lockers, a cafe, a foreigncurrency exchange booth, a nursery, an ATM and a policestation.
    Parking There are four parking options at Hiroshima Airport that allhave different price ranges. These are the government-operatedAirport Car Park, two Prefectural Airport Car Parks and the PrivateMasahiro Car Park. In all but the private Mashiro lot, the first 30minutes are free.
    Kagoshima Airport
    Location: The airport is located in Kirishima, 18 miles (29km)northeast of Kagoshima-Chuo Station in Kagoshima City.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Transfer Between Terminals Terminals are within walking distance of each other.
    Getting to the city: Buses to the city are available outside the domestic terminal.Tickets can be bought on the first floor of the domestic terminalat the Bus Information Centre. The journey takes an hour to thecity centre.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport includeEuropcar, Nissan Rent-A-Car, Times Car Rental and Toyota Rent ACar.
    Airport Taxis: A taxi stand can be located outside the domestic terminal.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include restaurants, coffee shops, anobservation deck, a post office, shops, a kids' corner, internetaccess, an ATM, a nursery, foreign currency exchange services,mobile phone chargers, a first aid station, a post office and coinlockers.
    Parking Parking is available opposite the domestic terminal. The firstthree hours of parking are free, thereafter it is ¥100 for two to10 hours, and ¥800 for 10 to 24 hours. After 24 hours an additional¥100 is charged for every three hours.
    Kita Kyushu Airport
    Location: The airport is situated on an artificial island in thewestern Seto Inland Sea, two miles (3km) away from KitaKyushu.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Buses can be accessed outside the arrival lobby on the firstfloor. Tickets can be bought from the airport bus station.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Nissan,Nippon, Toyota, Budget, Times Car Rental and Orix Rent-A-Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are readily available outside the arrival lobby on thefirst floor. It is about a 20 minute journey to the city.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include restaurants, fast food outlets, giftshops, book stores, duty-free shopping, a smoking room, a footbath, an observation deck, an airport lounge and money exchangefacilities.
    Parking There are 1,780 parking bays, 20 disabled bays, four truck baysand 30 bike bays at the airport, in front of the terminal. Parkingcosts about ¥210 for the first hour, ¥420 for the second hour, and¥520 for two to 24 hours.
    Kochi Ryoma Airport
    Location: The airport is located eight miles (13km) east of thecity of Kochi.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Travellers can catch the airport bus (Kochi Station Tourist Bus)to Kochi Station. The journey takes 40 minutes and tickets can bebought from a vending machine outside the arrivals lobby. Taxis arealso available outside the airport terminal, but are a lot moreexpensive. Car rentals can be made from the arrival lobby.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include TimesCar Rental, Europcar, Orix, Japan Car Rental, Budget Rent a Car andNissan Car Rental. Car rentals can be made from the car rentalcounter in the arrivals lobby.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the airport terminal. They can behailed from the taxi stand or booked in advance. It is around a35-minute drive to the Kochi Train Station. Drivers are unlikely tospeak English so it is a good idea to have the destination writtendown in Japanese or to point it out on a map as a precaution.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a coffee shop, a restaurant, a cafe,an observation deck, shops, an ATM, prepaid computer work stations,coin-operated lockers, a nursery, massage chairs, a specialpilgrim's changing room and a police station.
    Parking Parking is available outside the terminal at Kochi Airport.
    Komatsu Airport
    Location: The airport is located two and a half miles (4km)southwest of the city of Komatsu.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Hokuriku Railway Buses offer trips to Kanazawa Station with astop off in the city centre (not all buses stop in the citycentre). A Komatsu Bus service takes travellers to the JR KomatsuTrain Station. The journey time is around 12 minutes. CANBUS busservice also offers bus services from the airport to Kaga Loop,with multiple stops along the way. The bus stop is situated outsidethe domestic flights entrance and tickets can be bought from avending machine at the bus stop. Taxis are also available outsidethe international flights entrance, and charge a flat rate from theairport to Komatsu Station. Rental cars are available from theairport, and this is the recommended method of transport.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include OrixRent-a-Car, Japaren Rent-a-Car, Toyota Rent-a-Car, NipponRent-a-Car, Nissan Rent-a-Car and Mazda Car Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are also readily available from outside the internationalflights entrance/exit. Rates will vary depending on trafficconditions.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, coin lockers, currency exchangeservices, a smoking area, a nursery, shopping (including aduty-free shop), cafes, restaurants, bookshops, a pharmacy and apolice station.
    Parking There are 1,617 parking spaces available in two parking lots atthe airport: one for international flights and one for domesticflights. The international parking lot is free of charge, while thedomestic parking lot charge ¥100 per hour, or ¥800 for every 24hours. The first 30 minutes are free.
    Kumamoto Airport
    Location: The airport is located in Mashiki, Kumamoto. It is 11miles (18 km) from the city.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: A bus can be taken from the airport to the city centre. Thejourney takes about 40 minutes. A bus can also be caught toKumamoto Bus Station. Tickets are available from vendingmachines.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRent-A-Lease, Nissan, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Kumamoto NissanRent-A-Car, ORIX Rent-A-Car, Times Car Rental and Budget Rent andLease. Rental offices can be located in the lobby on the firstfloor.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are also available from outside of the terminal and can bebooked in advance.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include travel agents, coin-operated lockers,a nursing room, a first aid room, shops, ticket vending machines(Monorail, JR lines and Keikyu line), an information desk, an ATM,smoking rooms, internet corner (desks and charging devices forelectronics), a relaxation salon, charging machines for mobilephones, a kids' corner and restaurants.
    Parking Parking is available in front of the terminal. There are 1,216parking bays including 14 handicapped bays (wheelchairs can berequested on arrival). Parking fees are around ¥150 per hour and¥800 for between five and 24 hours.
    Akita Airport
    Location: The airport is located about nine miles (14km) southeastof Akita.
    Time: GMT +9.
    Getting to the city: There is a bus running to Akita station from the airport,scheduled to depart regularly after flight arrivals. It takes about50 minutes to get to Akita by bus.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies are represented at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the airport. Passengers should have theaddress and phone number of their destination written inJapanese.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, baggage lockers, public phones,a gift shop, restaurants, a VIP lounge, an aircraft exhibition areaand a petrol station.
    Parking There is a multi-storey car park located opposite theterminal.
    Asahikawa Airport
    Location: The airport is located 12 miles (20km) from Asahikawacity centre.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Bus services are available from the airport to the city centrewith a journey time of 35 minutes.
    Car Rental: Rental cars are available at the airport. Rental companiesinclude Toyota Rent A Car, Times Car Rental, Orix Rent-A-Car andWorld Net Rent-A-Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the taxi rank outside the terminalbuliding to transfer passengers to their required destination.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include shopping, restaurants, wifi, aviewing deck, fax and photocopy machines, a lounge, a foreigncurrency exchange macine, lockers and a baby changing room.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport. During the day visitorshave the first hour of parking free, with every hour after thatcosting ¥100, up to a daily limit of ¥500. There is parkingavailable for motorcycles and people with disabilities at a halfthe standard rate.
    Miyazaki Airport
    Location: The airport is located two miles (3km) fromMiyazaki.
    Time: Local time is GMT+9
    Getting to the city: The Japan Railway serves the airport via several lines,including service to Miyazaki, Nobeoka, and Takachiho. Bus serviceis also available to the city and farther north.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies are available.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available from the airport.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include shops (including duty-free), carrental, restaurants, an airline lounge, lockers, an ATM, a postbox, a smoking corner, and a nursing room.
    Parking Short and long-term parking is available at the airport. Parkingis charged at ¥100 for one hour and ¥800 for 24 hours.
    Nagasaki Airport
    Location: The airport is located about 19 miles (30km) north ofNagasaki city centre.
    Time: Local time is GMT+9
    Getting to the city: Buses are available to Shinchi Terminal (35 minutes), ChuouBashi (38 minutes) and Nagasaki Station (43-58 minutes). Otherdestinations are also available, and fares and journey times vary.Ferries run to Togitsu (25 minutes) and Huis Ten Bosch (50minutes).
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include NissanRent-A-Car, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Toyota Rent-A-Car and Times CarRental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the passenger arrivals section ofthe airport. Taxi companies available at the airport include GodoTaxi, Takematsu Taxi and Omura Lucky Taxi.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a smoking room, an ATM, coin lockers,baby buggy rental, wheel chair rental, an observation deck, forgeinexchange services, a business centre and lounge, an internet room,a baby care centre, restaurants and shops.
    Parking Parking is available opposite the terminal building and costs¥100 for 60 minutes, ¥200 for 90 minutes, ¥300 for 120 minutes, and¥150 per every hour thereafter with a flat rate of ¥700 for up to24 hours.
    Chubu Centrair International Airport
    Location: The airport is located 22 miles (35km) south ofNagoya.
    Time: GMT+9
    Getting to the city: The quickest way to get to Nagoya is by train. With a journeytime of 28 minutes, the train station is within the terminalbuilding; fares are dependent on destination. Airport buses arriveat the first floor of the terminal building, and run to variousdestinations in Nagoya.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRent-A-Car, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Times Car Rental, Orix Rent-A-Carand Nissan Rent-A-Car. The car rental desks are in the Access Plazaof the airport.
    Airport Taxis: There are a number of taxi companies available as well as anoriai taxi (rideshare taxi) at the airport. The Taxi InformationCounter is located on the second floor of the Access Plaza, and thetaxi pick-up point is located on the first floor of the AccessPlaza.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include computers with internet access,mobile phone rental, an information desk, a police station, a postoffice, a clinic, lounges, facilities for people with disabilities,currency exchange services, a bank, ATMs, a hotel, a nursing room,a children's play area, an observation deck, a bath house, massagechairs, shopping (including duty-free shops) and restaurants.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport and is directly connected tothe terminal building. In P1 and P2 the first half hour is free,then parking is charged at ¥300 per hour, ¥1,500 per day, and¥7,500 for anything between five and 30 days.
    Oita Airport
    Location: The airport is located 18 miles (30km) from Oita citycentre.
    Time: GMT +9
    Transfer Between Terminals The domestic and international terminals are accessible to oneanother by walking.
    Getting to the city: Buses are available to transport passengers to the city centre.A bus to Oita Station takes about 60 minutes.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRental Car, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Timescar Rent-A-Car, BudgetRent-A-Car, Orix Rent-A-Car and Nissan Rent-A-Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the passenger terminal building totransfer passengers to their desired destinations.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a nursery, baby beds, a first aidstation, a smoking room, a locker room, an information desk, ATMs,public telephones, cafes, and shops.
    Parking Parking is available opposite the passenger terminal.
    Okayama Airport
    Location: The airport is located 11 miles (18km) from Okayama citycentre.
    Time: GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Buses and shared taxis are available at the airport to transportpassengers to the city.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Toyota,Nippon, Orix and Nissan. The car rental desks are on the firstfloor of the terminal building.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the airport.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include general information, restaurants,kiosks, a lounge, car rental and currency exchange.
    Parking Parking is available near the terminal. Parking lots 2 to 4 arefree and have 2,891 spaces collectively, while lot P1 offers paidparking for 252 vehicles.
    Naha Airport
    Location: The airport is located three miles (4km) from Okinawacity centre.
    Time: GMT +9
    Transfer Between Terminals The Domestic and International Terminals may be reached onfoot.
    Getting to the city: Passengers can take the monorail from the airport as far asShuri Station, which takes around 27 minutes; trains operatebetween 6am and 11.30pm. There are also several bus lines thatservice the airport.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies are available at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available from the airport to transport passengers totheir required destination.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include an information desk, a post office,computer terminals, public telephones, a nursing room, a smokingarea, coin lockers, vending machines, a bank, and shops andrestaurants.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport and is located withinwalking distance of the terminal.
    Miho-Yonago Airport
    Location: The airport is located seven miles (12km) from Yonagocity centre.
    Time: GMT +9
    Getting to the city: The JR West Sakai Line has service from the airport departingroughly once per hour between 6am and 11.45pm on weekdays, andbetween 7am and 11pm on weekends and holidays. Buses run to YonagoStation and Matsue Station between 8am and 9.30pm.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Nippon,Toyota Rent-A-Car, Times, Orix and Nissan Rent-A-Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the airport to transport passengers totheir required destination. A taxi to Yonago Station takes around25 minutes, while a taxi to Sakaiminato Station takes only 10minutes.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include shops (including duty-free), a VIProom, lounges, a baby rest room, restaurants, coffee shops, snackbars, a massage parlour, a first aid station, ATMs and coinlockers.
    Parking There is a free parking lot in front of the terminal. Lots P1,P2 and P3 are used for overflow when the parking space in front ofthe airport is at full capacity; these lots have room for 1,300vehicles collectively.
    Toyama Airport
    Location: The airport is located three miles (6km) south ofToyama.
    Time: Local time is GMT +9.
    Getting to the city: Shuttle buses are available from the airport to JR Toyamastation; the trip takes around 25 minutes.
    Car Rental: Several car rental companies are represented at the airport,including Japaren, Toyota Rent-a-Car, Times Car Rental and NissanRent-a-Car.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the airport. The trip to central Toyamatakes around 30 minutes.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include public phones, shops and restaurants,nursing areas, smoking areas, ATMs, currency exchange, and apharmacy. Disabled facilities are good.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.
    Tokushima Awaodori Airport
    Location: The airport is located in Matsushige, just outside thecity of Tokushima.
    Time: GMT +9.
    Getting to the city: Buses are available to a number of destinations in Tokushima,Naruto, Anan, and Miyoshi; buses to JR Tokushima Station takeapproximately 25 minutes.
    Car Rental: Car rental counters are located on the first floor of theterminal.
    Airport Taxis: A taxi stand is located at the exit to the terminalbuilding.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include conference rooms, ATMs, baggagelockers, nursing rooms, charging ports, information points, smokingareas, rest stations, and a number of shopping and diningoptions.
    Parking Parking is available opposite the terminal building.
    Shonai Airport
    Location: The airport is situated about eight miles (12km)southwest from Shonai and eight miles (12km) south ofSakata.
    Time: GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Buses are available at the airport, travelling to a number ofdestinations including the Sakata Railway Station, which is themain transport hub in the area. Taxis and rental cars are alsoavailable.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include ToyotaRent-A-Car, Nissan Car Rental and Orix Car Rental.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are generally available at the airport and at the JRSakata Station, but travellers should have their destinationwritten in Japanese as very few drivers speak English.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include an ATM, mobile phone chargers, asmoking room, and a selection of shops and restaurants.
    Parking Airport car parking is accessible between 5am and 11pm and isfree of charge.
    Takamatsu Airport
    Location: The airport is situated nine miles (15km) southwest ofTakamatsu.
    Time: GMT +9
    Getting to the city: Taxis and buses are available to transport visitors from theairport to the city and the Takamatsu Railway Station, among otherdestinations.
    Car Rental: Rental cars are available at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are generally available at the airport and the journey tothe Takamatsu Railway Station takes about half an hour. Travellersshould note that most taxi drivers don't speak English and it is agood idea to have the desired destination written down inJapanese.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, an observation deck,information kiosks, shops, infant nursing rooms, smoking rooms,exhibit space, public telephones, and a selection of restaurantsand coffee shops.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport. Parking is charged at ¥150per hour for the first four hours and ¥800 per 24 hours.

    The currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY). Major credit cards areaccepted in the larger hotels and stores, but most Japanese operatewith cash. Money can be exchanged in banks, post offices andcurrency exchange bureaux. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday9am to 3pm. The best foreign currency to take to exchange are USdollars. ATMs are common but do not accept all credit and debitcards; only the international ATMs in post offices, airports andsome major stores will accept foreign cards.


    Japanese is the official language. Most Japanese peoplewill have studied English at school, but few can speak it well orunderstand exactly what is said to them in English.


    Electrical current is 100 volts, 60Hz in the west(Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima); 100 volts, 50Hz in eastern Japan(Tokyo, Sapporo, Yokohoma). Flat two- and three-pin plugs areused.

    Entry Requirements:

    US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90days.

    British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days(extension possible), for British passport holders endorsed BritishCitizen or British National (Overseas). British nationals withother endorsements should confirm requirements with their nearestembassy.

    Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90days.

    Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90days. Note that visa exemptions apply to holders of an APECBusiness Travel Card, provided the back of the card states that itis valid for travel to Japan.

    South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival, and require a visa to enter Japan.

    Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days,with extensions possible.

    US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Japan. No visa is required for stays of up to 90days.

    New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Japan. Passport exemptions apply to holders of atemporary or emergency passport who are New Zealand nationals. Novisa is required for stays of up to 90 days. Note that visaexemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card,provided the back of the card states that it is valid for travel toJapan.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    All foreign passengers to Japan must hold proof of sufficientfunds to cover their expenses while in the country, return/onwardtickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their nextdestination. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport hasat least six months validity remaining after your intended date ofdeparture from your travel destination. Immigration officials oftenapply different rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.

    Travel Health:

    No vaccination certificates are required for entry to Japan.Long-term travellers, staying for more than a month in rural areas,should consider getting a Japanese encephalitis vaccination if theyare travelling between the months of June and September.

    Medical facilities are very good in Japan, but medicalassistance can be very expensive and visitors have to pay the wholecost upfront. Travellers should ensure that they have adequatemedical insurance before travelling.

    Vicks inhalers and other common medications used for allergiesand sinus problems are banned under the strictly enforcedanti-stimulant drugs law, and visitors are advised to check withthe Japanese embassy if in doubt.

    It is always best to take prescribed medications with you whenyou travel, in the original packaging and with a signed and datedletter from your doctor detailing what the medication is and whyyou need it.


    Tips and bargaining are not expected in Japan; in fact, tippingis usually considered almost rude and shouldn't be attempted.

    Safety Information:

    The vast majority of visits to Japan are trouble-free. It isgenerally a very safe country with low levels of common crime andis stable, highly developed, and modern. Travellers should,however, still be vigilant about personal safety andbelongings.

    Typhoons are common, particularly from August to October, andtravellers should take note of storm warnings along the coastalregions if travelling during this period. Japan is in a majorearthquake zone, and earthquakes of varying sizes occur veryfrequently.

    Note: 28/11/19

    Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan in October 2019 and left widespreaddamage. Among other things, more than 85 000 homes were damaged,and clean-up efforts are expected to continue for months, and evenyears in some areas. Tourists should read up on damage and closuresin regions they intend visiting.

    Local Customs:

    The Japanese are formal and reserved and visitors are expectedto behave politely. Their system of etiquette is one of the mostcomplex in the world, with a strict code of conduct for almostevery situation. It is important to avoid causing 'loss of face' byinsulting or criticising someone in front of others. Bowing is thecustomary greeting.


    Business in Japan can be highly formal and greetings are usuallyrather ritualistic due to the hierarchical society; a third partyintroduction is useful. Central to doing business in Japan is thenotion of kaizen, which represents the drive for constantimprovement. Japanese business culture is very formal in dress codeand conduct.

    Always greet in order of seniority, first by bowing and thenoffering a handshake. A polite bow is customary; the more seniorthe person, the deeper the bow. Expect silence in meetings anddon't be surprised if a business associate goes silent and closeshis eyes in a meeting - it indicates reflection. As with many Asiancountries, it is important to avoid being too direct, while stillillustrating sincerity and honesty. When deflecting difficult orembarrassing questions, vague forms of expression are key.

    Relationship building is central to business culture in Japan.Meetings often include excessive small talk as a means of buildingrapport. Calm, introverted and humble personality types garnerrespect. However, sober attitudes are suspended during socialactivities; evening drinks with business associates is an importantpart of solidifying business relationships in Japan, and whateverhappens during the evening drinks, is never repeated or spokenabout during business hours.

    Business cards are exchanged often, using both hands. It can beuseful to have cards printed with both English and Japanese, andone should present the card with the Japanese side facing therecipient. English translators are vital when conducting businessin Japan as Japanese tends to be the language of business. Officehours start at 8am and finish at 6pm throughout the week. Businesswear is formal and gifts, although not expected, are appreciated.Small items branded with your company's logo are generally wellreceived.


    The international access code for Japan is +81. City/area codesare in use, e.g. (0)3 for Tokyo and (0)82 for Hiroshima. Hotels,cafes, and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. Asinternational roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaidSIM card can be a cheaper option.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers to Japan over 20 years do not have to pay duty on 3bottles of alcoholic beverages; 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or500g tobacco; perfume up to 60ml; and gifts and souvenirs to thevalue of ¥200,000.

    Prohibited items include all types of firearms and ammunition,narcotics, pornography, meat products, counterfeit money, allplants and vegetables with soil, fresh fruit, vegetables and plantsor parts thereof.

    Useful Contacts:

    Japan Embassies:

    Japanese Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 2386700.

    Japanese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 74656500.

    Japanese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 241 8541.

    Japanese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 4521500.

    Japanese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 3244.

    Japanese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 202 8300.

    Japanese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 4731540.

    Foreign Embassies in Japan :

    United States Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 3224 5000.

    British Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 5211 1100.

    Canadian Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 5412 6200.

    South African Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 3265 3366.

    Australian Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 5232 4111.

    Irish Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 3263 0695.

    New Zealand Embassy, Tokyo: +81 (0)3 3467 2271.

    Japan Emergency Numbers : 110 (Police), 119 (Ambulance/Fire)
    Mount Fuji

    The dormant volcano of Mount Fuji, 62 miles (100km)southwest of Tokyo, has been revered since ancient times and noexploration of Japan is complete without visiting the mountain thatis known fondly as 'Fuji-san' by the locals. Its symmetrical12,388-foot (3,776m) snow-crowned summit has become as symbolic ofJapan as the country's own flag, featuring in poetry and artthrough the ages and considered a holy site in Japanese culture.The mountain, which is the highest in Japan, has many historicaland mythological associations; for instance, ancient samurai usedthe base of the mountain as a remote training area, near thepresent day town of Gotemba. The closest town to the volcano isFuji Yoshida, from which buses leave frequently for Fuji's 'fifthstage' (the usual jumping-off point for hikes up the mountain) fromoutside the train station. There are six trails to the summit, ofwhich the Kawaguchiko Trail is the easiest, being quite manageableeven for children and the elderly as long as they have stamina andgood shoes. Overnight huts are available for those wanting to staya night or two on the mountain. The official climbing season isfrom 1 July to the end of August as in winter snow makes the ascenttoo dangerous.

    Mount Fuji Mount Fuji Midori

    The city of Kamakura, about 30 miles (50km) southwest of Tokyo,at the base of the Miura Peninsula, was the political powerhouse ofJapan in the middle ages and the seat of government for most of the13th century. Because of its historic importance, Kamakura boastsnumerous monuments, temples, and shrines which are of interest tosightseeing tourists. As an added bonus, the city sports some sandybeaches and good hiking trails in the nearby wooded hills so that aday or two can be spent very happily in the city enjoying both thenatural and historical attractions. Kamakura's many sights are toonumerous to detail individually, but most important of them all isthe Great Buddha. This bronze statue of the seated Amida Buddha islocated in the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple and, standing atalmost 44ft (13,35m) high, it is the second largest Buddha statuein Japan after that found in the Todaiji Temple in Nara. TheKamakura Great Buddha was cast in 1252 and was originally containedin the temple hall. A tidal wave (tsunami) washed away the templein the late 15th century, but the Buddha prevailed and has sincestood triumphantly in the open. Kamakura is a very popular daytripfrom Tokyo, but many visitors will find that they want to spend atleast one night in the city to fully appreciate all it has tooffer.

    The Great Buddha Statue The Great Buddha Statue Fg2

    While visiting Japan's largest city of Tokyo, it is quick andeasy to pay a visit to the country's second biggest metropolis too.Yokohama can be reached in less than 30 minutes by train fromTokyo, lying south of the capital. The main reason for visitingYokohama is to marvel at its futuristic new city centre and perhapstake a stroll through Japan's largest Chinatown. Yokohama'sChinatown, entered through four colourful gates and teeming withrestaurants and shops, was developed after the city became one ofthe first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade aftergenerations of isolation ended in 1859. Chinese traders flocked tothe city, establishing a cultural neighbourhood. Minato Mirai isthe new central city area around the harbour, characterised by theLandmark Tower, rising to 971ft (296m). Visitors can ride to thetower's observation deck in the world's second fastest elevator,travelling at 41ft (13m) a second, for a view that on a clear daystretches as far as Mount Fuji. The city also boasts the YokohamaMarine Tower, the tallest inland lighthouse in the world. The cityis a commercial hub with wonderful shopping opportunities,restaurants, and a fun nightlife.

    Transport: Toyoko Line from Shibuya, JR Tokaido Line or JR YokosukaLine from Tokyo or Shinagawa Station
    Yokohama By Night Yokohama By Night Toshihiro Oimatsu
    Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji)

    One of Kyoto's most popular attractions is to the north of thecity. The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is a three-storey pavilioncovered in gold leaf, glittering in the waters of a calm pond andsurrounded by beautiful gardens. Kinkakuji was built in 1397 as aretirement home for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who lived there inluxury until he died in 1408, after which the building wasconverted into a Zen temple. In 1950, a monk burnt the paviliondown and it was not rebuilt until 1955. Today it is covered in goldleaf five times thicker than the original coating and presents anawesome sight. The pavilion is worth visiting at any time of theday and in any season - in fact, it is strikingly magnificent inwinter, when surrounded by white snow. Although sunset can beparticularly special, because the temple glows in the setting sun,the popularity of the place means that there are often big crowdsand the best time to visit to really experience the tranquillityand beauty of the pavilion is early in the morning. A short walkfrom the pavilion is Ryoanji, Japan's most famous Zen rock garden,laid out in the 15th century. A veranda overlooks the garden inwhich 15 rocks are set among raked white pebbles.

    Address: 1 Kinkaku-ji-cho Kita-ku, Kyoto
    Kinkakuji Kinkakuji Chris Gladis
    Katsura Imperial Villa

    Built in 1645 by Prince Toshihito and considered tobe the finest example of pure Japanese architecture and gardendesign, Katsura Rikyu is beautiful in its simplicity. The buildingsare constructed of entirely natural materials and consist of amoon-viewing pavilion, an imperial hall, teahouse, and the woodenvilla itself. The garden is designed for leisurely strolls withsurprises around each corner, from stone bridges and lanterns toponds and manicured trees. The grounds are particularly beautifulin the autumn, when the rich colours of the trees make for evenbetter photos than usual. It is interesting to see how the imperialfamilies lived and the Katsura Imperial Villa is one of the mostpopular attractions in Kyoto. The villa may be visited only onpre-arranged, guided tours organised by the Imperial HouseholdAgency, with tours held each weekday, on Sundays and occasionallyon Saturdays. Tours are in Japanese only, and can be arranged atthe office of the Imperial Household Agency next to the ImperialPalace in central Kyoto. Foreigners will be given audio guides. Thevilla is closed between roughly 28 December and 4 January and forimperial functions. Be sure to take along your passport when youapply for a permit, and book at least a day in advance.

    Katsura Imperial Villa Katsura Imperial Villa np&djjewell

    The city of Nara, 26 miles (42km) south of Kyoto, could beregarded as the place where Japan's culture was formalised. Thecity, originally called Heijo, became the first permanent capitalof the country in 710. Although its capital status only lasted for74 years, they were years that entrenched and enshrined Japan'sarts, crafts, and literature. Nara flourished as a political andcultural centre and thus was blessed with numerous temples,shrines, pagodas, and palaces, which today attract locals andforeigners intent on glimpsing historic Japan. Most of Nara'shistoric treasures are conveniently contained in a vast park whichhas been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makingsightseeing easy and pleasurable. Highlights are Todaiji, the hugetemple that contains Japan's largest Buddha statue, and Horyuji,the temple containing the world's oldest wooden structures. A goodway to explore the city is on a historic walking tour and visitorsshould ensure that they take a stroll around the old Naramachimerchant district. It is easy to find your way around and enjoy asolitary foray into history with a guidebook should you so desire,but joining a guided tour can be very informative.

    Todaiji Temple, Nara Todaiji Temple, Nara DavideGorla

    In the northern part of Kyushu Island in southwestern Japan liesthe ruins of Dazaifu, a city that during the 1st century was theseat of government for the island and first line of defence againstthreat from East Asian nations. The walled city once stood in openfields, but now the ruins on the southern slopes of Mount Ono aresurrounded by modern Dazaifu, and the valued historic site has beenturned into a park. Apart from the interesting ruins, Dazaifu alsoboasts one of Japan's most important shrines: the DazaifuTenman-gū is dedicated to a great scholar named SugawaraMichizane, who died in the year 903 and subsequently became reveredas a deity because of his wisdom. The shrine is now a place ofpilgrimage for students from all over the country, especially whenexamination season comes around. The approach to the shrine islined with teahouses specialising in a local rice cake delicacy,which is believed to keep illness at bay. The ancient KomyozenjiTemple, situated close to the shrine, is also worth a visit, mainlyfor the stunning gardens, which are particularly beautiful in theautumn when the leaves turn a magnificent array of colours.

    Dazaifu Dazaifu JoshBerglund19
    Mount Aso

    The composite volcano of Mount Aso lies almost in the centre ofKyushu Island. Among the largest in the world, it's also Japan'sbiggest active volcano. Mount Aso also boasts one of the world'slargest caldera (volcanic depressions), which stretches about 11miles (18km) from east to west and 15 miles (24km) from north tosouth. Inside the caldera are five volcanic peaks: Mount Neko,Mount Naka, Mount Eboshi, Mount Taka, and Mount Kishima. Mount Nakais still active and regularly emits smoke and ash. The rest of thelandscape inside the caldera is beautifully green and grassy, withgrazing cows and horses, as well as about 50,000 inhabitants inseveral towns and villages. In the city of Aso there is a museumdedicated to the volcano which is worth visiting for thoseinterested in the region's remarkable geology. At the museumvisitors can watch presentations about Aso in addition to viewing alive image from a camera positioned at the active crater site.There is a cableway up to the Mount Aso crater lake, called theMount Aso Ropeway, which allows visitors to see the steamingturquoise water up close. But when the sulphur level rises too highthe site is closed as the fumes can become toxic.

    Mount Aso Mount Aso Furansowakun

    The beautifully situated port city of Nagasaki lies at thesouthern end of Kyushu Island, 95 miles (152km) southwest ofFukuoka. Nagasaki was open to the world for centuries between 1639and 1859 while the rest of Japan was secluded from foreign contactby governmental decree. The exposure to foreign cultures has leftthe city with a sophisticated and liberal air that makes it popularfor tourists, enhanced by the many attractions in the city itselfand surrounding prefecture. Here you can enjoy Feudal castles,samurai houses, smoking volcanoes, hot spring baths, ruggedoffshore islands, and beautiful beaches. The most important site inthe city is the Peace Park (Heiwa Koen), commemorating Nagasaki'sdarkest hour on 9 August 1945, when a nuclear bomb intended to bedropped on the Mitsubishi Shipyards exploded instead over theUrakami district, killing approximately 80,000 people. A blackstone column marks the blast's epicentre, alongside the Atomic BombMuseum. Nagasaki has many attractions for visitors and one of themost popular short excursions is a boat trip to the spooky HashimaIsland, once a coal mining facility but now completely uninhabitedand covered in ruins.

    Nagasaki Nagasaki Tito & Eva Marie Balangue