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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Japanese Phrase Book
|Hello||Kon ni chi wa|
|Goodbye||Sayoo na ra|
|Thank you||Arigatoo (gozaimasu)|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-gÅ« 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.
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.
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.