10 Top Tourist Attractions in Japan

10 Top Tourist Attractions in Japan

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Category : Japan , Japanese Culture

Japan is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It is a unique blend of traditional and modern, with many temples and buildings from the past co-existing with modern achievements in architecture and technology. Visitors can be immersed in Japanese history and culture one day and get a glimpse of the future through technological developments the next. Almost all of the historical sites are still used for their original purposes while remaining open to the public. The natural beauty of Japan can be seen all year. In addition, Japan has one of the world’s lowest crime rates which makes it ideal for travelers. An overview of the top tourist attractions in Japan:

10. Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

 

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is a haunting tribute to the lives lost when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Set in a park, the memorial features Genbaku Dome, the only building left standing in the vicinity after the bomb dropped. This harsh reminder of a world at war reminds visitors of the importance of human life and honors the victims so they will never be forgotten.

9. Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park

 

Jigokudani Monkey Park is a famous hot spring area near Nagano,. The name Jigokudani (meaning “Hell’s Valley”), is due to steam and boiling water that bubbles out the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold forests. It is famous for its large population of wild Snow Monkeys that go to the valley during the winter when snow covers the park. The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm hot springs, and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

8. Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

 

The Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple is located in Eastern Kyoto and can be traced back as far as the year 798. An indoor waterfall fed from the outside river keeps the temple in harmony with nature and not one nail was used in construction. While locals used to jump off the edge to have a wish granted (with a survival rate of 85.4%), modern visitors can enjoy the shrines and talismans and artwork on display without risking life and limb.

7. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

 

The Himeji Castle is considered the best existing example of Japanese castle architecture. It was fortified to defend against enemies during the feudal period, but it has been rebuilt many times throughout the centuries and reflects the different design periods. It survived the bombings of World War II and is frequently seen in domestic and foreign films, including the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”. The white exterior and design give the castle the appearance of a bird taking flight, earning the the castle the nickname ‘white egret castle’.

6. Great Buddha of Kamakura

Great Buddha of Kamakura

 

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a colossal outdoor representation of Amida Buddha, one of Japan’s most celebrated Buddhist figures. Cast in bronze, the Great Buddha stands at over 13 meters (40 feet) high and weighs nearly 93 tons. The statue reportedly dates from 1252. Although it originally was housed in a small wooden temple, the Great Buddha now stands in the open air as the original temple was washed away in a tsunami in the 15th century.

5. Todaiji Temple 

Todaiji Temple

 

The Todaiji Temple in Nara is a feat of engineering. It is not only the world’s largest wooden building, it is home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and wildlife, the Kegon school of Buddhism is centered here and the grounds hold many artifacts of Japanese and Buddhist history. Deer are allowed to freely roam the grounds as messengers of the Shinto gods.

4. Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

 

The Tokyo Tower is a testament to the advancement of technology and modern life. Inspired by the Eiffel tower design, it is the second tallest man-made structure in Japan and functions as a communications and observation tower. Visitors can climb the tower for unparalleled views of Tokyo and the surrounding areas as well as visit shops and restaurants.

3. Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Imperial Palace

 

The Emperor of Japan makes his home at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It also functions as an administration center and museum to showcase Japanese art and history. The palace is set on the ruins of older castles that were destroyed by fire or war, and architects have honored the past by incorporating design elements of the different eras into the modern palace. The new palace is surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens and has many reception and function rooms to receive guests and welcome the public.

2. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

 

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters (12,388 ft). The volcano’s exceptionally symmetrical cone is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as a popular tourist attraction for sightseers and climbers. An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year, 30% of whom are foreigners. The ascent can take anywhere between three and eight hours while the descent can take from two to five hours.

1. Golden Pavilion

#1 of Tourist Attractions In Japan

 

Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion is the most popular tourist attraction in Japan and Kyoto. The pavilion was originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 14th century. Unfortunately, the pavilion was burnt down in 1950 by a young monk who had become obsessed with it. Five years later, the temple was rebuilt as an exact copy of the original. Emphasis is placed on the building and surrounding gardens being in harmony with one another. The pavilion is covered in gold leaf which highlights the reflection of the pavilion in the pond and the pond’s reflection on the building.

 

Cheap Flights to Tokyo

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Daegu

26.10.2019

30.10.2019

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Seoul

20.11.2019

07.12.2019

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Fukuoka

06.11.2019

07.11.2019

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Nagasaki

30.10.2019

31.10.2019

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Hong Kong

26.11.2019

27.11.2019

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Hiroshima

16.11.2019

18.11.2019

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Oita

24.11.2019

28.11.2019

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Los Angeles

16.07.2020

18.08.2020

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Osaka

24.10.2019

24.10.2019

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Sapporo

28.10.2019

29.10.2019

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Taipei

13.11.2019

20.11.2019

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Nagoya

09.11.2019

13.11.2019

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Manila

03.11.2019

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Okinawa

27.11.2019

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08.11.2019

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Ontario

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30.11.2019

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Tokushima

21.12.2019

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02.11.2019

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Hotels in Tokyo: 4 stars

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Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten

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karaksa hotel premier Tokyo Ginza

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Hotel Gracery Asakusa

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Hotel Axas Nihonbashi

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Nohga Hotel Ueno

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Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa

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Daiwa Roynet Hotel Tokyo Ariake

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Park Hotel Tokyo

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Nagoya

Category : Asia , Japan , Nagoya

Completely rebuilt after a wartime drubbing, NAGOYA (名古屋) is a modern metropolis of high-rise buildings, wide boulevards, multi-lane highways and flyovers, where business takes precedence over tourism. Here you’ll find the headquarters of industrial powerhouse Toyota as well as numerous other companies that exploit the local skill of monozukuri (making things) to the hilt.

Less overwhelming than Tokyo or Ōsaka, the capital of Aichi-ken and Japan’s fourth-largest city provides an easily accessible introduction to urban Japan and all its contemporary delights, one of the highlights of which is its food scene.

The grand Tokugawa Art Museum and attached gardens display possessions of the powerful family who once ruled Japan, and who built Nagoya’s original castle back in 1610. Another highlight is the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, an appropriate tribute to Nagoya’s industrial heritage.

Excellent transport links, including an international airport, make Nagoya an ideal base from which to tour the region. Day-trip possibilities include the castle towns of Inuyama and Gifu, both places where you can view the ancient skill of ukai – fishing with cormorants. The Shima Hantō can also easily be visited from Nagoya.

Around Nagoya Station

The area around Nagoya’s trio of train stations is like a mini-Manhattan with a clutch of tower blocks including Midland Square, Toyota’s headquarters. Apart from the shops, restaurants and multiplex cinema here there’s also the Sky Promenade, a partially open walkway that winds its way down from the 46th to the 44th floors of the building for a panoramic view of Nagoya.

The city’s industrial heritage is neatly covered in a couple of fascinating museums.

Ten minutes’ walk north of Nagoya Station is Noritake Garden. The former factory and grounds of the celebrated china manufacturer have been transformed into a very pleasant park within which you’ll find a craft centre where you can watch pottery being created and try your own hand at painting a plate (¥1600). In a 1904-vintage brick building, the Morimura-Okura Museum Canvas reveals in ingenious ways the history and science involved in the ceramics technologies of the Morimura group (of which Noritake is a member). Elsewhere on the spacious green site there is a good café, a gallery of modern pottery and showrooms where you can buy Noritake products.

Ten minutes’ walk northwest of Noritake Garden, and close to Sakō Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya line, is the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. Housed in an old red-brick Toyota factory, the museum is made up of two pavilions, one housing cars, the other textile machinery (though now famous worldwide for its cars, Toyota began life as a textile producer). In the first pavilion, rows of early twentieth-century looms make an incredible racket; in contrast, a computer-controlled air-jet loom at the end of the display purrs like a kitten. In the automobile pavilion, it’s the car-making robots, some of which look like giant, menacing aliens, that grab the attention.

Tokugawa Art Museum and Nagoya-jō

Nagoya’s single best sight is the Tokugawa Art Museum (徳川美術館) and its lovely attached garden Tokugawa-en (徳川園), laid out in the late seventeenth century. The museum, around 4km east of the stations, houses heirlooms from the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family, who once ruled Nagoya, and includes items inherited by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, reconstructions of the formal chambers of the daimyō’s residence and a nō stage, around which beautiful traditional costumes are arranged, which enables you to really get a sense of the rich and cultured life led by the Tokugawas.

The museum’s most treasured piece is the twelfth-century painted scroll The Tale of Genji; it’s so precious and fragile that it’s only displayed for a month each year from November 10 – the rest of the time you can see reproduced panels and video programmes about the scroll.

Three kilometres west of the museum, back towards the train stations, brings you to the moat surrounding Nagoya-jō (名古屋城). Tokugawa Ieyasu started to build this fortress in 1610 but the original was largely destroyed during World War II – all that survived were three turrets, three gates and sequestered screen paintings. A handsome concrete replica was completed in 1959, the central donjon topped by huge gold-plated shachi, the mythical dolphins that are one of the symbols of Nagoya. The Hommaru Goten (本丸御殿), the palace that once stood at the foot of the donjon, is currently under reconstruction; the first stage opened in 2010 but it won’t be fully finished until 2018. Eventually it will house Edo-era painted screens including the famous bamboo grove, leopard and tiger scenes.

The Toyota way

No business is more closely associated with Nagoya than Toyota (wwww.toyota.co.jp), whose 47-floor headquarters are based in the Midland Square Tower opposite Nagoya Station. The automobile company was started in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda as a spin-off from Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, founded by his father Sakichi, who invented the wooden handloom in 1890; the company diversified into car manufacturing in 1933.

You can learn much about the company’s history at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. Devoted auto enthusiasts will also want to visit one of Toyota’s factories to see its famous production processes in action. The one-hour tours are free but reservations are required.

Nagoya castle

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Nagoya

Cheap Flights to Nagoya

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Seoul

13.12.2019

18.12.2019

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Fukuoka

03.12.2019

05.12.2019

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Kagoshima

08.11.2019

09.11.2019

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Okinawa

08.11.2019

12.11.2019

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Shanghai

02.12.2019

09.12.2019

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Bangkok

31.01.2020

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Taipei

10.01.2020

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24.10.2019

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29.10.2019

08.11.2019

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08.11.2019

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03.12.2019

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23.03.2020

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03.11.2019

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01.03.2020

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31.10.2019

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30.10.2019

12.11.2019

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29.03.2020

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Paris

18.12.2019

03.01.2020

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06.08.2020

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27.10.2019

03.11.2019

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22.10.2019

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20.12.2019

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24.11.2019

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10.12.2019

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Beppu

Category : Asia , Beppu , Japan

Walking around the relaxed, coastal city of BEPPU (別府), it is at times tempting to think that the place was built atop the den of some giant dragon – spirals of steam billow skywards from a thousand holes, lending certain streets a magical, otherworldly air. However, this is no myth or fairytale, simply one of the world’s most geothermically active regions. Over one hundred million litres of near-boiling water gush out of more than three thousand springs each day, harnessed for use by local homes and swimming pools, for heating and medicinal purposes, or to fill the dozens of public and private baths that make this one of Japan’s most popular onsen resorts.

The place is unashamedly commercial in nature, yet despite receiving over ten million visitors per year, it manages to feel like a town in decline – largely built during the domestic tourism boom of the 1970s, it seems half-forgotten by modern Japan. Still, the humble, throwback air that this creates enhances the city’s pleasure, and it’s easy to escape from the crowds.

There’s not a lot more to do in Beppu than soak in a tub or be buried in hot sand. The most popular attractions are the nine jigoku, which spew out steaming, sulphurous mud and form simmering lakes in lurid hues. Despite the hype, only two or three are of any real interest; you’d do better to head for a clutch of secret onsen hiding away in the western hills (see The sand baths). However, recent years have seen a burst in artistic creativity thanks to the Beppu Project(wbeppuproject.com), a venture which has roped in all sorts of locals – from painters to former prostitutes – in a noble effort to vent some of the city’s character. Projects have varied from art exhibitions to the remodelling of traditional buildings, but these come and go, so pick up a pamphlet at the tourist office, or go straight to their tiny base in the alley behind Takeya.
There are eight distinct hot-spring “towns” dotted about Beppu, each characterized by the varying proportions of iron, sulphur and other minerals in the water. Most activity, however, is concentrated in Kannawa (鉄輪). Not only is this northern district home to seven of the ten jigoku, but it’s also a spa in its own right with a beautiful garden rotemburo, as well as an outrageously tacky museum of erotica. Dedicated bathers might want to try one of Beppu’s sand baths or take a dip in one of the many on offer at the Suginoi Palace. Alternatively, you can ride the ropeway to the top of Tsurumi-dake for superb views over Beppu bay and inland to the Kujū mountains.

Beppu’s hidden onsen

It wasn’t always this way. Taking a dip in an onsen should be the most natural thing in the world – add human bodies to hot water – but Beppu has seen most of its hot springs appropriated for commercial gain, whether it be heating a home on the cheap, boiling eggs for sale, or pointing guests towards their omiyage (souvenir gifts) at a five-star hotel. However, a few “hidden” baths lurking in the western hills allow some unsullied enjoyment of Beppu’s raison d’être – not exactly holes in the ground, but close enough.

The first step is to get to Myoban (明礬), an onsen area accessible from Beppu Station by bus.

From here directions are a little tough; it’s best to arm yourself with a suitably rough map from the tourist office, or one of the two hostels. A twenty-minute walk on a road heading up and left from Myoban bus stop will bring you to a fork. Take a right, then scramble up the rock path at the second gate to get to Nabeyama-no-yu (鍋山の湯), a pair of onsen sitting in a forest-like setting. The first is a black-water pool, the second filled with clay that you can use for a free mud bath. Beppu is visible below, yet all one can hear are the sounds of nature – there isn’t even a place to put your clothes. Turning left instead at the aforementioned fork will eventually bring you to Hebin-yu (へびん湯), a valley-based cascade of pools attended by a ramshackle hut. To hit the third spring, Tsuru-no-yu (鶴の湯), you’ll have to get off the bus just before it passes under the highway, and head up the dirt track alongside a graveyard. Not easy – but it’s Beppu at its purest.

The Sea Hell, one of the eight hells (Jigoku), multi-colored volcanic pool of boiling water in Kannawa district in Beppu, Japan.

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Beppu

Where to stay in Beppu?

Fukuoka

Category : Asia , Fukuoka , Japan

The recent renaissance of FUKUOKA (福岡), Kyūshū’s largest city, has been rather remarkable. Not too long ago this was an industrial nonentity, notable only for its transport connections to Korea and the rest of the island. Fast forward a few years, however, and we see a squeaky-clean metropolis whose energetic yet carefree atmosphere has propelled it into many a best-place-to-live list – witness the locals slurping happily away on their ramen at a rustic streets ideyatai.

Casual visitors may find actual sights thin on the ground, but Fukuoka boasts an undeniable charm that makes for a great introduction to Kyūshū, or indeed Japan as a whole, and it deserves a day or two of any traveller’s time.

Highlights here include one or two excellent museums and ranks of eye-catching modern architecture – most notable in the latter category are Canal City, a self-contained cinema, hotel and shopping complex built around a semicircular strip of water, and Hawks Town, which forms part of a major seafront redevelopment incorporating venues for shopping, eating and entertainment. The city is also renowned for its festivals and folk crafts, which are presented at Hakata Machiya Folk Museum. As with any self-respecting Japanese city of this size, Fukuoka maintains a lively entertainment district, in this case crammed onto the tiny island of Nakasu, though it’s safer on the wallet to head for the less glitzy bars and restaurants of Tenjin, the city’s main downtown area.

There are a couple of excellent sights just to the south of Fukuoka. First up is the ancient temple town of Dazaifu, once the seat of government for all of southern Japan, but now a pleasant backwater best known for its collection of temples and shrines, set against a backdrop of wooded slopes. For centuries, Dazaifu’s monks, priests and officials sought solace in the healing waters of nearby Futsukaichi Onsen. Both towns are easily accessible by train and can either be combined as a day-trip from Fukuoka or as a stopover en route to Nagasaki.

Dazaifu shrine in Fukuoka, Japan

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, JapanFukuoka

Cheap Flights to Fukuoka

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Seoul

21.10.2019

23.10.2019

Tickets from 65

Busan

23.10.2019

26.10.2019

Tickets from 66

Osaka

28.10.2019

31.10.2019

Tickets from 80

Daegu

24.12.2019

28.12.2019

Tickets from 95

Tokyo

03.12.2019

05.12.2019

Tickets from 98

Hong Kong

14.12.2019

19.12.2019

Tickets from 106

Okinawa

24.11.2019

24.11.2019

Tickets from 162

Taipei

28.11.2019

01.12.2019

Tickets from 174

Manila

10.07.2020

13.07.2020

Tickets from 213

Hanoi

14.11.2019

25.11.2019

Tickets from 222

Bangkok

04.12.2019

09.12.2019

Tickets from 229

Kuala Lumpur

07.03.2020

15.03.2020

Tickets from 247

Miyako Jima

23.03.2020

27.03.2020

Tickets from 270

Vladivostok

23.11.2019

12.12.2019

Tickets from 300

Oita

30.12.2019

06.01.2020

Tickets from 310

Singapore

23.10.2019

06.11.2019

Tickets from 313

Nagoya

26.10.2019

28.10.2019

Tickets from 354

Bandung

05.11.2019

10.11.2019

Tickets from 379

Munich

24.02.2020

12.03.2020

Tickets from 396

Cebu

23.12.2019

30.12.2019

Tickets from 409

Melbourne

08.11.2019

17.11.2019

Tickets from 430

Moscow

25.11.2019

09.12.2019

Tickets from 438

Sapporo

19.03.2020

24.03.2020

Tickets from 452

Kaohsiung

28.03.2020

04.04.2020

Tickets from 467

Khabarovsk

31.12.2019

08.01.2020

Tickets from 499

Saint Petersburg

16.11.2019

30.11.2019

Tickets from 520

Toronto

11.02.2020

18.02.2020

Tickets from 543

Astana

17.12.2019

14.01.2020

Tickets from 576

Irkutsk

22.10.2019

29.10.2019

Tickets from 579

Novosibirsk

25.10.2019

01.11.2019

Tickets from 619

Frankfurt

03.04.2020

16.04.2020

Tickets from 623

Pattaya

14.02.2020

22.02.2020

Tickets from 632

Shizuoka

28.12.2019

01.01.2020

Tickets from 661

Zurich

01.11.2019

28.11.2019

Tickets from 681

Krasnojarsk

22.10.2019

29.10.2019

Tickets from 722

Boston

30.10.2019

12.11.2019

Tickets from 739

Gold Coast

17.12.2019

13.02.2020

Tickets from 768

Ekaterinburg

02.11.2019

14.11.2019

Tickets from 779

San Francisco

25.10.2019

01.11.2019

Tickets from 779

Brisbane

17.12.2019

13.02.2020

Tickets from 790

Minsk

23.01.2020

18.03.2020

Tickets from 791

London

03.04.2020

17.04.2020

Tickets from 798

Chicago

03.06.2020

11.06.2020

Tickets from 817

Los Angeles

25.03.2020

16.04.2020

Tickets from 823

Sydney

16.11.2019

23.11.2019

Tickets from 824

Beijing

27.11.2019

01.12.2019

Tickets from 831

Tbilisi

15.05.2020

22.05.2020

Tickets from 861

San Diego

10.12.2019

25.12.2019

Tickets from 897

Portland

20.03.2020

28.03.2020

Tickets from 899

Houston

01.09.2020

18.09.2020

Tickets from 1 013

Columbus

28.02.2020

15.03.2020

Tickets from 1 016

Denver

07.01.2020

12.01.2020

Tickets from 1 021

Johor Bahru

28.12.2019

05.01.2020

Tickets from 1 099

Hanover

20.10.2019

03.11.2019

Tickets from 1 261

Tashkent

23.12.2019

11.01.2020

Tickets from 1 294

Ontario

25.03.2020

16.04.2020

Tickets from 1 336

Kiev

23.10.2019

31.10.2019

Tickets from 1 653

São Paulo

20.12.2019

29.12.2019

Tickets from 2 399

Caracas

22.10.2019

29.10.2019

Tickets from 3 326

Hotels in Fukuoka: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Hotel Marinoa Resort Fukuoka

★★★★

-7%

352328

View Hotel

Nansuikaku

★★★★

-31%

446306

View Hotel

Mitsui Garden Hotel Fukuoka Gion

★★★★

-22%

236183

View Hotel

JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central

★★★★

-26%

271200

View Hotel

Infinity Hotel Hakata Chuo

★★★★

-37%

11472

View Hotel

Hakata Green Hotel Annex

★★★★

-10%

10394

View Hotel

Hotel Monte Hermana Fukuoka

★★★★

-12%

7869

View Hotel

HOTEL UNIZO Fukuoka Tenjin

★★★★

-32%

11176

View Hotel

Hakata Excel Hotel Tokyu

★★★★

-11%

113101

View Hotel

Hotel WBF Fukuoka Nakasu

★★★★

-9%

9385

View Hotel

Hotel WBF Grande Hakata

★★★★

-31%

8558

View Hotel

Hotel Il Palazzo

★★★★

-22%

261204

View Hotel

Takakura Hotel Fukuoka

★★★★

-33%

11074

View Hotel

Oriental Hotel Fukuoka Hakata Station

★★★★

-17%

241200

View Hotel

Kyukamura Shikanoshima

★★★★

-35%

416268

View Hotel


Hiroshima

Category : Asia , Hiroshima , Japan

Western Honshū’s largest city needs little introduction. Since August 6, 1945, HIROSHIMA (広島) has become a byword for the devastating effects of the atomic bomb, and for this reason alone millions visit the city every year to pay their respects at the Peace Park and museum. But more than either of these formal monuments, the reconstructed city – bigger, brighter and more vibrant than ever – is an eloquent testimony to the power of life over destruction.

Where once there was nothing but ashes as far as the eye could see, there now stands a modern city that still retains an old-world feel with its trundling trams and sunny disposition.

Poised on the coast at the western end of the Inland Sea, Hiroshima is also the jumping-off point for several islands, including Miyajima, home of the beautiful shrine Itsukushima-jinja. The view out to the red torii gate standing in the shallows in front of the shrine is rightly one of Japan’s most celebrated, and although the island is often swamped by day-trippers it’s a delightful place to spend the night.

Many of Hiroshima’s top attractions – the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, the A-bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Museum of Art – are all within walking distance of the Genbaku Dōmu-mae tram stop. Hiroshima-jōHiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art and Shukkei-en lie north of the Hondōri Arcade and Shintenchi district, where there is a high concentration of hotels, restaurants and bars. The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, the most far-flung point of interest, is best explored on foot from the station or by public transportation.

Hiroshima Castle is also known as ‘Carp Castle’

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, JapanHiroshima

Cheap Flights to Hiroshima

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Tokyo

28.11.2019

01.12.2019

Tickets from 131

Kuala Lumpur

05.02.2020

10.02.2020

Tickets from 252

Seoul

24.11.2019

30.11.2019

Tickets from 267

Hong Kong

30.01.2020

06.02.2020

Tickets from 333

Sendai

29.11.2019

02.01.2020

Tickets from 341

Okinawa

10.11.2019

12.11.2019

Tickets from 409

Brussels

30.12.2019

06.02.2020

Tickets from 617

Moscow

04.11.2019

09.11.2019

Tickets from 816

London

01.08.2020

15.08.2020

Tickets from 5 100


Kyoto

Category : Asia , Japan , Kyoto

The capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, KYOTO (京都) is endowed with an almost overwhelming legacy of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces and gardens of every size and description, not to mention some of the country’s most important works of art, its richest culture and most refined cuisine. For many people the very name Kyoto conjures up the classic image of Japan: streets of traditional wooden houses, the click-clack of geta (traditional wooden sandals) on the paving stones, geisha passing in a flourish of brightly coloured silks and temple pagodas surrounded by cherry blossom trees.

While you can still find all these things, and much more, first impressions of Kyoto can be disappointing.

Decades of haphazard urban development and a conspicuous industrial sector have affected the city, eroding the distinctive characteristics of the townscape. However, current regulations limiting the height of new buildings and banning rooftop advertising indicate that more serious thought is being given to preserving Kyoto’s visual environment. Yet, regardless of all the trappings of the modern world and the economic realities of the lingering recession, Kyoto remains notoriously exclusive, a place where outsiders struggle to peek through the centuries-thick layer of cultural sophistication into the city’s traditional soul.

The vast amount of culture and history to explore in Kyoto is mind-boggling, yet it’s perfectly possible to get a good feel for the city within a couple of days. Top priority should go to the eastern, Higashiyama, district, where the walk north from famous Kiyomizu-dera to Ginkaku-jitakes in a whole raft of fascinating temples, gardens and museums. It’s also worth heading for the northwestern hills to contemplate the superb Zen gardens of Daitoku-ji and Ryōan-ji, before taking in the wildly extravagant Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji. The highlight of the central sights isNijō-jō, a lavishly decorated seventeenth-century palace, while nearby Nijō-jin’ya is an intriguing place riddled with secret passages and hidey-holes. Also worth seeing are the imperial villas ofShūgaku-in Rikyū and Katsura Rikyū, and the sensuous moss gardens of Saihō-ji, in the outer districts. Take time to walk around the city’s old merchant quarters; one of the best is found in the central district, behind the department stores and modern shopping arcades north of Shijō-dōri, and across the river in Gion you’ll find the traditional crafts shops, selling everything from handmade bamboo blinds to geisha hair accessories, and beautiful old ryokan for which the city is justifiably famous.

The spirit of old Kyoto reveals itself in surprising places. The key to enjoying this ancient city is to leave the tourist haunts behind and delve into the quiet backstreets, to explore age-old craft shops and distinctive machiya houses or seek out the peaceful garden of some forgotten temple. However, the city is not all temples and tradition; the recently opened Kyoto International Museum of Manga, alongside the increasing number of innovative designer shops and stylish cafés, are examples of Kyoto’s modern spirit, showing how the city manages to combine its heritage with contemporary culture.

Spring and autumn are undoubtedly the best times to visit Kyoto, though also the busiest; after a chilly winter, the cherry trees put on their finery in early April, while the hot, oppressive summer months (June–Aug) are followed in October by a delightful period of clear, dry weather when the maple trees erupt into fiery reds.

Brief history

Kyoto became the imperial capital in the late eighth century when Emperor Kammu relocated the court from Nara. His first choice was Nagaoka, southwest of today’s Kyoto, but a few inauspicious events led the emperor to move again in 794 AD. This time he settled on what was to be known asHeian-kyō, “Capital of Peace and Tranquillity”. Like Nara, the city was modelled on the Chinese Tang-dynasty capital Chang’an (today’s Xi’an), with a symmetrical north–south axis. By the late ninth century Heian-kyō was overflowing onto the eastern hills and soon had an estimated population of 500,000. In 894, imperial missions to China ceased and earlier borrowings from Chinese culture began to develop into distinct Japanese forms.

The city’s history from this point is something of a rollercoaster ride. In the late twelfth century a fire practically destroyed the whole place, but two centuries later the Ashikaga shoguns built some of the city’s finest monuments, among them the Golden and Silver Pavilions (Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji). Many of the great Zen temples were established at this time and the arts reached new levels of sophistication. Once again, however, almost everything was lost during the Ōnin Wars(1467–78).

Kyoto’s knight in shining armour was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who came to power in 1582 and sponsored a vast rebuilding programme. The Momoyama period, as it’s now known, was a golden era of artistic and architectural ostentation, epitomized by Kyoto’s famous Kanō school of artists, who decorated the temples and palaces with sumptuous gilded screens. Even when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the seat of government to Edo (now Tokyo) in 1603, Kyoto remained the imperial capital and stood its ground as the nation’s foremost cultural centre.

In 1788 another huge conflagration swept through the city, but worse was to come; in 1869 the new Emperor Meiji moved the court to Tokyo. Kyoto went into shock and the economy foundered – but not for long. In the 1890s a canal was built from Biwa-ko to the city, and Kyoto, like the rest of Japan, embarked on a process of industrialization. However, the city narrowly escaped devastation at the end of World War II, when it was considered a potential target for the atom bomb. Kyoto was famously spared by American Defence Secretary Henry Stimson, who recognized the city’s supreme architectural and historical importance.

Sadly, Kyoto’s own citizens were not so mindful and post-World War II many of the city’s old buildings were sold for their land value and replaced by concrete structures or car parks. Despite continued modernization, however, a more enthusiastic approach to strengthening the city’s traditional heritage is now being adopted by its residents, not least in efforts towards attracting foreign visitors. In particular, many younger Japanese are becoming interested in not only preserving but also developing this historical legacy, evidenced by the growing number of businesses set in traditional townhouses, or machiya.

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Kyoto

Hotels in Kyoto: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama

★★★★

-17%

237197

View Hotel

STAY KIYOMIZU GOJO

★★★★

-17%

120100

View Hotel

My K House

★★★★

-38%

271167

View Hotel

Nagi Kyoto Shijo

★★★★

-24%

273207

View Hotel

Ryokan Tanoya

★★★★

-16%

302254

View Hotel

Cross Hotel Kyoto

★★★★

-41%

186110

View Hotel

Floral Green Maple House

★★★★

-15%

119101

View Hotel

The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Shijo

★★★★

-9%

178162

View Hotel

Imu Hotel Kyoto

★★★★

-35%

10367

View Hotel

Hotel Gracery Kyoto Sanjo

★★★★

-6%

124117

View Hotel

The Machiya Hotel Kyoto

★★★★

-10%

270243

View Hotel

Gion Hatanaka

★★★★

-22%

776605

View Hotel

Villa Aneyakoji

★★★★

-8%

213197

View Hotel

Malda Kyoto

★★★★

-31%

480331

View Hotel

Momijiya of Takao Kyoto

★★★★

-7%

313292

View Hotel

Citadines Kyoto Karasuma-Gojo

★★★★

-18%

12099

View Hotel

RESI STAY Gion Shijo

★★★★

-45%

283157

View Hotel

Yadoya Dejavu

★★★★

-13%

272238

View Hotel

Gion Ryokan Karaku

★★★★

-6%

264249

View Hotel

Miyako Hotel Kyoto Hachijo

★★★★

-20%

160128

View Hotel


Ōsaka

Category : Asia , Japan , Osaka

Having received a bad rap as a tourist destination for many years, ŌSAKA (大阪), Japan’s third-largest city after Tokyo and Yokohama, has used public money to try and “re-brand” itself. The city is hoping to successfully improve its image, mainly through urban revitalization and ambitious architectural projects, to become a more attractive destination. It may still lack the pockets of beauty and refinement found in nearby Kyoto, but Ōsaka is a vibrant metropolis, inhabited by famously easy-going citizens with a taste for the good things in life.

Ōsakans speak one of Japan’s more earthy dialects, Ōsaka-ben, and are as friendly as Kyoto folk can be frosty.

They may greet each other saying “Mō kari-makka?” (“Are you making any money?”), but Ōsakans also know how to enjoy themselves once work has stopped. There are large entertainment districts in the north and south of the city, and the Ōsaka live music scene showcases eclectic local talent as well as international acts. In a city that cultivated high arts, such as bunraku puppetry, the locals also have a gift for bawdy comedy; Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, the internationally famous film director, started his career as a comedian here. The city continues to produce successful comedy duos who dominate national TV variety shows, and Ōsakans are very proud that their dialect has now become popular as the language of comedians. Ōsaka is also one of Japan’s great food cities, but Ōsakans are not snobby about their cuisine; a typical local dish istakoyaki, grilled octopus dumplings, usually sold as a street snack.

The city also feels a welcoming place for foreigners. It has Japan’s largest community of Koreans and a growing gaijin population. There’s also a willingness to face up to uncomfortable social issues, exemplified by the city’s admirable civil rights museum, Liberty Ōsaka, which among other things focuses on Japan’s untouchables, the Burakumin. Similarly, Ōsaka’s homelessness problem has not been ignored, at least by citizens, and the Big Issue Japan started here in 2003.

If you want to escape Ōsaka’s urban landscape for a day, take a trip out to Takarazuka, home of the eponymous musical drama troupe. As well as taking in one of the all-female troupe’s glitzy shows, you can check out the imaginative artwork at the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum, a showcase for local artist Tezuka, widely regarded as the god of manga.

Ōsaka’s best sights are scattered far and wide, but there are some areas worth exploring on foot. A fine place to start is the castle Ōsaka-jō and its immediate environs. Umeda (梅田), north of the centre, also has a few attractions, such as the rarefied Museum of Oriental Ceramics and the soaring skyscrapers near the clutch of train stations. The areas south of the Ogawa, including Shinsaibashi, Dōtombori, Amerika-mura and Namba, are almost exclusively shopping, eating and entertainment districts, which come to life at night (see Kita).

Another good area for strolling around is Tennōji, south of the centre, where you’ll find Shitennō-ji, the city’s most important temple, and an evocative old downtown area around Tennōji-kōen. Further south is Sumiyoshi Taisha, Ōsaka’s venerable shrine, an oasis of greenery amid the urban sprawl.

Heading west towards the port area, don’t miss out on the enlightening Liberty Ōsaka, a museum highlighting Japanese civil rights issues, or the ultra-cool Ōsaka Aquarium at Tempozan Harbour Village, which has the best collection of aquatic life on display in Japan. Nearby is the popular Universal Studios Japan, from where you can also easily visit the storybook-castle-like Maishima Incinerator Plant.

Brief history

Ōsaka’s history stretches back to the fifth century AD, when it was known as Naniwa and its port served as a gateway to the more advanced cultures of Korea and China. For a short period, from the middle of the seventh century, the thriving city served as Japan’s capital, but in the turbulent centuries that followed it lost its status, changed its name to Ōsaka and developed as a temple town. It was on the site of the temple Ishiyama Hongan-ji that the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi decided to build his castle in 1583 and it became a key bastion in his campaign to unite the country.

With Toyotomi’s death in 1598, another period of political instability loomed in Ōsaka for his supporters, as rival Tokugawa Ieyasu shifted the capital to Edo. The shogun’s troops besieged the castle in 1614 and destroyed it a year later. With Japan firmly under their control, the Tokugawa shoguns were happy to allow the castle to be rebuilt and for Ōsaka to continue developing as an economic and commercial centre. The wealth of what became known as the “kitchen of Japan” led to patronage of the arts, such as kabuki and bunraku, and a deep appreciation of gourmet pursuits (the origin of the expression “kuidaore”, to eat oneself bankrupt) still exists today.

Despite having a gross domestic product comparable to that of Canada, and despite the city’s commercial activity, the local government has been in the red for over a decade. Governor Toru Hashimoto is a controversial figure; a former lawyer and TV celebrity who was elected in 2008, he has initiated severe cost-cutting measures affecting education and community programmes.

Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu.

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Osaka

Cheap Flights to Osaka

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Busan

16.12.2019

18.12.2019

Tickets from 71

Seoul

18.11.2019

20.11.2019

Tickets from 73

Nagasaki

30.11.2019

04.12.2019

Tickets from 75

Fukuoka

24.01.2020

27.01.2020

Tickets from 77

Tokyo

03.02.2020

05.02.2020

Tickets from 80

Fukushima

01.12.2019

02.12.2019

Tickets from 106

Hong Kong

09.12.2019

15.12.2019

Tickets from 109

Okinawa

27.11.2019

30.11.2019

Tickets from 109

Daegu

16.12.2019

18.12.2019

Tickets from 114

Sendai

31.10.2019

01.11.2019

Tickets from 130

Taipei

13.11.2019

20.11.2019

Tickets from 131

Vladivostok

03.11.2019

17.11.2019

Tickets from 138

Kaohsiung

20.12.2019

22.12.2019

Tickets from 152

Shanghai

02.12.2019

09.12.2019

Tickets from 159

Bangkok

11.01.2020

17.01.2020

Tickets from 164

Manila

12.07.2020

16.07.2020

Tickets from 165

Sapporo

30.12.2019

03.01.2020

Tickets from 175

Beijing

27.10.2019

10.11.2019

Tickets from 204

Ho Chi Minh City

05.12.2019

12.12.2019

Tickets from 210

Hanoi

27.11.2019

30.11.2019

Tickets from 214

Tianjin

20.10.2019

25.10.2019

Tickets from 215

Xi'an

20.11.2019

26.11.2019

Tickets from 244

Ulsan

15.11.2019

17.11.2019

Tickets from 249

Kota Kinabalu

02.03.2020

11.03.2020

Tickets from 250

Guangzhou

17.02.2020

22.02.2020

Tickets from 251

Macau

24.03.2020

29.03.2020

Tickets from 258

Kuala Lumpur

03.12.2019

11.12.2019

Tickets from 263

Singapore

08.10.2020

15.10.2020

Tickets from 266

Miyazaki

29.12.2019

04.01.2020

Tickets from 286

Miyako Jima

23.03.2020

27.03.2020

Tickets from 300

Chiang Mai

09.11.2019

13.11.2019

Tickets from 306

Jakarta

28.10.2019

02.11.2019

Tickets from 317

Penang

14.03.2020

21.03.2020

Tickets from 333

Davao

03.09.2020

06.09.2020

Tickets from 348

Nanjing

16.01.2020

20.01.2020

Tickets from 359

Cebu

04.04.2020

08.04.2020

Tickets from 360

Yangon

23.10.2019

27.10.2019

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Hotels in Osaka: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Osaka Hinode Hotel

★★★★

-16%

120101

View Hotel

Hotel It Osaka Shinmachi

★★★★

-16%

138115

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The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios Japan TM

★★★★

-22%

262204

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★★★★

-29%

210149

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Daiwa Roynet Hotel Osaka-Shinsaibashi

★★★★

-24%

8565

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Dormy Inn Premium Namba ANNEX Natural Hot Spring

★★★★

-17%

11494

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Waqoo Shitaderamachi

★★★★

-51%

18188

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Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka

★★★★

-47%

17492

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Chuan House Hanazonocho Annex

★★★★

-9%

9990

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Oakwood Hotel & Apartments Shin-Osaka

★★★★

-20%

9072

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Hotel Vischio Osaka by Granvia

★★★★

-11%

182161

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Cross Hotel Osaka

★★★★

-17%

137113

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the b osaka midosuji

★★★★

-8%

113104

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Mitsui Garden Hotel Osaka Premier

★★★★

-8%

10597

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Holiday Inn Osaka Namba

★★★★

-19%

155126

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Hotel Keihan Yodoyabashi

★★★★

-21%

10382

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S-peria Inn Osaka Hommachi

★★★★

-16%

136114

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Astil Hotel Shin-Osaka

★★★★

-26%

13399

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AGORA PLACE NAMBA (Formerly Red Roof Plus Namba Osaka Namba)

★★★★

-12%

8676

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Art Hotel Osaka Bay Tower

★★★★

-8%

108100

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Tokyo

Category : Asia , Japan , Tokyo

A fuel-injected adrenaline rush into a neon-bright future, TOKYO (東京) is a mercurial metropolis flashing by in a blur of conflicting images. Obsessed with the latest trends and fashions, the world’s largest city – the heart of which is home to at least eight million people – is also fiercely proud of its heritage. Lively neighbourhood festivals are held virtually every day of the year, and people regularly visit their local shrine or temple and scrupulously observe the passing seasons in manicured gardens.

Caught up in an untidy web of overhead cables, plagued by seemingly incessant noise, its freeways often clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic, this concrete-and-steel conurbation may seem the stereotypical urban nightmare.

Yet back from the frenetic main roads are tranquil backstreets, where dinky wooden houses are fronted by neatly clipped bonsai trees; wander beyond the hi-tech emporia, and you’ll discover charming fragments of the old city such as temples and shrines wreathed in wisps of smoking incense.

The fact is that centuries-long experience of organizing itself to cope with the daily demands of millions of inhabitants has made Tokyo something of a model metropolitan environment. Trains run on time and to practically every corner of the city, crime is hardly worth worrying about, and shops and vending machines provide everything you could need (and many things you never thought you did), 24 hours a day.

With so much going on, first-time visitors should be prepared for a massive assault on the senses – just walking the streets of this hyperactive city can be an energizing experience. It need not be an expensive one, either. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how affordable many things are. Cheap-and-cheerful izakaya – bars that serve food – and casual cafés serving noodles and rice dishes are plentiful, the metro is a bargain, and tickets for a sumo tournament or a kabuki play can be bought for the price of a few drinks.

Browsing the shops and marvelling at the passing parade is mesmerising – the next best thing to having a ringside seat at the hippest of fashion shows. The city’s great wealth and relative lack of planning restrictions have given architects almost unparalleled freedom to realize their wildest dreams. Likewise, in Tokyo’s uber-chic bars, restaurants and clubs you’ll see today what the rest of the world will get tomorrow. You may not figure out exactly what makes it tick – and you’re sure to get a little lost while trying – but the conclusion is inescapable: Tokyo is a fun, seductive and addictive experience.

Tokyo city, Japan

Brief history

The city’s founding date is usually given as 1457, when minor lord Ōta Dōkan built his castle on a bluff overlooking the Sumida-gawa and the bay. However, a far more significant event occurred in 1590, when the feudal lord Tokugawa Ieyasu chose the obscure castle-town for his power base.

By 1640 Edo Castle was the most imposing in all Japan, complete with a five-storey central keep, a double moat and a spiralling network of canals. A bewildering warren of narrow, tortuous lanes, sudden dead ends and unbridged canals was created to snare unwelcome intruders. Drainage work began on the surrounding marshes, and embankments were raised to guard the nascent city against floods.

The daimyō (lords) who were required by the shogun to spend part of each year in Edo were granted large plots for their estates on the higher ground to the west of the castle, an area that became known as Yamanote. Artisans, merchants and other lower classes were confined toShitamachi, a low-lying, overcrowded region to the east. Though growing less distinct, this division between the “high” and “low” city is still apparent today.

During two centuries of peace, during which time Edo grew to be the most populous city in the world, life down in the Shitamachi buzzed with a wealthy merchant class and a vigorous, often bawdy, subculture of geisha and kabuki, of summer days on the Sumida-gawa, moon-viewing parties and picnics under the spring blossom. Inevitably, there was also squalor, poverty and violence, as well as frequent fires; in January 1657, the Fire of the Long Sleeves laid waste to three-quarters of the city’s buildings and killed an estimated 100,000 people.

A year after the Meiji Restoration, in 1868, the emperor took up permanent residence in the city, now renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital) in recognition of its proper status. As Japan quickly embraced Western technologies, the face of Tokyo gradually changed: the castle lost much of its grounds, canals were filled in or built over, and Shitamachi’s wealthier merchants decamped to more desirable Yamanote. However, the city was still disaster-prone: in 1923 the Great Kantō Earthquake devastated half of Tokyo and another 100,000 people perished.

More trauma was to come during World War II. In just three days of sustained incendiary bombing in March 1945, hundreds of thousands were killed and great swathes of the city burnt down, including Meiji-jingō, Sensō-ji, Edo Castle and most of Shitamachi. From a prewar population of nearly seven million, Tokyo was reduced to around three million people in a state of near-starvation. This time, regeneration was fuelled by an influx of American dollars and food aid under the Allied Occupation, plus a manufacturing boom sparked by the Korean War in 1950.

By the time Emperor Hirohito opened the Tokyo Olympic Games in October 1964, Tokyo was truly back on its feet and visitors were wowed by the stunning new Shinkansen trains running west to Ōsaka. The economy boomed well into the late 1980s, when Tokyo land prices reached dizzying heights, matched by excesses of every conceivable sort, from gold-wrapped sushi and mink toilet-seat covers to huge building projects such as the Odaiba reclamation in Tokyo Bay.

In 1991, the financial bubble burst. This, along with revelations of political corruption, financial mismanagement and the release of deadly Sarin gas on Tokyo commuter trains by the AUM cult in 1995 – a particularly shocking event in what is one of the world’s safest cities – led to a more sober Tokyo in the late 1990s.

In the new millennium, as the economy recovered, so did the city’s vitality. Events such as the 2002 World Cup, plus growing interest in Japanese pop culture and the delicious food scene have contributed to more curious overseas visitors heading to Tokyo, with some staying on – making the capital feel more cosmopolitan than it has ever been. District after district has undergone structural makeovers, starting with Roppongi and Shiodome back in 2003. The latest mega development was the 2012 Tokyo Sky Tree at Oshiage, east of the Sumida-gawa, which is Japan’s tallest structure.

Tokyo city, Japan

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Tokyo

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Hotels in Tokyo: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten

★★★★

-9%

502456

View Hotel

karaksa hotel premier Tokyo Ginza

★★★★

-27%

348254

View Hotel

Hotel Gracery Asakusa

★★★★

-8%

174161

View Hotel

Hotel Axas Nihonbashi

★★★★

-39%

431264

View Hotel

The Gate Hotel Tokyo by Hulic

★★★★

-26%

382281

View Hotel

THE KITANO HOTEL TOKYO

★★★★

-32%

382262

View Hotel

Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa

★★★★

-9%

183165

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Nohga Hotel Ueno

★★★★

-12%

225198

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Mitsui Garden Hotel Nihonbashi Premier

★★★★

-8%

254234

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Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel Tokyo

★★★★

-14%

307263

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Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo

★★★★

-29%

263185

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Daiwa Roynet Hotel Tokyo Ariake

★★★★

-31%

201138

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Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo

★★★★

-26%

615458

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Hundred Stay Tokyo Shinjuku

★★★★

-42%

295171

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Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka

★★★★

-15%

194166

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Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier

★★★★

-21%

295235

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Park Hotel Tokyo

★★★★

-14%

280241

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Mitsui Garden Hotel Gotanda

★★★★

-6%

171160

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Hotel The Celestine Tokyo Shiba

★★★★

-23%

235181

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The Gate Hotel Asakusa Kaminarimon by Hulic

★★★★

-17%

280233

View Hotel


Nara

Tags :

Category : Asia , Japan , Nara

Before Kyoto became the capital of Japan in 794 AD, this honour was held by NARA (奈良), a town some 35km further south in an area that is regarded as the birthplace of Japanese civilization. During this period, particularly the seventh and eighth centuries, Buddhism became firmly established within Japan under the patronage of court nobles, who sponsored magnificent temples and works of art, many of which have survived to this day.

Fortunately, history subsequently left Nara largely to its own devices and it remains today a relaxed, attractive place set against a backdrop of wooded hills. Its greatest draw is undoubtedly the monumental bronze Buddha of Tōdai-ji, while Kōfuku-ji and several of the smaller temples boast outstanding collections of Buddhist statuary. However, even these are outclassed by the images housed inHōryū-ji, a temple to the southwest of Nara, which also claims the world’s oldest wooden building. The nearby temples of Yakushi-ji and Tōshōdai-ji contain yet more early masterpieces of Japanese art and architecture.

Nara has the added attraction of packing all these sights into a fairly compact space. The central area is easily explored on foot, and can just about be covered in a long day, with the more distant temples fitting into a second day’s outing. Many people visit Nara on a day-trip from Kyoto, but it more than deserves an overnight stop, not least to enjoy it once the crowds have gone. If at all possible, try to avoid Nara on Sundays and holidays.

More a large town than a city, Nara is an enjoyable place to explore. The grid street system is well signposted in English, and the main sights are all gathered on the city’s eastern edge in the green expanse of Nara-kōen. The route outlined below starts with the most important temples, Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, before ambling south along the eastern hills to Nara’s holiest shrine, Kasuga Taisha, and splendid displays of Buddhist statuary in two historic temples, Sangatsu-dō and Shin-Yakushi-ji. With an extra hour or two to spare, it’s worth wandering the streets of southerly Nara-machi, a traditional merchants’ quarter where some attractive old shophouses have been converted into museums and craft shops.

Brief history

During the fifth and sixth centuries a sophisticated culture evolved in the plains east of Ōsaka, an area known as Yamato. Close contact between Japan, Korea and China saw the introduction of Chinese script, technology and the Buddhist religion, as well as Chinese ideas on law and administration. Under these influences, the regent Prince Shōtoku (574–622) established a strictly hierarchical system of government. However, he’s probably best remembered as a devout Buddhist who founded numerous temples, among them the great Hōryū-ji. Though Shōtoku’s successors continued the process of centralization, they were hampered by the practice of relocating the court after each emperor died, in line with purification rites. In 710 AD, therefore, it was decided to establish a permanent capital modelled on China’s imperial city, Chang’an (today’s Xi’an). The name chosen for this new city was Heijō-kyō, “Citadel of Peace”, today known as Nara. In fact, Heijō-kyō lasted little more than seventy years, but it was a glorious period in which Japanese culture began to take shape. A frenzy of building and artistic creativity during this period culminated in the unveiling of the great bronze Buddha in Tōdai-ji temple by Emperor Shōmu in 752 AD. But beneath the surface things were starting to unravel. As the temples became increasingly powerful, so the monks began to dabble in politics, until one, Dōkyō, seduced a former empress and tried to seize the throne in 769. In an attempt to escape such shenanigans Emperor Kammu decided to move the court out of Nara in 784, and eventually founded Kyoto.

Yoshinoyama, Nara, Japan view of town and cherry trees during the spring season.

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, Japan, Nara

 


Mount Fuji

TOP Choice

Mount Fuji (富士山, Fujisan) is with 3776 meters Japan’s highest mountain. It is not surprising that the nearly perfectly shaped volcano has been worshiped as a sacred mountain and experienced big popularity among artists and common people throughout the centuries.

Mount Fuji is an active volcano, which most recently erupted in 1707. It stands on the border between Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures and can be seen from Tokyo and Yokohama on clear days.

Another easy way to view Mount Fuji is from the train on a trip between Tokyo and Osaka. If you take the shinkansen from Tokyo in direction of NagoyaKyoto and Osaka, the best view of the mountain can be enjoyed from around Shin-Fuji Station on the right hand side of the train, about 40-45 minutes into the journey.

Note however, that clouds and poor visibility often block the view of Mount Fuji, and you have to consider yourself lucky if you get a clear view of the mountain. Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year than in summer, and in the early morning and late evening hours than during the middle of the day.

If you want to enjoy Mount Fuji at a more leisurely pace and from a nice natural surrounding, you should head to the Fuji Five Lake (Fujigoko) region at the northern foot of the mountain, or to Hakone, a nearby hot spring resort. Mount Fuji is officially open for climbing during July and August via several routes.

Mount Fuji

RELATED ITEMS: Asia, JapanMount Fuji, Hakone, Tokyo


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