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Himeji Castle, Japan

Japan

Japan entrances with a culture that is by turns beautiful, unique and unfathomable. This is a land of delightful contrasts, where futuristic skyscrapers share space with ancient Shinto shrines, and dazzling fashions coexist alongside age-old customs. Hyper-modern but with a tangible sense of history, there’s no place in the world quite like Japan.

Most tours of Japan start amid the bright lights of downtown Tokyo, a world of hyperactive commerce and endless entertainment, where every shop and billboard seems to vie for your attention. This is the face of modern Japan, with its neon lights, cutting-edge technology and ever-changing fashions. 450km west of Tokyo (or two and a half hours by high-speed rail), the old Imperial capital of Kyoto presents a quite different face. Often called the cultural capital of Japan, here you can explore the relics of a bygone Imperial age in the form of thousands of beautifully-preserved temples, gardens and palaces, of which no fewer than 17 are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto there’s much to be discovered. Nara is almost as richly endowed with cultural treasures as neighbouring Kyoto, while Osaka, often dubbed the “kitchen of the nation”, is the perfect place to explore Japan’s rich and unique food culture. The former Samurai strongholds of Matsumoto, Himeji and Kanazawa offer a fascinating insight into Japan’s feudal-era, while Nikko, Kamakura and Koyasan boast perhaps the most impressive examples of Japanese religious architecture. Hiroshima, too, is a city rich in history, its peace memorial park providing a vivid, sobering reminder of the tragic events of Japan’s more recent past.

Compared to its mega-cities and famously high-tech infrastructure, the splendour of Japan’s countryside is something of a well-kept secret. From the frigid beauty of Hokkaido’s northern coastline to the balmy beaches and pristine coral reefs of the southern Okinawa Islands, this is a land of breath-taking diversity. Much of the country’s most dramatic scenery exists at its margins—in Hokkaido, Kyushu, and rarely-explored Shikoku—but you needn’t travel too far beyond the popular Kyoto-Tokyo circuit to discover rural bliss. The Japanese Alps, in central Honshu, are barely two hours by train from Tokyo and offer dramatic mountain scenery and charming hot spring resorts.

Japan Holidays with Gane and Marshall
Our staff have travelled extensively in Japan and can help you plan a holiday that takes in the very best that the country has to offer, whether you would like a tour of the major highlights or a more remote adventure. Get in touch on 01822 600 600 or info@ganeandmarshall.com to start planning your holiday to Japan.

JAPAN AT A GLANCE

  • Many of Japan’s most popular attractions are found in central Honshu, the country’s cultural heartland. For short tours, you can base yourself in Tokyo and/or Kyoto and still see much of the best that the country has to offer.

  • That said, there’s much to be gained by travelling beyond the tourist circuit to Japan’s more remote corners. Hokkaido, in the far north, boasts several stunning National Parks, while Kyushu, in the south, offers the best beaches.

  • You can reach just about everywhere in Japan, including the far reaches of Hokkaido Island, via the country’s super-efficient high-speed train network. For longer trips, a Japan Rail Pass grants you a great deal of flexibility.

  • The Japanese are famous for their hospitality and will always go out of their way to make visitors welcome. Don’t feel shy about asking for help or direction!

  • Like most developed countries, Japan can be expensive, though a weakening yen means that prices have stabilised in recent years. Moreover, Japan’s heritage sites are supported by a generous state, meaning most are free to enter.

Example itineraries in Japan

Ancient Capitals of Japan

Delve into Japan’s rich and engaging history on this 9-day traversal of the country’s ancient and modern capitals.

Classic Japan

Explore highland villages, ancient walking trails and spectacular Shinto shrines on this comprehensive two-week overview of Honshu and Shikoku Islands.

Honshu Highlights

Discover Japan’s cultural heartland on this 8-day overview of central Honshu.

The Japanese Alps

Discover the samurai culture of Matsumoto, the rural folk traditions of Takayama, and the Edo-era heritage of Tsumago on this ten day journey into the Japanese Alps.

Koyasan Temple Retreat (Extension)

Enjoy a break from Japan’s hectic city life on this overnight escape to the Buddhist mountain refuge and UNESCO world heritage site of Koyasan.

Hokkaido Hotspots

Journey to northernmost Japan to explore the pristine scenery and fascinating culture of Hokkaido.

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