Is there a country that fascinates travellers more than Japan? From sushi to anime to technology to ancient temples to cherry blossoms, there’s not a single aspect of the place that you won’t find a recent visitor raving about.
The best place to begin is Tokyo. Tokyoites work hard and play hard; at rush hour you’ll see the street filled with suits, and later you’ll see those same suits crowded into small bars, lining up at ramen joints and playing video games at internet cafes. Tokyo’s uber-modern skyscrapers and shopping malls compete for city space with shrines that have been in existence for centuries, and that’s what makes Tokyo so fascinating.
Check the major sights off your list, but schedule plenty of time for exploring Tokyo’s diverse and jam-packed neighbourhoods too, where you might find groups of costumed teenagers sipping cappuccino at a cat cafe, or a Michelin-starred restaurant hidden down a quiet alleyway.
Japan’s smaller cities have lots to offer as well. Osaka has some of the country’s most outstanding food (and in Japan, that’s saying a lot) and is very modern, lively and fun. Nagoya and Kyoto are, respectively, the country’s automobile manufacturing hub (with a couple of fascinating museums) and a homage to old Japanese traditions, replete with elegant teahouses, gardens and temples.
The hyper-efficient transportation makes Japan a dream to travel around. The attention to detail makes it a foodie’s paradise. The customer-oriented service means you’ll be treated like royalty. And the love of nature means that even in the most industrial areas, you’ll be surrounded by snow-capped mountains, or within walking distance of a quiet garden.