Japan is a country whose outer facade is intimidating to many. With culturally-contrasting traditions, an unfamiliar alphabet system, and matchless temples competing against scenes of nature, this environment often introduces travelers to an entirely new paradigm of life. With travel being a universally-known way to expand one’s horizons, Japan certainly makes headlines on this topic.
What might look like a small cluster of islands on a world map actually turns out to be a blooming hub of culture and enlightenment upon closer observation. However, it takes placing oneself in this environment to get a true feel for Japan’s charisma. The country has what seems to be an endless tally of communities to experience, but three, in particular, hold the hearts of travelers and tourists alike: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
While embarking on a tour through Japan, visitors can anticipate encountering prominent shrines and temples in the daylight while tasting Tokyo’s nightlife in the midnight sky. Mixed into these days are glimpses of Japanese imperial life and several samples of Japanese-style cuisine.
Visit the Buzzing Capital: Tokyo
By day, its towering skyscrapers and far-off view of Mount Fuji’s peak take center stage. By night, its neon lights far exceeding those of New York City’s Times Square persuade visitors to stay up far past their curfew for a taste of its sensational nightlife scene. Tokyo has found a way to package up the best parts of traveling and serve them on a silver platter to incoming tourists. With its ancient traditions mixed with avant-garde technology, this travel-worthy capital gives a well-versed travel experience to the eager passenger.
Weaving between steep buildings, you’ll soon arrive at a handful of sites pointing to Japan’s imperial status. From the Meiji Shrine to the Imperial Palace to the Kannon Temple, there are a variety of regal and spiritual settings that are strewn throughout the city. Along this tour, take time to relish in the entertainment industry of Asakusa and the souvenir spotlight of Nakamise Street before later preparing yourself for hours of Tokyo’s nightlife.
Before moving on from Tokyo, visitors are encouraged to embark on a day trip to the nearby Mount Fuji and Hakone. On such an outing, you will be able to see Mount Fuji from a stone’s throw away, enjoy a boat cruise along Lake Ashi, and ascend in a cable car to view Hakone National Park from above.
Honor Japan’s Traditions: Kyoto
Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto paints a picture of more conservative times, still paying homage to the many traditions that comprised Japanese culture. After taking the famed bullet train to this destination, visitors are whisked away to the various time-honored locales, such as the golden Kinkaku-ji Temple reflecting ever so slightly on a pond. In the art of tradition and respecting the locals’ heritage, travelers may appreciate a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Through this momentous event, you will enjoy the art of this ritualized etiquette by preparing, serving, and drinking green tea. Later, you can explore Kyoto’s Geisha district at your leisure, traversing through shops, discovering tea houses, and spotting Geisha in ceremonial attire.
As you uncover these customs and admire the traditions of Japanese culture, you will also have the option to tour Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. A visit to these locations gives tourists the chance to honor the lives lost in this historic bombing and view the floating torii gate belonging to the Itsukushima Shrine.
Tour the Venice of the East: Osaka
Finishing out this trifecta of noteworthy locations in Japan is Osaka, a port city with center-city canals, patches of bridges, and waterways branding it as the ‘Venice of the East.’ Although the city is fairly modernized, its historical significance is not to be overlooked, with the Osaka Castle being one of the city’s most visited landmarks. Whether approaching by boat or foot, you will find this elevated building to transport you to ages past. Once inside, explore its collection of art, armor, and collectibles.
Upon diving back into the modern elements of Osaka, visitors can choose from an eclectic food scene throughout the city. Tour guides recommend a mandatory stop at Kuromon Market, a culturally-animating hall of some of Osaka’s finest fresh cuisine and Japanese-style fast food. Trial the market’s various offerings before working off your sampling spree with some shopping on the streets of Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori.
In a final effort to soak in Japanese history and heritage, consider taking a tour to the 8th-century Imperial capital of Nara, home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, historic Buddhist temples, and over 1,000 free-roaming deer. The beautiful Kasuga Grand Shrine also reigns in this area, still honoring tradition and displaying bronze and stone lanterns throughout its premises. After observing numerous shrines and temples throughout your visit, the home of these lanterns might just turn out to be your favorite.