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Destination guide to… Japan

You can spend weeks exploring various cities scattered across Japan and still experience different aspects of what this country has to offer. Jump from a dense metropolis to a mountainous ski resort in the hills, or wander through ancient shrines and temples framed with lotus lakes and cherry blossom trees. Japan is guaranteed to excite the senses by whisking you away into a foreign world full of history, adversity, sensational food and high street shopping!

Spring is one of the best times to visit Japan, when the cherry blossoms are at their most beautiful. This occurs in March in the south of the country and reaches north by May.

Not sure which city in Japan to visit first? Read on to discover unique qualities of each region. 

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto. Image: Japan Tourism

Kyoto

Once the nation’s capital, Kyoto is best known as the epicentre of classical Buddhist temples and shrines, as well as gardens imperial palaces and traditional Japanese wooden houses. The city is famous for dishing up kaiseki – a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, which is a take on an extravagant degustation, featuring modern cooking techniques combined with old recipes that have been passed down through generations). 

What to do

Schedule an authentic Japanese meal with a real Geisha! Bookings can be arranged by liaising with various temple staff in Kyoto or through travel booking sites. 

Where to stay

Make the most of your time here by staying smack bang in the centre of town at the Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto. Make sure you book a package that includes breakfast as this hotel boasts a morning buffet not to forget! 

A cocktail at Fishbowl, Kyoto.

Where to eat & drink 

Steer clear of commercial hotel lobby bars and head to Fishbowl for outstanding cocktails and a glimpse of local nightlife. 

How to get there 

Peach airlines fly to Osaka from just $1400 return. The train from Osaka to Kyoto takes 15-30 minutes.

 

Osaka Aquarium

Osaka

Regarded as the Japanese city of food, Osaka is a foodies’ paradise, with an unimaginable array of establishments serving the best of modern and authentic Japanese cuisine. Located on the main island of Honshu, Osaka is roughly positioned in the centre of Japan, making it an ideal starting point for your journey – particularly if you’re hungry!

What to do
You’re staying in the food capital of Japan, so it makes sense to learn how to roll sushi! Book a two-hour masterclass with an expert sushi instructor and learn how to roll nori till your heart’s content. The best part: you get to eat it all after! Alternatively, to see fish in all their living glory, take a visit to Japan’s largest aquarium. 

Where to stay

Stay at the downtown Hilton Osaka to be in close proximity to the city’s best nightlife and dining districts. 

Takishamaya Food Hall delights

Where to eat & drink 

Swing by the Takishamaya Food Hall for a seriously comprehensive journey into Japanese food mall eating! 

How to get there 

Peach airlines fly to Osaka from just $1400 return.

 

The Tokyo skyline, seen from Aman Tokyo

Tokyo

Bright lights, big city: Japan’s electric capital, Tokyo, has earned a reputation as the city that doesn’t sleep. A combination of modern cultures, ancient monuments and timeless traditions is what makes this city so multi-faceted and eye catching.

What to do  

If you’re staying in the city centre, make sure you get up early and visit The Tsukiji Market – a sprawling seafood market featuring public viewing areas for the popular daily Tuna auctions!

Where to stay

Everyone who’s seen Lost in Translation heads straight for the Grand Hyatt, but for something extra special opt for the beautifully designed Aman Tokyo, a private and luxurious hotel with views over the Imperial palace.

Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo. Image: Mandarin Oriental

Where to eat & drink 

Situated on the 38th floor of the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental is the Michelin-starred Tapas Molecular Bar. Enjoy a glass of bubbles while world-class sushi chefs prepare bite-sized Japanese delights. 

How to get there 

Vanilla Air fly to Tokyo Narita from just $1500 return.

 

Sapporo Odori Park

Sapporo

Sapporo, capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, is famous for its beer, skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures. Niseko, a world renowned ski resort can be easily reached from Sapporo’s township. 

What to do 

Follow instructions from a trained guide while dropping a line into a fishing hole created in natural ice lakes.

Where to stay

Established in 1934, The Grand Hotel, Sapporo is the cities first ever Western-style luxury hotel. 

Contemporary Japanese cuisine at The Grand Hotel, Sapporo

Where to eat & drink

Enjoy a high-end contemporary dinner experience at the Northern Terrace Diner within the Grand Hotel, Sapporo. For something a little lighter, opt for the Hokkaido tapas and wine menu.

How to get there 

Hong Kong Airlines fly to Sapporo from $3400 return.

 

Yokohama

As the first city to open its port to international trade, Yokohama has grown to become Japan’s second largest economy. In line with it’s rapid growth and international influence, Yokohama offers travellers the option to explore it’s history or alternatively, experience Japan with a modern twist. 

What to do 

The best way to explore this city is by bike. Cycle the city’s streets while enjoying the flexibility to stop off for a bite to eat, drink or shop wherever you please. 

Where to stay

Enjoy a view of the big wheel from The Yokohama Bay Hotel. Within the same complex, four award-winning dining destinations can also be found – making this hotel as a great stay and dining experience. 

The Grand Hotel, Yokohama.

Where to eat & drink

Oshima (located also in the Yokohama Bay Hotel), serves authentic a-grade sushi and Japanese cuisine. It also prides itself on offering a large scope of tasty sake – bottoms up!  

How to get there 

Vanilla Air fly to Tokyo Narita from just $1500 return. Trains from Tokyo to Yokohama take around 15mins.

 

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Hiroshima

An endless supply of history and memorial museums sweep Hiroshima in an effort to mark the atomic bombing that hit the city towards the end of World War II in 1945. Most who visit Hiroshima come to pay homage to the lives that were lost – and also to explore the cities impressive cultural history. 

What to do

Join many others by walking the educational hallways in respectful silence at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Where to stay

You’ll find it easy to navigate the city by staying at the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima – conveniently attached to the central Hiroshima railway system. 

Nagarekawa dining and nightlife district. Image: Japan Tourism

Where to eat & drink

Hiroshima, much like Tokyo, is known for some pretty spectacular Teppanyaki restaurants. To find these mouthwatering eateries, pound the pavement through popular nightlife districts such as Nagarekawa and discover local food gems. 

How to get there 

Peach airlines fly to Osaka from just $1400 return. The fast train from Osaka takes around 1 hour 30 mins. Alternatively, you can fly to Hiroshima via Tokyo with ANA from $6300.

 

By: Noelle Walker

 

 

 

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