It may come as no surprise that these are heady days for tourism to Japan. With tired perceptions changing and visitor numbers accelerating, the country is, without doubt, the long-haul star of the moment.
And why shouldn’t it be? Japan is an intoxicating country of contrasts with stunning landscapes, fascinating history and age-old traditions. Its totally unique culture make it a captivating holiday destination, from the modern, high-tech capital of Tokyo, with its futuristic neon-lit streets, Michelin-starred restaurants and quirky pop culture, to the timeless traditions, evocative geisha districts and beautiful temple gardens of the ancient imperial city of Kyoto; the tranquil beauty of the Japanese Alps and the haunting history of Hiroshima, this rich country offers an abundance of vibrant cities, cultural treasures and natural beauty.
The recent Rugby World Cup, with around 400,000 people from several nations moving easily around the country between cities and stadiums, has shown what an accessible country Japan is. It has illustrated that things like language, cuisine and even cost no longer have to be impossible barriers to enjoying all that Japan has to offer, and with Japan hosting next summer’s Olympic Games there should be no slowing of momentum.
Japan is the ultimate destination for exploration, whether you are a seasoned intrepid traveller, happy to get off the beaten track on your own voyage of discovery, or if you prefer the peace of mind and security of a group tour. If you like having an expert at your side for the duration of your trip, we would definitely recommend taking an escorted tour complete with your very own local guide. They’ll be able to take you to the iconic sights as well as the hidden gems and share their passion and love for their country. Insider knowledge can really help you understand the unique culture and local life of this fascinating country of contrast in a way you may miss under your own steam. A guide will also be on hand throughout your trip, whether it be to talk about the history of a place or to suggest a great local bar or restaurant!
Having said that, if you prefer to do your own thing, we can certainly, put together bucket list itineraries to point you in the right direction and recommend must see places to visit for your own adventure of discovery! There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to visiting Japan and you can set your own pace, choose where you want to linger longer and where to bypass completely. From a comfortable local Ryokan to all out five-star luxury hotels, what and where you want to eat, how long you stay and how you experience this unique country is entirely up to you. And we are here to help you create your perfect trip of a lifetime.
Best Time To Visit Japan with Travel Rocks
Japan is a year round destination with each season bringing a range of highlights to different parts of the country. The most popular time to visit is the cherry blossom season when, from January in the south through to May in the north, the glorious blossoms are in full bloom and sweep north across the nation, blanketing each area in a stunning soft pink colour.
In the autumn months, October to December, the maple and ginko trees are ablaze with vibrant reds, oranges and golds. Travelling the opposite way to the cherry blossom, this seasonal phenomenon sweeps south across the county creating a warm and cosy atmosphere full of rich autumn leaves.
Japan’s summer, June to August may be hot and humid, but it is the season for festivals and fireworks, or if you prefer cooler climes, escape to the mountains and maybe do some hiking – this is the only time of year you are able to climb Mount Fuji.
In the winter, outside of the cities, the country becomes a snow-covered wonderland. The weather in December is crisp and cold, and it’s a great time to see the sights free of the crowds. The snow-filled trees and frozen lakes make for incredible snaps, and the ski resorts are all opening up in Hokkaido and the Japanese Alps. Japan’s winter is the optimal time to head to Jigokudani, a scenic spot where Japanese Macaques come down from the mountains and bathe in the onsen (hot springs).
Cost of Living in Japan
Contrary to popular belief, Japan is actually very comparable to the UK when it comes to costs. In main cities like Tokyo, you may find it is a little more expensive than in the quieter, more rural areas – as you would in London. Restaurants and bars may be slightly more costly but not extortionate. If you head out of the cities, you’ll find that prices are lower for things like food, drink and shopping. However, Japan as a whole is definitely budget friendly
Our whirlwind tour of Japan:
Tokyo with Travel Rocks
The high-tech, high-rise metropolis of Japan’s modern capital Tokyo is a city of sheer energy and vibrancy. As one of the most forward-thinking cities in the world, Tokyo is a dream for gadget lovers, and the flashing neon lights, innovative gizmos and robot conventions make this fascinating city feel as though you’ve stepped into a sci-fi film. Wacky and wonderful in equal measure, Tokyo is home to anime, quirky fashion, 24-hour karaoke bars and more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. It also has surprising pockets of Zenic calm with beautiful gardens, hidden temples, lakes, beaches and hot springs in and around the city.
From Tokyo, head southwest to snow-capped Mount Fuji, a tribute to Japan’s sublime beauty. Towering at 12,388 feet, it is Japan’s highest mountain and can even be seen from Tokyo on a clear day. Revered as one of Japan’s ‘Three Holy Mountains’, it attracts thousands of pilgrims every summer who hike to its sacred summit.
Japan’s ‘city of 10,000 shrines’ offers a stark contrast to high-tech Tokyo. This stunning imperial city is the Japan of your imagination with picture-perfect temples, traditional wooden houses, colourful geishas and serene Zen gardens. Wander the evocative streets of the geisha district of Gion to discover traditional tea houses and merchant houses. At Nijo Castle try to tread lightly on the ‘nightingale floor’ which was designed to alert residents to an intruder’s presence. Kyoto is also renowned for its rich history, woodblock painting and excellent vegetarian restaurants serving shojin ryori, or Zen Buddhist temple cuisine.
Despite its tragic past Hiroshima has emerged from the dark cloud of the devastating 1945 nuclear bombing as a vibrant and thriving city that boasts tree-lined boulevards, fantastic museums, historic monuments, enchanting gardens and excellent cuisine. Ride one of Japan’s last remaining tram systems to the Peace Memorial Park and museum to learn about Hiroshima’s tragic history; or take a picnic to the serene Shukkeien Garden, a quintessential Japanese garden with a koi-filled pond, beautiful landscaping and traditional tea houses. The city is also the gateway to the picturesque island of Miyajima, the Island of Shrines, which is famously home to the striking 12th-Century Itsukushima Shrine.
Japan’s second largest city is a buzzing aquapolis often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its numerous canals and river channels. Osaka is also known as the ‘gastronomist’s town’ and ‘the stomach of Japan’ and it embraces its status of a food-loving city, boasting an array of restaurants and food stalls and within its underground maze of shopping malls.
As the final destination on the famous Silk Route, Nara adopted influences from a wealth of different cultures and it is a veritable repository of cultural and historic treasures including some of the country’s oldest temples. The fascinating city can easily be explored in a day.
Discover Japan’s last true wildernesses where the white sandy beaches frame clear, warm waters that teem with tropical fish of all shapes, sizes and colours here. The Okinawan Islands are an idyllic haven and the perfect place to tune into a slower pace of life. Located halfway between Japan and Taiwan and stretching for over 1,000km, Okinawa has been both an independent country as well as falling under Chinese and US rule. This complex history has created a unique culture that you won’t find anywhere else in Japan. The main island, Okinawa-Honto, is very much developed towards domestic tourism, with the smaller islands to the west less frequented by visitors. This makes it the perfect getaway for a beach break you might have thought impossible in Japan.
This dramatic series of mountains bisect the main island of Honshu and host several hot springs, known locally as onsen. This region provides a tranquil contrast after exploration of the bustling cities and journeying through the Alps is a feast for the eyes as spectacular mountain and valley scenery rolls by. Charming mountain towns such as Matsumoto, Kanazawa and Takayama offer an intriguing insight into some of the lesser-visited parts of Japan.
Japan lays claim to 200,000 years of history and in last three decades, it has undergone a technological revolution. In many ways, Japan is at once delightfully archaic and mind-bogglingly cutting edge and on any holiday to the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ll discover a unique and dynamic culture that effortlessly combines ultra-modern with deep tradition. On the streets of Tokyo innovative, futuristic cities glass towers and tranquil temples stand side by side, whilst picturesque old towns, and gorgeous landscapes are an easy bullet train ride away. Mix these spectacular sights with a welcoming people, delicious cuisine and rich culture and you’ve got yourself a holiday to remember.
Working alongside our specialist Far East Business Partners such as Kuoni, Wendy Wu Tours, Travel2 and Premier Holidays to name a few, we can offer you any holiday to suit your exact needs and budget. These are just a couple of the amazing itineraries available.