Stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to Taiwan and the East China Sea in the south, lies an archipelago of over 6,500 islands, named Japan.
This island nation located in the Pacific Ocean lies in the East Asia. From breath-taking landscapes to its history and culture, this country has lot to offer its avid travelers.
This article provides you with a guide to visit some of the most recommended places in this “Land of the Rising Sun”…..
Tokyo, located on the South Eastern side of Honshu, which is the main island including Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands, is the capital city of Japan. It is known to be the largest metropolitan city in the country, and is the core of the Greater Tokyo which is the world’s most populated urban area.
Once you are in Japan, this magical city turns out to be the first option, because from huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis bringing all kinds of high-tech visions of the future to the beautiful natural landscapes and glimpses of old Japan, it has got something or other for everyone.
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The major attraction sites in this wonderful city include Ginza epitomizing the capital, which is a famous shopping centre with exclusive shops and palatial stores including cafes, restaurants bars, also a Kabuki-za Theatre showcasing Kabuki performances and the Shimbashi Embujo Theatre featuring Bunraku performances or Azuma-odori dances; Roppongi district which is the cultural heart of the city.
Tokyo Tower including a neat wax museum and art gallery, which also provides a panoramic view of the city as well as Mount Fuji; Tokyo National Museum, locally known as Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, revealing thousands and thousands works of Japanese, Chinese as well as Indian art along with several National treasures and exhibition galleries; and the magnificent Asakusa Kannon Temple which has been truly dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, named Kannon.
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This city is also host to the splendid Imperial Palace in the Marunouchi district which is the residence of the Imperial Family, and Rikugien Park which is an enticing park with a lovely garden, a sparkling lake and a knoll called Tsukiyama. The Disneyland and Ueno Park Zoo are some of the modern diversions found across the city.
Kyoto, capital of Kyoto Prefecture, located in the central part of Honshu Island, lying near the south-western end of the Lake Biwa, is the fifth largest city and the imperial capital of Japan earlier. This city surrounded by hills is known to be one of the great tourist Meccas in the country, attracting both the domestic as well as international tourists from all over the world.
There are several temples and shrines designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the must-visit temples are Byodo-in Temple built in Heian architecture, Daikaku-ji Temple located on the side of Ozawa pond which is a Buddhist Site, Daitoku-ji Temple known to be the principal temples of the Rinzai sect, which is also a Buddhist site.
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Ginkakuji Temple or Silver Pavilion Temple, Nishi Honganji Temple which is an excellent example of Buddhist architecture and chief temple of the Jodu-shinsu sect, Rengyoin Temple or Sanjusangen-do Temple famous as “The Temple of the 33 Niches”, Koryu-ji Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Other attractions include Nijo Castle built by Tokugawa Leyasu which includes oriental art, Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, known to be dedicated to the Goddess of Rice-Growing and is one of the greatest shrines in Japan, and Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa accompanied with an enticing landscape garden.
Osaka, formerly known as Naniwa, located at mouth of the Osaka Bay and known to be the capital city of Osaka Prefecture, is a city lying in the Kansai Region of Honshu Island in Japan. It is the biggest part of Keihanshin area which is considered to be one of the highly ranked largest metropolitan areas across the world. Although it is the third largest city in the country, yet along with the strong historical and cultural flavor, the atmosphere over here seems to be less hurried than the above two bustling cities.
The attractions in the city include Osaka Aquarium known to be one of the most famous aquariums in the country, Bunraku Theatre featuring authentic Japanese theatre plays, Minami or Namba which is a downtown located in the south of the city, Kita or Umeda which is another popular downtown in the north of the city, Umeda Sky building which is a huge skyscraper along with an observation deck, forested Mino Park with a spectacular waterfall, Shinsekai , the Bay Area and Osaka Castle.
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This city is also host to several museums like an interactive Science Museum, Peace Osaka describing the horrors of Second World War, Museum of History revealing the city’s history, and National Art Museum including art exhibitions from the entire country and overseas as well.
You will also find Sumiyoshi Taisha which is known to be the head shrine of all the Sumiyoshi shrines as well as one of the oldest temples in the country named Shitennoji Temple. The major industrial, economical as well as port centre of the country also serves its people with variations in authentic Japanese Cuisine.
Nara, located in the northern part of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai Region bordering the Kyoto Prefecture, is the capital city of the prefecture itself. This city boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site named ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’ which is formed collectively of Saidai-ji Temple, Gango-ji Temple, Toshodai-ji Temple which is a large temple with a huge splendid Buddha statue.
Yakushi-ji Temple with beautiful statues of Yakushi, Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple which is the family temple of the Fujiwara Clan, Kasuga Shrine which is the most celebrated Shinto Shrine in the city, and the ruins of Heijo Palace which is the former site of Nara’s Imperial Palace.
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You will also find Isuien Garden which is a spacious Japanese garden, huge Yoshikien Garden which is a combination of three distinct Japanese gardens, Nara Park which is the central city park and a good place to catch a glimpse of wild deer, and Wakakusayama which is a beautiful mountain covered with grass lying just behind the Nara Park.
After you have roamed throughout, don’t miss out the National Museum which showcases the authentic Japanese Buddhist art and Naramachi which is a former merchant house with old houses. This wonderful city is also host to events like Wakakusa Yamayaki, where you will find an entire mountain to be set on fire as well as an interesting Omizutori which features Buddhist ceremonies with the involvement of both water and fire.
Nagano, located on the confluence of the Chikuma and Sai rivers, is the capital city of Nagano Prefecture in its northern part on the main Honshu Island in Japan. With excellent slopes and good quality sand, as well as free accommodation with meals in resorts along with ski-passes to the international tourists on working holidays, this city also serves to attract tourists.
This city is not very crowded, thus you might enjoy skiing whenever and how much you want to. There is scenic Kamikochi known to be the jewel of the Japanese Alps also popular for mountain trekking; Matsukawa Ravine in the eastern part of the city, situated on the Coast of Matsukawa River, from where you might enjoy the beautiful sceneries and fall foliage especially in autumn.
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Yokoya-kyo Ravine famous for colourful fall foliage ; a magnificent snow-covered scenic passage named Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, amazingly connecting Nagano Prefecture’s Omachi with Toyama Prefecture and the Sea of Japan.
stretching across the Japanese Alps; graceful Utsukushi-ga-hara Highlands which is a tall plateau at an altitude of 2,000 metres, flanked between Matsumoto and Ueda; enchanting Nezame-no-toko Gorge; splendid expanse of Shiraito Waterfalls, and the list is never-ending for this small package of beautiful natural landscapes.
This enticing city also hosts certain events like Nozawa Fire Festival, Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival, Suwa Onbashira Festival, etc. Moreover, there is a village of Iizuna, to the north of the city, with several ponds, campsite, a mountain slide ride and also offers Olympic ski resort, and thus remains busy throughout the summers and winters with tourists.