A mecca for city-lovers, Tokyo is a brash jumble of high-rises, neon signs and bustling people. But, despite the cosmopolitan modernity, Tokyo is also staunchly Japanese— ramen shops, Shinto shrines, tranquil gardens and Edo-period architecture quietly coexist with the contemporary.
Steeped in the history of the samurai era, the small town of Kanazawa is renowned for its evocative winding lanes—it’s possible to wander here and imagine yourself in a different time. The town is also well respected for its traditional arts and crafts and has one of the most beautiful traditional Japanese gardens in the country.
HAKONE, YUDANAKA & DOGO
A volcanic archipelago by nature, Japan’s geothermal forces are still at work beneath the surface—onsen (natural hot springs) dot the country from North to South. Traditionally used for health treatments, booking a room at an onsen ryokan (traditional guesthouse) is a fabulous way to relax in true Japanese style.
Home to no fewer than six national parks, Japan’s northernmost island is a treat for nature lovers. Whether you prefer alpine vistas or tranquil lakeside wanders, Hokkaido has it all—and more. The indigenous Ainu people still live here and visiting their villages offers a glimpse into a different sort of traditional Japanese culture.
The capital city of Japan for over a thousand years, Kyoto is the proud caretaker of many of the most iconic pieces of Japanese art, culture, religion and thought. Hundreds of temples, shrines, palaces, gardens, museums, parks and teahouses dot the city. Students of traditional Japanese arts—flower arranging, calligraphy, martial arts, cuisine and the illusive charms of the Geisha—come from all over Japan, and abroad, to soak up the traditional culture.
Each spring and fall, travelers descend upon this picturesque alpine town to take part in the spectacular Sanno Matsuri (spring) and Hachiman Matsuri (fall) festivals, celebrating the beginning and end of the agricultural year. Colorful floats are paraded through town, talented musicians regale the crowds with traditional tunes while young and old alike turn out for a fete to remember.
TOKYO, YUDANAKA & SOPPORO
More than just sushi, Japanese cuisine is subtle and absolutely transcendent when done well. Try irresistibly fresh sushi at Tokyo’s bustling Tsukiji fish market; sample savory soba noodles, the specialty of Yudanaka, and nosh on the regional favorite, boiled crab, washed down with a cold Sapporo beer in its namesake town.