A guide to the cities of Japan

Japan - known as Nihon in Japanese - has become increasingly popular with Aussie tourists.

For such a small country, there’s a lot to see – so where do you start?

If you want busy…

Tokyo

Shinjuku city lights

Photo by Alexander Jeffs

This futuristic city is home to the famous Shibuya crossing from Lost in Translation, Odaiba – the main made science island and the pure insanity of Shinjuku. It doesn’t get much bigger than Japan’s capital, Tokyo where there is never any lack of things to do. While there are several stunning cultural sites, Tokyo is very much a place of experiences. 

Osaka

Dotonbori in Osaka

 

Osaka is a mini Tokyo, with a huge anime and gaming culture centred in the electric den den town (quite literally, as den den town is slang for electric town). Dotonbori is the place to go for some of the region’s best food – just don’t get distracted by the flashing lights of the Glico man or giant, automated restaurant creatures.

Yokohama

Yokohama cityline in front of Mt Fuji

 

This industrial city is just a short train trip from Tokyo, where the ‘after work drinks’ culture is taken to the next level – kampai (cheers)! The ramen noodle museum also calls Yokohama home where visitors can see the history of their favourite two-minute snack and even create their own special blend.

If you want snow…

Sapporo

Sapporo city

 

This is northern Japan’s best ski destination which is also happens to be famous for its beer and annual Sapporo Snow festival. The event held over seven days in February can get serious, especially when it comes to crazy snow sculptures and ice statues.

Hakuba

Hakuba ski slopes

 

Mainland Japan’s answer to Sapporo is the ski resort town of Hakuba which boosts the world-famous ski slopes of the Japanese Alps. While it is relatively easy to access both Hakuba and Sapporo, Hakuba is closer to the main cities of Japan. 

If you want picturesque…

Wakayama

Jizo statue at Koyasan

 

With its rainforests and ancient temples, Koyasan in Wakayama prefecture could exist in another world where spirits live guarded by decaying Jizo statues. Visitors can stay overnight in the 1200-year-old monastery, experiencing traditional Buddhist food and listening as the forest creatures come alive.

Tateyama

Kurobe alpine route Japan

Photo by Alexander Jeffs

Japan has some amazing scenery and the Japanese Alps are some of the best. Instead of trekking up the mountains like Napoleon, the Japanese have created the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine. The track takes tourists via train, cable car and tram, to the top of Mt. Tateyama where stunning views of snow-capped mountains and shining lakes can be seen on a clear day. 

Okinawa

Okinawa coast line

 

The western side of Japan is the road less travelled for many and the white sand beaches and warm temperatures show a side of the country rarely seen. Scuba diving, sea life and sun bathing are best experienced on Okinawa Main island. On Mikimoto Pearl Island the female Ama pearl divers have become a popular tourist experience as they show off their impressive free diving skills.

If you want cultural…

Kyoto

Dragon statue at Kiyomizudera

Photo by Alexander Jeffs

Once the capital of feudal Japan, the city of Kyoto is built around a traditional heart that’s not often seen by foreigners. Stepping out of your hotel door in Kyoto is like taking a step back in time. Geisha and maiko race between engagements in Gion and rickshaw drivers climb the hills off Kiyomizudera and the winding paths of the Philosophers walk.  

Hiroshima

Miyajima island

 

Most visitors go to see the Hiroshima Peace Memorial which is both painful and sobering. While it is well worth the visit, there is much more to see in Hiroshima. An hour outside of Hiroshima is the “shrine island” Miyajima that is home to the mystical, floating torii gates of Itsukushima shrine.

Nikko

Nikko temples in Japan

Photo by Alexander Jeffs

There is a reason why Nikko’s beautiful shrines and temples are UNESCO heritage-listed. Not only is it the resting place of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu but also some of the most well-kept examples of Japan’s traditional past. Within the complex Shintoism and Buddhism exist together harmoniously just as they do in Japanese culture. 

Nara

Deer in front of temple

 

Home to a 15-meter Buddha statue and some voracious deer, Nara was once an ancient capital of Japan. Todaiji temple that houses the daibutsu statue is one of the great bases for Buddhist worship in the country and makes an impressive impact on the skyline with its huge dimensions, dating back to 784.

 

Why not experience Japan during the famed cherry blossom season with this guided tour from MW Tours.  Visit RACQ Travel for more information, or contact one of our friendly travel consultants on 1300 096 166.