Japan was without a doubt one of the coolest and one of the weirdest countries I have ever been. It is both high-tech and modern, but also traditional and conservative. Japanese culture is both familiar and completely foreign. It is the only place I’ve ever experienced real culture shock. Yet, I am dying to go back.
Foreign tourism has picked up in recent years, but it is still mainly domestic tourists travelling across the country. One thing is for sure, Japan is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. You could spend months here and still not see everything, but if you are short on time, here are a few places you absolutely must visit in Japan:
Tokyo is one of a kind. Walking through Shinjuku at night, it feels like you’re in a sci-fi movie with flashing neon and buildings piled on top of each other. But once you’re sitting in the Imperial Gardens, it is quiet, calm and a world away.
Tokyo simply has a bit of everything. And people watching in Tokyo is the best in the world. From busy businessmen to edgy street fashion, in Tokyo, you see everything and everyone running through the streets.
Don’t be worried if one of those worn-out businesspeople falls asleep on your shoulder, that’s just the risk of riding the Tokyo subway.
Where Tokyo represents Japans modern high-tech side, Kyoto is old school Japanese. The country’s cultural capital is filled with temples, shrines and old buildings.
Tradition is still very much alive in Kyoto, and despite its size, it has retained a small town vibe. Visit Kyoto’s historical neighborhoods such as Gion and breathtaking temples like Kinkakuji to get a feel for the traditional Japanese culture.
Kyoto was my favorite place in Japan, because of the gorgeous architecture and laid-back vibe.
You can visit Hiroshima on a day trip from Kyoto, but it really warrants an overnight stay.
Hiroshima is most famous worldwide as the sit of the first nuclear attack. The now modern city was utterly wiped out by the atomic bomb dropped by the Americans at the end of World War II. The Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum commemorate this horrific tragedy and are incredibly powerful to visit.
Hiroshima has overcome its past, rebuild the city and is now dedicated to ending nuclear weapons worldwide. These days, Hiroshima is hip and trendy with a great food scene, particularly okonomiyaki.
Naoshima is a small island off the coast of Okayama. This island is a perfect example of efforts to revive the dwindling Japanese countryside.
Naoshima is a refuge for artists who have created a living museum. Cycling around the island looking at all the art and the natural beauty of the island is an absolute joy. It is even better when you bring a tent and camp out on this unique piece of land.
The views of this slumbering volcano are world-famous. But having seen it online, I was not prepared for how beautiful Mt. Fuji is in real life. There is something so majestic about the ancient volcano rising up out of the earth.
Mt. Fuji is easily visited on a day trip from Tokyo. Or, if you are an avid hiker and climber, try the two-day trip to the top for the arguably best view in Japan.
Japan is a gorgeous country with so much variety. Cool and modern cities, a rural countryside and quaint villages. What is your favorite place in Japan? Let’s chat in the comments.
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