Despite being world renowned for its’ ultra-modern, technologically-advanced living, densely populated cities and neon lights, it is interesting to know that most visitors to Japan rate their highlights as the natural scenery, closely followed by the shrines, temples and the Japanese Gardens.

Starting your trip in Tokyo…

You’ll probably want to visit the city’s oldest temple, the Sensoji, however, so will every other tourist in the city too!  So, when you’ve seen it make sure you also visit the stunning Meiji Shrine which you’ll be able to enjoy without so many other tourists or souvenir stalls around.  Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji who, along with ensuring a ‘modernized’ Japan was not achieved at the expense of its’ ancient traditions, was a great nature lover.  As a result, his shrine is surrounded by a forest of trees transported from across the country making it a wonderful oasis of peace and nature.

You might think that in this highly populated Capital there wouldn’t be many green spaces, but Japan’s garden culture is world-renown so do visit some of them and you’ll discover a haven of peace away from the hectic city streets and a wonderful contrast of New and Old.  The Shinjuku Gyoen is a spacious park with a Japanese landscape garden and also has wonderful cherry blossom in the Spring.  The Koishikawa Botanical Garden is another good place to admire the famous cherry blossom and the Imperial Palace Gardens not only includes a massive castle moat but a lovely Japanese garden too.

Head to the mountains…

Away from the capital, the Alpine town of Hakone is a popular highlight of the country.  This is where Tokyo’s residents comes to relax and the stunning scenery in the shadow of Mt Fuji certainly makes for a blissful escape.  Sitting at the edge of the Ashino-ko lake, the Hakone National Park is the place to hike along the trails, take a cruise over the lake, venture up over the volcanic mountains on the ropewalk and finish the day with a hot-spring Onsen.

Another stunning town, nestled high up in the Hida alpine region, is Takayama.  The journey there alone is breath-taking – take the train and you’ll wind your way past mountains and gorges until you reach the beautifully preserved town.  So remote it has its own unique culture.

Back on the garden trail… The town of Kanazawa has the wonderful Kenroku-en garden which dates back to 1676 and so is typical of the Edo era when garden design departed from the Zen minimalism of the previous era and instead became more extravagant.  With its ponds, streams, islands and tea houses it has a wonderful circular trail for you to wander around.

No visit to Japan is complete without visiting Kyoto…

Not only the ‘City of Ten Thousand Shrines’ but also a must to see the exquisite gardens created over centuries by Emperors and Samurai.  Very different from the gardens of Tokyo which were created much later in the Edo period, the Kyoto gardens have survived where many of the temples and shrines have been destroyed.  A must-see is the dramatic Fushimi Inari Shrine, home to over 10,000 red tori gates leading up the mountain.  As well as visiting Gion the home to the elusive Geisha do also take a tour around the Zen temple and garden of Ginkakuji.

Another memorable place to visit, away from the gardens and shrines, is the Sagano Bamboo Forest on the outskirts of Kyoto.  Paths wind through towering bamboo groves and along with beauty of the sun filtering down through the green stalks, the sound of them swaying is equally as amazing.

Japan is filled with countless places that inspire and enchant visitors, just look beyond the techno, modern image and you’ll discover breath-taking scenery and a stunning culture. We offer a number of Japan Multi Centre Holidays and these are just a handful of our most popular itineraries, we can tailor make any holiday to your requirements! Please get in touch so we can help design your perfect trip to Japan.

Private: Anna Davies Travel Consultant