Japan Travel Guide

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Ueno Park (Taken outside National Tokyo Museum)

Ueno Park (Taken outside National Tokyo Museum)

Missy Govier

A modern country with a rich heritage, Japan has long been popular with travelers. While is it one of the most expensive places to live, it is possible for the budget traveler to have a good time as well.

There are four main islands which make up Japan: From the north to the south: Hokkaido, Honshu the main island, Shikoku, and Kyushu. More than 4,000 smaller islands surround these four main islands.  Japan is divided into 47 Prefectures.

Hokkaido is one Prefecture.

Honshu is broken up into the following Prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, Kaganawa, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Nagano, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi. Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Osaka, Hyogo, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima, Shimane, Yamaguchi.

Shikoku is broken up into the following Prefectures: Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime.

Kyushu is broken up into the following Prefectures: Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa.

Japan will leave a lasting impression in your mind. From city based attractions in Tokyo, all the way to the natural wonders like Mount Fuji and the hot springs of Beppu, this country has something for everyone.

Japan also combines the most traditional of societies with the most modern of techniques. Technology lovers will love Japan, being the heart of all technological development, tourists greatly enjoy the diversity of shopping in Japan. In Tokyo the districts of Roppongi, Akihabara, and Shinjuku all offer all you could dream of in this respect. Between the neon signs and the skyscrapers you will also find pagodas and shrines where saints are venered according to century old customs.

Honshu is the main island. Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and several other large cities are located here and if you have just two weeks, you can limit your trip to just this island. The city of Kyoto is a must see.

Hokkaido in the north is good for outdoor activities as well as partying. Hokkaido is fast becoming world renown as a powder snow destination for skiers and boarders. The consistency and depth of the dry powder has to be seen to be believed.An average year sees well over 10 m fall -with up to 15m falling in one season in such places as Niseko and Rusutsu.

Niseko is a rural agricultural area which has an abundance of groomed and back country options that will keep you busy all season.The main resort "Niseko United" consists of 4 separate zones all combining at the peak of the same mountain. Other nearby resorts include Moiwa, Chise-no-puri, Weiss and Rusutsu. Although not huge mountains there is kms of accessible back country bowls to be explored.

Sapporo is the beer capital of Japan and home to the world famous Ice Sculpture Festival which is held in the first weeks of February. In Summer there are two main festivals-Yosakoi-a noisy dancing event where teams of dancers compete for prizes and the Beer Festival which sees Odori Park(site of Ice/Snow Festival) turn into 7-8 blocks of beer gardens!

Shikoku is the smallest of the main islands, and lesser known to travelers and is not as well equipped to handle travelers as Honshu, Kyushu or Hokkaido.

Kyushu is the westernmost of the four large islands. The main sight on the island is Nagasaki, once the only city foreigners were allowed to visit in Japan - and only the Dutch and the Chinese. More recently it was the site where the bigger of the two nuclear bombs was dropped in WWII. Fukuoka City is like a laid-back version of Tokyo and famous for its street food (yatai).  Kagoshima City has many museums with artifacts from as early as Commodore Perry's visit.  It was a major military stronghold.  It is rich with culture, and home to Kagoshima-ben, a nearly incomprehensible (to other Japanese) local dialect which was used by the military as a code.  Today, it is mostly spoken by the elder generations, while the youth prefer to speak standard Japanese.

The best way to travel across Japan is on the Bullet Train. It normally cruises at a speed of 235 kph and is almost always on time.

Most people in Japan practice both the Buddhist and Shinto religions. The Shinto religion is worshiping nature such as the mountains and water. Therefore there are numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines across the country. The third most significant mountain in Japan is Mt. Tateyama and in the summer many Japanese and tourists climb it. At the summit is a Shinto shrine where you can have a brief ceremony complete with saki.

Having stayed in Japan for a year, I highly recommend going to the Ginsa, (an open air mall) at Hiroshima.  I first discovered Sushi there and have longed to return one day.  Peace park is also very interesting.  My wife, originally from Michigan and I, from California actually met in Japan.

Also if you are fortunate enough to be in the Yamaguchi district during the Apple Blossom Festival, visit the Kintai Bridge... VERY pretty.

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December 06, 2006 change by waterfalls (2 points)

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