Japan’s Best Destinations: An Overview

Japan is an island nation in East Asia located in the Pacific Ocean. It borders the Sea of Japan, Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia. It is made up of a slew of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are the Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Most of the islands are mountainous and many are volcanoes.

With such a vast territory to cover, it’s difficult to know just where to begin in your tour. Whatever you do, don’t bypass these top five hot tourist spots:

1.      MOUNT FUJI

As the highest peak in Japan, the majestic Mt. Fuji ascends to over 12,000 feet! Contrary to it’s name, it’s not exactly a mountain as much as it is a volcano which had it’s last eruption way back in 1707. It’s considered the most distinguished and sacred “mountain” in Japan. Optimal viewing time is during the winter months where it’s characteristic snow capped peak can be best viewed

Over 225,000 people climb it every single year mainly during the months of July and August (Winter time in Asia). Since so many climbers flock to Mt. Fuji, you will find the trails and facilities there are better developed than in the past. Among the most popular hiking trails include Gotemba, Fujinomiya and Kawaguchiko which have excellent facilities complete with refreshments and lodging.

Next to the mountain is five Fuji Lakes. Tourists can participate in water sports, boating, and some terrific fishing.  

2.      KYOTO

Kyoto is Japan’s 2nd most popular tourist destination. It contains several well preserved historical sites and is the root of many aspects of Japan Culture. It was Japan’s capital and the Emperor’s residence through part of the first and most of the second millennial. Kyoto is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has 15 places within designated as such. Most of these date from the 10th to 19th centuries.

Known as The Golden Pavillion, it is studded with beautiful pine trees and punds making for a breathtaking experience. Since it wasn’t damaged during the second World War, it has the very best preserved samples of Japan’s history. Don’t forget to stop by and visit the Heian Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle and To-ji while you’re there.

 

3.      HIROSHIMA

Probably the most familiar place outsiders are aware of. It’s known as the Peace centre and the city was decimated via an atomic bomb at the end of WWII. Visit the memorial but keep in mind many of the pictures displayed there are quite graphic.

The Bomb Dome is located at Hiroshima and is the remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It survived, intact, even though it was 150 meters from the Hypocenter. It is now the centerpiece of the Peace Memorial Park.

Visit the nearby Miyajima Island for its shrines and famous Torii Gate.

 

4.      MATSUMOTO CASTLE

Because of the elegant black roof, Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called Crow Castle. Inside the castle are step stairs and low ceilings leading past displays of armor and weapons from the Sengoku period (“Warring-States”) when the castle was built. It is one of dozen castles in Japan and has survived major structural damage. It is considered one of the three finest destinations in Japan along with Himeji and Kumamoto Castle. Matsumoto is unique due to its water-filled moat. It is considered a national treasure of Japan and is located away from the coastal area as far inland as you can get. It is the gateway to the Kita Alps.

During the summer a Taiko Festival and a Takigi Noh  (performance by torch light) Festival are held at the site. It is also famous for cherry blossoms in April and will have the trees lit up. A moon viewing partyis held every autumn on the grounds located in the moon viewing room of Matsumoto Castle. It is said that the moon can be seen three times from the moon viewing room.  This includes once in the sky, once in the water below and once in your cup of sake.

 

5.       TODAI-JI HALL, NORA

Nora is the oldest capital and ranks as Japan’s first city. It was founded long ago in the 8thcentury.  Nor is the center of Kegon Buddhism in Japan. It holds the best known monument called the Todai-Ji Hall which is the largest wooden building. Inside is a mammoth Daibutsu (Buddha) bronze statue measuring 14.84 Meters. It weighs 500 metric tonnes (over 551 tons). The Todai-Ji contains other important sculptures also.

A trip to Japan will be one that you will never forget. If you visited these destinations alone, you would come home in amazement of the beauty and culture that lies there.

Here’s more information on how to get to Japan and obtain a Japan rail pass to tour the country by rail. Check out other travel pertaining to Europe and it’s rail system via the eurail pass or eurail global pass .

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