Japan is a beguiling land of contrasts; a place where ancient aesthetics and traditions sit happily alongside hypermodern urban culture and technology. Such exciting contrasts, combined with the friendliness of the Japanese people, unrivalled customer service and transport facilities, make travelling in Japan a joy.

One of the most fascinating and culturally rich countries in the world, visitors should not miss these Japan essential experiences.

  • The neon streets of night-time Tokyo, from Shibuya’s famous ‘scramble’ crossing to the ‘electric town’ of Akihabara.
  • Quiet contemplation in the shrines, temples and Zen rock gardens of Kyoto, the ancient capital.
  • Zooming through the country by bullet train and tucking into an onboard boxed lunch, known as ekiben, packed with tasty specialties.
  • Spending a night in a traditional inn, known as a ryokan, trying a multi-course kaiseki banquet and sleeping on a futon on tatami floors.
  • Bathing in onsen, Japan’s natural hot spring baths: be warned, these are a naked affair.
  • Experiencing raucous excitement of sumo at one of the six annual Grand Tournaments.
When to visit

Japan has a temperate climate and four distinct seasons, with spring and autumn being the most comfortable and picturesque times to visit. Late March to the beginning of April is cherry blossom viewing season, while mid-September to November is the time to appreciate the autumn leaves in full colour. June to August is hot and humid, so if you are visiting during these months, head for the mountains – which isn’t difficult, as 73 per cent of the country is mountainous.

Areas of Japan










The Japanese archipelago was first inhabited by hunter-gathers up to 35,000BC. Later came farmers from continental Asia who brought with them new technologies, such as bronze and iron. By the early part of the 6th century a powerful clan had taken control of much of the west of the country and eventually founded the Imperial House of Japan, which flourished until the 12th century when feudalism was established. This system lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when the modern nation emerged from 200 years of self-imposed isolation. Japan’s disastrous colonial ambitions in the early part of the 20th century led the country into World War II, which ended in surrender in 1945 and the development of post-war democracy and the economic miracle that followed.