Japan: Where Modern Marvels Coexist with Tradition
An economic powerhouse, Japan has been a part of every bucket list. A nation where tradition and modernity are interlocked, its homogenous society let visitor feel authentic Japanese culture everywhere they go. Each modern engineering wonder it itself a product of Japanese hardwork and perseverance. From solo traveler to families with little children, Japan is a country that truly caters to all types of traveler. There are cultural and heritage towns and modern structures that are equally awe-inspiring and impressive from the capital of Tokyo to rural Japan, see for yourself why Japan is a must-visit.
Before your Visit to Japan
In their effort to use tourism as one way to boost national economy, Japan has laxed their visa policies for the past years offering visa exemptions to 68 countries including a holiday visa for younger travelers. North Korean nationals are the only visitors barred from entering Japan. Nationals holding APEC Business Cards as well as diplomatic passports can enter without a visa even if their countries do not belong to the visa-exempted list. China and Philippine passport holders on the other hand, are required to process their tourist visa to accredited travel agencies.
Japan offers many international airports like Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport. Japan’s intensive rail network makes the country accessible to foreigners including their bullet trains or shinkansen. Local currency is in yen and credit cards are widely used.
Top Things to do in Japan
Love to see skyscrapers and all the modern attractions in Japan? Do you like to see the most beautiful gardens? Want to get impressed with Japan's major cities or prefer to discover the rural towns of the country? Here are some of the top activities you can do when you visit Japan.
Experience the hanami - Literally means, “flower viewing”, Japanese flock to their nearest park when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and enjoy a picnic. Food, laughter, and a lot of booze, enjoy the spring weather with the dainty pink flowers surrounding you.
Visit historic monuments - Japan has kept and preserved many of its Shinto shrines, Buddhist Temples, buildings and even historic towns that remind them of their feudal samurai past. You can visit a shrine even in the middle of the city or travel to heritage destinations like Kyoto and Nara. See the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima or see castles like Himeji Castle.
Commune with Japan’s nature - Japan is perhaps the cleanest country in the world and with modern infrastructures, they have kept their trees, forests, and other natural formations from lakes to springs. Climb Mt. Fuji or at least try spotting it if you are traveling within the Kanto Plain. Visit the Japanese Alps, Goko Five Lakes, Ishigaki Islands and various hot springs. There are many parks like monkey park and deer parks all over Japan.
Dip in an onsen - A volcanic country, Japan is home to many hot springs known as onsen. With its alkaline waters, onsen is therapeutic and has been part of Japanese wellness for centuries. In fact, Japanese go to onsen towns for relaxation while hotels offer onsen as part of their amenities. More than a relaxation, onsen are set in great scenery or accompanied by Japanese local architecture.
Shop till you drop - Japan especially its major cities like Tokyo is a shopping mecca. Luxury goods and products of the highest quality, shopping is a must in Nippon. You can choose to splurge on boutiques or drop by at various second-hand stores. For those on a budget, shop at Don Quijote, Daiso, and various 100 yen shops. Even local convenience stores are great places to shop!
Top Destinations in Japan
When planning for your trip to Japan, the first question will always be, “Where to go in Japan”? For first time visitors and returning travelers, here are destinations to explore in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Tokyo - It can get overly busy like most capital cities, but Tokyo is perfect for first time visitors for it can encapsulate the essence of Japan. In Tokyo, you can go from an urban attraction to heritage sites in a few hours. Visit key areas like Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ginza, and Odaiba. Drop by at the Imperial Palace and Asakusa. For day trips, go to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, Yokohama, Hakone, and Kamakura.
Osaka - For those traveling south of Tokyo, Osaka is a popular destination. Must-do is to enjoy an Osaka River Cruise, Universal Studios, and Osaka Aquarium. Osaka provides access to other destinations like Nagoya and Nara.
Kyoto - Culture lovers can’t resist Kyoto – the old imperial capita of Japan. Most of its Edo period are kept and preserved especially in Gion district. See geishas ( or pretend to be one!), Kinka-kuji, Nijo Castle and Arashiyama Forest. Kyoto is also one of the best destination in Japan for fall season.
Hakuba - Take a bullet train ride from Tokyo and experience the Japanese Alps. Japan might not be one of the most popular winter destinations in the world, but it hosted the 1998 Winter Holidays in Hakuba. Hakuba is a village in the alps, just outside Nagano City. A favorite family winter destination among locals, stay in one of its many chalets, relax in an onsen and enjoy the powdery snow! During spring and summer, Hakuba offers its hiking trails.
Sapporo - Returning visitors should visit Sapporo and see the beauty of Japan’s northern territories. Bearing a famous beer, drop by at the Sapporo Beer Museum. With Hokkaido experiencing heavy snow during winter, celebrate the Sapporo Snow Festivals and see ice carvings and formations. When the weather is warm, relax by Odori Park and bring the kids to Maruyama Zoo.
Where to Stay: Hotels in Japan
Hotels in Japan are not as cheap compared to other countries and one of the reasons why it can cost more to travel in Japan. However, book in cheap hotels in Japan or search for hotel deals in TravNow. TravNow provides a list of hotels you can stay for less in Japan without sacrificing the amenities you are used to.
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu is located in Chiyoda district in Central District. Close to the famous Akasaka Shrine, Tokyo Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tree are also nearby. This hotel provides private bath, mini bar, and in-room movies.
When traveling to Kyoto, stay in a small hotel like Hana Hotel. This 43-room hotel is close to the Imperial Palace, Honnoji Temple, and Nijo Castle. Guests can also relax with its deep-soaking baths. Hana Hotel also has an onsite restaurant and coffee shop.
In Sapporo stay at Unwind hotel & Bar Sapporo. Conveniently located in the city center, it is close to Sapporo Beer Museum and JR Tower. Offering 47 rooms, this property had a lounge, mini bar, and bathtubs.