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Japan is made up of 6,800 islands, which cover an area twice the size of Great Britain. However, it may appear bigger because of its length. The northern tip overlooks Russia and the southern tip is in the tropics and in between, there is a fascinating experience waiting for you.


If your image of the capital city is that of a larger than life city, then you won’t be disappointed. The entertainment district of Shinjuku is filled with soaring skyscrapers, garish neon lights and crowds of people wearing way-out fashions. This is a city which is busy with a capital “B”, as you’d expect from one, which is home to 35 million people. But, turn a figurative corner and you’ll find stillness in the Senso-ji temple in Asakura or tranquillity in the Hamarikyu-en Garden. “Contrast” may be an over-worked word, but never a truer one was used in relation to Tokyo. Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic Games, so there is bound to be much excitement in the build up to this.


The former capital of Japan remains the cultural centre. Although it’s a modern city now, it is filled with grand palaces, decorative shrines and glorious gardens. This is the place where your view of traditional Japan will be fulfilled…it’s where Geisha hobble down lamp-lit streets and young Japanese girls come to start their six year Geisha training as Maiko. Visit the Gion district to see them.


To the west of Tokyo lies the Hakone National Park with its most recognised centre piece, Mount Fuji, at its heart. It’s said that a wise man climbs Mount Fuji once in his life, but only a fool climbs it twice. However, we recommend that you hope for a clear day, so you can drink in the imposing views of this iconic mountain and savour the spectacular scenery as well as, perhaps, enjoying a chance to soak in a hot spring.


Lying in the midst of the snow-capped mountains of the northern alps, this is a traditional, olde worlde town filled with charm. The three main streets are lined with museums, traditional shops and sake breweries and, in spring and autumn, you may have the opportunity to enjoy festivals where decorated floats are paraded through the town.


A modern city, lying within easy reach of Takayama and Kyoto, it is famed for being home to Japan’s most visited garden – Kenrokuen. Six elements make up the perfect Japanese garden and this one is a prime example!


Quite possibly, Japan’s most recognised city, albeit for the wrong reasons. However, a visit to this city will not be a sad one, as a vibrant metropolis has risen from the ashes of the nuclear bomb which was dropped in 1945. Your stay must include a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and the Cenotaph, under which the Peace Flame burns.


Japan’s capital city in the 8th century belongs to an era before Zen gardens and tea ceremonies. It houses many fine examples of Tang dynasty architecture from China, Korean religious sculptures and treasure from Iran making it something of a cultural treasure trove.


To spend a night in one of the many temples here is the quintessential Japanese experience. Koya-san is the mountain home of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and its more than 100 temples make it one of Japan’s holiest sites. Although it is quite accessible, its location, hidden in the mountains, make is seem rather more isolated than it actually is.


Japan’s commercial centre is also known as the City of Bridges – no surprise when you learn that it has almost a thousand of them, which are needed to cross the many miles of waterways. The most visited attraction is Osaka Castle, which although it’s actually a replica, completed in 1997, does afford amazing views from the top. The entertainment district of Dotonbori is also its theatrical heart with kabuki theatres (traditional plays about warriors and thieves, depicted through music and dance, where men play all the parts) and bunraku (puppet play) playhouses.