Destination Spotlight - Japan
Lying in the Pacific Ocean, Japan is an island that has something to offer everyone. From the hustle and bustle of the cities, with their tall skyscrapers and bright lights, to the exquisite palaces and vast national parks with mountains overlooking them. Perhaps you’re interested in the shrines, unique Buddhist temples, the infamous cherry blossom and the national dish, sushi?
With a population of over 127 million, and Greater Tokyo home to over 35 million people, the largest metropolitan area in the world, you may think this island would be crammed full. However, there is truly some wonderful, quiet countryside to see and relax in. Japan’s land consists of over 70% mountainous terrain and is home to over 200 volcanoes. Come and experience a wonderful culture, quite unlike any other you’ve experienced before.
When to go
Due to its mountainous ranges and the surrounding warm seas, the weather across the country varies greatly - and the best time to visit one part won’t be the best time to visit another place.
Spring is one the better times to visit Japan as temperatures start to rise and the gorgeous cherry blossoms start bursting into full bloom, filling the air with sweet scents. Summer varies, as June sees the rainy season, which makes way for a hot July and tropical conditions. However, if you’d rather a cooler time, then visit the hills in the north of the country during the summer months.
Autumn sees typhoons set in during September, but late autumn sees Japan in its full glory, with the native maple trees bursting into a variety of colours. Winter sees a divide in the country when it comes to the weather. The western sea of Japan experiences huge amounts of snow and very cold winds - which is excellent if you want to go skiing. Whereas the areas around the Pacific coasts have clear, dry winter days.
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What to do
For a day away from the hustle and bustle a trip to Arashiyama, Kyoto, is not to be missed. Once a resort for families of nobility for centuries, you can now enjoy what they did. Stroll through the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and colourful maple trees in autumn that surround the ancient villas and temples, providing peace and tranquillity. You can also take a 45-minute rickshaw ride around Arashiyama with a tour guide, explaining all the history, personally to you.
Why not take a cycling tour of Tokyo? An experience like no other. You’ll be in a small group with an enthusiastic tour guide giving you the low down of the history of this fabulous city, with quirky inside information to make the experience extra fun. Discover hidden gems that are often overlooked by most tourists and have your eyes opened to Tokyo’s past and present.
A trip to Japan wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t visit the beautiful mountains. With gorgeous trails for you to follow, you’ll go through different types of terrain leading up to the peaks of the mountains where you’ll find some incredibly breathtaking views. The Kuju Mountain range is home natural hot springs (onsen), due to the area’s natural volcanic activity. There are hotels near to these springs that allow you to bathe in them to help you feel rejuvenated.
Where to stay
The Japanese are renowned for their excellent customer service, and none do it better than employees of hotels. They understand you’re on holiday and want to provide you with a service that means you can completely relax and not worry about a thing.
Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills
After a busy day exploring this vibrant city, the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills hotel is the perfect place for you to relax with spectacular views over the city. With a rooftop bar and an Andaz Tavern on the 51st floor, you can dine with amazing views surrounding you. They also have a gym and a spa for you to truly unwind after your busy day of sightseeing.
To experience living as a true Japanese you need to stay at this gorgeous hotel in the historical and beautiful area of Kyoto. From sleeping and living the Japanese way to eating their exquisite food, this hotel will let you experience the Japanese culture in the perfect way.
Get back to nature and to a quieter way of life via Japanese Guest Houses, in particular the Shojoshin-in Temple in the Mt Koya region. Stay in one of the oldest Buddhist temples and experience Japanese style guest rooms, with traditional gardens and ponds. Come and experience the tranquillity of this spectacular area, with this guest house being run by monks. You can stay in guest rooms and share bathrooms and toilets, or there is the option to have your own private guest room with your own toilet facilities.This is one place you do not want to miss.
Sankara Hotel and Spa Yakushima
Perhaps some tranquillity is what you desire? If so, this hotel is perfect for you. Tucked away in the mountains, full of peace and quiet - and an infinity pool! There is everything here you could possibly need and want for a relaxing holiday. From an outdoor pool, gym, spa, yoga, garden to a lounge, spectacular views and so much more.
Not to be missed
1 - Make a path to Mount Fuji - Pay a visit to the country’s active volcano at Mount Fuji, which also boasts the tallest peak in the country at 3,776m.
2 - Take the family to Tokyo Disney Sea - Opened in 2001, this fantastic Disney resort has something for all the family to enjoy, with attractions, parades, shows, shops and restaurants. This will be a fun day out for everyone to enjoy!
3 - Visit the Island of Yakushima - Visit this island via a hydrofoil ferry and explore its mountainous terrain, scattered with waterfalls and forests. Get back to nature and enjoy this spectacular island and all of its wildlife, you won’t be disappointed.
4 - Find peace at Kinkaku-ji - A Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is one of the most infamous temples throughout Japan, with the top two floors completely covered in gold leaf. It is a beautiful temple to visit, and often attracts lots of tourists and spectators wanting to marvel at its beauty.
5 - Take a trip to Tokyo Imperial Palace - View the palace where the Emperor of Japan resides for a memorable addition to your Japanese adventure. Take a tour around the palace and get the lowdown on its wonderful history.
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Getting to Japan: Direct flights from London to Japan take 11 hours. If you fly with a stop over it can take between 15 and 16 hours - depending on the airline you fly with.
Visa requirements: If you are a British Citizen or hold a British National passport then you can enter the country and stay there for up to 90 days without a visa.
Time zone: Japan is nine hours in front of the UK. For example, if it was 12pm in London, then it would be 9pm in Japan.