Top Reasons Why You Should Definitely Take That Trip to Japan

If you visit the Gion district of Kyoto, you might see maiko (apprentice geishas) strolling the streets
If you visit the Gion district of Kyoto, you might see maiko (apprentice geishas) strolling the streets | © maximimages.com / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Laura Hampson
2 September 2021
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From riding a bullet train past Mount Fuji to sampling the best sushi and ramen in Tokyo, there are dozens of reasons why you need to visit Japan.

From exploring the quirky neighbourhoods of Tokyo to watching sumo wrestling and bathing in a steaming onsen, we’ve listed our top reasons to book a trip to Japan – and most of them feature on our carefully curated Japan trip, led by a local insider.

Marvel at the cherry blossom in spring

Architectural Landmark
Kyoto, Japan at Philosopher's Walk in the spring season.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Spring and autumn are the prettiest seasons in Japan. While autumn brings golden foliage, spring here is synonymous with cherry blossoms. The flowers are best seen in March and April along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, at Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, or at Hirosaki Park in northern Japan where 2,600 trees flower each year.

Discover the cultural capital of Kyoto

Shinto Shrine, Shrine
Nishiki Market is a narrow shopping street in Kyoto lined with more than one hundred shops.
© John Lander / Alamy Stock Photo
As well as being home to Instagram famous sights such as the bright orange torii gates at Fushimi Inari, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (or Kinkakuji), and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto is a haven for foodies and history buffs. Here, it feels as if there is a temple around every corner, plus sushi and dumpling houses are abundant (head to Nishiki food market if you really want to test your taste buds). Also visit the geisha district of Gion to spot the geishas walking the streets before their shows.

Watch sumo wrestler training

Stadium
Tokyo, Japan. 31st Aug, 2019. Sumo wrestlers attend a training event that was open to the public at Ryogoku Kokugikan hall in Tokyo on Aug. 31, 2019. (Kyodo)==Kyodo Photo via Credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News
© Newscom / Alamy Stock Photo
While there are only six Japan Sumo Association tournaments throughout the year, consider watching the wrestlers train instead. Morning sessions are often held in small groups; you can visit the athletes at their training grounds and get a front-row seat of the pros perfecting their moves. Watching sumo wrestlers in action is one of many activities included on our 12-day trip to Japan.

Bathe in an outdoor onsen

Architectural Landmark
Person bathing in a hot spring called an Onsen in Hakone, Japan
© Nordicphotos / Alamy Stock Photo
Sinking into an onsen is a right of passage for any first-time (and seasoned) visitor to Japan. An onsen is a mineral-rich hot spring said to have a slew of health benefits, often found in upscale resorts across the country as well as in mountain towns such as Hakone – which you can visit on Culture Trip’s epic 12-day trip to Japan – and Yufuin in the southern part of the country. Just remember to leave your swimmers at the door, most onsens have a strict no-clothes policy.

Explore Tokyo’s eclectic neighbourhoods

Market
Mario kart on Shibuya district in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world.
© Kaedeenari / Alamy Stock Photo
When planning a Japan trip, it’s best to set aside a few days (at least) in the capital. Spend your days here exploring the distinct neighbourhoods, from fashionable Harajuku to the gaming district of Akihabara to the ramen and yakitori alleys of Shibuya and Shinjuku. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most exciting capitals in the world.

Ride the bullet train past Mount Fuji

Hill Station
A bullet train passes below Mt. Fuji in Japan.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Want to cross off two Japanese legends in one – high speed – adventure? Book yourself a seat on a Shinkansen, better known as a bullet train, which reach up to 320kph (200mph). When taking one of these from Kyoto to Tokyo, sit on the left hand side so you can spot Mount Fuji as you whizz past. If you have a limited amount of time and can’t make it to the mountain itself, this is a great time-saving way to see it.

Take a day trip to the Chureito Pagoda

Natural Feature
Mt. Fuji, Japan with Chureito Pagoda.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Speaking of Mount Fuji, the Chureito Pagoda is one of the most aesthetically pleasing vantage points from which to view the famous peak. You can reach the pagoda by public transport from Tokyo and, after climbing the seemingly endless steps to the top, you’re met with a beautiful temple surrounded by cherry blossom, which frame the snow-capped Mount Fuji in the background.

Learn about Hiroshima’s storied past

Park, Architectural Landmark
The Cenotaph and A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan
© David Parker / Alamy Stock Photo
Hiroshima was devastated when an atomic bomb flattened the city in 1945 – so a visit to Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum is a must for a deep dive into the city history. This is one of the first stops on our small-group tour of Japan. Add on a day or two to your time in Hiroshima to visit the roaming deer herd and floating torii on Miyajima Island and dine on regional delights such as okonomiyaki.

Sample endless foodie treats

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Red Hell Ramen at Owakudani, Hakone, Kanagawa, Japan
© Hannizhong / Alamy Stock Photo
From ramen to sushi, tempura to yakitori, Japan is a foodie’s paradise. Each prefecture has different specialities; Hokkaido is the birthplace of miso ramen, while Osaka has the original sushi train. Head to Tokyo – the Michelin star capital of the world – for fine dining interwoven with street food gems, or down to Hyogo to dine on the local kobe beef.

Ski the Japanese Alps

Natural Feature
Shinhotaka Ropeway, Cable car station, Takayama Gifu, Japan. allows visitors to take in spectacular views as the crystal-clear blue sky in a grand pan
© chanon tamtad / Alamy Stock Photo
Skiing may not be the first thing you think of when planning a trip to Japan, but if you are an avid skier, discovering the deep powder of the Japanese Alps is a must. The peaks, formed of the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi mountain ranges, run along the spine of central Honshu and make for a beautiful place to visit no matter the season – summer brings thick pine forests and teal rivers.

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