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The northernmost island of Japan holds an abundance of natural treasures. In winter, avid skiers and snowboarders can enjoy some of the most pristine snow conditions in the world. In summer, mountainous landscapes, lakes and fields of lavender attract visitors to scenic natural beauty.
Lake Akan, located in the north-central part of Hokkaido is a stunning crater lake in Akan National Park with a lakeside hot spring resort. Hokkaido is also home to bountiful seafood and local produce.
The northeast part of Japan known as the Tohoku region has an abundance of history, rural culture, and hospitality. Here you’ll find ancient towns and cities offering many varieties of craft sake, beer and wine, farm-to-table meals, crafts, festivals, and samurai culture. There are quaint towns with restored samurai districts and in springtime, exquisite cherry blossom viewing spots.
This region of Japan is packed with exciting destinations including ultramodern Tokyo, scenic Hakone, and historic Nikko. In Tokyo, one of the most rewarding highlights is the atmospheric Sensoji temple, where millions of visitors pass through the Kaminari-mon, or Thunder Gate. Visit Hakone’s many art museums and take a picturesque ride on a pirate boat, then soak in a relaxing hot spring bath at a luxury ryokan. In Nikko, explore the UNESCO World Heritage shrines and temples with deep connection to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Kanazawa is one of the most culturally unique destinations in this region. It is easily accessible from Tokyo by high-speed bullet train, and is home to Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s most beautiful traditional Japanese gardens. Have tea with a geisha or visit the private studios of artists and craftsmen. Also nearby is the UNESCO World Heritage site Shirakawa-go, famous for its traditional thatched-roof farmhouses. Go further into the Kiso Valley where one can walk along the beautiful Nakasendo, a hiking trail that connected Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period.
Visit the historic shrines and temples of Kyoto and experience the wonderful scenery and depth of the ancient capital of Nara. On Mount Koya, stay overnight at a Buddhist temple, join in the morning meditation, and eat shojin ryori, Buddhist monk cuisine. The Kumano Kodo offers a challenging and atmospheric forest walk through an ancient pilgrimage route.
Kurashiki is a quaint historic village known for its Bikan Chiku Historical Quarter, where the canal is lined with storehouses and traditional merchant homes. For the very active, the Shimanami Kaido bike route provides stunning views of the inland sea between Shikoku and the main island of Honshu. Along the northern coast in Tottori prefecture, the sand dunes and Sand Museum are well worth a visit.
Naoshima is a world-famous art island that fuses nature, light, and perception to highlight and complement the art installations and architecture placed in natural surroundings across the island. You can stroll through numerous museums located throughout the island and soak in the steaming waters of Japan’s most interesting public bath. Or take a journey through the scenic Iya Valley, where traditional vine bridges span raging rivers below.
On this southern island with plentiful volcanoes and a subtropical climate, an abundance of healing hot springs and luxury ryokans soothe the weary traveler. Visit Nagasaki, a city based on European architecture, and the famous Gunkanjima, also known as Battleship Island, an abandoned island resembling a military warship. The island of Yakushima just south of Kagoshima is an incredibly special attraction with lush forests of ancient cedar trees known as the Jomon Sugi. Spend several days here hiking the many trails, then relax at a luxury resort by the sea.
The archipelago of Okinawa is a nature lover’s paradise as well as home to the unique Ryukyu culture influenced by ancient China. Stay at a beach resort, explore the world-renowned Churaumi Aquarium, visit a pottery village, or spend hours snorkeling and diving in clear-blue ocean waters. Further south, Ishigaki Island and the surrounding islands of Iriomote and Taketomi are home to the finest beaches in Japan.