Japan introduced sushi and sumo wrestling to the world, not to mention the love-hate spectacle of karaoke. A tonic for even the most jaded of travellers, let me introduce you to some of the best places to visit in Japan. From tropics to snow to super-techno kitsch, what have you yet to learn about this interesting country?
Head to the country's capital, Tokyo. Explore the traditional city on the east side with its history, temples and shrines, and modern Tokyo with its boutiques and department stores on the west. Don't miss out on the Imperial Palace area and the Tsukiji fish market.
Spend a few days in Tokyo, including the Meiji Shrine. Take an excursion to Mt. Fuji and visit the ancient capital of Kyoto, including the Tojo Temple. Visit Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum and stop by in the mountains on your way back to the capital.
Build on the classical route by heading north into Sendai or south to the tropical islands of Okinawa. Expand on Hiroshima by visiting Nagasaki, Japan's only contact with the outside world for centuries at a time. Brave a black volcanic sand treatment on the beach in Kyushu.
Some of my time spent travelling in Japan has been the most special in the world. It's a country so different to home - and yet so remarkably similar. Unlike so much of Asia, queues rather than chaos reign supreme. The food is intricate, the customs complex. And with volcanoes and culture near everywhere you look, there's simply no time for eyes to grow tired.
From the naked hot water baths to sushi that spoiled my tastebuds for life, time in Japan is precious.
"I discovered that my imagination came alive when I moved away from the immediate world around me. " Kazuo Ishiguro, Japanese author.
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The best way to make a trip happen is just to book a ticket and let the adrenaline make everything else fall into place.
However, there are some key things to check out first. ALWAYS check out the health and safety advice for the region you're travelling to and make sure you're up to date with any recommended vaccinations and healthcare procedures. After that, it's up to you whether or not you book accommodation now or figure it out when you get there - or whether you'd prefer to let someone else take care of all the logistics for you through an individually designed tour.
For my general recommendations on equipment, tour operators and more, visit the Travel Resources page. For tips specific to Japan, read on below.
As ever, with any advice you find on the web, this is meant for help and guidance only. Always check with your own doctor, embassy, lawyer and spouse before making any irreversible plans...