1. Discover Japan’s wild side in Nara
There’s no better place to experience true Japanese countryside than in Nara. Located just 28 miles (45 km) from Kyoto, Nara boasts pristine gardens as well as an array of temples and shrines. The area is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season when the trees turn a lovely shade of pink. Nara’s also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The deer in the Nara-Koen Park are a particular hit with locals and visitors alike. Photographers are also in for a treat as the city is seemingly ready-made for amateur and pro snappers.
2. Eat your way through Osaka
Calling all foodies! You won’t be the same after snacking your way through Osaka’s countless delicious restaurants and street food stands. Feast on takoyaki (octopus balls), gyozas, and even unconventional delicacies like pufferfish. You’ll find some of the best while wandering through the city’s famous neon light district. While you’re at it, make sure to stop by Dōtonbori to see Osaka’s most iconic billboards. The best way to see the city? Exploring with a local guide. And lastly, nothing compares to the gardens surrounding Osaka Castle, especially when the plum and cherry trees are in bloom.
3. Experience Hiroshima’s history
Hiroshima’s history is well documented, but its vibrant present is often overlooked. The city has grown from the devastation following the Second World War to be one of Japan’s prettiest cities. Visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Park and Memorial Museum is not only a must, but it’s also an incredibly humbling experience. From the park, you can hop on a ferry to the picturesque Miyajima Island, which is situated in Hiroshima Bay. Take a stroll through its lush forests and discover some of the many temples the island has to offer. Oh, and don’t leave the region without trying the city’s famous Japanese-style pancake, okonomiyaki.
4. Sip matcha in Kyoto
It’s easy to see why Kyoto is known as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines. Over 1,600 shrines and temples are scattered throughout its ancient streets. Being Japan’s capital for thousands of years sure has its perks! Before you head to the temples, take a wander through the geisha district and discover the hidden alleys of this charming old town. Kyoto is also the capital of everything matcha, so take your chance to try everything green, especially ice cream, chocolate, and tea. You can even sip your way through an authentic tea ceremony. It’s not to be missed.
5. Unwind in Nagano’s hot springs
What would Japan be without its many hot springs and traditional onsens? With so many to choose from, picking one to unwind in can be a little overwhelming. Luckily, there’s one place that stands above the rest. Located just northeast of Tokyo, Nagano is Japan’s undisputed capital of rest and relaxation. You may even have some unusual company, as snow monkeys are fond of warming up in the natural thermal pools. Furry friends aside, Nagano boasts sweeping views of snowy mountains and pristine lakes. To add more zen to your trip, visit some of the beautiful temples such as the Zenkoji shrine.
6. Spot Mt. Fuji from Hakone
Japan’s most iconic landmark can be seen from various places (even from Tokyo on a clear day). To fully enjoy the incredible beauty of Mt. Fuji, head to the little seaside town of Hakone. From here, hop on a boat and cruise Lake Ashi. You’ll be treated to the spectacular sight of the mountain seemingly rising out of the lake. And if you don’t have much time in your busy itinerary, you can easily take a day trip to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo. From winter until early spring, the towering volcano features its famous snow-capped peak, which guarantees spectacular photos.
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