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Japan Yamato Nippon Japan

. . . Now I have heard from the Ancient of the Sea, that in the East there is a fair land encircled on all sides by blue mountains . . .

 

Japan, where to start? That's easy: start in Kyoto! After Kyoto, though, the choices get slightly more difficult.

We suppose Tokyo—being the modern capital city of Japan—is the obvious next choice after Kyoto, although Kyoto played the rôle of capital city for more than a thousand years prior to Tokyo's ascendance.

After Kyoto and Tokyo, our next must-see destination is the northern island of Hokkaido. Obviously, we're not talking cities or towns now, but an entire panoply of cities, towns, and open spaces in the form of enormous national parks.

In addition to places, there are two activities for your entertainment and edification as well as transportation. First is the infinite pursuit of Cherry Blossoms; second is the (very practical) experience of long-distance high-speed inter-city travel via the Shinkansen “Super Express”, better known to the western world as the “Bullet Train”.

Visit Kyoto

Kyoto is always our recommendation for the place to visit if you have time for only one destination. The reason is simple: Heian Kyo (present-day Kyoto) was Japan's Imperial capital for over a thousand years. Today, you see the legacy of that long reign: Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, museums, gardens, and centuries-old neighbourhoods.

Visit Tokyo

Tokyo is, well, Tokyo. From the ultra-upscale boutiques of the Ginza you can walk just twenty minutes to Tsukiji—the world's largest fish market. Consume the finest Tempura at the top of a modern hotel in Odaiba with views of Tokyo Bay, or dine on Hokkaido-style food in Shinbashi at a North Family restaurant built entirely underground beneath the Shinkansen rail arches.

Visit Hokkaido

The northern island of Hokkaido could well be named “Land of Beauty” or “Land of Mystery” because it's all these and more. There are national parks, volcanoes, thermal springs, lakes, mountains, ravines, coastal marshes, wetlands, abundant fauna and flora, and a literal ocean of fresh fish to delight the hearts of sashimi and sushi connoisseurs the world over.

Visit Osaka

Osaka is considered the “Business City” of Japan, second only to Tokyo. Osaka has its own very different styles of food preparation and its own unique dialect. Osaka is a prominent part of the Kansai area of south-western Honshu, which includes Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.

Visit Nara

Nara was the Imperial capital of Japan from the year 710 AD to 784 AD before a ten-year interlude when Nagaoka was briefly the capital, after which Heian Kyo (present-day Kyoto) became the Imperial capital for more than a thousand years.

Cherry Blossom Season

Every springtime, all of Japan goes on alert for the opening of the Cherry Blossoms. A “wave” of pink and white blossoms moves from south to north over a period of about a month, and seemingly the entire population of Japan indulges in the ritual of “Hanami”—Cherry Blossom Viewing.

Travel In Style

If we could impress just one thing on our benighted fellow-Californians, it would be the sheer convenience of the ShinkansenSuper Express” for high-speed inter-city travel without the angst of air-travel or the drag of driving. Imagine San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours. Now imagine you have a choice of one-hundred-and-fifty such Super Express trains every day.

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Page Updated 2011 December 10