Founded nearly 2,700 years ago, the nation of Japan has a formidable gastronomic reputation, and is also known for its technological prowess, bustling skyscraper cities and dazzling mountains. In fact, unlike many other locations in the world, slurping one's food here is actually an act of good manners and an indication that the food being eaten must be good.
Japan is rooted in ancient tradition and yet simultaneously flourishes as one of the most modern countries in the world. It is this intertwining of the old and the new that makes Japan truly fascinating. One moment you are relaxing in the tranquility of a sun-drenched woodland and the next you are wandering through the dazzling neon lights of a street in Tokyo. Whatever sort of break you are looking for, holidays in Japan provide an incredible spectrum of experience for the adventurous traveler.
From the very picturesque Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and majestic Meiji Shrine to the state-of-the-art attractions of Disneyland™ and the enormous Skytree observation tower, there's simply no excuse to be bored in this mesmerising mega city. In terms of Michelin stars, Tokyo is also the world's gourmet capital, with hundreds of outstanding restaurants such as French-inspired Joel Robuchon and the local-themed Ishikawa and Kanda restaurants.
Take the time to explore the magnificent Tokyo Imperial Palace, and spend a few hours at the Tokyo National Museum, which houses many intriguing archaeological and artistic artefacts related to Japan. For affordable accommodation in the Japanese capital, you could book a room at the Annex Katsutaro in Ryokan, the Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro in Toshima, or the Hotel Mystays Asakusa-bashi in Taito. Alternatively, the Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La Hotel offer more deluxe rooms and are perfect for romantic, well-earned holidays in Japan.
Aim to spend at least an entire day at the outstanding Universal Studios attraction, or visit the charming Osaka Castle, the incredible Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, or the acclaimed National Museum of Art, Osaka. Top-rated deluxe hotels in the city include the Intercontinental Hotel Osaka and The St Regis Osaka, while more budget-friendly accommodation establishments include the Mitsui Garden Hotel Osaka Premier and the Namba Oriental Hotel.
Have a stroll in the pictorial woodlands of Arashiyama, see the terrific Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine, and explore the iconic Nijō Castle and more than a dozen other impressive shrines and temples included in the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Kyoto's top-notch hotels include the Kyoto Brighton Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, while some of the best value-for-money accommodation can be found at the Rumor Plaza or the Aranvert Hotel.
Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Memorial Park and Memorial Museum, and don't forget to see the alluring reconstructed 16th-century Hiroshima Castle. You can also head to the breathtaking island of Itsukushima, which is well known for its remarkable Itsukushima Shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stay at the affordable Hiroshima Washington Hotel or ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima, or book a stay at the opulent Sheraton Hotel Hiroshima or RIHGA Royal Hotel Hiroshima.
For a true experience of the nightlife in Japan, you have to head to Tokyo. The neon-filled streets contain a seemingly endless amount of options for those who want something to do when the sun goes down. From quiet cocktail bars and local beer venues to an electric club scene. You can even take part in one of the nations favourite nighttime activities: karaoke.
Japanese sporting culture is well-known for both martial arts and sumo wrestling. The sumo wrestling grand tournaments are held six times a year and are the best opportunity to witness the explosive energy of this ancient sporting competition. If combat sports aren't your thing, then head over to the powdery slopes of Niseko to enjoy some skiing and snowboarding.
Japan has a lot to offer if you are looking for a family-friendly holiday. Travel down to Kyoto and experience a slice of history in the Samurai and Ninja Museum, with informative tours and dressing up, it is sure to entertain children of all ages. If animals are more your thing, Nara park is home to over 1,500 wild deer. Vendors sell rice crackers that you can feed to the deer, who are friendly and excitable.
If you are looking for a trip to share with that special someone, then look no further than a holiday to Japan. On a trip to the Imperial Palace in spring, rent a rowboat and relax as you gently wind along the water, admiring enchanting views of cherry blossom in the sakura trees that line the banks. For magnificent panoramas, take a trip up the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest structure in the world, and share in the majestic views of the city.
Make sure to immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture by travelling to Kyoto. Head in the direction of the mountains and you will find magnificent Buddhist temple structures among bamboo forests. Gion is a district of Kyoto and is the ideal place to spot geisha in their traditional colourful kimonos. Take a stroll along lantern-lined narrow streets and past wooden teahouses, the sound of monks chanting filling the air.
The city of Nara is located a short distance away from both Kyoto and Osaka, making it a fantastic day trip adventure. The Todai-ji temple in Nara is impressive in both its historical significance and the sheer scale of the structure. The main hall of the temple is the largest wooden building in the world and houses the statue of Daibutsu, one of the largest bronze statues in Japan, standing at 15 metres tall. There is also the Todai-ji Museum in the temple complex which showcases religious art and treasures associated with the site.
Get back to nature whilst hiking ancient pilgrim trails through the Kii Peninsula. The Kumano Kodō is a series of roads that link three shrines of religious significance, the Kumano shrines. The trails offer up walking and hiking for all difficulties and passes through areas of outstanding natural beauty, winding up mountain passes and thick Japanese woodland.
Flights to Japan take roughly 11-16 hours from the UK, depending on the airline you choose. You can fly to Japan from many major UK airports and most land in Tokyo, from where you can change to a connecting flight for your final destination. Japan is 9 hours ahead of GMT.
Japanese cuisine has dominated the international food scene for many years, but there is nothing quite like authentic and traditional sushi and ramen served from its origin. Sushi is undoubtedly the most famous Japanese food and can be found all over the country, from humble restaurants down tiny alleys to some of the finest Michelin starred restaurants in the world. This dish is essentially raw fish wrapped in seasoned rice and seaweed, but the sheer variety of textures and flavours available are astounding. Ramen, which is a noodle soup, is the staple late-night meal of the Japanese. A delicious salted broth is spooned over steaming noodles and can be bought very cheaply from street vendors all over the country. Yakitori are skewers of sticky chargrilled chicken, marinated in a sweet and salty soy-based glaze, they are best enjoyed with a glass of cold and refreshing local beer. If you are looking for some of the hard stuff, do not miss out on sampling traditional Japanese sake. This fermented rice wine is a heady mix of flavours, from fruity and floral to acidic and savoury, the range available is best enjoyed through a tutored sake tasting. The foods listed here are a small introduction to what is available and there is more than enough to cater for any lover of gastronomy!
There are a great many festivals and national celebrations across Japan throughout the year and they provide visitors with a truly dazzling spectacle to behold. The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival takes place in Nagaoka city from August 1st to August 3rd every year. There are processions of folk dancers alongside beautifully designed floats and parades, but the main attraction is the incredible fireworks display in the evening on the banks of the Shinano River. Held every year between April 23rd and May 5th, the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of spring. Wandering through groves of blooming sakura trees, visitors can rent a boat and admire the scene from the water or enjoy the park at night, when the trees are illuminated by light.
The climate of Japan is usually fairly temperate. The most popular times to visit are spring and autumn when the weather is warmer and there is little rain. Spring is from March until May and is a particularly dry season to head to Japan. The weather is warm but rarely gets too hot, making outdoor activities more pleasurable. From June, Japan experiences a small rainy season marking the start of summer. The weather is extremely hot and humid until about August. Low season in Japan coincides with the start of winter and holidays from December until February might make for cheaper holidays with lower flight prices.
If you have a British passport and are travelling to Japan from the UK, you can enter as a visitor for 90 days without a visa. Your passport should be valid for the entire duration of your stay. There is no separate fee to enter Japan.