No matter what motivates you to travel—an interest in history, cutting-edge technology, cuisine, ancient or contemporary architecture, nature, shopping, unique cultural pursuits, you name it—Japan has it all. From vibrant metropolises to rural retreats, from tropical beaches to lofty mountain peaks, from world-class hotels to traditional Japanese inns, Japan offers a wide range of destinations and diversions that appeal to both novice and seasoned travelers.
Who can forget the thrill of seeing Mt. Fuji for the first time, its perfect, cone-shaped symmetry rising majestically against a blue sky? Japan is famous for its shimmering cherry blossoms in spring, so ethereal it's heaven on earth, but equally stunning are its irises, wisteria, hydrangea, and many other blossoming plants and trees, not to mention its maples which blaze a fiery red across the country in autumn. Mountains beckon with hiking trails in summer and top-rated skiing in winter (Japan has hosted the winter Olympics twice), while Japan's hot-springs spas—among the most numerous and varied in the world—have been soothing aches and pains for more than 1,000 years.
Speaking of centuries, Japan's history is evident at every turn, whether it's a venerable Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, a museum housing samurai swords or intricately detailed ceramics, or one of Japan's many festivals with its profusion of costumes, ancient rituals, and throngs of joyous crowds. Feudal-era castles still rise from their massive stone foundations, while Japan's exquisite gardens, many of them former noble-class retreats, are visual commentaries of what nature can achieve under generations of skilled master gardeners. Two of Japan's most famous forms of entertainment, sumo wrestling and Kabuki Theater, are like time capsules to the country's past, so little have they changed over the centuries. Other cultural pursuits with strong historic ties include the country's unique forms of flower arrangement and the tea ceremony. But for visitors, nothing conveys Japan's past better than the country's many traditional inns, renowned for their impeccable service, regional cuisine, and refined beauty.
Needless to say, Japan is also a modern country in every sense of the word, from its super-efficient Shinkansen bullet trains to its cloud-tickling skyscrapers, many of them housing sleek, world-class hotels with unparalleled service and astonishing views. Department stores are like microcosms of Japan itself, with everything from vast food emporiums and fashions by the world's leading designers to household items unique to Japan and traditional crafts. Indeed, Japan is a shopper's delight, whether it's at artisan shops that have been passed down from generation to generation or stores selling the latest in technical gadgetry. Lovers of fine cuisine will revel in Japan's varied styles of cooking, from tempura, sushi and teppanyaki to the feast of all feasts, kaiseki. What's more, all of Japan's provinces have their own local specialties, which can range from seasonal mountain vegetables and other delicacies to locally caught seafood. Gourmets seeking cuisines from many other countries will find these in Japan as well, whether it's a tiny French restaurant or one offering delectable Indian curries.
In short, the sky's the limit when it comes to experiencing Japan. The possibilities are endless.