From ninja to Nintendo, samurai to Sony, Japan is a land of contrasts. Despite its high international profile, it still remains an utterly mesmerising, intriguing and confusing country, and is a guaranteed cultural adventure that’s not **quickly** forgotten.
Role at Skyscanner: Travel Editor
Why? Having spent two years living in Japan, the country holds a very special place in my heart.
It’s hard to summarise all the great things about the land of sumo and sushi, but three aspects stand out for me: the delicious range of unusual food, the incredible hospitality and impeccable manners of the Japanese people, and the crazy cultural adventure that Japan is.
Ancient temples are everywhere in Japan, but Kyoto is renowned for Japan’s best and most famous. Nature lovers and outdoor fans should visit Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island and last wild frontier which offers smouldering volcanoes, crystal clear lakes and lots of mountains.
For the beach lover, Okinawa in the south is a collection of almost 150 islands that have unique Okinawan identity, with languages, arts and music distinct from mainland Japan.
There’s also a misconception that Japan is super expensive – but that’s just not true – the general cost of living is on par with the UK.
Stay: you can find western style hotels in almost every city in Japan but I would recommend you try a ryokan – a typical Japanese inn where guests stay in tatami (rice-straw mat) rooms, and sleep on futon. If cost is a big concern, try a minshuku instead, which is a budget version of a ryokan offering a slightly less polished, yet still traditional experience.
You should also spend at least one night in a capsule hotel – but be aware that these tend to be male-only establishments and not all offer accommodation for women.
Eat: there’s so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi. Try okonomiyaki – a delicious omelette/pancake, sauce katsudon – a breaded pork cutlet served on rice, _yakisoba – fried noodles with ginger, and my favourite, takoyaki_ – little balls of battered octopus topped with a BBQ-style sauce, which are popular fast food.
• The neon buzz of a big city like Tokyo or Osaka
• A trip to the onsen (bath house) which are found throughout the country. They are not for the shy though – birthday suits are compulsory!
• Hokkaido if you’re into the great outdoors
• Winter if you like snow sports; Japan offers excellent skiing with huge quantities of powder snow on Hokkaido and Northern Honshu
Do Miss: the Japanese summer (June to August). Unless you’re on the island of Hokkaido, you’ll get the rainy season followed by uncomfortably hot and humid weather outside of air conditioned zones.
Spring and autumn are far more comfortable times to visit and also offer the chance to see the famed sakura cherry blossom (in spring) and the fiery colour changes of the mountain forests in autumn.
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