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Japan travel guide

A country of contrasts, Japan's city Tokyo dazzles with bright lights and high-tech gadgetry while the cherry blossoms in Kyoto’s Maruyama Park are symbols of peace and beauty

Many myths surround Japan. People often presume it is one of the world’s most expensive countries. In fact, it’s cheaper to travel in than much of North America and Western Europe and if you read our tips below, you should find some extra yen in your pocket.

Most of us have one of two set images when we think of Japan – a high tech superpower made up of overcrowded, noisy metropolises or an ancient land of peaceful Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and gorgeously-attired Geisha. Actually Japan is all of these things and more than just its urban centres.

Thanks to its 20° of latitude, Japan has a rich variety of landscapes to please every hiker – from the snows and hot springs of Hokkaido to the tropical climes of Okinawa. And there are no more enthusiastic hikers than the Japanese themselves since reconnecting with nature is an important part of their Shinto traditions.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Marvel at the spectacle of the morning tuna auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market
  2. Join in Japan’s spring party with our guide to cherry-blossom spotting
  3. Hike round Honshu and stay over in temples with Japanese pilgrims
  4. Experience snowy mountains and hot springs in Hokkaido – the most northerly of Japan’s four main islands
  5. Go to a traditional Kabuki theatre and see a one-act show with an optional English language commentary
  6. Take a culinary tour of Japan from tropical jungles to lunar landscapes - discover Japan’s smaller, lesser known islands.

Wanderlust tips

You can see lots of things in Japan without having to spend a single yen. Kyoto’s free Fureai-kan Museum of Traditional Crafts is a great introduction to Japanese art.

You don’t have to pay anything to enter the Senso-Ji and Shinto Meiji-jingu shrines in Tokyo. And then there’s Tokyo’s quirkiest free – be at Honda Welcome Plaza at 2:40pm to see Asimo, the world’s first humanoid robot put on his daily show.

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