Japan can be a seriously intimidating place to visit. The bright lights, the totally foreign language and culture and the sheer amount of people in Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming at first, but if you just get in to the flow, you ill discover a country that is an absolute delight to travel in. Of course Tokyo will be your first port of call. Narita International Airport is one of the most ultra modern facilities that you will ever see. The things available in vending machines alone is enough to boggle your mind. But Tokyo is not representative of the country as a whole. Once you get out and explore, you will find that the people of this nation have somehow melded old customs and traditions with high tech society so seamlessly that it seems natural. It is by far one of the safest countries in all of the orient to visit. The transportation around the country may be a little expensive, but is is efficient, high quality and fast.
Stepping into Tokyo is like a high octane adrenaline rush. It’s is like the city of the future, all neon lights and flashing signs. But throughout the city you will find vastly conflicting stories. Caught up in the lights, noise, tangle of overhead cables and traffic are tranquil back streets and alleyways where traditional tiny wooden house sit amongst old temples, manicured gardens and neatly clipped bonsai trees.
The city is well organized. Trains run on time, the streets are clean and browsing through the fashion and high tech shops is like being at a top fashion show. You will be surprised to find that there are many places to eat and drink that don’t cost a fortune. Wander off the main roads, everywhere are izakaya bars that serve food and tiny cafés serving noodles. The metro is a cheap and fast, and tickets for a sumo tournament can be found for discount everywhere.
Narita International Airport (Airport Code: NRT) is also located in Tokyo and is the destination choice of most travelers.
A popular day trip from Tokyo for both travelers and locals alike, Kamakura with its’ many beautiful temples is a fantastic place to get away from the bustle of the big city. You can be there in 30 minutes from Tokyo but you will feel much further away. The temples in East Kamakura are a little off the beaten tourist track and well worth a visit. Sit in the gardens and enjoy a cup of tea.
If you stay the night in Kamakura, you will have time to explore the wonderful Taya Caverns, built by monks hundreds of years ago. It was a place for spiritual meditation. It is just outside the city center. There are also fantastic beaches and hiking trails all around the area, and on a clear day, the view of Mt. Fuji is incredible.
This is the northern part of the main island, and filled with beautiful places to visit. A bullet train now runs which connect this part of the nation with Tokyo. Everything from apple farms (the famous Fuji apple) to rice plantations, hot springs and traditional fishing villages dot the countryside. The town of Aomori is known for its superior rice as well as some of the best sushi in the country. This is the place for a splurge, and you will find it much less expensive then in the capital.
If you happen to be there in the beginning of August, you must check out the Nebuta Festival, Japan’s biggest fire festival, with amazing street vendors, parades and wildly costumed dancers.
The island of Hokkaido is full of untamed wilderness. Everywhere are national parks, rice paddies and hot springs. This is for people that really want to come out and see the real Japan. Hokkaido is cooler than the rest of Japan and is best visited between May and August. Sapporo is the capital, and by far the largest city on the island. The winter Olympics were held here once and the local beer is delicious.
Furano is absolutely beautiful in summer, and has some of the county’s best skiing in winter If you only visit one of the national parks here, it should be Shikotsu-Toya National Park, with it’s lakes, hot springs and volcanos. If you come to Hokkaidō, you should really consider renting a car, as public transport is infrequent.
A string of sub-tropical islands in the South of the country, Okinawa had beautiful beaches, stunning weather and a culture that is unique to the islands. This is in fact where the martial art Karate came from. Naha is the he capital of the Okinawa Prefecture and most likely where you would enter this amazing island chain, but there are lots of island to choose from. Chatan has great beaches and resort hotels.
All around tees island there are wrecks from World War II. If you are a diver (or even want to learn) this is the place to come. While considerable more expensive then places like Thailand or Bali, the wreck diving here is unparalleled .
Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto has a reputation as Japan’s most beautiful city. When you arrive here, you will wonder why it is called that, as the urban sprawl makes it look like any other big city. You have to get out on the edges of town, and then you will see why. Beautiful old temples and shrines sit along peaceful lakes and parklands. The city was spared much of the damage inflicted on the country in the war so you will find an unparalleled collection of temples, shrines and palaces built for emperors and shoguns.
By Military Travel Exchange