If the world opening up has made you hungry for a new adventure, 2023 might be the year you finally tour Japan. From cutting-edge cities to natural beauty, forwards-thinking food and nightlife to unmissable historical wonders, Japan has everything you could want in your dream trip. We’ve collected 5 of our favourite destinations in Japan that we know are sure to be a hit with travellers this year – and you can visit all of them on our Japan Adventure Tours.
If you’re all about the wonders of the natural world, then Hakone is the destination for you. Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, it’s less than 100km from Tokyo (so it’s easy to include in your tour!) and home to perhaps the most iconic landmark in Japan – Mount Fuji.
In Hakone, you can head to Lake Ashi. Lying at the base of Mount Fuji, on a sunny day it’s a brilliant spot to take in the views of Fuji – and to make it better, you can even do it from the deck of a boat. However, if you prefer your views from a height, you can take the Hakone Ropeway, a spectacular aerial journey that takes you through the landscape and drops you at Owakudani. It’s an active volcano zone where you can try the local delicacy of ‘black eggs’, which get their distinct colour from the sulphuric waters they’re boiled in.
If you’re visiting Hakone, make sure you bring your walking boots so you can explore the Old Tokaido highway on foot. The old remains of the Tokaido – the historic road which connected Tokyo and Kyoto in the feudal Edo period – are preserved in Hakone, which used to be a key checkpoint, and you can walk them until you reach Moto-Hakone.
A beautiful juxtaposition of past and future, Tokyo combines some of the most exciting nightlife and tourist experiences with a rich history. From pop culture to palaces, Tokyo has everything the perfect destination should.
For a glimpse into Japan’s storied past, Sensoji Temple is a must-visit on your tour. Located in Asakusa, the Buddhist temple dates back to 628 and makes for a fascinating trip. Then, if you’ve been bitten by the history bug, take a tour around Tokyo Imperial Palace. Built upon the site of Edo Castle – once the world’s largest – it’s now the site of some truly resplendent grounds. For the iconic, enduring image of Japan, a visit to the Palace during cherry blossom season sees the grounds turn a vibrant pink.
But if you find yourself ready to move from the past and straight into the future, a tour around Akihabara is a must-do. As Japan’s ‘Electric Town’, it’s a dream destination for travellers who love tech, retro games, and otaku culture. You can take a tour around the Tokyo Anime Center, or even visit one of Akihabara’s famous maid cafés.
For an in-depth list of The Dragon Trip’s favourite things to do in Tokyo, you can visit our blog post here.
No tour of Japan is complete without a visit to Kyoto. As the former capital of Japan for over 1000 years, so it’s no surprise that a visit to the city gives you the opportunity to explore some of the most breathtaking historical sites in Japan.
Once you arrive by bullet train, you might want to slow the pace down – so how about a laissez-faire cruise up the Hozugawa River? If the peace suits you, a trip to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest might be on your bucket list too – here, you can walk amongst the towering bamboo, and visit some incredible cultural sites like the Tenryu-ji Zen temple and its amazing gardens. You can also take in the Togetsukyo (Moon Crossing Bridge), where you’ll get a brilliant view of the Arashiyama mountain itself.
Then, head back into Kyoto city, where you can take a calligraphy class or wander the Philosopher’s Path. On this Path, you can stroll from the Silver Pavilion (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) past a number of incredible temples, along with cafés and craft shops.
Finally, if your dream destination in Japan is all about the sights, no tour is complete without a visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates which lead travellers into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari.
For the explorer who loves fun, food, and a good night out, Osaka is the place to be. A short train from Tokyo but offering an entirely different experience, Osaka has rightly gained a reputation as a gastronomic centre within Japan.
Much like the rest of Japan, Osaka isn’t short on history. Why not visit the beautiful Osaka Castle? It played a key part in the unification of Japan in the 16th century, and today you can tour the inside – and the nine-level dungeon underneath.
But while it’s jam-packed with historical sites, you’ll definitely want to tour Osaka if you like to eat. Visit Shinsaibashi, a merchant’s paradise since the 1600s, where you can indulge in all the food and retail therapy you could want. Yakitori, ramen, sushi – you name it! If you want to eat it, Shinsaibashi will have it. Then, for the perfect photo moment, you can end up on the Dotonbori bridge, where all the neon lights of the exciting district dance across the canal.
When night falls, Dotonbori is the place to be. The alleys are filled with restaurants, bars, and arcades, making it a perfect destination for the traveller in search of a good time.
And then, if you feel like slowing the pace down, you can unwind by the seaside with a visit to Kamakura. Once the political centre of Medieval Japan, today it’s known as a resort town south of Tokyo that’s famous for its Zen temples, Shinto shrines, and distinct literary heritage. You can unwind on the beach or, if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a surfboard and take to the waves.
However, if you feel like exploring a little, Kamakura is home to The Great Buddha, an 11-metre tall statue of Amida Buddha from the 13th century, made entirely of bronze. You can find it at the beautiful Kotoku-in Temple, which is an enjoyable hike away.
A trip to Enoshima, a small island just off the coast of Kamakura, gives you the opportunity to explore even more beautiful historical shrines and temples. And then, if you’re worn out from the hiking and surfing, spend the sunset unwinding in a beachside bar – the perfect end to a perfect trip.
The Dragon Trip’s tours to Japan feature unmissable visits to all these destinations and more. For further details, you can view our full range of Japanese Adventures here. Or, if you’d like to hear from us, hit ‘Enquire Now’ in the top right-hand corner. Happy travelling!
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