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Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.
The shrines and temples of Kyoto offer a rare link between modern life in the city and its very ancient past. The Shimogamo Shrine dates to the 6th century and seems suspended in time, its serenity and spiritual power still palpable. Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, then see the life-sized Thousand Armed Kannon statues of Sanjūsangen-dō. Enjoy traditional geisha performances, then savor a tranquil meal at a restaurant overlooking the Kamo River.
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region; Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
Probably best known for its eponymous beer, Sapporo—the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island—has maintained the youthful and open atmosphere of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, drawing international visitors for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen. Those seeking out the full diversity of Japanese cuisine will want to visit: a city with a ramen-inspired theme park is one that embraces and pampers foodies.
Fukuoka is a gourmet paradise... "providing you're not vegetarian," say travelers on our Fukuoka forum! It's right on Genkai Sea, and the seafood is fresh and abundant. So is Fukuoka-style ramen, which you can find at the city's famous yatai (outdoor stalls) as well as modern restaurants. Walk off your meal at Ohori Park and the nearby Fukuoka Castle ruins.
Nestled in the mountains, Hakone's trains, trails, and gondolas showcase the breathtaking vistas of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, including close views of Mt. Fuji. The sulfurous steam from the region's volcanic activity fuels natural hot springs, the centerpieces of the many spas and resorts.
Go from the 13th century to the 21st in one day in Naha. Its ancient Ryukyu Kingdom centerpiece, Shuri Castle, has been restored and is the city's top tourist attraction. Meanwhile, on Kokusai-dori (International Boulevard), the pace never lets up as locals and tourists hop from restaurants to bars to nightclubs.
Yokohama is easily accessible from Tokyo, but there’s enough to see and do here that it’s worth more than a day trip. Visit Minato Marai 21, a popular, modern neighborhood with great shopping and tons of restaurant options. TripAdvisor travelers also recommend stopping at Big Wharf (Osanbashi Pier), a uniquely shaped pier with spectacular views.
Nestled in the Northern Japan Alps, Hakuba is all about the winter sports. A top ski and snowboarding destination, Hakuba has plenty of snow and nearly perfect powder. Spend the day swooshing down one of the areas 200+ trails, then end with an après ski at one of the area’s cozy pubs or cafes. Local mineral hot springs make great soaking spots for weary muscles.