#01 Kyoto

The capital of Japan for a thousand years, endowed with an almost overwhelming legacy of temples, palaces and gardens, and also home to the country’s richest traditional culture and most refined cuisine.

#01 Kyoto

#02 Skiing

Hit the slopes and enjoy the perfect powder snow at Niseko in Hokkaido or the great runs and charming atmosphere of Nagano’s Nozawa Onsen.

#02 Skiing

#03 Tsukiji

This hyperactive Tokyo fish and produce market is the place to go for an early breakfast and the freshest sashimi and sushi in the country.

#03 Tsukiji

#04 Yuki Matsuri

Gawp at mammoth snow and ice sculptures in Sapporo, Hokkaido, every February.

#04 Yuki Matsuri

#05 Nara

The ancient former capital is home to the monumental bronze Buddha of Todai-ji and fine collections of religious art.

#05 Nara

#06 Naoshima

One of the best places to experience the beauty of the Inland Sea is this tranquil island, with its amazing contemporary art museums, public sculptures and installations.

#06 Naoshima

#07 Hiroshima

Pay your respects to the A-bomb’s victims at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in the city of Hiroshima, impressively reborn from the ashes of World War II.

#07 Hiroshima

#08 Koya-san

Mingle with monks and pilgrims on one of Japan’s holiest mountains, home to over a hundred monasteries.

#08 Koya-san

#09 Kabuki

Tokyo’s National Theatre or Shimbashi Embujo are among the places where you can enjoy this most dramatic of traditional Japanese performing arts.

#09 Kabuki

#10 The Kiso Valley

The three-hour hike from Tsumago to Magome in Nagano takes you through gorgeous countryside between two lovingly preserved Edo-era “post towns”.

#10 The Kiso Valley

#11 Kaiseki-ryori

Indulge yourself with a meal of kaiseki-ryori, Japan’s haute cuisine, comprising a selection of beautifully prepared morsels made from the finest seasonal ingredients.

#11 Kaiseki-ryori

#12 Yakushima

Commune with thousand-year-old cedar trees in Kirishima-Yaku National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

#12 Yakushima

#13 Climb Mount Fuji

Make the tough but rewarding hike up Japan’s tallest peak, a long-dormant volcano of classic symmetrical beauty.

#13 Climb Mount Fuji

#14 Stay at a ryokan

Treat yourself to a night of luxury in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, where you enter a world of understated elegance and meticulous service.

#14 Stay at a ryokan

#15 Awa Odori

Dance the night away at the country’s biggest Obon bash, held in Tokushima, Shikoku.

#15 Awa Odori

#16 Sumo

Visit a major sumo tournament and see the titanic, ritualized clashes of Japan’s sporting giants.

#16 Sumo

#17 Nikko

Set amid splendid mountains north of Tokyo, this pilgrim town is home to the fabulously over-the-top Tosho-gu shrine, one of Japan’s most sumptuous buildings.

#17 Nikko

#18 Kumano Kodo

Wander the ancient pilgrimage route of the “Land of the Gods”, discover sacred mountain sites, and soak in the healing waters of isolated hot springs.

#18 Kumano Kodo

#19 Onsen

Take a dip at a top onsen resort town, such as Dogo, with its magnificent bathhouse, or experience the exquisite warmth of a rotemburo (outdoor bath) as the snow falls.

#19 Onsen

#20 Sake breweries

Drop by venerable sake breweries in Obuse or Takayama to discover the amazing varieties of this ancient Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice.

#20 Sake breweries

#21 Himeji

Relive the days of the samurai at Himeji-jo, the premier example of a feudal-era fortress.

#21 Himeji

#22 Golden Gai

Stroll through Tokyo’s Kabukicho, the neon-soaked district of love hotels, host clubs and fuzoku (sex industry) businesses, to this atmospheric warren of tiny, atmospheric bars.

#22 Golden Gai

#23 Kenroku-en

Nature has been tamed and primped to its most beautiful at Kanazawa’s star attraction, one of the country’s top traditional gardens.

#23 Kenroku-en

#24 Ogimachi

Quaint village filled with distinctive gassho-zukuri houses, whose steep-sided thatched roofs are said to recall two hands joined in prayer.

#24 Ogimachi

Planning your trip to Japan

Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A taste of Tokyo: the city’s best food experiences

A taste of Tokyo: the city’s best food experiences

If you really want to get to the heart of Tokyo's culinary scene, you'll need to go beyond the city's bustling restaurants and best-loved drinking dens. Rebecc…

21 Jul 2017 • Rebecca Hallett local_activity Special feature
11 tips for backpacking Japan

11 tips for backpacking Japan

With its tech-centric entertainment, ancient temples, lightning fast rail system and traditional art forms, Japan offers a fascinating mix of the new and the o…

07 Jul 2017 • Tamatha Roman insert_drive_file Article
Staying in a Japanese ryokan: a first-timer's guide

Staying in a Japanese ryokan: a first-timer's guide

It’s a cliché to say that Japan is a land of contrasts – but, in terms of accommodation, it really is. There are some weird and many wonderful places to s…

12 Jun 2017 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
More featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month