#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.

Things not to miss: Old town Kyoto, the Higashiyama District, Japan.© f11photo/Shutterstock 

#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.

Things not to miss: Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan.© mnimage/Shutterstock 

#04 Yuki Matsuri

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

Things not to miss: Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan.© samshutterstock/Shutterstock 

#05 Nara

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

Todaiji Temple in Nara , Japan© Bule Sky Studio/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: Hiroshima city and famous atomic bomb dome, Japan.© Jon Chica/Shutterstock 

#08 Koya-san

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

Wakayama Jison-In Temple Koya San, JapanWakayama Jison-In Temple © Mathias Berlin/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: mannequin kabuki scene.© Shinya Yamauchi/Shutterstock 

#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”.

Things not to miss in Japan: Tsumago, Kiso Valley, Japan.© Daniel Indiana/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: Japanese food. Kaiseki Ryori.© Lee peiming/Shutterstock 

#12 Yakushima

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

Things not to miss: The Cedar of Yakushima Island, Japan.© FotoCat99/Shutterstock 

#13 Climb Mount Fuji

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

Things not to miss: Mount Fuji reflected in Lake Yamanaka, Japan.© Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

#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.

Ryokan traditional Japanese accommodationRyokan traditional Japanese accommodation © elfarero/Shutterstock

#15 Awa Odori

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

Things not to miss: Awa-odori dance, Japan.© High Mountain/Shutterstock 

#16 Sumo

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

Sumo, Japan© Meeh/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: Toshogu Shrine at sunrise, Nikko, Japan.© Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss in Japan: Kumano Kodo old pilgrimage road in Kumano district of Japan.© Basico/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: Onsen (Hot Spring) With Snow in Winter at a Ryokan of Zao Hot Spring, Yamagata , Japan.© weniliou/Shutterstock

#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.

Things not to miss: wooden sake barrels, Japan.Wooden sake barrels © WorldStock/Shutterstock 

#21 Himeji

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

Things not to miss: Himeji castle, Japan.© shutteroly/Shutterstock 


#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.

Things not to miss: Kotoji Lantern in Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan.© finallast/Shutterstock

#24 Ogimachi

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

Things not to miss: Gassho-zukuri houses in Gokayama Village, Japan.© Aranami/Shutterstock

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