Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city on the island of Honshu. It’s famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. It’s also known for formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes, and geisha, female entertainers often found in the Gion district.
Hyōgo is a Japanese prefecture in the Kansai region of the country’s main island, Honshu. Kobe, the prefectural capital, is a cosmopolitan port city framed by mountains, west of Osaka and Kyoto. It has a busy Chinatown and an animated entertainment district around Sannomiya Station. Kobe Harborland offers upscale shops and waterfront views, while local steakhouses specialize in the area’s signature Kobe beef.
Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. The opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine is known for its towering gate and surrounding woods. The Imperial Palace sits amid large public gardens. The city’s many museums offer exhibits ranging from classical art (in the Tokyo National Museum) to a reconstructed kabuki theater (in the Edo-Tokyo Museum).
Kobe is a city on Osaka Bay in central Japan. It is known for its signature marbled beef and scenic setting of mountains framing the harbor. The Ikuta Shrine, dating to the 3rd century, is among Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. Antique cable cars connect Kobe to Mt. Rokko, which offers panoramic views over the port. Beyond the Mount Rokko hills are the outdoor hot springs of Arima Onsen.
Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It’s known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. The 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, which has undergone several restorations, is its main historical landmark. It’s surrounded by a moat and park with plum, peach and cherry-blossom trees. Sumiyoshi-taisha is among Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, is known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen) and ski areas. Rugged Daisetsuzan National Park is home to steaming, volcanic Mount Asahi. Shikotsu-Tōya National Park contains caldera lakes, geothermal springs and a Mount Fuji look-alike, Mount Yōtei. Popular ski resorts include Rusutsu, Furano and Niseko.
Overshadowed by the neighboring city of Osaka, this humble Japanese prefecture is home to arguably Japan’s most delicious ramen, a 1,700-year-old fire festival and a giant open-air bath fed by a hot spring.
You’ll find much of what you need for the complete Japanese experience on this little crescent of land on the southern coast of the country’s largest island, Honshu.
The region is infused with religious and historical value that emanates from the three shrines. The Shinto sun goddess’ great grandson, Jimmu, came to Kumano to unify the country as Japan’s first Emperor. To further add to the area’s sanctity, Kumano is often called “The Land of the Dead”, in reference to the belief that Shinto spirits and family ancestors dwell here after they die.
Nagano City is the capital of Nagano Prefecture. It evolved as a temple town around Zenkoji, one of Japan’s most popular temples. In 1998, the city hosted the Winter Olympic Games, and some former olympic facilities can still be viewed around town.