From kimono-clad geishas singing karaoke in Kyoto to Buddhist monks whizzing around Tokyo on motorbikes, Japan is a fascinating land of contrasts, a heady mix of tradition and modernity that often bewilders but never bores.
Nowhere in the world blends the old and new quite like Japan. The speed of new technological developments here is matched only by the longevity of its ancient customs and traditions. The country is a pioneer in the fields of design, technology, fashion and cuisine. You can set your watch by the trains, eat meals that look like works of contemporary art and relieve yourself in the most technologically advanced toilets on the planet (some even talk to you).
Paradoxically, Japan’s embrace of the cutting edge is offset by its revered cultural traditions and celebrated historic achievements. Crumbling castles, atmospheric Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and fascinating festivals are never far away, with historic highlights including the striking Himeji Castle and Kyoto’s iconic Temple of the Golden Pavilion. There's also evidence of Japan’s dramatic recent history in cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the earliest nuclear bombs were dropped with devastating consequences during WWII.
If you love nature, you will adore Japan. This is a country swathed in natural beauty. Ski the powdery slopes of Hokkaido, revel in the springtime beauty of the sakura cherry blossoms, frolic in the sun-drenched beaches and turquoise waters of subtropical Okinawa, or climb up the iconic Mount Fuji. Wherever you go, good food is guaranteed – from fresh sushi and sashimi to robata-fired meats and sizzling sauces, Japan is a joy for gastronomes.
It is also a land of wild eccentricities, where you can buy used underwear from vending machines, watch men strip at the festival of Hadaka Matsuri and get amorous in one of the country’s many short-stay love hotels. These facets might jar somewhat with Japan’s polished image, but they help make it one of the most singular destinations on the planet.