Japan is well known as a nation of longstanding culture. Its rich history plays across its modern landscape in both its structures and its people. Fittingly, Japan is home to twenty of the more than 1,000 World Heritage Sites as described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Kobe is a coastal city of the Kansai region of western Japan, located on the main island of Honshu bordering Osaka Bay. It is one of Japan’s ten largest cities. Enclosed by the sea on one side and a majestic mountain range on the other, it is also considered one of Japan’s most beautiful big cities.
Kobe is rich in history as the first port in Japan to open to foreign trade. This is evident in the western style architecture of some neighborhoods. Recent history is displayed at the Kobe City Museum and the Earthquake Museum.
Did you know that the country of Japan is actually a series of islands? The four largest islands – Hokkaido, the main island of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu – form a long, narrow shape and provide ample coastline against the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sa of Japan to the west. Additionally, over 3,000 small islands surround the Japanese mainland, most notably the southern island of Okinawa and the 150 islands of its prefecture.
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is the most densely populated metropolitan city in the world, home to nearly 40 million people. The Tokyo Metropolis, as the area is officially known, spans nearly 850 square miles (nearly 2,200 square kilometers). Tokyo enjoys a rich cultural history, as it has been the seat of government in Japan since the year 1603. Tokyo is comprised of twenty-three wards, each operated as an individual city.
Getting around in a city of this size – especially as an international traveler – may at first seem intimidating. However, Tokyo’s public transportation system, which includes airports, trains, buses, taxies, and pedestrian traffic – has been designed operate smoothly. With your Japan Rail Pass in hand and with the help of this travel guide, you will soon be navigating the streets and stations of Tokyo like a pro.
Japan is home to several dozen theme parks and amusement parks. Some of these parks are world famous, such as Disneyland, Legoland, and Universal Studios. Others are unique to the land of the rising sun, reflecting traditional Japanese culture.
You’ve read about all the engaging attractions Kyoto has to offer – from its famous temples to its transcendent botanical gardens. After all, Kyoto is considered the premiere sightseeing location in Japan. But as an international traveler, you are also concerned with how to get from place to place once you arrive in Kyoto. Does Japan’s maze of rail and bus lines intimidate you? It doesn’t have to.
When many international travelers think of Japan, they call to mind visions of crowded “neon cities” such as Tokyo. Japan, however, has a much gentler side, complete with rolling hills and rustic charm. The town of Takayama and the Japanese Alps mountain range in the Hokuriku region represent one such rural destination.
The Japanese word onsen refers to the hot springs that dot the islands of Japan, fed by warm, mineral-rich spring water. Japan hosts a volcanic geography, so the water is heated naturally by geothermal forces. It bubbles forth from the ground, filling pools with water that is somewhat hotter than a standard Jacuzzi or hot tub.
Onsens are a popular attraction for Japanese tourists, due to both their cultural significance and their relaxing, recreational nature. Onsens play a significant role in Japanese culture, and they are used extensively by Japanese residents. It is thought that onsen have healing and rejuvenating qualities, helping conditions such as skin ailments and cancer.
Osaka City is a bustling metropolitan area popular among international tourists. Osaka itself is home to many unique attractions, including vast parks and gardens, historic Osaka Castle, the Tenmangu Shrine, Osaka Aquarium, and the National Bunraku Theater.
Visitors to Osaka also enjoy the Dotonbori district, where travelers can experience the local nightlife with restaurants and shopping centers open twenty-four hours a day; the covered Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street; and the Kitashinchi entertainment district.
Miyajima means “shrine island,” and this small island has since ancient times been a sacred place of worship, where the gods were thought to live in harmony with mortal man.
Also called Itsukushima, Miyajima Island is a densely wooded place of tranquil peace and beauty. The island is sparsely populated and home to native deer and wild monkeys. The Itsukushima Shrine and its Torii Gate have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and have been celebrated as one of the Three Views of Japan since 1643.