Daigo-ji Temple | Kyoto
Discover the Land of Endless Allure
This year, Japan is a standout in the travel scene. While the cherry blossoms often steal the limelight, each season in Japan presents its own charm. Kyoto's heritage sites radiate tranquility, Tokyo's avenues hum with life, and Hokkaido's landscapes captivate — a tapestry of experiences awaits every traveler.
Cherry blossom season is beautiful wherever you find a copse of the spring-blooming beauties – but the most famous destination for this is Japan. The trees hit their peak in Tokyo from the end of March to the beginning of April.
Himeji Castle, Hyōgo | Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
“Sakura,” as the blossoms are called, are a sign of renewal, and their quick blooming season is a reminder of the transience of life, both of which are important tenets of Buddhism. It’s why the blossoms are so revered and sought out by the Japanese – and why visitors who want to take part in the annual ritual need to book far in advance to see it for themselves.
But flowers aren’t the only reason you’ll visit Japan. The food culture is strong thanks to the high quality of ingredients and the attention to detail and presentation that make every meal an exceptional one.
Amanemu - Ise-Shima | Tea Ceremony - Aman - Kyoto
And the fine dining is absolutely unforgettable. Japan has 411 Michelin-starred restaurants and another 428 that boast Michelin’s Bib gourmand ranking, noting excellent meals for under $50. Build a trip around a food, and you’ll never go wrong. Watch the Netflix documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi to get you excited about your mouth-watering trip.
Echoes of Tradition
Immersing yourself in Japan’s deep-rooted culture is at the heart of your journey. Make Kyoto your first stop: walk through the torii gates of the ancient Fushimi Inari shrine, enjoy the ceremony and ritual found within a traditional wooden teahouse, admire the colorful kimonos of the geisha, and slow down and find your Zen in the famous raked gardens.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto | Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara Park
A popular day trip from Kyoto is to Nara, Japan’s first capital, full of historic treasures, including UNESCO world heritage sites. Wild deer are considered sacred in Nara Park and have become the symbols of the city. Buy a bag of deer crackers to feed them, and you’ll become fast friends.
Hokkaido, the northern jewel of Japan, is a winter enthusiast's dream. Blanketed in powdery snow, this region transforms into a picturesque wonderland. Beyond skiing and snowboarding on its renowned slopes, travelers can marvel at the Sapporo Snow Festival's grand ice sculptures or take a tranquil walk in the snow-laden Otaru Canal. And when the cold gets intense, there's nothing more comforting than a bowl of Hokkaido's signature miso ramen to warm your spirits.
Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono - Hokkaido | Takayama
Another great spot is Takayama, a stunning small town near the Japanese Alps with an old town full of traditional wooden homes and shrines. Refuel on the go by picking up some mitarashi dango (rice balls grilled in soy) from a street stall. Takayama is often voted one of the most beautiful cities in Japan.
Another top experience is onsen, and there’s lots to choose from: Japan has over 3,000 hot springs. Taking part in the hot spring ritual allows visitors to soak up more of the local culture. Onsen’s are oases of calm, and most will insist visitors strip down to their birthday suit before slipping into the hot baths.
Onsen, Yamagata | Ryokan Onsen, Kawaguchiko Lake
(Good to know: you’ll need to cover up tattoos with a sticker patch, but some onsens are beginning to allow tattoos. Check before you go.) While gaijin, or foreigners, may find the art of communal bathing odd, in Japan, it is a beloved part of everyday life. Might as well dive in!