If you think of Japan as all bustling cities, gleaming skyscrapers and quirky gadgetry, you should think again when you’re planning a trip to this beautiful Asian country. Your Japan highlights should include connecting with the authentic, natural side of the land of the rising sun.
Discover a new, fascinating Japan with this 360 degree video about Japan travel, CHUGOKU+SHIKOKUxTOKYO:
With an easy jump from Tokyo on Japan’s excellent transport system, you can be enjoying the serene charm of the real Japan.
Japan is a land of exquisite gardens, designed to wander through, peacefully immersing yourself in the natural and man-made beauty of the landscape. The six aspects of a traditional Japanese garden are scenery, spaciousness, venerability, serenity, subtle design and coolness.
Find serenity in Tokyo
You can find this serenity in the midst of noisy Tokyo. Once you have seen the view from the Tokyo Tower, visited the impressive Meiji Shinto Shrine and Imperial Palace, and had a drink at the Robot Cafe, it’s time to unwind in Tokyo.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a huge park that dates back to the Edo period and is now a public oasis for picnics and walks. It is famous for its cherry blossoms in season but with over 20,000 native and exotic trees it is beautiful all year around. Spend an afternoon enjoying the parkland of Shinjuku.
Get back to nature in Chugoku
A short flight from Tokyo, the Chugoku region is in the west of Japan’s biggest island, Honshu. One particularly charming prefecture of Chugoku is Okayama. Travellers come to see the elegant Okayama castle but the biggest drawcard is another garden.
Japanese gardens are so beautiful that I’m not sure how you could identify one garden as being the most beautiful. In fact three gardens are traditionally the most treasured in Japan.
One of these is Korakuen, a garden in Okayama and is an absolute must-visit during your trip to Japan. It was established in 1700 by a great lord and is famed for its lush and intricate beauty. Promenade through Korakuen and enjoy the many different viewpoints, from lawns and koi-filled ponds to tea houses and streams.
Another lovely prefecture in Chugoku is Yamaguchi, where the local capital was built in the 14th century and is often described as “the Kyoto of the West”. Don’t miss the historic Ruriko-ji Temple in Kozan Park, with its pagoda-shaped roof.
Unspoilt beauty in Shikoku
Next it’s time to really get off the beaten track and visit Shikoku, which is the smallest of Japan’s main islands, to the south of Honshu.
More sparsely populated than other parts of Japan, Shikoku is particularly rich in pilgrimage sites and temples. There is even a 1,200-kilometre pilgrimage trail circling the island that visits no fewer than 88 temples.
As well as the cultural highlights, Shikoku is rich in hiking opportunities thanks to its stunning, mountainous interior. Walk through sighing bamboo forests and hike up to the summits of three mysterious peaks – Mt Iino, Mt Ishizuchi and Mt Tsurugi.
So if you are planning a vacation in Japan, consider combining Tokyo with Chugoku and Shikoku, two must-see regions of this fascinating country. That way you will experience the rich culture and beautiful countryside of Japan.
By Natasha von Geldern
This post has been sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, but all opinions remain my own.