2 Sunbathe on tropical beaches in Okinawa The Oki

first_img2. Sunbathe on tropical beaches in OkinawaThe Okinawa islands are part of the Ryukyu archipelago, which stretches almost all the way down to Taiwan, and they have a tropical climate much unlike the temperate weather on the mainland. The main island, Okinawa Honto, is home to a huge US military base and gets rammed with Japanese tourists in summer, but the smaller Ryukyu islands further south, like Miyako-jima, tend to be deserted and have some stunning beaches. And if you head to Zamami-jima island in spring, you can even see humpback whales.3. Admire the snow sculptures in SapporoThe Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in February each year, and it’s worth making the long trip to the northern island of Hokkaido just to see the enormous sculptures. Previous works of art have included a Japanese castle, the Taj Mahal and even a giant Darth Vader. Make sure to pack your snowboard too: the Niseko ski resort just outside Sapporo has some of the best powder in the world. There are thousands of islands in the Japanese archipelalago, which extends for over 3,000 kilometres from icy Hokkaido all the way down to the idyllic tropical islands off the coast of Taiwan.So, depending on the time of year and the particular island you stop off at, you might be stomping through metres of snow or sweltering in 35-degree heat, and the range of activities on offer is just as varied as the climate. Geeks are well catered for in the otaku heaven that is Tokyo, while Kyoto appeals to the more spiritual with its dozens of serene temples, and the love hotels of Osaka showcase Japan’s quirkier side.1. Dance with dragons in NagasakiFrom the early 17th century to the mid 19th century, Japan effectively closed its borders. But during this sakoku period, the city of Nagasaki in southern Japan remained open to trade with Dutch and Chinese merchants, and as a result the city has a surprisingly different feel from the rest of the country; it’s one of the few places you will see historic Western-style buildings in Japan. And the Chinese influence on the city is showcased each year in the Kunchi festival in October, when dragons take to the streets… and even find their way into shops and restaurants, much to the surprise of diners. 9. Seek serenity in ancient templesKyoto is the place to go if you want to see temples. The most famous is probably Kinkakuji (Golden Temple), although Kiyomizudera is much bigger and provides some stunning views across the city. But if you want to go beyond the tourist temples and see a real-life retreat, you can arrange a stay of contemplation at Eiheiji, a working temple north of Kyoto in Fukui prefecture.More: 10 best places to visit in Kyoto Related10 of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes: in picturesTen totally stunning photos of a selection of the world’s most awesome, and most dangerous volcanoes.Top 15 attractions and things to do in TokyoA fascinating mix of the hyper-new and the ancient, you can see the second-tallest structure in the world – the Tokyo Skytree – on the same day as visiting a 1,400-year-old temple in Asakusa. Here’s our list of Tokyo’s top attractions, as eclectic as the city itself.Explore Japan: 5 unmissable things to do in OkinawaOkinawa is a collection of 160 islands forming the southwestern tip of Japan and it’s the perfect add-on to an Asia trip, thanks to great flight connections from airports across Japan. Explore the coral-fringed island, home to some of Asia’s best dive sites, as well as its steamy rainforests and… Photo: U.S. Embassy Tokyo Press, CC BY 2.04. Climb Mount FujiThe almost perfectly conical Mount Fuji is breathtaking, literally so if you plan to climb it. The air gets pretty thin at the top, 3,776 metres above sea level, but the climb is relatively steady and easy. Beware of being overtaken by ultra-fit Japanese grannies though, and be prepared to queue your way up the mountain in particularly busy periods. The climbing season is July to mid-September, check here for details.5. See snow monkeys bathing in NaganoIt’s essential that you go to an onsen – a mineral spa – at some point during your stay in Japan. Onsens are a way of life in the country, although when stripping naked in front of strangers, you might feel a bit self-conscious at first. There are onsens everywhere, but the ones in Nagano prefecture are some of the most famous – and the monkeys there have learned the benefits of taking a hot bath too.6. Explore the Hiroshima Peace MemorialOn 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, killing around 70,000 people and changing the world forever. Remarkably, the building directly below the blast survived when everything around it was flattened, and it’s now been preserved as the Atomic Bomb Dome (or Hiroshima Peace Memorial) in remembrance of that day, while the nearby Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum provides a by turns fascinating and harrowing record of the events of 1945.7. Visit a love hotel in OsakaLove hotels are a peculiarly Japanese phenomenon – with privacy at a premium and many young couples living with their parents, boys and girls who want a bit of alone time can head off to one of these kitsch neon hotels, which charge by the hour. Often payment is via vending machine, or the money is passed beneath a screen to ensure privacy is retained. But these love palaces are far from seedy – in fact they can be a lot of fun, with themed rooms that run the gamut from cute to bizarre. Osaka is the capital of love hotels, although the authorities are currently clamping down on them, so these cultural oddities may soon cease to exist.last_img read more