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Places to explore in Japan
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Toyosu Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.
Long a popular destination for Japanese travellers looking for a relaxing beach break, Okinawa is gaining international popularity. Coral reefs provide great snorkelling and diving spots, but if you prefer to see beautiful fish without getting wet, Okinawa also has a fine aquarium. The ancient forests around the city offer a chance to view rare flora and fauna.
Explore Okinawa City
Probably best known for its eponymous beer, Sapporo—the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island—has maintained the youthful and open atmosphere of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, drawing international visitors for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen. Those seeking out the full diversity of Japanese cuisine will want to visit: a city with a ramen-inspired theme park is one that embraces and pampers foodies.
A trip to Hiroshima is best kicked off with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which contains a museum, the remnants of buildings destroyed by the 1945 atomic bomb and monuments to the people killed by this nuclear attack. Understanding Hiroshima’s relatively recent devastation is key to fully appreciating its beauty and culture. Visit splendidly rebuilt historic sites like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei-en Garden, and don’t miss the Itsukushima Shrine on the nearby island of Miyajima.