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Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander... more
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Tokyo
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 Tsukiji 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.
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The shrines and temples of Kyoto offer a rare link between modern life in the... more
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Kyoto
The shrines and temples of Kyoto offer a rare link between modern life in the city and its very ancient past. The Shimogamo Shrine dates to the 6th century and seems suspended in time, its serenity and spiritual power still palpable. Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, then see the life-sized Thousand Armed Kannon statues of Sanjūsangen-dō. Enjoy traditional geisha performances, then savor a tranquil meal at a restaurant overlooking the Kamo River.
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Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong... more
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Osaka
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region; Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
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Nestled in the Northern Japan Alps, Hakuba is all about the winter sports. A top... more
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Hakuba-mura
Nestled in the Northern Japan Alps, Hakuba is all about the winter sports. A top ski and snowboarding destination, Hakuba has plenty of snow and nearly perfect powder. Spend the day swooshing down one of the areas 200+ trails, then end with an après ski at one of the area’s cozy pubs or cafes. Local mineral hot springs make great soaking spots for weary muscles.
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A trip to Hiroshima is best kicked off with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace... more
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Hiroshima
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.
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Thirteen hundred years ago, Nara (then Heiju-kyu) was the imperial capital of... more
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Nara
Thirteen hundred years ago, Nara (then Heiju-kyu) was the imperial capital of Japan. In 2010, festivities are in the works to celebrate this ancient city's anniversary. "Old Japan" is still easy to spot here, from Great Buddha Hall to traditional ryokans and the serene Isuien garden. Travelers rave about walking tours of Nara, particularly in the historic Naramachi merchant area.
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The proud black “crow castle” of Matsumoto keeps watch over a city that’s... more
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Matsumoto
The proud black “crow castle” of Matsumoto keeps watch over a city that’s rapidly developing into an epicenter of food and culture. Slurp noodles made from local soba or taunt your taste buds with product from the Daio Wasabi Farm. Take a soothing soak in a local hot spring or spend a few minutes in the Timepiece Museum. Classical music fans should consider a visit during the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, founded by famed conductor Seiji Ozawa.
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Proud Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the most important of its kind.... more
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Kumamoto
Proud Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the most important of its kind. Visitors will be awed as they explore its stone curves, array of turrets, and displays of armor, weapons, and maps. Suizenji Jojuen Garden is downright cinematic, a playground of slopes and dips and trees, in a million shades of green. Cherry blossom season is a lovely time to visit.
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Take a quick ferry ride to Mount Sakurajima, a smoldering volcano, Or, if you... more
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Kagoshima
Take a quick ferry ride to Mount Sakurajima, a smoldering volcano, Or, if you prefer to view active volcanoes from a more comfortable distance, stop at one of the many lookout points around the city. (Siroyama Observatory is a good choice.) Finally, if there’s anything better than a foot bath after a long day of sightseeing, it’s a free foot bath after a long day of sightseeing… and you can enjoy one at Sakurajima Nagisa Foot Bath Park.
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One of the main attractions in Nagano is Zenkō-ji, a colorful 7th-century... more
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Nagano
One of the main attractions in Nagano is Zenkō-ji, a colorful 7th-century Buddhist temple with proud architecture and a humbling presence. The compound contains lovely gardens, a treasure house, sacred statues and a massive incense burner. Kids will love the “ancient” appeal of the Chausuyama Dinosaur Park, adjacent to the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo. Test your stealth skills at the Chibikko Ninja Village, then reward your hard work with a tasting tour at the Nishi-no-Mon sake brewery.
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