Have you heard? Japan has reopened its borders to international tourism, visa-free. The only requirement remaining is a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure, unless you can prove you have been vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccines at least three times. Children below the age of 18 who travel together with triple-vaccinated parents/guardians are also exempt from the test. If you need to be tested, then as part of our planning we will make sure that you meet Japan's specific testing and sample collection methods, and their requirements regarding the vaccination certificate.
And now we're off to explore the alluring Japanese Islands!
Japan is a traveler's enigma. You can explore its ancient history or its vibrant modern culture. Whether you step back in time on a voyage into Japan’s riveting past, delving into the history of the samurai and their feudal lords, or stroll wide-eyed through the brightly lit metropolis of Tokyo, or snorkel through crystal waters that are home to sea turtles, manta rays, and the elusive Okinawa dugong, Japan is magical...the food, the scenery, the people, the wildlife, all of it.
Japan is open: from tiny villages to rural landscapes to the magical forests of this diverse country. First timers to Japan must of course see Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, but if you are returning for your second or third time or more to Japan there are endless undiscovered pockets that few outsiders ever see. Nature is very precious to the Japanese as part of their Shinto beliefs, so for example forest bathing, onsen soaking and garden strolling are essential experiences.
Japan’s wide-ranging attractions are found on mountaintops, far-flung atolls, and forested lakes. Going by land alone likely means missing out on some of these diverse sights, so have you considered being aboard ship? I bet it's not your first thought when it comes to your vacation in Japan, but you'll be able to cover much more ground. you could follow the “Ring of Fire” from Alaska’s volcanic Aleutian Islands to the rugged island of Hokkaido, on a voyage that highlights the wildlife and cultures that inhabit the Pacific’s edges. View the towering volcanic cones in the distance as you make your way to the rugged shores of Hokkaido—home to more than 51 volcanoes. Hike amid the mystical lakes and forests of northern Japan’s national parks, explore historic sites along the coast of Honshu, and cap off your voyage in the thriving metropolis of Tokyo.
Not a cruiser? Get inspired on the art-filled island of Naoshima and visit museums and studios dedicated to artists and traditional handicrafts in Matsue and in Takamatsu. Meander through Kenroku-en, Koraku-en, and Sengan-en, three unique Japanese gardens that are considered some of the most beautiful in the country. Step back in time on a journey into Japan's riveting history, from the historic castle towns of the Edo period to the elegant shrines and merchant districts of the Meiji era, to the poignant sites of World War II.
Japan’s largest island abounds with remarkable experiences. If traveling in spring, consider the less-visited Tohoku region, a lush forested area that has inspired painters and poets for centuries and has some of Japan’s best cherry blossom viewing. Yamanashi prefecture, where the iconic Mount Fuji, the country’s highest peak is located, enjoys a burgeoning reputation as a cult wine-growing region. Stay at the charming Fufu Kawaguchiko, where each room enjoys stunning views of Fuji as well as a private onsen (natural hot spring). Great hiking can be found in many locations around Honshu and indeed all over Japan. The awe-inspiring jagged peaks of the northern “Japanese Alps” are amongst the country's premier trekking, snow skiing and onsen soaking grounds.
About 1200 red-crowned cranes call Hokkaido home, with many regularly stopping at Akan International Crane Center’s grounds to feed. Those willing to brave an early wakeup and frigid temperatures will be rewarded with a view from Otawabashi Bridge of the tancho cranes roosting in the Setsurigawa River. As the dawn sun rises, it illuminates the mist coming off the water that partially shrouds the flocks of sleeping cranes. The birds take flight and soar across the lake and welcome the new day with their distinctive calls.
The southernmost island of Kyushu is one of Japan’s most appealing but lesser visited destinations. Active volcanic peaks such as mighty Mount Aso pour down to the rocky, lush coastline. Steaming onsen punctuate the landscape over almost every mossy hillock. Meanwhile, important cities such as Fukuoka and Nagasaki provide a cosmopolitan urban edge. One of Kyushu’s most remarkable destinations is Yakushima, a subtropical island located just off the southern coast of Kagoshima. A ferry from Ibusuki to Yakushima transports you to a magical world of thousand year old sacred sugi trees, gorgeous waterfalls and emerald green moss covered rocks. The island has been declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and constitutes a unique area of virgin wilderness.
During ancient times, the island of Shikoku was so remote from the rest of Japan that rogue Samurais used to disappear into the mountains here, never to be seen again. One of our favorite spots is the secluded Iya Valley, located in the geographical heart of Shikoku, and characterized by steep mountain slopes and deep rocky gorges which were traditionally crossed by natural vine bridges. Three of the bridges — Iya Kazurabashi and the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi crossings — are maintained to this day and form part of the excellent network of trekking trails on Shikoku. Pilgrims have walked clockwise around the island for more than a millennium, following in the footsteps of Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, the revered ascetic and founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect. Indeed, Shikoku is synonymous with natural beauty and the pursuit of spiritual perfection and is home to the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku, Japan's most famous pilgrimage route.
SETO INLAND SEA
The Seto Inland Sea is part of the Setonaikai National Park, one of the first national parks to be designated in Japan. The Shimanami Kaido is an expressway that links the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku, spanning the 70 kilometers between Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture and Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture, crossing six out of the 700 local islands and seven bridges. The picturesque network of bridges is one of the best cycling routes in Japan. On several courses with a rich variety of scenery, cyclists can enjoy riding in a great environment of scenic coastline, a stunning backdrop of mountains full of orange groves, and traditional Japanese countryside houses. Stay at the new Azumi Setoda modern ryokan on tiny Ikuchijima island as part of the rural experience.
So now that Japan is open, maybe it's time to add it your bucket list. Here is a Wanderlist to get you started. I'm ready...are you?
'til next week.
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Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder