Sitting proudly on the shores of Hakata Bay, Fukuoka is a city ablaze with the neon glare of the 21st century, moving at a slower and much more manageable pace than its better-known siblings from Honshu. There is plenty of Japanese flavours to be had here, both figuratively and in the very direct sense of the word, and a lot of uniquely local flair for those looking to cast their nets wider than the staples of Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka.
JapanSet so firmly in tradition in so many aspects of life, yet always reaching towards the future, Japan manages at once to conform to your expectations, subvert them, and surpass them, surprising you at every corner. The most diverse activities can be considered typically Japanese, from soaking in a countryside onsen to testing your skills at multi-story video arcades, tasting delicacies at Michelin-starred restaurants or cheap street eats, Noh theater, pachinko parlors and karaoke. With endlessly fascinating cities, spectacular natural beauty and a unique cultural landscape, Japan makes for unforgettable travel.
Steeped in history, the once-capital of Japan and the former seat of the Imperial House, Kyoto is famed for being home to endless Buddhist temples, Shintō shrines, Zen gardens and palaces, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Aside from the magnificent architecture and fascinating history, the Kyoto of today is a youthful and vibrant city that stays close to its spiritual and historical roots.
The largest city on the island of Shikoku in Japan, Matsuyama is a vibrant city of living traditions, set against a backdrop of historical buildings, where haiku poetry is still enjoyed as a part of daily life. A full calendar of seasonal festivals means that there's always something eye-catching going on. The city is served by a network of vintage trams and steam trains, so getting about is easy. Matsuyama also has miles of sandy beaches framing the beautiful island-studded Seto Inland Sea.
As testified by epic movies like Shogun and Ran, Nagoya City is pure history, centred around Nagoya Castle. It was Expo 2005 that put Nagoya on the world map. Post-Expo, Nagoya is positioning itself both as a centre for hi-tech industries and as a tourist gateway. Toyota Cars, old and new famed ceramics, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, dolls and robots castles, feudal villas and farmhouses pearls, and a plethora of shopping and nightlife spots await you in this not-so-obvious choice of a Japanese destination.
Sitting in the heart of the Kansai region, Osaka the third-largest city in Japan. It could be the proximity to Korea, China, and the coast that has made it become known as the "Kitchen of Japan". Osaka's people have a true zest for life. They promote a casual air and ease and are slightly, unconventionally boisterous. Osaka is regenerating, now recognising its past beauty and working hard to re-establish it. This stimulating city that works to live is now more than ever a must-see.
With its rich natural landscape, stunning scenery, and distinctive seasons, Sapporo would satisfy the explorer in any one of us. The capital of Hokkaidō, the most northern and second-largest island of Japan, was established in 1868; its vast open wilderness backed by magnificent mountains was highly appealing to the early settlers back then, just as much as to any visitor today.
Tokyo's technological leaps and passion for everything new have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. A city made of smaller cities, Tokyo's neighbourhoods are individual and unique in what each can offer, from cultural sights to vast shopping malls. Get ready for a whirlwind of modernity and tradition in the neon-lit Japanese capital.