Japan’s name is made up of two characters meaning “Land of the Rising Sun”. These words reflect the essence, culture and mentality of a unique Asian state.
Things to do in Japan
The palaces of the shoguns attract lovers of history and architecture. Powerful and at the same time graceful, they amaze with their magnificence. Modern buildings in Japanese cities also look unusual — there will be something to admire. In general, local architecture is an organic fusion of traditions and new technologies. Skyscrapers, tending upwards, and quiet streets of one-story districts are like two facets of the same coin.
Numerous temples with curved roofs give peace and tranquility. Many are hundreds of years old. They survived wars, fires and are waiting for those who are interested in religion and are looking for peace of mind.
The incredible beauty of Japanese nature is like a painting by a master who did not miss a single detail. Fans of contemplative rest will appreciate the local landscapes and landscapes.
Palaces and castles
White Heron Castle
Himeji, also known as the White Heron Castle, is proof that a fortification can look fragile and elegant. The architectural complex consists of 83 white buildings with terracotta roofs. Due to its location on a hill among greenery, it seems that the castle is floating in weightlessness.
Himeji was founded in the 13th century, and until the 17th century, the palace was actively changed and rebuilt to please its owners. Their numerous names are engraved on clay tiles. On the roof there is another interesting architectural detail — a small fish. She protects the palace from fire, floods and other troubles.
One of the towers houses the Osakabe Shinto Shrine. To get to it, you have to overcome countless steps. From the windows of the sanctuary offers stunning views of the surroundings and the palace garden. The latter is a complex maze of trees and paths. As planned, he was supposed to confuse the enemies and protect the palace from an unexpected attack.
Imperial Palace in Tokyo
The Japanese love and revere their monarch very much. He lives in the center of the capital in a magnificent palace surrounded by canals and gardens. The territory of the palace complex exceeds 7.5 square meters. km. Access to the residence is closed to the general public, but you can see the magnificent park and the sights in it.
Among them are the walls of the wooden Edo Palace (the forerunner of the modern structure), the Fushimi-yagura watchtower, the Nijubashi and Meganbashi bridges. Here you get breathtaking photos and selfies. And cozy alleys with benches lead to long promenades.
The palace complex is located in the heart of the old capital of Kyoto. Its construction was completed in the mid-1600s. The fortification was designed to demonstrate the wealth and power of the Tokugawa clan, who ruled Japan at that time.
Tourists come to Nijo to see its 33 rooms. Each had its own functional purpose, which can be guessed from the skillful paintings on the walls. Tigers and leopards — for business negotiations and meetings, lilies and other flowers — for a pleasant pastime, landscapes in pastel colors and black and white birds — chambers for rest and sleep.
In total, the palace has more than 3 thousand paintings painted by students of the Kano school. This particular technique determined the development of Japanese fine art for centuries to come.
Another feature of the palace is the “nightingale” floors. It is said that the floorboards do not creak from old age. This is a kind of signaling, notifying that an enemy has made his way into the chambers.
The snow-white castle of Kochi is located in the city of the same name. It was built in the middle of the 17th century and is considered the oldest fortress in the region. The castle burned down more than once, collapsed and painstakingly restored to its original appearance. Perhaps that is why it has become a place of pilgrimage for the Japanese, who are committed to their traditions and respectful of the past.
Now a museum functions within the walls of the castle, where a collection of ancient weapons is exhibited. The pearl of the exposition is a 1.5 m long samurai sword. A medieval sundial is still preserved in the adjacent park. When the symbolic arrow reached 12:00, a specially trained person struck the bell. So the inhabitants of the nearby village were guided by time.
The impregnable Kumamoto Castle, or Crow Castle, grew up on the site of an ancient citadel from 1487. By order of the ruler Kiyomasa in the period 1601–1607. towers were added, an outer wall 13 km long was erected, behind which immediately begins an inner wall about 5 km long.
Also, more than 100 wells were dug in the fortress and walnut trees were planted. The latter served not for beauty, but for practical purposes — samurai could refresh themselves with high-calorie fruits during sieges and battles.
The global reconstruction of the castle was carried out in 2007 — for its 400th anniversary.
Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, located in Kyoto is a gem of Japanese architecture. The palace was built in 1397. Its walls sparkle with real gold, and the architecture combines the luxurious Heian style and samurai austerity. The roof is decorated with a figurine of a falcon, considered a symbol of cyclical rebirth.
The palace looks organically against the backdrop of the natural landscape — its facade is effectively reflected in the water of the pond, and the curved roof is hidden in the lush crowns of trees.
Temples and shrines
The main Shinto attraction is located in Kyoto. Its second name “Sanctuary of a Thousand Scarlet Gates” fully reflects the architectural features of the temple. Scarlet tunnels stretched for 4 km. They end at the altar of Inari, whose androgenic image is symbolized by a fox. Inari is considered the goddess of fertility, and visiting her temple brings success and prosperity.
The complex consists of 5 chapels, interconnected by a grand portal of arches. The journey begins at the offerorium — a box for donations. Further, believers enter a tori tunnel, the walk passes statues with foxes and small chapels. In the middle of the path, there is an observation deck that offers a panoramic view of Kyoto.
Temple of Atsuta
This temple in Nagoya is almost 2,000 years old, making it the oldest in the country. About 8 million people come here every year to honor Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. There are more than 3 thousand historical artifacts in the halls and prayer rooms. The most significant is the sword Kusanagi no tsurugi, one of the three sacred imperial relics.
Every year, the temple hosts open competitions in kendo (Japanese version of sword fighting).
This Shinto shrine is located about 130 km from Tokyo in the city of Nikko. The shrine was built in honor of the shogun Toshogu in 1617. It was under him that Japan turned from disparate principalities into a strong state.
On the territory of the temple is the burial place of the great ruler. The ashes are kept in a bronze urn in one of the seven shrines. To get there, you have to go through the spruce grove.
The Japanese come here not only to pay tribute to the great person, but also to enjoy the beauty of Toshogo. The main decoration of the temple is skillful woodcarving. Authorship is attributed to the legendary master Hidari Jingoro. It is also worth seeing the gifts to the imperial court, the famous bas-relief depicting a sleeping cat with sparrows, bright wall paintings and paintings.
The shrine is located on the island of Miyajima. On its territory there is a scarlet tori gate 16 m high. They have become a symbol of Japan, which is often depicted on magnets and postcards. It is believed that the gate stands on the border of the world of the living and the dead. The camphor wood structure appeared in the 6th century and has been regularly updated ever since. The last reconstruction was carried out in 1875.
The temple is a complex of 17 buildings located on platforms or piles driven into the seabed. The most important thing is dedicated to the goddess of the sun Amaterasu — rituals are performed in it, including the Kagura dance. The bridge connects the land and the temple. It leads to a treasury containing more than 4,000 Shinto items. Among them are jewelry, goblets, fans and manuscripts.
Visiting the Miraikan Museum is like stepping into the future. There are interactive exhibits on 6 floors that you can touch, turn on and interact with in every possible way.
The halls are dedicated to physics, biology, astronautics and the achievements of science. At the exhibition, you can learn how the systems of the human body work, how information is transmitted via the Internet and get thousands more answers to a variety of questions.
The pearl of the exhibition is the ASIMO robot. This is a real cyborg with almost human intelligence. He can hold a conversation in pure Japanese, play ball, shake hands, climb stairs, fetch a glass of water, and much more.
Niigata Prefecture is famous for its sake distilleries. The Ponshu-kan Museum invites you to get acquainted with the taste variety of this drink in detail. At the entrance you need to buy tokens and take a special porcelain cup.
Next, you need to put the container in the machine, lower the token and get a portion of rice wine. The museum presents more than 100 varieties of local alcohol. After tasting enough, you can buy a bottle of your favorite version of sake.
Kyoto National Museum
The collection of the main museum of Japan has more than 12 thousand artifacts, which are housed in several buildings. The richest exhibition is located in the Main Exhibition Hall. It is divided into 3 parts:
- fine arts — paintings, sketches, drawings, calligraphy, sculptures;
- archeology — objects found during excavations in palaces and temples;
- applied arts — ceramics, jewelry, leather, metal, animal bones, fabrics and outfits.
Legendary anime characters with huge eyes, porcelain faces and exorbitantly long legs were invented at the Ghibli animation studio with the light hand of Hayao Miyazaki.
It is in the Ghibli Museum, located in Tokyo, that anime fans from all over the world make a pilgrimage. Here are sketches, paintings, storyboards of popular cartoons. At individual expositions, you can see in detail how animated films are created. You can also get acquainted with the paraphernalia of the world of anime.
You need to purchase tickets in advance, and also stand in line at the entrance — the museum is very popular with locals and tourists.
The graceful TV tower was built in 1958. Its height is 333 m. Architects Naito and Tatyu were inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Despite the obvious similarity, Tokyo has a number of significant differences: it is taller, lighter and painted orange. The latter was done not for aesthetic, but for practical reasons — for the sake of aviation security.
The observation deck offers stunning panoramic views of the capital, you can even see Mount Fuji. Other attractions include an aquarium on the lower floor, a wax museum on the third floor, a holographic exhibition on the fourth floor, and several restaurants and bars on the upper floors.
This Tokyo TV tower is the second tallest in the world (634 m). The roof of the structure ends at a height of 470 m, the rest is an antenna. The sky tree is the best place to take photos of the Japanese capital, which can be seen at a glance.
The first observation deck is located at an altitude of 350 m and can accommodate up to 2 thousand people. The second is located at around 450 m and can accommodate up to 900 guests. On the top platform there is a spiral staircase with a transparent floor for the brave ones who are not afraid of heights.
The cable-stayed bridge connecting the shipyard with the artificial island of Odaiba has become a landmark of the Japanese capital. From a technical point of view, it is not a champion — its height is only 126 m, and its length is 918 m. But in the evenings, the construction is illuminated by multi-colored illumination, and it seems that a fancy iridescent garland is floating above the water.
From the observation decks of the Rainbow Bridge, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the skyscrapers of Tokyo and the bay. Such a spectacle attracts hundreds of people every day.
Natural attractions and parks
Mount Fuji, or Fujiyama, is a real treasure of the country. Its regular shape and symmetry have inspired poets and artists for centuries.
In geological terms, Fuji is an active volcano, which was last active in the distant 1708. In cultural studies, it is a sacred mountain, to the top of which every Japanese must climb at least once in his life.
There are 4 official routes leading to the peak. Tourists are advised to pre-register with a group of amateur climbers at the information point of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu Reserve, where the shrine is located.
Sagano Bamboo Forest
The bamboo grove in Kyoto Prefecture has become a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of tourists and locals. Evergreen even stems, swaying in time with the wind, give amazing peace and tranquility. The forest covers an area of almost 16 square meters. km.
The entire area is covered with hiking trails and alleys, some of which are illuminated at night, creating a special atmosphere. Almost in the very center of the grove, among 40-meter bamboo giants, there is a pond Sojen, on the banks of which there are religious buildings.
nikko national park
The reserve is located 125 km from Tokyo. Buddhist and Shinto temples, ancient shrines on its territory are in harmony with the pristine nature. Mountain plateaus, talkative rivers, majestic waterfalls and meadows form the landscape.
There are many animals in the park: bears, roe deer, wild boars, hares, foxes, monkeys and hundreds of bird species. They found shelter in coniferous and deciduous forests.
The main natural pearl of these places is Chuzenji Lake, the highest in the country. It is located at an altitude of 1269 m. You should definitely visit the Kegon-no-taki waterfall, which falls with a roar from a height of 97 m.
The garden was founded about 400 years ago during the reign of the Tokugawa. However, it acquired its final appearance at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the financier and entrepreneur Hisashi Hara.
The peculiarity of the garden is the lack of symmetry characteristic of parks. Mr. Hara wanted to create a wilderness area in bustling Tokyo. Human intervention is still noticeable — these are cozy gazebos and benches, dwarf bonsai trees, a pagoda and stone lanterns. Some trees are 400–500 years old, and they feel great and even bloom in spring.
Tokyo Ueno Park appeared in 1873 and for a long time served as the personal garden of the monarch. Flora was brought there from all over Japan — it turned out to be a kind of botanical garden, where you can get acquainted with the rich plant diversity of the country. Trees and shrubs have become home to more than 2 thousand animals, among which there is even a couple of pandas.
On the territory of the park there are 4 active temples and 4 museums: Tokyo National Museum, Science Museum, Ethnographic Museum, as well as the Museum of Western Art, where paintings by Van Gogh, Dali, Monet are exhibited.
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
At the dawn of the 17th century, a samurai who retired from military affairs turned his estate into an unusual park. Its landscape is reminiscent of the iconic landscapes of Japan and China. For the troubled Middle Ages, this was an innovative idea. The man-made hill looks like Mount Fuji, the crown of cherry blossoms looks like the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto, and the curved stone bridge over the pond looks like the Chinese lake Sihu, overgrown with pines.
Tokyo’s Asakusa is the epitome of old Japan, where time has almost stopped. Pedestrian streets invite you to enjoy the national flavor. For decades, or even centuries, shops and restaurants have been operating in ancient buildings, passing from generation to generation. Here you can meet Japanese women in national clothes or witness a colorful procession dedicated to some holiday.
The noisiest and most popular area of Tokyo, whose name translates as “coin”. There are shops, restaurants, clubs, bars and other establishments where you can spend money. This area never sleeps, so you can hardly find a “closed” sign on even one door.
The area’s main attractions are the Sony Corporation Building and the Ginza-Wako Tower.
One of Tokyo’s busiest neighborhoods was once a quiet metropolitan suburb. Today it is the center of business life and entertainment, which, with the advent of twilight, shines with the whole spectrum of neon lights. It is here that the highest skyscrapers of the country are located, among which is the colossus Shinjuku Park Tower (52 floors). Be sure to visit the geisha quarters and Kabukicho, as well as the “Golden Street”, where the local bohemia gathers.