Take a Train Through Japan
Looking for adventure for 2013? Look further afield and consider a trip to Japan. Here are three top destinations to visit in this fascinating country. If you have time, try and see all three! Flights to Japan from Europe are fast and frequent and there are some great bargains to be had if you are lucky with your timing when making a booking.
The city of Kyoto is renowned for beautiful temples and its geisha heritage. Much of the old city survives, with ancient wooden buildings surrounded by lush hills. If you are interested in history, there are about 2,000 shrines and temples to see, so do your homework to choose a few that will be of special interest to you. The Silver Temple was built as a place of contemplation and serenity – and the Nanzen Temple is known for its imposing entrance. All the temples are little islands of calm – each has its own garden, usually designed in the Zen style, which means no flowers. Zen Gardens have sculptured and shaped expanses of gravel, mossy banks and of course, bamboo – and their purpose is to help people focus on the eternal. Flowers burst into bloom and wither – not the Zen way at all!
Kyoto also has a very fine Manga Museum – so anyone with an interest in stylised Japanese animation will love this – it’s got thousands of magazines to look at and children love it – you can find a corner and read away to your hearts content. Manga and “animi” are very much a part of Japans culture.
If you want to travel fast, try out the Bullet Train – three times faster than anything in the UK! You need to book your ticket in advance – since you will not be sold a ticket on the day you want to travel. Check out full details of what’s available in terms of rail passes with the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
Takayama is a Cultural Heritage Site – packed with preserved buildings, and once you are off the beaten track, there are quiet side streets, linking ancient temples and tiny, local restaurants. The Spring Festival, held over 14th and 15th April is one of Japans finest public events, with floats, lantern parades and shrine offerings. You can also see the unique Karakuri Ningyo – giant animated dolls which are on show during the festival (weather permitting!).
The city of Tokyo is vast, and it might be an idea to finish your holiday with a trip to the city – you’ll need your energy levels to be primed to get the best out of a visit. Just outside the city is Studio Ghibli which is the key Japanese Animated Film studios. The site is full of beautiful, unusual buildings and it provides a great day out, giving an inside look at how complex animation films are created.
Take a deep breath and visit the Akihabara District – where enormous shopping malls are fronted with giant electrical promotional signs. The traffic, the volume of people and the endless neon will leave you spinning!
A trip to the Edo Museum will give you some idea of why Japan is such an unusual country. Founded in 1998, this modern building is packed with some of the most advanced interactive displays in the world – and provides visitors with clear, relevant information on why Japan is such an unusual and culturally rich country.
Top Tip: If you don’t want to carry your luggage with you during your trip you can book up for the Takuhaibin service. Your luggage is collected from your hotel and taken onto your next destination – great if you are carrying big cases!