Uncover a unique blend of traditional culture and cutting-edge modernity in Japan. Explore peaceful temples like the glittering Golden Pavilion in former imperial capital Kyoto, or go for kitsch fashions in Tokyo. The varied climate means you can see snow-capped mountains and wilderness on the northern island of Hokkaido, and subtropical beaches lapped by turquoise waters in the southern outpost of Okinawa.
Centuries of isolation have led Japan to develop a distinct culture, which you can still see in age-old rituals like the tea ceremony. Or you might be more fascinated by futuristic capital Tokyo on Japan's main island of Honshu. Head south-west from here to iconic volcano Mount Fuji. The Japanese consider climbing the mountain a rite of passage, and you might want to join the crowds of school children making the ascent. Further south-west, you can sample tasty Hakata ramen noodle soup in cosmopolitan coastal city Fukuoka. For skiing, head to Nagano, north-west of Tokyo.
The sprawling metropolis of Tokyo has a sprinkling of historic buildings, such as the moated Imperial Palace, but the capital is mainly about towering skyscrapers and neon lights. To see the nation at its liveliest, visit nearby Yokohama, whose Chinatown is bustling with locals. Kyoto, with its delicate temples and geisha district of Gion, is the place to see old Japan. Hiroshima abounds with World War II history, including a moving museum dedicated to the A bomb. For some of the best food in the country and a down-to-earth vibe, head to port city Osaka.
Join pilgrims flocking to Japan's sacred mountains. Near Osaka, you can stay in a monastery amid pine trees and wooden temples at the mountainside Buddhist site of Koyasan. Much of Japan is volcanic, leading to bubbling natural hot springs like those in the dramatic coastal Izu Peninsula. From Hiroshima, take a ferry to the sacred island of Miyajima - you can see the enormous red Otorii gate towering out of the water as you approach. Get away from it all in the rolling hills, green meadows and lakes of northern Tohoku's Towada-Hachimantai National Park.