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Japan, formally the State of Japan, is an island country located in the Pacific Ocean, which lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and also the Philippine Sea in the south. It is washed by the Sea of Japan and the Korea Strait on the west. Japan covers an area of 377,973 km2, being the largest island country in East Asia. It has the sixth longest coastline in the world (29,751 km). The nearest countries to Japan are Russia, China and the Republic of Korea. Get inspired by one of the best Japan Travel Guide Books (Online) that intends to provide you some tips on places to visit, things to see and to do, and much more. The great number of Japan package vacations allow you to choose a thematic tour (nature, more
cultural, culinary, etc.) including different tourist attractions or opt for a tailor-made tour.
Japan consists of about 6,852 islands extending along the Pacific coast. Most of these islands are very small: only 340 are over 1 km2. The main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu that make up about 97% of Japan’s land area. To the south of Kyushu, a chain of islands known as the Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa, are located. The country, including all of the islands, lies between latitudes 24° and 46° N, and longitudes 122° and 146° E.
The Japanese use to refer to their country as Nippon or Nihon (日本) meaning “sun origin” and it is often called the “Land of the Rising Sun”. The expression “sun origin” is actually a translation of the name written using the kanji characters 日 (ni) which means “day”, and 本 (hon), meaning “origin”. Japan was founded as a nation in 1590.
Extreme points:
Northernmost point: Benten-jima - 45°31′38″N 141°55′06″E;
Southernmost point: Okinotorishima - 20°25′31″N 136°04′11″E;
Westernmost point: Yonaguni - 24°26′58″N 122°56′01″E;
Easternmost point: Minami Torishima - 24°16′59″N 153°59′11″E;
Lowest point: Lake Hachiro (4 m below sea level);
Highest point: Mount Fuji (3,776 m above sea level).
Hokkaido is the second largest island (83,451 km2) that has impressive volcanoes and sweeping plains. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, the two islands being linked by the underwater Seikan Tunnel - the world's longest tunnel with an undersea segment. The largest city on Hokkaido is Sapporo, its capital. About 43 km north of Hokkaido lies Sakhalin Island, Russia and to its east and northeast are the disputed Kuril Islands.
Honshu is the largest (231,045 km2) and most populous island of Japan. It is located south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Seto Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Straits. As the political, cultural and economic centre of Japanese, the island includes several past Japanese capitals, including Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura and the four largest cities – the capital city, Tokyo and Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya.
The mountain range running north-south down the island separates Honshu into the Sea of Japan side, which lies to its north and west, and the North Pacific Ocean side to its south and east. It is the seventh-largest island in the world including the main highest mountain - Mount Fuji and the largest freshwater lake - Lake Biwa.
Shikoku is located south of Honshu and east of Kyushu and is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan (18,783 km2). In the centre, there are mountains reaching 1000 – 2000 m above sea level and the passage difficult from one side of the island to the other. However, unlike the other three major islands of Japan, Shikoku has no volcanoes. The population leave along the coastal lowlands. Shikoku is linked to Honshu by three expressways, which together form the Honshu - Shikoku Bridge Project.
Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan with an area of 42,154 km2 and lies southwest of Honshu. It has many mountains including Mount Aso, whose caldera ranks among the world’s largest, with a diameter of up to 25 km and a circumference of over 100 km. The island is connected to Honshu by underwater tunnels and bridges. 
The present form of the islands of Japan is due to the slow collision of different moving parts of the earth’s crust, volcanic activity and the resulting shifting of the ocean shorelines. Much of Japan’s territory consists of high mountains with narrow valleys in between. In fact, 68% of Japan is mountainous land covered by forests. Japan’s mountains are one of its most beautiful natural features. The Japan Alps on the island of Honshu are very famous, but the best-known mountain in Japan is undoubtedly Mount Fuji, the highest in the country reaching 3,776 m. Except these mountains, few of Japan’s mountains exceed 2,000 m. Many of the mountains are volcanic and there are 150 important volcanoes, what means that one tenth of all the volcanoes in the world are in Japan.
The Japan islands lie at the point where three tectonic plates meet - the Eurasian plate, more
the Pacific plate and the Philippine plate. The friction and movements between these three plates makes Japan highly susceptible to earthquakes and consequent tsunamis (or tidal waves). In summer and autumn, there are often typhoons, powerful tropical storms that cause floods and mudslides.
Japan’s volcanic mountain ranges often have natural hot springs (onsen), where water bubbles up from the ground and is used for invigorating baths. People that visit the hot springs usually stay at traditional inns (ryokan) with hot spring baths. The Japanese hot-spring habit began as a medical therapy as many of the minerals are said to be good both for what hurts you but also for relaxation. Generally, hot springs are enjoyed naked: there is no need to wear bathing suits. In the washing area, you may use a small towel to cover your body, but it’s good manners to put the towel aside before entering the bath, since the towels are not always allowed in the bath. Hand and foot baths can be enjoyed easily with your clothes on. Currently, there are more than 2,000 hot-spring inns in Japan, ranging from small inns near hot springs deep in the mountains to large hotels near major hot springs. For an extraordinary hot spring experience, visit the onsen offering outdoor baths (rotenburo) with a spectacular scenery. Among the best outdoor onsen with most breathtaking views are Lake Kawaguchi Onsen offering a scenic view of Mt. Fuji around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Toya Onsen in southwest Hokkaido offering a stunning view of the crystal clear Lake Toya and the volcanic Mount Usu. One of the most popular resorts is Atami located at the northern end of the Izu Peninsula (near Tokyo) that literally means “hot ocean”, as a reference to the town’s famous hot springs. Arima Onsen is considered one of Japan’s oldest hot spring resorts and visitors can enjoy hot spring bathing at two public bathhouses or at the town’s many ryokan. The city of Beppu in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu is known as the hot-spring capital of the world. It is home to eight famous hot springs known as the “Hells of Beppu” that are for viewing rather than bathing.
Japan is also filled with beautiful lakes and flowing rivers that tend to be short and have considerably steep gradients due to the narrow and mountainous topography of the country. The longest river of Japan is the Shinano, while the three most rapid rivers are the Mogami, the Fuji and the Kuma. The Tone River has the largest watershed providing water to more than 30 million people living in Tokyo metropolitan area. The typical rivers in Japan usually rise from mountainous forests, cut out deep V-shaped valleys in their upper reaches and form alluvial plains in their lower reaches, which allow the Japanese people to grow rice in the fields and set up towns. In order to supply water and electricity, most rivers are dammed.
The coastline is a combination of steep cliffs and beaches. The best beaches for sunbathing and swimming are found on Okinawa Islands to the south that apart from the main island, contain three smaller island groups: the Kerama, Yokatsu and Iheya-Izena island groups. Okinawa’s clear waters and world-class coral reefs make it one of the most popular destinations in Japan. 
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one.
Hokkaido is the second largest island of Japan as well as the largest and northernmost prefecture. The largest city on Hokkaido is its capital, Sapporo, considered the cultural, economic and political centre of Hokkaido. Other major cities include Asahikawa in the centre and the port of Hakodate facing Honshu in the south of Hokkaido.
Honshu, more
Japan’s main island is also the largest and most populous island of the country. Located south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, it is famous for such cities as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, beautiful attractions including Mount Fuji, Lake Biwa and the Japanese Alps, geisha districts and temples. Its population (more than 100 million people) is mostly concentrated in the coastal areas and plains, especially in the Kanto plain where 25% of the total population resides in the Greater Tokyo Area. Its climate is humid subtropical in the west and humid continental in the north. Mount Fuji, the highest volcano in Japan at 3,776 m, is located in Honshu, which makes it the world’s seventh highest island. There are many rivers in Honshu, including the Shinano River, Japan’s longest river. The Japanese Alps that run the length of Honshu divide the northwestern (Sea of Japan) shore from the southeastern (Pacific or Inland Sea) shore. Traditionally, Honshu is further divided into five smaller regions: Tohoku in the north, Kanto to the east, Chubu in the centre, Kansai in the south and Chugoku to the west. Tokyo forms part of the Kanto region on the southeastern side of the main island of Japan, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands. Originally named Edo, Tokyo started to flourish in 1603 after Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters. It became the capital of Japan after Emperor Meiji moved his seat here from Kyoto in 1868 and was renamed Tokyo.
Located south of Honshu, Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. Shikoku’s four main cities and the prefectural capitals of Tokushima, Kagawa, Kochi and Ehime prefectures are Tokushima, Takamatsu, Kochi and Matsuyama. The islands of Naoshima, Honjima and Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea are part of Kagawa Prefecture.
Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan. Kyushu Region is a politically defined region that consists of the seven prefectures on the island of Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga, Kagoshima, and Miyazaki) Okinawa Prefecture to the south. Kyushu’s main cities are the capitals of its prefectures: Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga, Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Naha (Okinawa).
Japan’s population of more than 126 million is the world’s eleventh largest, of which 98.5% are ethnic Japanese. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.393 million residents, while about 13.9 million people live in Tokyo.
From north to south Japan runs for 3,000 km and average year temperatures vary from 6°C to 22°C. As Japan’s islands stretch so far, the climate varies a lot from icy Hokkaido in the north to the small subtropical islands in the south. The average year-round temperature in Tokyo is about 15°C. The winters in Hokkaido, are long, snowy and very tough, while in Okinawa the temperature rarely drops below 15°C. There is considerable rainfall in Japan, in some area up to 4,000 mm per year. The rainfall is noticed particularly from early spring throughout the summer.
Japan has four different seasons with a climate ranging from subarctic in the north to subtropical in the south. There are different conditions between the Pacific side and the Sea of Japan side. The weather also changes with the seasons. more
Spring (haru) begins in March, when the trees start flowering and the days get warmer. First, the plums and peach trees blossom. Around the end of March or mid-April and even start of May (Hokkaido), everyone is eager to see the cherry blossom. Because of Japan’s geography, the cherry blossom stretches from south to north. Then, flower-viewing parties (hanami) are held under cherry trees. The delicate, pink cherry flowers only last a week or two before they fall, giving way to other spring flowers.
Spring is followed by summer (natsu). Early summer (shoka) is short with warm, sunny days. Then, there is a rainy season (tsuyu), when it may rain almost daily from mid-June to mid-July. The whole summer is hot and humid all over Japan except Hokkaido, which can be quite mild. During the middle of summer (manatsu) many people go camping, hiking or swimming.
Autumn (aki) runs from September to November. The weather gets drier and cooler, though it rains occasionally, and there can even be strong winds and typhoons. Then the leaves change colour. Rice and other crops are gathered in autumn.
In winter (fuyu) cold Siberian and Mongolian winds blow across Japan. Although temperatures are moderate in the south, Tokyo’s weather stays just above freezing most days. The northern regions of Honshu have huge snowdrifts and Hokkaido gets extremely cold. However, the northern weather doesn’t stop travellers from all over the world from coming to see the enormous snow and ice sculptures. 
Japanese culture has many unique features and the most characteristic are the following: multi-layered quality, homogeneity, Japanization, and pragmatism.
Japanese culture is made up of many layers: old and new, foreign and native. Politics consists of old and new customs; food, clothing and shelter are blends of Japanese and Western elements; both Buddhist and Shinto rites are practiced by Japanese. The main reasons for this multi-layered quality are the curiosity and the interest of Japanese people in other cultures and the fact of welcoming foreign cultural elements without discarding local customs and traditions.
Another important feature is the homogeneity of Japanese culture, more
as it is basically uniform throughout the country, varying very little by region or person. This is due to the fact that Japanese people have lived for centuries under centralized governments and primary importance has traditionally been given to the group rather than to individual.
Japanization refers to the fact that the Japanese have been very keen on making foreign elements their own in order to create something uniquely Japanese. One example of Japanization happened in the Heian period when Japanese kana script was created out of Chinese characters, another example is Kamakura Buddhism introduced to Japan in the 6th century.
The Japanese are very pragmatic, focusing on specific circumstances rather than universal truths. Even in modern sciences, the Japanese people show more interest in applied sciences than basic research.
Nature has always been a familiar and friendly blessing to the Japanese and the traditional Japanese garden is a scenic composition including flowing water, ponds, stones, trees and shrubs. The concept of shakkei or “borrowed view” in Japanese garden philosophy focuses on the incorporation of background elements such as for e.g. mountains into the garden’s composition.
There are three main traditional forms of Japanese theatre: noh, kabuki and bunraku. The oldest one is noh, which developed in the 14th century. The stage setting is plain and during the performace the actors were masks and old-style costumes chanting their lines and moving very slowly. Kabuki developed in the 17th century and is full of dramatic scenes and lots of action. The stage setting is complex including a runaway that brings the action closer to the audience, while the actors were colourful and elaborate costumes. Bunraku is a kind of puppet theatre that was first performed in the 16th century. Each puppet is about half a human size, looks very real and is operated by three people who are visible on stage. Modern theatre is also popular in Japan and the theatres present many plays from the west including works by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, Williams, etc.
Music is one of the areas where Japanese people have shown a specific aptitude for assimilating western culture. They can listen to every kind of music from kayoukyuoku (Japanese popular music), min’you (Japanese folk songs) and hougaku (traditional Japanese music) to classical music, jazz, rock, pop and chanson. Asian pop songs have become very popular among young people. While classical music does not have the same broad appeal as pop does, it has a large and loyal audience. Philarmonic orchestras perform a wide variety of classical music throught Japan.
Woodblock printing is one of the many styles of Japanese painting. Ukiyoe is a well-known woodblock printing style that developed in the 17th century. Ukiyoe prints depict people and scenes from the nature, daily life and theatre world. This style became very popular in the middle of the 18th century with the flowering of kabuki and the spread of publishing. In the 19th century, when there were many prints of beautiful women and kabuki actors, Katsushika Hokusai and Andou Hiroshige turned their talents to the virgin field of landscapes. Many ukiyoe pictures were taken to Europe in the late 19th century where their compositions and striking colours attracted the interest of Degas, Manet, van Gogh and other painters.
Japan has many great traditional crafts including ceramics, paper making, textiles, lacquerware and wood carving. A strong attractive paper (washi) is still made by hand, special dying and weaving techniques practiced today in textiles date back to many centuries, lacquerware has been used since ancient times as an adhesive and varnish to protect wood, bamboo and cloth objects, while the craft of ceramics has a 12,000 history in Japan. Elaborate wood carvings decorate shrines and temples, while many houses contain trays, graceful kokeshi dolls and charming toys carved from wood.
Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana) dates back to the 15th century. Because Japan has changing seasons and many flora varieties, the flowers had to be displayed artistically. Sometimes the artistic arrangement aims making them look as close to their ideal natural state as possible, while other times the elements of the arrangements are used to represent heaven, earth and people. Currently, there are over 3,000 ikebana schools in Japan with more than 15 million pupils.
Tea ceremony (chanoyu) has been practiced for more than 800 years. Buddhist monks used tea to help them concentrate during the meditation. Currently, the host prepares and serves tea to guests and during the tea ceremony both the host and the guests follow precise rules designed to keep the ceremony simple and attractive.
Japan has two main religions: Shinto and Buddhism. Most of the people participate in both Shinto and Buddhist customs and rituals. The Shinto religion is native to Japan and began in ancient history and myths. People believed in spiritual forces (kami) existing, in nature – tree, mountains, sea, wind. As Shinto developed kami came to include heroes and other respected people. Before the first shrines were built people went to natural places to honour kami. Buddhism began in India and came to Japan (via China and Korea) around the middle of the 6th century. There are many different sects of Buddhism. Buddhist temples contain religious statues (butsuzo) and the visitors to temples often burn incense in front of the statues. Christianity was brought to Japan in the middle of the 16th century, but Christians make up only a small percentage of population. Japan is also home to a number of new religious groups, most of them founded in the last two centuries. Although only a small percentage of Japanese are Christians, Christian thought has had a major impact during its modernization beginning in the late 19th century. Christian lifestyles, moral codes and ethics have become interwoven into Japanese life.
The classics of Japanese literature include ancient collections of poetry such as the Man’yoshu, early epics such as The Tale of Genji and essays in diary form such as The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Modern Japanese literature received new international attention with the awarding of a Nobel Prize to Kenzaburo Oe in 1994, after the same prize was awarded to the novelist Yasunari Kawabata in 1968. Other internationally renowned writers of the 20th century are Soseki Natsume, Yukio Mishima, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki and Kobo Abe. Manga are one of the most popular forms of modern writing. They are comic books, but authors like Osamu Tezuka pioneered them as serious works, sometimes aimed at adults and sometimes at children. Manga area sometimes made into animated films, which are popular in the theatre and on television. 
Japanese cuisine is based on combining staple foods, typically Japanese rice or noodles, with a number of side dishes such as soup (usually miso soup made from soybean paste and other ingredients) and okazu – dishes made from fish, vegetable, tofu, etc. It is known for its emphasis on quality of ingredients and presentation. The fresh ingredients have a special place in Japanese cooking that stands out by the use of just a little oil or fats, except for some dishes such as tempura (deep fried seafood and vegetables), introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
Japanese people have been rice eaters since Yayoi period, however rice as it is eaten today dates back to the Heian period, when it appeared in the Japanese diet. more
Although rice is the main staple of Japanese diet, fish is an important food source too. Sashimi (thin strips of raw fish) and sushi (slices of raw fish on top of small portions of rice) are unique and very popular Japanese dishes.
Before World War II, everyone ate the traditional Japanese meal of rice with fresh fish and vegetables, miso soup and different pickles. Meat was not a traditional part of the Japanese cuisine, but after the war people began to eat more meat, eggs and dairy products that currently are common in Japan. Over the last century new dishes have been developed using chicken, pork and beef. Dishes such as yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick) and sukiyaki (beef cooked in an iron skillet together with vegetables and bean curd) are very popular in Japan. However, seafood remains an invaluable source of protein for Japanese people and side dishes of grilled, boiled or steamed seafood are very common.
Soba (fine noodles made of buckwheat flour) and udon (thick white noodles made of wheat flour) noodles are favourite substitutes for rice. These noodles are either served in a deep bowl of hot soup or eaten cold dipped in a sauce.
Seasonings are an important part of Japanese cuisine. Shouyu (soy sauce used in almost all Japanese dishes, as a dip, as a sauce and for seasoning) and miso (soybean paste used in soups, mixed with boiled vegetables and in flavouring fish or meat for grilling) are the main flavourings used in Japanese cooking. Other popular seasonings include wasabi (green horseradish), nori (toasted seaweed), karashi (Japanese hot yellow mustard), ichimi togarashi (grounded whole hot red chili peppers), furikake (a dry condiment made from a mixture of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried and ground fish, sugar and salt usually sprinkled on the top of steamed rice), etc.
Ocha (green tea) is the most loved drink in Japan and it is drunk hot without adding anything to it. The tea is served after meals and when people get together. Other popular drinks are koncha (black tea), sake (wine made from rice), shochu (beverage made from malted rice and other grains) and beer (brewed in Japan since the late 1800s).
Traditional Japanese sweets are known as wagashi, made from bean paste, mocha and fruits. Other popular Japanese desserts are: kakigori (a shaved ice dessert flavoured with syrup or condensed milk usually sold and eaten at summer festivals), anpan (a sweet roll most commonly filled with red bean paste or white beans, green beans, sesame and chestnut), castella (a sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs, and starch syrup). Castella is now a speciality of Nagasaki and was brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. You can also try green tea ice cream (or matcha ice), hakuto jelly (a dessert available in the summer made using the juice of ripe hakuto peaches from Okayama and mineral-rich spring water), imagawayaki (a dessert made of batter in a special pan and filled with sweet azuki bean paste), melonpan (a type of sweet bun made from an enriched dough covered in a thin layer of crisp biscuit dough). Sata andagi (sweet deep fried buns of dough made by mixing flour, sugar and eggs) native to Okinawa, where very popular is also the beni imo (sweet potato) tart, which looks like a small boat filled with swirls of piped purple cream.
          Cities and tourist attractions in Hokkaido
          National Parks in Hokkaido
          Hot springs in Hokkaido
          Flower spots in Hokkaido
              Cities and tourist attractions in Tohoku
              National Parks in Tohoku
              Hot springs in Tohoku
              Flower spots in Tohoku
             Cities and tourist attractions in Kanto
             National Parks in Kanto
             Hot springs in Kanto
             Flower spots in Kanto
There are many cultural and tourist events organized in Japan and below you can see some of them. However, changes and updates may occur and because of that, it is necessary to verify the information before traveling.
Lake Akan Ice Festival “Fuyuhanabi”, Kushiro (mid-January to mid-March)
Every day during the festival, fireworks displays take place above the frozen lake. Different winter activities including snowman and igloo making, games, and hands-on ice cutting entertain visitors on the frozen Lake Akan.
Sightseeing Icebreaker, Mombetsu and Abashiri (mid-January to late March)
Sghtseeing boats move forward while powerfully crushing drift ice. more
Icebreaker “Garinko II” and sightseeing icebreaker “Aurora” depart from Mombetsu and Abashiri respectively.
Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival, Miyama (late January to early February)
During the festival held in Miyama Village, you will see stunning scenes of snow-covered thatched roofs lit with hundreds of lanterns.
Shikaribetsu Kotan, Lake Shikaribetsu, Shikaoi (late January to late March)
Houses made of ice blocks are located on the frozen lake where you can also enjoy the ice bar and open-air hot spring bath.
Chitose and Lake Shikotsu Hyoto Festival, Chitose (late January to mid-February)
Approximately 40 ice sculptures made by water from Lake Shikotsu are exhibited by the lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park. On Saturdays and Sundays during the event period, there are fireworks displays and Wadaiko drum performances. At the same time, you can enjoy the hot spring baths around the venue.
Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival, Kamikawa (late January to late March)
Ice pillars, tunnels and ice domes are built on this spacious riverbed on the Ishikari River. They are illuminated with lights of all colours and above them you will also see fireworks in the night sky.
Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival, Yunishigawa (late January to early March)
Many igloo-like snow houses, called “kamakura” appear each winter in this quiet onsen town. Illuminated in the evenings, the “kamakura” offer a beautiful view, and a barbecue inside one can even be arranged.
Miyajima Oyster Festival, Miyajima (early February)
Miyajima Oyster Festival was the first oyster event to gain popularity as a proper festival in Hiroshima. Oysters are, without a doubt, the most famous of Hiroshima’s seafood dishes and winter is the season when they the most delicious. All of the dishes are very cheap, so you can enjoy many different kinds of oyster dishes all at once.
Shiretoko Fantasia, Shari (early February to mid-March)
Shiretoko Fantasia is a fantastic show with lasers and dynamic sounds presented in the night sky over Shiretoko in order to recreate the aurora that once appeared here around 60 years ago.
Sapporo Snow Festival, Sapporo (early to mid-February)
Large snow and ice sculptures are built in the city’s Odori Park during the Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri). This international event represents winter in Sapporo and attracts more than 10 participating countries.
Baikasai Plum Blossom Festival, Kyoto (late February)
During this event, you will have the possibility to see one of Kyoto’s most beautiful temples, with stunning plum blossoms, tea ceremonies and lovely Geisha. You will be enveloped in a beautiful atmosphere of plums in blossom while being served tea by Maiko (the apprentices to Geiko, who are the Geisha of Kyoto).
Kitano Odori, Kyoto (late March to early April)
Kitano Odori is the first of the annual Geisha performances in Kyoto and is performed by Geiko from the Kamishichen area. It includes three parts, a short play, a series of dances and the Kamishichiken serenade. It began in 1952 in order to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of nearby Kitan Tenmangu shrine.
Shizuoka Matsuri, Shizuoka (early April)
Shizuoka Matsuri is biggest Spring festival of Shizuoka city. The event that takes place over three days features a Yatai mura (outdoor food village), nebuta floats, cherry blossoms, parades, performances and cosplay.
Fuji Shibazakura Festival, Fujikawaguchiko (mid-April to late May)
Fuji Shibazakura Festival is one of the best occasions to see shibazakura (moss phlox), one of the most popular spring flowers in Japan. Every year the visitor are able to see the breathtaking scenery with 800,000 pink moss producing delightful fields of pink, white and purple colours against the backdrop of Mt Fuji! The festival is held from mid-April to late May, but the most recommended time for visits is from late April to early May.
Takayama Matsuri, Takayama (every year, 14-15 April and 9-10 October)
Takayama Matsuri is the collective name given to Sanno Festival held every Spring on the 14th and the 15th of April and Hachiman Festival held every autumn on the 9th and the 10th of October. These 2 festivals are said to date back to the second half of the 16th century. The main highlights are the large and elaborately decorated festival floats called matsuri yatai, pulled through the old town of Takayama, and the accompanying procession.
Matsumae Sakura Festival, Matsumae (late April to mid-May)
Matsumae Castle framed by 10,000 cherry trees and hundreds of varieties of spring flowers create a truly impressive sight. During the festival, every day is filled with excitement at Japan’s northernmost castle. The entertainment for the guests in ensured, as there are sales of local specialities, float parades, firework displays, show performances, including locals in a procession dressed as samurai warriors.
Moss phlox Festival, Takinoue (early May to early June)
Moss phlox Festival takes place in Takinoue Park located in Takinoue town, which is about two hours north of Asahikawa. On a hillside of 100,000 square metres, the moss phlox (shibazakura) starts blooming in early May and it is extremely interesting to take a walk along the strolling paths inside the park and see the beautiful pink landscape. During the festival, there are also stage performances in order to entertain visitors.
Kamiyubetsu Tulip Fair, Kamiyubetsu (early May to early June)
During Kamiyubetsu Tulip Fair held from early May to early June, you can see different kinds of beautiful tulips. There is a windmill-shaped observatory deck in the centre of the park, and colourful lines of tulips can be enjoyed from there. You can also opt for a bus tour.
Aoi Matsuri, Kyoto (every year, 15 May)
The main attraction of Aoi Matsuri is a large parade of over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) that leads from Kyoto Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines, the festival’s host shrines. You can expect to see men on horseback, ornate carts and women in kimono too.
Sapporo Lilac Festival, Sapporo (late May)
This is an event where people can appreciate lilac, the official flower of Sapporo. During the festival, various events are held, such as young plant giveaways, concerts, exhibitions, “nodate” (tea ceremonies held in the open air), etc.
Higashiomi Giant Kite Festival, Shiga (late May)
During the festival hosted each year, on the last Sunday of May in Higashiomi in Shiga Prefecture, enormous traditional kites are hauled into the air by teams of up to 100 people. Local kites as well as kites from throughout Japan can be seen during the event.
Sake Spring Kyoto, Kyoto (late May)
During the event, approximately 50 sake brewers from around Japan will be serving 150 different varieties of nihonshu (alcohol fermented from rice) along with food from 20 popular Japanese restaurants.
Yosakoi Soran Festival, Sapporo (early June)
Teams organized by companies, schools and community groups gather from various parts of Hokkaido to demonstrate their amazing dance routines with costumes and clappers. Yosakoi is a team-based dance that originated in the 1950s as a modern form of the older awa odori. This is a highly energetic dance, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music.
Gion Matsuri / Gion Festival, Kyoto (July)
Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) is a month-long festival that takes place each year in July in Kyoto. The name comes from the neighbourhood of Gion, which is home to some of the more traditional parts of Kyoto, including the geisha quarter. Although there are processions throughout the month, the main events of the festival are the parades called Yamaboko Junkō (parade of huge wooden festival floats) on the 17th and 24th of July and yoiyama days (the days before the main event) when you can wander among the illuminated parade floats on the streets of downtown Kyoto. Gion Matsuri is registered on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Lavender Kamifurano Shikisai Festival of Flowers and Flames, Kamifurano (mid-July)
Lavender Kamifurano Shikisai Festival of Flowers and Flames is one of the biggest festivals of the year in Kamifurano. Many people gather around the flower and lavender farms to watch the fireworks and to see the lavender at full bloom. There is usually live music and the whole event ensures you will go back with great memories of a fun and enjoyable time in a picturesque and scenic area with a great festival.
All Japan Selection Nagara River Chunichi Fireworks Display, Gifu (late July)
This is one of the two huge fireworks displays on the riverbanks each summer, where a competition between pyrotechnicians from across the country takes place. The displays from both events are considered to be the best in Japan, and there are also displays during the day (from 12:00 PM).
Sumida River Fireworks Festival, Tokyo (late July)
Sumida River Fireworks Festival is an annual event held on the last Saturday of July in Tokyo. This is one of the three major fireworks festivals in Tokyo in which a constant barrage of fireworks (about 20,000) are launched.
Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka (every year, 24-25 July)
The festival of Osaka’s Tenmangu Shrine is ranked as one of Japan’s three greatest festivals. Tenjin Matsuri features a lavish procession not only through the streets of Osaka, but also on boats on the river that is accompanied by a firework display.
All Japan Fireworks Display, Gifu (early August)
This is the second of the summer huge fireworks events on the Nagara River. It takes place on the first Saturday of every August. Both events are competitive displays with pyrotechnicians traveling from far to show off their best skills with Mount Kinka in the background. The seats on the Nagara riverbank between Nagara-bridge and Kinka-bridge are the best.
Aomori Nebuta Festival, Aomori (every year, 2-7 August)
Nebuta Matsuri is held every year from the 2nd to the 7th of August and features festival floats carrying huge papier-mâché human figures with huge lanterns, some measuring more than 10 metres. It is a state-designed important intangible folk-cultural asset and attracts several million visitors every year.
Akita Kanto Matsuri, Akita (every year, 3-6 August)
During the festival, over two hundred 15 m long bamboo poles with up to 46 lanterns (intended to look like straw rice bags) attached to each are balanced by the members of this popular festival’s nightly parades. The festival performers’ weight is up to 50 kg and they have to balance these poles on their forehead or lower backs while walking the parade route. Bands of bamboo flute players accompany them. It is a state-designed important folk-cultural asset.
Sendai Tanabata Festival, Sendai (every year, 6-8 August)
This festival is an annual event held for three days in order to celebrate Tanabata (the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar). Many gigantic bamboo decorations adorn the overhead section of the shopping arcade during this festival. In the neighbourhoods, people hang paper decorations of different colours including handwritten strips of paper containing wishes of good fortune, paper kimonos, paper cranes, paper nets and streamers. On the last night of the festival, you can see a major fireworks festival with 16,000 fireworks and 500,000 spectators making it the most popular in the Tohoku region.
Awa Odori Dance Festival, Tokushima (every year, 12-15 August)
The dance festival (odori means dance) is the most famous of many traditional dancing festivals held across Japan during the Bon season in mid-August. The pre-Meiji name for the area in which Tokushima city is located was “Awa”. Approximately 100,000 dancers are said to take part in the festival, which is ranked as one of the three major Bon festival dances in Japan. Dancing takes place in the streets (which are closed to traffic each evening of the festival) and at seven stages with reserved seating.
Nagasaki Kunchi, Nagasaki (every year, 7-9 October)
Currently the most famous festival in Nagasaki, Nagasaki Kunchi began as a celebration of autumn harvests in the late 16th century and later became a shrine festival in 1642 when Suwa Shrine was founded. During the festival of Nagasaki’s Suwa Shrine, the Nagasaki Kunchi people can see Chinese style dragons and floats shaped like ships. The Dragon Dance, which was originally performed on New Year's Eve by the Chinese residents of Nagasaki, is one of the most famous performances of the festival.
Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto (every year, 22 October)
Jidai Matsuri (“Festival of the Ages”) is a traditional Japanese festival during which a spectacular historical parade takes place. It covers the over 1000 years during which Kyoto served as Japan’s capital. The procession takes place from Kyoto Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine.
Chichibu Yomatsuri, Chichibu (every year, 2-3 December)
One of Japan’s greatest hikiyama (float) festivals, Chichibu Yomatsuri is held on 2-3 December every year and attracts about 400,000 visitors over the two days. The festival, which has been celebrated for more than 300 years, is famous throughout Japan and was even registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2016.
Sapporo White Illumination, Sapporo (late November – early January)
Hundreds of thousands of lights (approximately 370,000) are lit primarily in Odori Park, magically illuminating the winter city. This winter light-up takes place at six different locations also including Sapporo Eki-mae Dori and Minami 1-Jo Dori. The event reaches its culmination on Christmas day. 
The national currency of Japan is called yen (JPY), and there are 6 types of coins and 4 types of banknotes. The smallest silver-coloured coin is ¥ 1, the gold-coloured and holed coin is ¥ 5, the brown one is ¥ 10, and the silver-coloured and holed is ¥ 50. The ¥ 100 coin is also silver-coloured and the largest silver one is ¥ 500. There are banknotes for ¥ 1,000, ¥ 2,000, ¥ 5,000 and ¥ 10,000.
Foreign currency can be exchanged into Japanese yens at banks, post offices or specialised stores. Most major banks located near large train stations provide such services, so please ask at the teller’s window. Some of the tellers speak English. However, please be advised that exchange services are available only from 9am to 3pm on weekdays.
1 EUR = approx. 121.36 yens
1 USD = approx. more
108.08 yens 

The citizens of the following states do not need visas to enter the territory of Japan for a period of stay until 90 days, during six months from the moment of the first entry (however changes can occur and the list could be updated, it’s necessary to check the information before travelling):
Czech Republic
North Macedonia
Ireland Italy
San Marino
United Kingdom
Brunei (15 days)
Indonesia (15 days)
Republic of Korea
Thailand (15 days)
Hong Kong
North America
United States
Latin America and the Caribbean
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
New Zealand
Middle East
United Arab Emirates (30 days)