Seigantoji and Nachi Falls, Japan 30 May 2016
About this photo
The impressive Nachi Falls in Japan is also home to Seigantoji, an elaborate Buddhist temple that is thought to have been used for nature worship, purposely built beside the falls. Nachi Falls itself is one of the country's tallest waterfalls with a drop of 133 metres.
Few know that Japan is actually made up of nearly 4,000 Pacific islands. The major ones are considered to be Kyushu, Honshu, Shikoku and Hokkaido. Of these, perhaps the strangest and most isolated is Hokkaido, which is rather removed from the traditional Japanese way of life. Here wild nature and stunning attractions, like Daisetsuzan National Park, reign supreme.
Tokyo, on the other hand, is a glitzy metropolis brimming with a mix of old-world tradition and present-day modernity. It sits roughly 600 miles south of Hokkaido on the main island of Honshu. A massive city, Tokyo epitomizes Japanese culture.
Japan is also home to majestic and iconic Mt Fuji. The landmark, known for its snow-capped top, is visible from downtown Tokyo on clear days. If you visit the base during April and May, you'll likely encounter some dazzling sights; Yamanasi touts fields and fields of vibrant pink moss that's downright remarkable to behold. From there, visitors who head north will stumble upon picturesque Nikko.
For sanctuaries, temples, Zen gardens and more, Kyoto is the place to be. It is home to hundreds of Shinto shrines and dozens of museums. Meanwhile, beautiful Nara is widely recognized as being Japan's artistic and cultural epicenter. Osaka, on the other hand, is a lively hub for both business and nightlife.
And it may come as a bit of a surprise, but Japan is also home to some incredible active volcanoes and inviting hot springs, a delight among nature lovers. Speaking of natural wonder, cherry blossom is also tightly woven into Japanese culture. More than 150 varieties are in existence, all representing purity and beauty; impermanence and transience. Kyoto and Nara both boast special viewing pavilions designed for appreciating the beautiful blossom.
Of course the seeing of sights isn't the only way to take in Japanese culture. The local cuisine is a colourful celebration of form and texture, all at once enchanting the senses and reflecting back tradition. If you find yourself in Tokyo, we recommend trying sushi off a mini bullet train. (The fish literally arrives on a track.) To try it for yourself, give Katsu Midori in Shibuya a whirl.
Take me to Japan: Japan Cultural Discovery
Get lost in a guidebook: Insight Guides Japan