Japan is one of the most culturally rich countries in the world, fusing its unique blend of modern culture and ancient traditions to create a fascinating, bucket list-worthy destination. A visit to the “Land of the Rising Sun” offers travelers the chance to immerse themselves in its contrasting elements, where centuries-old shrines sit next to high-tech skyscrapers, authentic ramen shops are just as popular as high-speed bullet trains, and some locals relax with traditional tea ceremonies while others shop around exciting tech hubs.
Embrace Japan’s Ancient Traditions
With an array of perfectly-preserved ancient traditions, no other country has achieved a sense of time-warp like Japan. When visiting here, you’ll have the chance to take a cultural tour of its historic sites, admire art and architecture, savor authentic culinary delights, and appreciate rituals that have been handed down for centuries.
In Tokyo, don’t miss a visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, which is now the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. You’ll also want to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon). One of the most revered Buddhist shrines in the city, it welcomes you with a massive paper lantern and a five-story pagoda that dates back to 645 AD.
Kyoto also boasts renowned historic structures including elegant Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu-dera temple—both of which are UNESCO-listed landmarks that take you back into significant time periods in Japan’s storied history. In Gion, Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district, you’ll feel truly immersed as real-life Geishas walk past quintessential merchant houses. Plus, you can learn about ancient ceremonial preparations and Japanese rituals by joining a traditional tea ceremony. While Kyoto is home to more than 1,600 temples, a can’t-miss is the famed “Golden Pavilion” (also known as Kinkaku-ji), which features a gold leaf exterior and pristine natural surroundings.
When exploring Takayama, you’ll be transported back to the Edo period while walking its centuries-old streets, which are dotted with wooden merchant houses, sake breweries, and quaint coffee houses. And just outside this area in the countryside, you can visit the areas of Shirakawago and Gokayama, also UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which are known for their old-fashioned rural life and traditions.
Get High-Tech in Modern Japan
No, your plane hasn’t sent you in a time machine, Japan really is that technologically advanced. From ordering your food on iPads to quirky toilets playing music and vending machines serving hot chocolate, this country is somehow ahead of the rest when it comes to innovation. Experiencing its high-tech culture is essential for a well-rounded trip here—you’ll find yourself immersed in a modern world with soaring skyscrapers, electronic store-filled districts, and five-story-tall arcades.
As one of the most alluring attractions to the country, Japan’s collection of cool shops will get even non-shoppers excited! From the zany boutiques in Tokyo’s Harajuku district to the upscale department stores in Ginza, it’s the most contemporary way to treat yourself. For those who love electronics, Akihabara (Electric Town) is a must-see. Its mega-sized, multi-level electronic stores are full of gadgets you didn’t even know you needed (and may want to take him with you). After shopping, fuel up in the most trendy way possible—with conveyor belt-style service at sushi restaurants, an “only in Japan” experience that is both convenient and affordable.
Japan is also famous for its efficient transportation network, and there’s no better way to step into the future than by riding one of the high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains. Choose a window seat and watch Japan’s picturesque countryside whizz by as you reach speeds of up to 199 miles per hour. But don’t be late, as most trains depart on time—to the second!
Japan is committed to being a leader in technology and to round out your “new-age” experience here, you can see the development in action at Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. This institution celebrates cutting-edge technology through interactive exhibits and an interesting ‘robotic humanoid’ that does daily shows.
Past, Present & Future Collide in Japan
Perfectly blending the old with the new, Japan offers travelers the chance to experience its historic temples, gardens, and cultural traditions as well as its modern, tech-savvy cities. See how Japan is intent on both preserving its history and moving forward with its technological advancements by exploring this intriguing destination for yourself.
You can experience it all on a cultural tour of Japan with smarTours—airfare included! Check out our trip featuring Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Takayama, and Kanazawa.