Overview of Japan

Japan is housing two of the world's most heavily populated cities – Tokyo and Osaka.
Japan is housing two of the world's most heavily populated cities – Tokyo and Osaka.

Known internationally as one of the world's most fascinating and culturally rich countries, Japan is one of Asia's most visited tourist destinations, and for good reason. From ancient historical sites to the world's biggest cities, the island nation truly has something to offer for everyone, whether they are seeking relaxation, historical understanding, a new culture, or a technological wonderland.

Japan's reputation for big cities is certainly deserved, with the country housing two of the world's most heavily populated cities – Tokyo and Osaka. From massive skyscrapers to block after block of stunningly well preserved historical buildings, Japan's major cities are an assault on the senses in a very good way, offering everything from luxury shopping and dining to serene natural beauty.

But beyond its cities, Japan certainly has a lot to offer. From its gorgeous scenery, particularly the many mountains and forest areas spread throughout Kanto, to the snowed-over ski resorts of its far northern island Hokkaido, Japan's natural beauty is one of the country's biggest attractions, drawing in visitors from nearby Asian countries and faraway destinations such as Europe and the Americas.

Geographically, Japan is a collection of islands reaching north to south along the banks of the Asian continent. Its southernmost point, an island archipelago known as Okinawa, is a famed diving area, offering some of the world's best open water diving and sea life exploration. Warm and tropical, it's a far cry from the climate of Japan's main islands, and a great example of the country's diversity.

For the most part, visitors to Japan land in one of the country's major cities, and navigate the rest of the country itself from these major transportation hubs. The country's two largest air hubs are Tokyo and Osaka, which form the country's first and second-biggest metropolitan areas, respectively. Giant metropolises, they're a great place for visitors to base themselves while exploring the rest of Japan.

During winter Japan attracts thousands of skiers and snowboarders to numerous ski resorts.
During winter Japan attracts thousands of skiers and snowboarders to numerous ski resorts.

Tokyo is known as Japan's center of contemporary culture – a city that's on the cutting edge of the country's high-tech industry. From its computer-packed Akihabara district to iconic fashion districts like Ginza and Harajuku, finding your 'place' in Tokyo is rarely difficult. Given the city's mammoth size, there's a district to suit any visitor's personality and interests, whatever they may be.

Osaka, located southwest of Tokyo, is a more commercial city with slightly less modern culture than its eastern counterpart. Rebuilt after heavy bombing during World War II, Osaka has a very modern feel to it, acting as the country's second-largest economic center. With a huge difference between its daytime and nighttime population, Osaka is truly Japan's center of major commerce.

Beyond its two major cities, Japan is home to many smaller cities, each boasting populations that extend well into the millions, and thousands of beautiful small towns. Despite its reputation as one of the world's most heavily populated areas, parts of Japan are as serene and isolated as anywhere in the world can be, giving visitors the chance to immerse themselves in nature instead of technology.

Unlike its nearby continental neighbors such as South Korea and China, Japan is not a cheap place to visit. Large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto tend to be expensive places to stay, with the average hotel room reaching into the hundreds of dollars. Despite this, inexpensive accommodation options such as kapuseru hoteru 'capsule hotels,' are a cheap option for budget-conscious guests.

Home to the world's most highly developed transportation system, Japan is a dream come true for rail travel fans. From the ultra-congested trains of Tokyo to the high-speed bullet trains connecting different parts of the country, traveling by rail in Japan is significantly quicker than traveling by air in most other countries.

With special deals for tourists such as the 'Japan Rail Pass,' visitors can enjoy Japan's incredible transportation network at a fraction of the price paid by locals. This three-week pass is a must-buy for visitors to Japan, allowing card holders the ability to travel using almost any type of train for a flat fee, potentially saving hundreds of dollars over the course of their stay in Japan.

Japan is a popular destination year-round, with its comfortable summer temperatures attracting a great deal of visitors to resorts such as Okinawa, and its frigid winter climate attracting thousands of skiers and snowboarders to Sapporo's ski resorts. As such, plane tickets are relatively affordable all year, even from far afield locations such as Los Angeles and Australia.

A country of immense culture, incredible natural beauty, innovative technology, Blade Runner-style cities, and some of the world's best food, Japan is a unique destination that must be experienced first hand. Despite its high cost of living and distance from other countries, it's a trip that's always a great experience, offering something unique and enjoyable for every type of traveler.