Tourist Attractions and Accommodation recommended
Sightseeing spots in Hokkaido
Kuranuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa-shi
Asahiyama Zoo is Japan’s northernmost zoo. It is unusual in that it does not display animals in the usual way. Instead, visitors can see the natural condition of the animals through a display of their natural behaviour. Even though the zoo is not very big, it is extremely popular as visitors can have the precious experience of seeing the lively nature of the animals.
Visitors can see hippos in the water from below where they look like they are flying in the sky, red pandas crossing bridges, spotted seals sliding through round tunnels and so on - sights of lively animals from angles that are not usually possible. There are plenty of things to see such as fun feeding times. The English translation regarding The Asahiyama Zoo website has been done.
Hakodate, which is located in the south of Hokkaido, has many port towns where it is possible to catch a glimpse of the blending of Japanese and Western cultures. The nightscape view from Mt. Hakodate is famous as one of the three best in the world.
44 Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido
Goryokaku was a star-shaped western-style fort constructed in Hakodate in the Edo Period and has been designated as a special historic landmark in Japan. It is famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring and visitors can enjoy the impressive atmosphere in the winter when it is lit up. Goryokaku has a tower from which visitors can look down over the park where the original star shape can be seen. A partial restoration of Hakodate Magistrate’s Office was constructed in the original location in the park in 2010 and visitors can feel the traces of the period and the history. 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the construction of Goryokaku. There is an English translation of the Japanese Goryokaku Tower Official Website with a floor guide and information on opening hours and entrances fees, etc.
■Shiretoko Goko Lakes
This is a group of five lakes in the Shiretoko National Park which is registered as a World Heritage Site. The lakes will never dry up as underground water flows down from the Shiretoko mountains and wells up in the lakes. Two paths which circle all five lakes which are dotted around the virgin forest have been created, one of which is an overhead path through the trees and another which is a path on the ground. As this is a brown bear habitat, ground-level access is only available by guided tour during bear season.
Each of the lakes are named with numbers from 1 - 5 and visitors can enjoy a wide panoramic view of the scenery such as the virgin forest and the Shiretoko mountains from each viewing point and may come across wild birds and animals. The English translation regarding The Shiretoko Goko Lakes website has been done.
■Sea of Okhotsk Ice Floes
The Sea of Okhotsk ice floes can be seen from Japan from around mid-January to the end of March in an average year. Ice floe sightseeing ice-breakers are operated from Abashiri City and Monbetsu City allowing visitors to see the ice floes up close.
Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum
245-1 Tentosan, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido
This is a facility where it is possible to experience ice floes even when it is not ice floe viewing season. There is an ice floe experience room which is kept at a temperature of -15℃ where visitors can touch a real ice floe and where they can see cliones called ‘Ice floe Angels’.
There is an English translation of the Japanese Abashiri City Travel Site with information about the Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum, the Aurora, a sightseeing icebreaker on which you can see the drift ice and the JR Ryuhyo Norokko sightseeing train from which you can also see the drift ice as it runs along the coast. The official website of Aurora, the Abashiri Ice Sightseeing and ＆ Icebreaker Ship is in Japanese but an English translation is also provided.
Sightseeing spots in Touhoku(north-east) region
■Oirase Mountain Stream
Towada-kohan, Towada-shi, Aomori-ken
Oirase Mountain Stream is a 14km stream from the Oirase River that flows from Towadako Lake and is designated as a special place of scenic beauty and a natural monument. The best part is the natural beauty with its diverse changing flow, rocks and many waterfalls. Oirase Mountain Stream is said to be home to around 200 species of the 1,800 Japanese species of moss and lichen and the brilliantly-coloured moss-covered trees and rocks in the stream look just like a painting. Visitors can stroll along the banks of the stream and enjoy the beauty of the scenery of the trees around them. The official Japanese website of Oirase Keiryu Hotel provides an English translation of some of its pages with information on rooms and facilities as well as activities and onsen hot springs.
■Chusonji Temple Konjikido Golden Hall
202 Koromonoseki, Hiraizumi, Hiraizumi-cho, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate-ken
Chusonji Temple Konjikido Golden Hall is the representative of Chusonji Temple and is the very first building in Japan to have been registered as a national treasure. Both the interior and the exterior of the completely golden hall containing an enshrined image of Amittabha are decorated with gold leaf. It can certainly be said to be a work of art with its magnificent decorations of mother-of-pearl inlay, gold and silver lacquer and metal openwork. Five of Hiraizumi-cho’s cultural heritage sites are registered as World Cultural Heritage Sites including Chusonji Temple and Motsuji Temple with its magnificent gardens. The official Japanese website of Chusonji Temple Konjikido Golden Hall provides an English translation of some of its pages with information on Chusonji, cultural heritage, events, places within the grounds that are worthy of note, opening times and fees.
Shirakamisanchi is a mountainous region that stretches from Aomori Prefecture to Akita Prefecture in which the virgin Japanese beech forest is registered as a World Heritage Site. The Mother Tree is a giant 400-year-old Japanese beech and there is a cluster of 33 lakes and marshes dotted around the forest. However, if viewed from a certain position, there appear only to be 12 which is why it is called Twelve Lakes. It is a very popular place for trekking with its whimsical scenery including the Blue Pond which has such a high degree of clearness that the mystical inky blue of the water reflects the surrounding trees. Visitors can also enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Japan Canyon, huge cliffs of bare white rock like America’s Grand Canyon near to Twelve Lakes.
Sightseeing spots in Kanto region (excluding Tokyo)
3-9 Oaza Kusatsu, Kusatsu-machi, Azuma-gun, Gunma-ken
A typical Japanese onsen resort. Winner of best Japanese onsen resort for 6 years running. Top-ranked onsen quality for cloudiness and the odour of sulphur. The location for the hit Japanese onsen film Thermae Romae. The photo below shows Yuhata, the symbol of Kusatsu Onsen, and shooting for the movie, Thermae Romae II. The town is compact and can be visited in a short time even if you are only on foot. There are many public baths that can be used free of charge. There are three rules for using these: 1. Wash before getting into the bath, 2. Do not take towels into the bath and 3. Do not wear a bathing suit. If you are looking for an onsen hot spring area in East Japan, this would be our first recommendation. It is very popular among Japanese people.
The official Kusatsu Onsen Tourist Association site in Japanese has pages available in English, however, it is an automatic translation and may not be accurate. These pages contain information on Kusatsu Onsen bathing facilities that do not require overnight stays and dining and accommodation recommendations.
2301 Sannai, Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken
Nikko Toshogu is one of the Nikko shrines and temples that are registered as World Cultural Heritage Sites in Nikko City in Tochigi Prefecture. The five-storeyed pagoda and the dazzling sculptures overwhelm those who see them and make you think about the history of Japan and forget the passage of time. There are many wooden sculptures of various animals which explain teachings and ideologies such as peace. The sculpture of the three See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil monkeys and the sculpture of the Sleeping Cat are typical of this shrine and very well-known. The monkey sculpture in particular is famous throughout the world as the “Three Wise Monkeys”. Toshogu is currently undergoing major repairs and the discovery of a painting behind the wainscoting of the east and west wall surfaces during one part of these repairs on the Yomei Gate, which is a national treasure, has been in the news. In order to welcome many overseas visitors, Toshogu provides translation of signs and informion in English.
The English translation of the Japanese website contains information such as the history of Nikko Toshogu, festivals and rituals, an outline of the main building, a map of the grounds and entrance fees. English audio guide services are also available (Rental: 500 yen / day) and these explain about the 29 different buildings within the grounds of Toshogu.
■Kayabuki Izakaya Pub
4688 Miyukihon-cho, Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken
The only pub in the world where monkeys serve the customers. As seen in the media - CNN, Reuters, etc. As shown in the photo below, a monkey wearing a traditional happi coat brings your wet towel. The monkeys also wear masks or dance and new attractions evolve daily. This izakaya has been picked up by media all over the world and there are many international visitors. Customers can have commemorative photos taken. A visit to this pub is a rare experience. It goes without saying that it is not only the monkeys that have an established reputation, the cuisine is also well-reputed. Don’t worry, the monkeys are well trained so you can relax and enjoy yourself!
Sightseeing spots in Tokyo Metropolitan area
■Oedo Onsen Monogatari
2-57 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo-to
An onsen theme park where visitors can experience the feeling of an onsen resort in Tokyo. Hot spring districts and old town streets have been recreated. The water comes from real onsen hot springs. Visitors can come for the day or stay overnight. Everyone in the park wears a yukata (a light kimono worn as a robe), fairs and festivals are held and visitors can experience the atmosphere of old Japan as if they have gone back in time. There is also a good choice of eating and drinking establishments such as restaurants and izakaya pubs. We recommend a relaxing day drinking, eating, having fun and bathing. This park is also used to entertain international guests. The official Oedo Onsen Monogatari website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages. These contain detailed information about the different types of baths, instructions for use, entertainment such as fairs and fortune-telling, souvenir shops and restaurants and services provided at the beauty salon.
1-23-1-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Landmark Tower opened in Toranomon in Tokyo’s Minato Ward in June, 2014. Perfect for the business area right in the centre of Tokyo, it has the optimum specifications for welcoming businesspeople from overseas. It is composed of the Andaz Hotel, luxury rental flats, office buildings, events halls and shops. One of the most interesting features of Toranomon Hills is that it is built on top of ground-level roads. The Toranomon Hills macsot is called Toranomon and is almost identical to Doraemon, the world-famous cartoon character except that Toranomon is black and white rather than blue and white and has ears. Incidentally, a Doraemon movie is set for release in the US in the summer of 2014. The official Toranomon Hills website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages with a floor guide and information about shops and restaurants. You can also download a PDF file containing more details about shops and the quarterly magazine.
Oshiage 1-1-2, Sumida-ku, Tokyo-to
Registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest tower in 2011. A new place of interest in Tokyo. There are two viewing decks: Tembo Deck (350m) and Tembo Galleria (450m). These offer an unbroken view of the Tokyo cityscape and of Mt. Fuji, the World Heritage Site. The glass floor on the Tembo Deck is particularly impressive - don’t forget to see this when you visit. The Japanese-style elevator interior is also a must. We recommend visiting first thing in the morning when it is not crowded or at night to see the night skyline. TOKYO SKYTREE Town, which surrounds TOKYO SKYTREE, includes Tokyo Soramachi, a commercial facility, office buildings, an aquarium, a planetarium, a public square, a garden and two stations. The Japanese souvenir area on the 4th floor of Tokyo Soramachi is perfect for buying your souvenirs. The official TOKYO SKYTREE website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages. These provide ticket fees and purchasing methods, a floor guide and information about the TOKYO SKYTREE official hotel.
Sightseeing spots in Koshin-etsu region
■Jigokudani Yaen Koen Monkey Park
6845 Yamanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken
Jigokudani Yaen Koen is famous for its snow monkeys who bathe in the onsen hot springs.
Take a look at the live webcam with the link below.
This is a highly rare sight in the world. It is popular with both Japanese and international visitors. In the winter there are some days when international visitors make up more than half of the visitors to the park. The official Jigokudani Yaen Koen Monkey Park provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages. These contain information about the park and how to get there, opening hours and admission fees, precautions for using the park and the ecology of the park. Pamphlets can also be downloaded from this website.
This is the oldest castle in Japan - a five-storied tower in Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture. The Sengoku Era tower has been preserved and is registered as a national treasure. The backdrop for Matsumoto Castle is a view of the mountains of the Northern Alps and incredible views can be enjoyed in every season. It is lit up at night to give a view of Matsumoto Castle with a solemn atmosphere. The official Matsumoto Castle website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages which detail admission fees, artefacts and the castle town of Matsumoto. Visitors can also see the castle live online with a service that displays each floor of the castle through a camera and a live camera function that updates every minute.
*Bonus Accommodation Information ： Ryokan Seifuso
Ryokan Seifuso is a popular accommodation destination for international visitors. The family who runs the hotel all speak English so it is popular because communication goes smoothly and because it has an at-home atmosphere. The hotel has many great services for tourists including a hand-drawn map of the area and free bicycle rental.
Oshino-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi-ken
Oshino Hakkai is designated as a Japanese natural monument with its beautiful spring ponds created with underground water from Mt. Fuji. It is made up of 8 ponds: Deguchi-ike, Omaka-ike, Sokonuke-ike, Choshi-ike, Waku-ike, Nigori-ike, Kagami-ike and Shobu-ike. Waku-ike is the most typical of the ponds of Oshino Hakkai and it is mysterious with a high volume of clear water ? visitors can see right to the deep bottom. The official Oshino Village Sightseeing Association provides an English translation of its Japanese pages which contain details of the 8 ponds of Oshino Hakkai, how to get there, events and other sightseeing spots in the area.
Sightseeing spots in Hokuriku region
■Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Toyama - Nagano
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a large-scale mountain sightseeing route that passes through the mountains of the Northern Alps which are 3,000m above sea level and which straddle Toyama and Nagano Prefectures. Visitors follow the route using trolley buses, aerial tramways and cable cars so it is fun to use the different modes of transport but the highlight is the scenery interweaved with the wild, natural landscape.
Famous sights along the way are Murodo and the Kurobe Dam. Murodo is the highest point on an alpine route in Japan and as soon as visitors alight there, the magnificent view of the mountain range stretches out before them and there is also spring water. Kurobe Dam is the highest dam in Japan at 1500m above sea level. Water is discharged at fixed times and visitors will be overwhelmed by the huge scale of the discharge of 10 tonnes of water per second. Kurobe Lake has pleasure cruises and visitors can experience the reflection of the mountain scenery in the beautiful emerald green water to their heart’s content.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages which explain the Alpine Route. This site is also useful as it is possible to reserve trolley bus and cable car service tickets. There is also FAQ section for reservations and the site provides weather information and live images from cameras.
Tojinbo, Mikuni-cho, Sakai-shi, Fukui-ken
This 1km long set of sheer cliffs eroded by the waves of the Sea of Japan is designated as a Japanese natural monument and makes up the largest area of picturesque scenery in the Hokuriku region. The view from the 25m-high cliffs is enough to you freeze to the spot. Visitors can enjoy the view in many different ways such as strolling around the walking route, looking down from Tojibo Tower, a viewing tower, or looking up from a pleasure cruise.
This is one of the three great gardens of Japan and is a large Japanese-style garden which has been designated as a special place of beauty. Visitors can experience the feel of the scenery of the four seasons and Kenrokuen Park in the winter is particularly beautiful when it is quietly enveloped in snow. Yukizuri supports that protect the trees from snow damage are installed and the beautiful conical silhouette of the ropes that are set out in a radial pattern is a famous sight when lit up at night. Famous highlights of the garden include the two-legged stone lantern, a giant pine tree, a pond, a fountain and a waterfall and visitors will be overwhelmed by the high skill level of the artisan gardeners. The official Kenrokuen Park website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages. The English translation of the Japanese pages provides detailed information on the history of Kenrokuen Park, a viewpoint map, opening hours, fees and access.
Sightseeing spots in Tokai region
Mt. Fuji was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2013. This famous mountain is Japan’s highest and is used as the symbol of Japan. It also has strong connections to Japanese arts and culture. International visitor numbers have increased particularly since Mt. Fuji was named as a World Cultural Heritage Site. It was also designated as a model district with the aim to increase international visitor numbers by the Japan Tourism Agency so visitors can enjoy themselves with peace of mind. Many English-speaking guides and English language tours are available in addition to English translation signs around Mt. Fuji area.
Shirakawa, Ono-gun, Gifu-ken
Shirakawago is a cluster of 100 large and small houses, some of five storeys, built 300 years ago in the traditional Japanese style with a steep thatched roof. It has been selected as traditional architecture preservation district and is also registered as a World Heritage Site. The village is still inhabited, which is rare for this kind of settlement. The old thatched roof houses interweaved with the natural scenery make visitors feel that they have travelled back in time. There is an English translation of the official Japanese Shirakawa Village website, where Shirakawa-go is located. It gives information on bus tours and free Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.
Nagoya Castle is one of the three great castles of Japan and is designated as a special historic landmark. It was destroyed by fire in the war but the five storey large castle tower and the small castle tower have been restored. The five storey castle tower is crowned with gold Shachihoko ornamentation which has earned it the name of the Golden Dolphin Castle or the Golden Castle. It is the symbol of Nagoya City. Visitors will be amazed by the weapons and art exhibitions but there are also many other things for visitors to experience that bring them closer to the history such as taking photos with the display of a life-sized golden dolphin and riding on a palanquin. The official Nagoya Castle website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages. English guide services are available although days and times are restricted. The English translation of the Japanese website provides Nagoya Castle opening times, entrance fees and information about the seasonal plants and trees within the grounds.
Sightseeing spots in Osaka
Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu
One of the most well-known spots in Osaka is Dotonbori which has become the general term for the shopping district on both sides of the famous Dotonbori Canal. It is a representative tourist destination in Osaka ? a must if you visit the city. Lined with various shops and restaurants, it is a place where you can feel the energy of Osaka. A typical thing to do here is wander along eating the famous Takoyaki (octopus cooked in a ball of batter) and look at the many huge flashy signs and billboards. Visitors can fully enjoy this area with a boat trip on the river.
The official website of the Shopping District of Dotonbori provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages with information on Dotonbori history, restaurants and bars, comedy performances, tourism and shopping. Click on the Dotonbori map for details of each establishment.
■Universal Studios Japan
2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu
Universal Studios Japan is the Japanese version of Universal Studios Hollywood in the US and is a theme park where visitors can experience the world of Hollywood movies. It is a place in which both children and adults can enjoy different movie universes such as Jaws, Jurassic Park and Spiderman, not forgetting Snoopy and Sesame Street. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in the summer of 2014, pushing the theme park even further into the limelight. The official Universal Studios Japan website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages.
Pages with English translations of the Japanese contain details of attractions, restaurants, shops, ticket fees and recommended routes.
1-1-43 Abenosuji, Abeno-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu
Newly opened in 2014, this is the highest skyscraper in Japan at 300m. It houses commercial facilities, a hotel, offices, an art museum, a viewing platform and a rooftop garden. There is a 360° panoramic view of Osaka, one of Japan’s three largest cities, from the viewing deck.
The official website of Abeno Harukas provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages which contain information on Abeno Harukas, a floor guide, access and nearby tourist attractions.
Sightseeing spots in Kyoto region
Tourist information offices as well as Seven-Eleven convenience stores and Starbucks stock free walking tour maps of Kyoto. These maps are in Japanese but also feature an English translation so they are very convenient as you do not need to carry around a heavy guidebook.
1-294 Kiyomizu 1-294, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
This is a historical temple erected halfway up Otohasan mountain in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. It is registered as a World Heritage Site and the main building is registered as a Japanese national treasure. The temple juts out from a cliff so visitors get a magnificent view of the city of Kyoto. It is a popular destination throughout the four seasons for visitors as well as those who come to pray. Pure spring water gushes forth from the Otoha waterfall within the grounds and this water has long been valued for prolonging life. This is also where the name of Kiyomizudera (the temple of the crystal stream) came from.
There is an English translation of the official Japanese website. It contains information on Kiyomizudera visiting hours and what times the gate opens and closes. Visitors will be able to buy a map accompanied by an English translation of the audio guide service from 2016 and this service provides the audio guide to those who scan the QR code into their smartphones.
Tango, Kyoto Prefecture
Amanohashidate is one of Japan’s three most famous scenic views along with Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture and Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture. It is the only sandbar within a bay in Japan and is called Amanohashidate because the scenery of the 8,000-tree pine forest and the white sand dunes is beautiful and looks like a bridge to heaven. Different views can be enjoyed from two particularly famous viewing spots: Shoryukan and Naname Ichimonji.
The name Shoryukan originates from the fact that the viewing spot is like a dragon flying up to heaven and the name Naname Ichimonji comes from the fact that the view is oriented in the same way as the character for the number one, drawn diagonally. Many tourists do ‘mata-nozoki’ which is bending over and looking at the view between your legs ? this turns the view upside down and it really does look like Amanohashidate is a bridge to heaven. The English translation of The Amanohashidate Tourist Guide website is available.
68 Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
The main shrine at Fushimiinaritaisha is designated as an important cultural property in Japan and its sculptures are magnificent. The highlight is the crimson torii corridor with its many Shinto shrine archways constructed in a confined space which is both mystical and beautiful. It is often used in TV commercials, TV dramas and movies in Japan. The mystical beauty coupled with the abundant nature makes it a very popular destination for tourists from overseas.
Sightseeing spots in Kansai region (excluding Osaka/Kyoto)
Honmachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo-ken
A historical site to rival the Egyptian Pyramids, the Palace of Versailles and the Great Wall of China. The most famous castle in Japan. Designated as a World Heritage Site in 1993. Sequential repairs have been conducted over the 5 years since 2009 and will be completed in 2015. We recommend a visit to the beautified castle.
The Himeji Castle website provides an English machine translation of some of its Japanese pages. These pages contain information on entrance fees, opening times, the history of the castle and the story of how it became Japan’s first World Heritage Site. It is also useful because there are foreign language guides that are free of charge.
Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ken
A well-known hot spring symbolic of Japan. A great location just outside of the Kobe suburbs. The impressive reddish brown cloudy water counts it as one of the 3 best mineral springs in Japan. This is a hot spring area which many international guests have visited over the years. It is not only famous for its onsen hot springs. Visitors can also experience traditional tatami room dinner parties with maiko or geisha. We recommend Arima Onsen if you want somewhere to relax in the Kansai region.
The official Arima Hot Springs Tourism Association website provides an English translation of some of its pages. These provide information on accommodation, dining and souvenir shops at Arima Onsen as well as drop-in baths, local tourist attractions and weekly weather forecasts. There is also a Facebook page so it is possible to check the latest information.
Kishi Station, Kishigawa Line, Wakayama Electric Co., Ltd.
This is an unusual station with a cat as station master, officially appointed by Wakayama Electric Co., Ltd. Because the cat’s name is Tama, the train is called the Tama Train and trains with cute Tama cat wrappings run on this line. The cute figure of the cat wearing its stationmaster’s hat is well-known not only throughout Japan but throughout the world as well. Tama’s apprentice, Nitama, currently works as station master at the nearby Idakiso Station. There are even commemorative tickets with a photo of both Tama and Nitama stationmasters. The English translation of the official Wakayama Electric website is available.
Tama, the cat and station master died in June, 2015 following which Nitama (Tama Two in English) took up the post and is working at Kishi Station full-time. Japanese website pages that have been translated into English provide information on how to get to the Wakayama Electric Railway Kishigawa Line by train, day ticket prices and timetables.
Sightseeing spots in Chuugoku region
Itsukushima Shrine has a history of 1400 years and is located on Miyajima Island in Hatsukaichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture and the Shinto shrine, which has been designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site, contains Japanese national treasures and important cultural properties. The most famous of these is the 16m-high vermillion great gateway built in the sea which creates a solemn and sacred atmosphere. The continuous corridors of the vermillion-painted Shinto shrine were built on the beach and, at low tide; it is possible to walk out to the great gateway. At high tide, it is whimsical, looking just as though it is floating on the sea.
The English translation of Miyajima’s tourism website is available(Itsukushima Shrine is located on Miyajima Island).
Japanese pages that have been translated into English contain information on the history of Itsukushima Shrine as well as details on the size of the gateway in the water. They also provide information about Shinto and Buddhism, the weather on Miyajima where Itsukushima Shrine is located and events such as festivals. It is also possible to download a PDF route map round Miyajima tailored to the number of days you will be staying.
■Tottori Sand Dunes
These sand dunes stretch along the Japan sea coast and are known as one example of the three most famous sand dunes in Japan. They are definitely the largest sand dunes in Japan, stretching 2.4km north to south and 16km east to west and they have been designated as natural monument as well as being selected as one of Japan’s 100 best geological features. The wind-wrought patterns on the sand are really magnificent ? definitely worth a visit. Depressions like mortar bowls called suribachi are also particularities of the geographical features and some reach the depth of 40m in places. The Tottori sand dunes are not just for looking at. There are also a lot of different activities available. Visitors can try a camel ride, paragliding or sand boarding.
Incidentally, Tottori prefecture has recently been in the news as the only prefecture that does not have a branch of Starbucks (nicknamed Sutaba in Japan). Instead, there is a coffee shop named Sunaba, which means sand box in Japanese, and it seems to be very popular. However, it sounds like Starbucks will finally be opening a branch in the area.
The Tottori Prefecture tourist information site provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages which contain information on the Tottori Sand Dunes, all kinds of activities including camel rides and sandboarding as well as a map.
1-5 Korakuen, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi
Korakuen is one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens and was created approximately 300 years ago. It has been given three stars by Michelin’s Le Guide Vert Japon. The garden has an innovative layout with waterways, spacious lawns, a Noh theatre stage and a horse-riding area and the view of Okayama Castle from Sawa-no-ike Pond is very beautiful.
Visitors can rent an audio guide at the main entrance with an explanation of the 28 points of interest in the garden in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese or French to get an even better understanding of Korakuen. For a fixed period in summer and autumn, the garden is also open at night giving visitors the chance to enjoy a completely different landscape to that of the garden during the day. The official Korakuen website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages.
Japanese pages that have been translated into English contain information on the history of Korakuen, seasonal events, an explanation of must-see attractions, seasonal flowers that can be seen at Korakuen, admissions fees and opening times, an explanation of the guide service and access. This site also has a convenient pamphlet download.
Sightseeing spots in Shikoku region
Yunomachi, Dogo, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime-ken
Dogo Onsen is Japan’s oldest onsen hot spring source and is an onsen town visited by many literary figures. The townscape has a nostalgic feel, trams still run in the streets and the ‘Botchan Train’ which was named after Soseki Natsumei’s novel is a steam train also runs in the town, giving visitors the feeling that they have gone back in time. We also recommend going for a stroll wearing a yukata (light kimono worn as a robe). Dogo Onsen Honkan is the symbol of Dogo Onsen and its stately three-storied structure is designated as an important Japanese cultural property. The taiko drum which was struck once every hour in ancient times is now only struck twice a day in the morning and the evening but its sounds still brim with atmosphere. Visitors can view rooms which are open to the public such as the Botchan Room with its Soseki Natsumei connection and Japan’s only bathroom for the exclusive use of the Imperial household. The English translation of the official Dogo Onsen Monogatari site will be available with a Translate button.
The English translation of Japanese pages provides information on the history of Dogo Onsen such as the origin of its name and hot spring water quality and facilities. There is also information about tourist attractions in the vicinity as well as places with hand and foot baths.
The Shimanami Kaido is one of three suspension bridge routes that link the island of Shikoku to the main island of Honshu (the others being the Great Seto Bridge and the Onaruto Bridge). The Shimanami Kaido consists of 10 bridges to 9 islands. It is also famous among cyclists all over the world, many of whom come to follow the cycling course. All of the bridges can be crossed by bike or on foot.
The Shin-onomichi Bridge (motor vehicles only) and the Onomichi Bridge are parallel sister bridges that connect Onomichi on Honshu with Mukaishima on the opposite shore.
The Innoshima Bridge is a two-level bridge with motor vehicles on top and bicycles and pedestrians on the bottom from which the beautiful island scenery can be viewed over Innoshima and Mukaishima Islands known as the base for the historical Murakami Navy.
The Ikuchi Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge to Ikuchishima Island. It was the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge when it was completed in 1991. The Tatara Bridge was also constructed using this technology.
The Tatara Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that links Ikuchishima Island with Omishima Island and is a thing of beauty with its shape that looks like outspread wings. It is a twinned with the cable-stayed Normandy Bridge in France. Visitors can experience the ‘crying dragon’ phenomenon by clapping their hands and listening to the echo which sounds like a dragon crying.
The Omishima Bridge is an arch bridge between Omishima and Hakatajima and was the first bridge to be built in the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Project.
The Hakata/Oshima Bridge is a rare double bridge with 2 different bridges: the Hakata Bridge that links Hakatajima Island with Michikajima Island and the Oshima Bridge that links Michikajima Island with Oshima Island.
The Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge (The First/Second/Third Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridges) is the world’s first suspension bridge structure linking three bridges and connecting Oshima Island and Imabari. Visitors can see the rapids of the Kurushima Channel which are one of the three most famous examples of tidal rapids in Japan. It is also known as a beautiful sight at night when it is lit up.
English translation of SHIMAP Shimanami Kaido Tourist Information website is available.
The English translation of Japanese pages provides tourist information on local scenic views, temples, castles, art galleries and museums. It also provides information on local events, rates for hiring bicycles for touring the Shimanami Kaido, specialty products and access from major train stations. There is also a convenient pamphlet for tourists to download.
9 Urado, Kochi-shi
Katsurahama is a bow-shaped coastline that is one of the picturesque sights which is typical of Kochi. The beautiful harmony of the blue sea, the white sand and the pine forest make it look like a miniature garden. It has also been a famous site for viewing the moon since ancient times. The whole area is called Katsurahama Park and there are many things to see such as the aquarium, the Tosainu Centre where you can learn about the history of Tosainu fighting dogs and the Ryoma Sakamoto Memorial Museum and Statue, Sakamoto being an important historical figure in the history of Kochi. It is also possible to see the magnificent Pacific Ocean horizon from the viewing deck at the Memorial Museum.
Sightseeing spots in Kyushu region
Yufuin-cho, Yufu-shi, Oita-ken
Yufuin is a popular destination with the 2nd largest quantity of hot spring water of all Japan’s hot springs. Located in a basin called Bungofuji surrounded by mountains such as Yufudake, the morning mist in the winter allows you to encounter a whimsical landscape. Strolls around the idyllic rural landscape or paths along the river can be enjoyed and with its many art museums, Yufuin is known as the town of art and onsen hot springs. English translation is available in the Yufuin-Onsen Tourism Association website.
The English translation of Japanese pages provides information on rates and opening hours, events and tourist attractions as well as shrines and temples. There is also a convenient Yufu City tourist guide to download.
■Kyushu Sightseeing Trains
Kyushu is famous for its many different types of sightseeing trains.
The Asoboy! Limited Express is a passenger train that both parents and children can enjoy with its black puppy mascot displayed at every turn and its library and space where children can lie down. There are also parent and child seats with a smaller seat at the window to ensure that the children get a window seat.
The Hisatsu Orange Railway Orange Restaurant is a moving restaurant in which passengers comfortably enjoy their journey. The interior is spacious with seats from which the beautiful coastal scenery can be enjoyed or reserved semi-private compartments with sofas and each station entertains the passengers with local specialities, etc.
The official website of the Kyushu Railway Company which runs the sightseeing trains provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages containing information about each sightseeing train and photos of their interiors. Interior design can be viewed on Google Street View. There is also information about souvenirs, train services and timetables.
The official Kumamoto Castle website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages containing a detailed history of the castles, admission fees and opening times as well as details on what to see within the grounds. There is also information on local tourism. These pages are a good reference for local cuisine, specialty products and events throughout the year.
1-1 Honmaru, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto-ken
Kumamoto Castle is one of Japan’s three most famous castles and was constructed over 400 years ago. It is known as a famous site for cherry blossoms in the spring and had been chosen as one of the 100 best places to view cherry blossom in Japan. As there are gingko trees in the vicinity, the castle is also called Gingko Castle. It has rare characteristics for a Japanese castle such as the stone wall that curves outwards in order to prevent enemies from climbing up and the underground passages. It was also used as a location in the Godzilla movie.
The official Kumamoto Castle website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages containing a detailed history of the castles, admission fees and opening times as well as details on what to see within the grounds. There is also information on local tourism. These pages are a good reference for local cuisine, specialty products and events throughout the year.
Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima-ken
Yakushima is an island of mystical beauty and an abundance of nature located 60km south-southwest of Kagoshima Prefecture. Due to this abundance of nature, the 107.47km² area of the island is registered as a World Natural Heritage Site and it is famous for its very rare Jumon cedar trees which are said to be 7,200 years old as well as its Yaku cedar trees which are over 1,000 years old. This is the best area in Japan for loggerhead turtles coming ashore with one third of all turtles in Japan found here. There is a magical place which is frequently shrouded in mist and covered in moss called Kokemusu Forest which was the model for the forest in the animated film, Princess Mononoke.
The official Yakushima Town website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages containing an outline of Yakushima, events throughout the year, tourist attractions such as mountains, waterfalls and onsen hot springs, precautions for mountain climbing and the mountaineering club conservation fund.
Sightseeing spots in Okinawa region
1-2 Shurikinjo-cho, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken
Shuri Castle is a Ryukyu Kingdom era castle built on elevated ground and is Okinawa’s largest red-tiled, vermillion-painted building with an air of the splendour of the era. The current castle building was restored after being destroyed by fire in the Battle of Okinawa and it is now under maintenance. Shuri Castle Ruins are registered as a World Heritage Site. The construction technique is different from ancient Japanese methods - a unique blend of Chinese and Japanese techniques. The central hall is worth seeing for its many colourful ornamental dragons. It is a typical Okinawa tourist attraction and it is no exaggeration to say that everyone who goes to Okinawa pays the castle a visit. The official Shuri Castle website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages.
The English translation of Japanese pages provides a guide map and the history of Shuri Castle, an explanation of must-see highlights, areas that require an entry fee or are free of charge, admission fees and opening times as well as access. It also provides aerial video footage of the castle.
■Makishi Public Market
2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken
This is a market that has been in Okinawa since ancient times and it has always been the pantry of Naha citizens. It is crowded with rows of vegetables, fresh fish and pork, brims with Okinawan ingredients such as pig’s heads or colourful tropical fish and visitors can experience the food culture of tropical Okinawa. Visitors can enjoy themselves just by looking but the second floor has a dining hall and where you can fully enjoy Okinawa cuisine prepared with ingredients from the market. The market bustles with people including many foreign tourists. The tourist spot, Kokusaidori Street, is nearby ? perfect for souvenir shopping.
■Okinawa Churami Aquarium
424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa-ken
Okinawa Churami Aquarium’s large tank houses the Whale Shark, the world’s largest fish, and the Manta. The sight of them swimming around in a leisurely manner is impressive. Coral is grown here and can be viewed from above. There is no roof so the beautiful coral can be viewed illuminated by the rays of the sun. In addition, there are other interesting displays where visitors can touch starfish and sea cucumbers and see other creatures which are not from the sea such as the Okinawan freshwater coconut crab. The official Okinawa Churami Aquarium website provides an English translation of some of its Japanese pages.
The English translation of Japanese pages introduces the different areas of Churami Aquarium and explains the educational program and research activities. It also provides useful details such as admission fees and opening hours, a map of the aquarium, information about restaurants and shops, information about the busiest times and programs provided as well as FAQ and necessary precautions for visiting the aquarium.