Osaka is located in the Kansai region and is the third most populated city in Japan with 2.7 million people. The Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area has a total of 16.6 million people.
The main attraction in Osaka is Osaka-jo, or the Osaka Castle. The view of the castle is especially pretty in the Spring.
Kyoto, formerly Japan’s capital, is now considered the country’s culture capital. The city was spared its 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines, palaces, gardens and architecture during World War II.
The city gives visitors the feel of “old Japan,” when they walk through the geisha districts. Geisha are artist-entertainers that are trained in traditional customs such as tea ceremonies and dancing, and they can still be seen in Kyoto today wearing traditional kimonos and makeup.
If you visit Kyoto, make sure to visit Uji Byodoin (the structure featured on the 10 yen coin), Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji. These are some of the most well-known shrines and temples in the country.
For a truly relaxing experience, visit Hakone. The Japanese often come to Hakone for its many onsen, or hot spring baths, as well as its gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding parks and mountains. Many opt to stay in traditional-style inns. Patrons sleep in tatami rooms on futons.
The main attraction in Kamakura is hands down the Amida Buddha, or Big Buddha. The bronze statue has stood outside since the 15th century when a tsunami washed away the temple in which it was once housed. Other sights in Kamakura include the Hase Kannon Temple and the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine.
Kamakura has many traditional-style inns that attract visitors from all over, as well as a popular beach.
The northernmost island of Japan is Hokkaido, which is known for its excellent skiing conditions. Perhaps the best time of the year to visit would be in February, during Sapporo’s annual snow festival. Sapporo hosts an ice sculpting competition at Odori Park, attracting two million people every year.
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