Japan is a country of contradictions. Made up of the four islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, it combines massive urban sprawl with areas of outstanding natural beauty. Tightly packed, vibrant skyscraper cities are crowded onto flat coastal plains, while steep, densely forested mountains and volcanoes rise inland.

Tokyo is the must-see capital city, a frenzied metropolis of neon, concrete and constant activity, with an abundance of shopping and sightseeing opportunities. Kyoto is the ancient capital and home to more temples and shrines per square mile than any other Japanese city, while Osaka is a fascinating city replete with bustle and excitement.

The picturesque towns of Nikko and Kamakura, both easily reachable from Tokyo are host to temples, quaint shops and the keys to understanding something more of Japan’s complicated history and elaborate culture.

North of Tokyo, the mountainous landscapes of rural Tohoku attract nature-lovers, skiers and climbers and the cosmopolitan city of Sapporo serves as the gateway to beautiful Hokkaido, its Russian-influenced cities and the wild North.

Further afield, Nagasaki is a fascinating and thought-provoking historical experience both ancient and modern and an ideal base from which to set off into the spectacular volcanic scenery of Kyushu. This includes the Aso crater in central Kyushu – the largest volcanic crater in the world with walls rising up to 700 metres in places.

Wherever you go the people and culture will fascinate. While millions of Japanese workers commute on a super-efficient public transport to work in the heart of Asia’s financial world, others tend their own rice paddies in tiny rural communities. Whatever they do though, every Japanese person stays true to their society’s complex and cultural values – impenetrable and endlessly fascinating.

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