The capital of imperial Japan for eleven centuries, it comes as no surprise to learn that a luxury vacation to Kyoto is one steeped in history and culture, from ancient Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines to extravagant imperial palaces and beautiful gardens. The famous Temple of the Golden Pavilion, one of Japan’s most recognisable sights, is a must-see on any trip to Kyoto; Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms, meanwhile, which colour the country pink in the spring, are held to be particularly beautiful in the ancient capital. Add to that serene Zen gardens, geishas in old Gion, and countless sake brewers, craftsmen and artisans, and in Kyoto you have Japan’s cultural heart, where you can really get a feel for this country’s remarkable history.
Known to the world as the victim of the first atomic bomb, modern Hiroshima is a bustling, vibrant city, with its leafy lanes, wide boulevards and criss-crossing rivers bisecting one of Japan’s friendliest cities. The Peace Memorial Park, a poignant reminder and a symbol of Japan’s continuing commitment to world peace, is a rewarding visit, while the Hiroshima Museum of Art and Shukkei-en gardens are among the many cultural attractions on offer in the city.
Tokyo might be the capital, but ask anyone in Osaka and they’ll tell you their home town is the only place to be in Japan. Overflowing with character, Japan’s third largest city is notably lacking in the conservatism which characterises much of the country, and its friendly locals, lively nightlife and, in particular, reputation as the nation’s food capital combine to make a luxury vacation to Osaka one of Japan’s highlights. Local specialities such as takoyaki and oshizushi, alongside some of the country’s finest sake, have led to Osaka being repeatedly hailed as one of the food capitals of the world.
Kyushu is Japan’s third-largest island and is overloaded with natural beauty, with volcanoes, near-tropical rainforest and onsen hot springs everywhere you look. Natural highlights include Mount Aso, one of the largest volcanoes in the world, where an electric blue lake bubbles in the caldera. In Kumamoto you’ll find one of Japan’s finest medieval castles, and in Dazaifu one of the country’s most beautiful Shinto shrines, Tenman-gu.