Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the world’s largest metropolitan economy. Greater Tokyo has 37 million inhabitants ranking it among the largest cities in the world.
Japan - Fact Check

What to see in Japan, from Tokyo to Osaka

Photo by Ton Koene

Japan - Fact Check What to see in Japan, from Tokyo to Osaka

With such a long history and such diverse cities and landscapes, it's difficult to know what to see in Japan. We've picked out some of the best, to give you a head start.

Chris Woolfrey
Chris Woolfrey

Eat sweets - not sushi - in Tokyo

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The Japanese do like sweet things but prefer more complex tastes, often finding western cakes too sugary. Umami, the so-called "fifth taste", was isolated from seaweed by chemist Kikunae Ikeda in Japan in the early 1900s. Photo by Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Canon EOS 5D-III

Aperture
ƒ/1.4
Exposure
1/60
ISO
160
Focal
24 mm

The Japanese do like sweet things but prefer more complex tastes, often finding western cakes too sugary. Umami, the so-called "fifth taste", was isolated from seaweed by chemist Kikunae Ikeda in Japan in the early 1900s.

Tokyo, not Paris, is the food capital of the world: just ask Michelin. But the city is home to much, much more than sushi.

For something different, try visiting an Amezaiku shop. That is, a shop selling Japanese candy art.

Indulge your sweet tooth. Read about Amezaiku

Take tea with a Geisha in Kyoto

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Geisha have a history that goes back several centuries to when their main occupation was to entertain the rich. The services they offer are not necessarily of a sexual nature, although it remains a mystery as to how far they will go to please their customers. Photo by Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Canon 5D

Aperture
ƒ/1.4
Exposure
1/200
ISO
800
Focal
24 mm

Geisha have a history that goes back several centuries to when their main occupation was to entertain the rich. The services they offer are not necessarily of a sexual nature, although it remains a mystery as to how far they will go to please their customers.

If Tokyo showcases all that modern Japan has to offer, Kyoto is Japan's symbol of the past. Head to Gion, the city's most famous geisha district, and enjoy a glimpse into the past.

Take tea. Read about Goin.

Head to the Okinawa Islands

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Hirakubo-saki Lighthouse stands at the northern tip of Ishigaki Island, with the East China Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. It also overlooks the uninhabited Daichibanari Island, a breeding ground for seabirds. Photo by Yusuke Okada / Getty Images

Yusuke Okada

Yusuke Okada

Agency
Getty Images

Hirakubo-saki Lighthouse stands at the northern tip of Ishigaki Island, with the East China Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. It also overlooks the uninhabited Daichibanari Island, a breeding ground for seabirds.

What to see in Japan? Almost as close to China as to the Japanese mainland, the Okinawa Islands are a serene, different kind of Japan. Its main island (simply called Okinawa Island) is home to the Ryukyuan people, who are one of the longest living people in the world.

Find yourself. Read about Okinawa

See Noh theater in Osaka

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Noh actors wear a mask and therefore use formalized movements to express emotions such as joy or sorrow. This richly embroidered woman’s kimono (karaori) – which is red to show the character is young – is part of a costume that can weigh over 20kg. Photo by Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Ton Koene

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Aperture
ƒ/1.4
Exposure
1/160
ISO
500
Focal
24 mm

Noh actors wear a mask and therefore use formalized movements to express emotions such as joy or sorrow. This richly embroidered woman’s kimono (karaori) – which is red to show the character is young – is part of a costume that can weigh over 20kg.

The oldest form of theater in Japan, noh dates to the 1300s and largely focuses on traditional Japanese literature. Not a bad way to explore the history and culture.

It's also had a major influence on European theater, from Samuel Beckett to Bertold Brecht.

Get your fill in Osaka. Read about Noh.

 

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Other stories about Japan

During Kyoto’s annual Mifune Matsuri (Three Boat Festival), beautifully decorated boats float down the Oigawa River, transforming it into a gorgeous, colorful spectacle. Three decorated with dragons lead the way, followed by numerous smaller boats.

Kyoto, Japan's truly wonderful cultural hub

Tokyo is not the best place to get acquainted with traditional Japan, if only for the fact that the city was largely destroyed – not once, but twice – in the last century. Kyoto, a two-and-a-half-hour bullet train ride away, has had a much different fate. With more than 2,000 temples and an astonishing 17 Unesco World Heritage sites, the former imperial capital of Japan is one of the richest cultural cities in the world.