Japan is the English word for the country. The local name is Nippon, which is printed on the postage stamps and legal currency, but it is also called Nihon by the general population. Regardless of the language, it means origin of the rising sun. The country is often thought to be the oldest in the world, as the Emperor in 660 decreed. Historical data does show, however, that while it was not known as a country, per se, there was a structure and level of organization dating as far back as 300 BC.
While many people refer to Japan as an island, the truth is the country consists of close to seven-thousand islands with the main islands being called Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu. Documentation shows that just over four-hundred of the islands are actually inhabited. Honshu is the one that most people think is Japan alone and where you will find Tokyo, the present home of the Emperor, which makes it the capital city.
Indeed, Japan is a culture of many philosophies with Buddhism having been introduced from India in the early 500s and the Zen teachings from China in the late 1100s. Due to the diverse nature of the people through the ages, there is much to see, as the old ideals are still with the country today. Thus, the history and its landmarks are the perfect reason to visit.
So, today’s topic will revolve around a visit to Japan and its ancient cultures and stunning scenery. Although there are many worthy and enchanting places to see, we will focus on five awesome destinations from the many recommended by the Japan National Tourism Organization.
#1 Flower Parks
As you can see from the above photograph, flower fields are immense in Japan. The colors and vast quantity are incredible. Truly, the flowers are a sea of loveliness! The picture shows Hokkaido, which is famous for the lavender, but Kuju offers over five-hundred types of flowers including tulips, cosmos, poppies, sunflowers and pink moss. There are many parks around Japan dedicated to flower displays, some of which also plant hydrangeas, lilies, irises, blueberries, wisteria and roses.
#2 Marine Life
Tokashiki-jima Island is an amazing spot with coral reefs, tranquil beaches, humpback whales, and citrus fruit. Moreover, according to the Ramsar Convention, it houses the most valuable marsh area on this planet. There is plenty to do here to enjoy nature such as kayaking, snorkeling, diving and even surfing.
To say that Japan is rife with castles would be an understatement. You could spend your whole holiday just visiting the shrines to their past. And they are not like anything you have seen in movies or in Europe. The tiered architecture is outstanding and you can clearly see the Asian influence which are called donjon. The Shimabara Castle or Shimabara-jo in Japanese is significant because of the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637 in which Christians fought against the tyrannical ways of Matsukura Shigemasa.
#4 Ancient Ruins
With Japan being so old, you would expect to find many old areas, landmarks and monuments. And the country does not disappoint with:
- its statue of Kumano-magai-butsu, a stone Buddha from the 800s,
- the burial grounds in Asuka Historical National Government Park, famous for the colored murals,
- and the most sacred place called Seifa-utaki in Nanjo, Okinawa Prefecture, an area with natural beauty.
#5 Hot Springs
I must admit, this is our favorite, a destination on our list of places we want to visit. We love the Snow Monkeys and have only seen them on television, but if we travel to Japan, Nagano will be our first stop. But if you are on your honeymoon, then the place to be is Awazu Onsen, because it is called Lovers’ Sanctuary after the Osshobe Love Story.
We already said these are our favorites, but we had to show you just how great these snow monkeys are!