Its insular character has allowed it to develop a unique and very intricate culture, while its closeness to other ancient Far Eastern cultures, in particular China, has left lasting influence.
Like the English, the French and the Germans, the Japanese were also a nation of castle-builders. Only twelve of Japan’s castles are considered to be originals, which have keeps or donjons (天守閣 tenshukaku) that date back to the days when they were still used. (*Japanese castles)
*Japan’s Top 3 — is the canonical list of Japan’s three most celebrated scenic sights, attributed to 1643 and scholar Hayashi Gahō.
*100 Landscapes of Heisei — In 2009, in celebration of its 135th anniversary, the Yomiuri Shimbun formed a selection committee and, together with its readers, selected the 100 Landscapes of Heisei (平成百景).
*100 Landscapes of Japan (Shōwa era) — The 100 Landscapes of Japan (日本百景) is a list of famous scenic sites in Japan. The 100 Landscapes or Views were selected alongside further sets of 8 Views and 25 Winning Sites in 1927, a year after Hirohito became Emperor.
*100 Soundscapes of Japan – In 1996, as part of its efforts to combat noise pollution and to protect and promote the environment, the Ministry of the Environment designated the 100 Soundscapes of Japan (日本の音風景100選).
It shouldn’t be surprising that in a country where more than 70% of the terrain is forests and mountains, outdoor activities abound. Hiking is very traditional and popular in Japan. You can find many small trails across the country, as well as plenty of rugged terrain in Japan’s many national parks. Hikes can also be part of a spiritual experience, such as climbing the 2446 stone steps of the holy Haguro mountain through an amazing primeval forest.
Japan’s longest holiday is Golden Week (29 April to 5 May), when there are four public holidays within a week and people go on an extended vacation. Trains become crowded and flight and hotel prices are jacked up to multiples of normal prices, making this a bad time to travel in Japan, but the weeks immediately before or after Golden Week are excellent choices.
Spring is one of the best times of year to be in Japan. The temperatures are warm but not hot, there’s not too much rain, and March–April brings the justly famous cherry blossoms (sakura) and is a time of revelry and festivals.
As a nation made of volcanic islands, it’s not surprising that in Japan hot springs (温泉 onsen) are commonplace. Japanese have pondered for centuries what the best hot springs in the country are, and they’ve come up with quite a few. Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns (*Public baths in Japan)
Camping wild is illegal in most of Japan, although you can always try asking for permission, or simply pitch your tent late and leave early. The National Camping Association of Japan helps maintain Campjo.com, a Japanese-only database of nearly all campsites in Japan.