Japan: Modernistic Tokyo Meets Ancestral Kyoto on the Web
Japan is often thought of as the most modern country in the world, and in many ways it is. Yet behind the glitz and glamour of the neon lights and robot dogs, you’ll find a deeply traditional culture that changes at a glacial speed. This guide features the best Web sites to aid you in planning and implementing your trip to Japan, including resources to introduce you to Japanese culture and sightseeing, tools for finding and booking transportation and accommodation, advice to help you stay safe and healthy overseas, and blogs and forums to put you in touch with other travelers.
Japan may be instantly and endlessly intoxicating, but the country’s complex mix of old and new may take quite a while for newcomers to grasp and appreciate. Get a head start online with sites offering a spectrum of information on the country, as well as details of specific cities and attractions.
- Japan comprises four main islands and thousands of smaller islands. The country is divided into eight regions (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu), which are further divided into 47 prefectures.
- Many tourists head directly to larger cities like Tokyo or Osaka, the two international flight hubs. If you want to escape the pop culture and bright lights in favor of a lower-key experience steeped in tradition and authenticity, try venturing outside of these hot spots to places like, for example, Okinawa; you’ll find fewer crowds and a calmer lifestyle.
- For vibrancy and cutting edge excitement, Tokyo is the place to be. Even if you’ve had the pleasure of visiting the city before, you may find new buildings, revitalized neighborhoods, renovated museums, and incredible technological advances. A June 2007 article from Wired News called Tokyo a living laboratory.
- For a much more subdued Japanese experience and a real taste of the country’s breathtaking topography, consider what some call a hidden place: Teuri Island off the coast of Hokkaido. In stark contrast to frenetic cities in Japan, Teuri is an isolated home to fishermen—a Japanese version of Nantucket, according to the author of this essay on the travel site Matador.
- Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport but baseball is just as popular, if not more so. A couple of things to note: women are not allowed inside Sumo wrestling arenas; baseball games in Japan can get rowdy, with intense whistling and cheering, especially during the seventh-inning stretch.
For an overview of Japan …
’s “People and Places” gives information on various countries. The basics of Japanese history and economy are provided, but the can’t-miss sections are the revealing photo slideshows in “Cities in Japan” and “Japan Features” (scroll down).
The New York Times
Travel section overviews Japan with travel articles and multimedia features like photo and video slideshows, as well as a compendium of general articles on the country. There are links to content from Frommer’s travel guides, as well.
’s includes essential and thorough information from its Japan travel guide, including recommended hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more for numerous cities. The “In Depth
” section is an excellent resource for picking up cultural details (use the links on the left to navigate).
guides read like a letter from your most well-traveled, intelligent friend. The Japan guide is brief, outlining a few essential practical details and a couple of real gems: a suggested two-month itinerary and a “Let’s Go Picks” section with a selection of bests, such as “best sunrise” and “museums most likely to give you a complex.”
For official tourism resources …
The Japan National Tourist Organization
has a well-designed Web site that utilizes photos and clearly organized charts to present a range of travel information. Practical pre-trip advice and cultural details such as festivals and museums are given. Clickable maps of places and events are also provided along with links to specific sites.
For geography and natural features …
is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and provides information on Japanese culture. This page includes a list and map of regions, becoming more specific with each successive click; link to every city in every region via map click.
For budget travel …
Japan Cheap Travel
covers essential information for planning and enjoying a low-budget stay. Sections on transportation, accommodation, and eating, as well as unusual sightseeing ideas have a personal, friendly style with well-organized details, links, and insightful advice.
travel network caters to independent, shoestring travelers with articles, a community forum, and tools to book cheap flights and accommodations. This article describes how to travel to Japan on less cash: getting around, finding a place to stay, and eating on the cheap are all covered.
For cities and sightseeing …
is a global travel insurance and marketing company that also includes Lonely Planet content on its site. This section features several suggested itineraries for travel in Japan, with route maps and transportation details. For more extensive information about cities and regions in each itinerary, consult the sites below.
is the official site of the Japan National Tourist Organization in London. The site offers plenty of resources to help you plan a trip from start to finish. Tools to help you find and book flights and hotels are included, as well as a list of attractions and downloadable calendars of events.
focuses on Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, revealing the top five reasons to visit each city, the best time to go, suggested itineraries, and practical transportation tips. Fodor’s guides are fun, easy reading, and full of great information and timely advice.
National Geographic Magazine
featured an article titled, “Fuji: Japan’s sacred summit (except when it’s not)” that chronicles the author’s ascent and flaunts a stunning photo selection taken at the foot and the top of the epic mountain. You can read the first page but you’ll need a subscription for the entirety (one year is $34).
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