When constructed in 1958 at 333 meters, this broadcasting tower was the tallest structure in Japan. Although today it’s considered a retro monument, Tokyo Tower remains the symbol of metropolitan Tokyo and is popular with both tourists and locals. Athletic visitors can actually ascend the tower via an outdoor staircase to achieve a workout while they sightsee! Foot Town, the aptly named shopping complex at the foot of the tower, is bustling with cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. For the main course, however, head up to the special observation deck at 250 meters up, providing panoramic views of the metropolis, including Tokyo Bay, and on clear days, Skytree and Mt. Fuji on the horizon.
Great Views part1
The iconic red brick Tokyo Station originally opened in 1914. Today, The Tokyo Station Hotel provides luxurious lodgings for visitors that want to spend a night inside this historic structure. The hotel offers ten unique restaurants and bars, including the main dining establishment, Blanc Rouge. For art enthusiasts, the Tokyo Station Gallery is a great venue to observe culturally significant pieces of art throughout history. Tokyo Station is a major transportation hub for local trains, bullet trains and highway buses, but you’ll also find the Hato Bus sightseeing service located just down the tracks. Tours on the famous yellow buses are offered in English, and are a great way to see a large portion of metropolitan Tokyo in a short time.
Kokyogaien National Gardens
The imperial residence of the Japanese emperor is built on the old site of Edo Castle in the very center of Tokyo. The grounds contain a number of parks and gardens, in addition to the world-famous Nippon Budokan indoor arena, which has hosted many international artists. In a city well known for population density, meandering alleyways and compact residential communities, the expansive Imperial Palace area offers a breath of fresh air and perspective on Tokyo’s history as the original capital, named Edo. The 5 km-long outer perimeter of the grounds is a stoplight-free running track popular with athletes in training, too.
Resplendent sunsets in Izumo on the coast of Shimane Prefecture are famously mentioned in Shinto mythology. As Japan is well known as the Land of the Rising Sun, this spiritual connection to the sun is no surprise. The Izumo area was considered a sacred location during the Yamato Kingdom era (250–710), and the setting sun remains absolutely awe-inspiring here today. The nearby Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan, so make sure to stop by before taking in an unforgettable sunset.
Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge
This 1,780 meter-long bridge spans the cobalt blue sea in Japan’s southern Yamaguchi Prefecture. Traveling from the mainland side, one arrives at the Tsunoshima Island included in the bridge’s name. Due to its far-west location in Japan, sunset views here over the Japan Sea are incredible, and the lighthouse on the island is accessible to the public. The starry night sky is also wonderful here, especially if you’ve been yearning for an escape from urban life. The bridge can be crossed by car or buses that leave from Kottoi or Takibe train stations on the San’in Main Line.
Underneath the Onaruto Bridge that connects the island of Shikoku to the small island of Awajishima, naturally formed whirlpools are visible amongst the roaring eddy currents between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There is an enclosed walkway built into the underside of the bridge that allows visitors to get a perfect view of these endlessly spiraling whirlpools. They’re best seen during low tide, so make sure to plan accordingly. Also, for the more adventurous, tourist boats that circle the Onaruto Bridge main towers offer a much closer view of these hypnotizing and powerful phenomena of the sea.
Even by Japanese standards of abundant natural beauty, the island of Shikoku is truly paradise on earth. The crystal clear waters of the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture are a perfect example. This vast, 196 km-long river is the lifeblood of the region, supporting transportation, fishing and agriculture, including green and black tea, which are a local specialty. Canoeing is very popular here, with a few rapids along the way that add excitement to the experience. For a genuine Japanese rural experience surrounded by nature, a trip to the Shimanto River will not disappoint.
This island chain is a five-island archipelago off the western coast of Kyushu in southern Japan. The Goto Islands belong to Nagasaki Prefecture and include a number of incredible sightseeing locations off the beaten path. On the largest of the islands, Fukue Island, the Osezaki Lighthouse sits on a naturally eroded cliff constantly blasted with waves from the East China Sea. It was used as a beacon of hope for sailors until the late Showa era (1980s). A beginner-friendly hiking trail to the lighthouse from the closest road is a one-hour round trip, providing a breathtaking ocean view against the steep bluffs.
Ureshino Tea Fields
Green tea is at the heart of Japanese health consciousness and social etiquette. A piping hot cup of the antioxidant-rich green day is served on almost any social occasion, and it’s said to reduce risk of illness, bestow energy and stimulate health in many other ways. Here in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture in Southern Japan, learn how green tea was originally farmed and see how it can be presented in dynamic, modern forms too, including chilled, in a cocktail, or as part of a culinary experience. An observation tower in Ureshino offers an incredible view of the terraced fields of vibrant green tea.
Takachiho Gorge and Amano-iwato Shrine
Miyazaki Prefecture offers an abundance of rural Japanese adventures far from the hustle and bustle of the city. Takachiko Gorge is a narrow chasm cut into rock by the Gosake River in northern Miyazaki, near Mt. Aso (Kumamoto). Visitors may enjoy the gorge from below, riding the calm waters on rented boats, or from above on a one km-long paved path. In the same vicinity, Amano-iwato Shrine celebrates a nearby “holy rock cave” where the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu once hid, according to ancient legend. This shrine inside a natural cave is highly impressive. Come to Miyazaki for a taste of the true Japan!
Mt. Aso Helicopter Ride
Kumamoto Prefecture’s Mt. Aso is the largest active volcano in the world—why not take in its grandeur and impressive caldera safely from the sky in a helicopter? Flights are available for as little as 3,000 yen for a two-minute trip, or 50,000 for a full 20-minute tour around the mountain. This is a perfect family activity, and Mt. Aso reveals a stunning new face depending on the season. Because Mt. Aso is active, pilots use utmost caution on these flights, which may be cancelled in the case of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. Fly high and tour Mt. Aso in style!