Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Japan, an extraordinary destination

Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, is a beautiful and mysterious land of magical contrasts – from ancient to modern, tallest to the fastest, hottest to the coolest, east to west. Discover its rich heritage of thousands of years of history. Experience its beauty, adventure, beaches, temples, shopping, nightlife and so much more.
The most modern of countries, Japan retains its ancient traditions and the rich heritage of thousands of years of history. It is a country of impossibly-high modern buildings and ancient castles; of high-voltage energy and serene Buddhist temples.
Japan's archipelago of islands on the eastern edge of the Asian continent is home to awesome natural landscapes of misty mountains, verdant forests and shimmering lakes. Its oriental opulence is highlighted in the magnificent golden temples, secluded shrines and tranquil terraced gardens, while its futuristic cities illustrate the ultra-modernity of this fascinating land.
But nothing beats the immense scenic beauty of Japan during springtime when the delicate pink cherry blossoms bloom on the branches of cherry trees across its gardens, parks, hills and fields. During March to May, as the temperature rises the buds on the cherry trees unfurl and a dazzling ‘cherry blossom front’ sweeps across the archipelago. The blossoms hit Tokyo towards the end of March and then travel north through April and May and are visible in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island, even in June. 
Tokyo, one of the biggest and most dynamic cities in the world, has incredible life and energy. The city teems with fashionable people, modern malls, cutting-edge art galleries, intriguing museums, skyscrapers, temples, shrines, parks, expensive cars and gourmet food. At cherry blossom time, the parks are enlivened by revellers. Check out the Ueno Park, on the slopes overlooking the Imperial Palace moat at Chidorigafuchi, and on the spreading lawns Shinjuku Gyoen.
The iconic Mt. Fuji is another fascinating experience. Ride on the Hakone Ropeway to visit Owakudani, a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs, formed approximately 3000 years ago during the last eruption of the Hakone volcano. Taste the Kuro-tamago or Black Egg, a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs, which are supposed to increase longevity. Cruise on Lake Ashi, a crater lake that offers great views of Mt. Fuji.

Only Rome has more designated World Heritage Sites than the former Japanese capital of Kyoto. This city has a stunning array of temples and shrines, including the Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji temples, the Golden Pavilion, and the Ryoanji Zen garden. Home to the Emperor for over 1,000 years, the city is a repository of the best of Japanese art, culture, religion and philosophy. Walk around Old Kyoto, through alleys of traditional narrow wooden houses, to restaurant terraces along the River Kamo. Visit the geisha quarter's Gion Corner for a glimpse into traditional arts like puppetry and kyomai dance performances by apprentice geisha.
Nara, located 42 kms south of Kyoto, is the older capital of Japan, and was also a major cradle of Japan’s arts, crafts, literature and culture. It is home to the Deer Park, the Nara National Museum, the Kasuga Grand Shrine and the Todaiji Temple. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Todaiji Temple is a Buddhist temple complex and houses the Great Buddha Hall, the largest wooden building in the world and the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana.
Hokkaido, Japan’s romantic northern island, abounds in natural grandeur – mountains, highlands, rivers, lakes, sea and azure skies. Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, is located at roughly the same latitude as Milan and Marseille and shares these European cities’ long hours of daylight in the spring and summer. Odori Park, at the centre of Sapporo city, looks magnificent with the pink cherry blossoms on cherry trees, soothing green lawns, fountains and flowerbeds. The city’s culinary choices are vast and the ingredients outstanding, especially as most of them come fresh to the dinner table from the surrounding countryside.
Japan, an extraordinary country of friendly and welcoming people, awaits you! 

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