Sitting proudly on the shores of Hakata Bay, Fukuoka is a city ablaze with the neon glare of the 21st century, moving at a slower and much more manageable pace than its better-known siblings from Honshu. There is plenty of Japanese flavour to be had here, both figuratively and in the very direct sense of the word, and a lot of uniquely local flair for those looking to cast their nets wider than the staples of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.
The largest city on the island of Shikoku in Japan, Matsuyama is a vibrant city of living traditions, set against a backdrop of historical buildings, where haiku poetry is still enjoyed as a part of daily life. A full calendar of seasonal festivals means that there's always something eye-catching going on. The city is served by a network of vintage trams and steam trains, so getting about is easy. Matsuyama also has miles of sandy beaches framing the beautiful island-studded Seto Inland Sea.
As testified by epic movies like Shogun and Ran, Nagoya City is pure history, centred around Nagoya Castle. It was Expo 2005 that put Nagoya on the world map. Post-Expo, Nagoya is positioning itself both as a centre for hi-tech industries and as a tourist gateway. Toyota Cars, old and new famed ceramics, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, dolls and robots castles, feudal villas and farmhouses pearls, and a plethora of shopping and nightlife spots await you in this not-so-obvious choice of a Japanese destination.
Sitting in the heart of the Kansai region, Osaka is its third largest city of Japan. It could be the closeness to Korea, China and the coast that has made it to become known as the “Kitchen of Japan”. Osaka’s people have a true zest for life. They promote a casual air and ease and are slightly, unconventionally boisterous. Osaka is regenerating, now recognising its past beauty and working hard to re-establish it. This stimulating city that works to live, is now more than ever a must-see.
With its rich natural landscape, stunning scenery and distinctive seasons, Sapporo would satisfy the explorer in any one of us. This capital of Hokkaidō, the most northern and second largest island of Japan, was established in 1868, its vast open wilderness backed by magnificent mountains highly appealing to the early settlers, just as much as to any visitor today.
Previously a relatively hidden destination, Tokyo’s technological leaps and passion for everything new has made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. A city of smaller cities, Tokyo’s neighbourhoods are individual and unique in what each can offer, from cultural sights to vast shopping malls. Get ready for a whirlwind of modernity and tradition - this is Tokyo!