The Japanese have seamlessly adapted to globalisation, while maintaining a firm hold on their spirituality and traditions. Intricate tea ceremonies are celebrated throughout the land, some lasting up to four hours, while sushi-making is a celebrated art passed on over many generations. Religion in Japan is dominated by Shinto and Buddhism, both strongly grounded in ritual and tradition and practiced at temples, shrines and spiritual sanctuaries found throughout the country. The intriguing tradition of geisha dates back to the 7th century and is today a living heritage. Visitors delight at the sight of these high-society female entertainers dressed in silk garments and revealing perfectly painted faces. Japanese food too is closely linked to its traditions and offers reason enough to visit. From delicious ramen to green-tea ice cream, local cuisine is centred on seasonal and regional produce. Of course every trip to Japan should be accompanied by a glass or two of sake (rice wine).
Unlike many tourist-trodden destinations, large parts of Japan remain undiscovered by the western traveller. Beyond Japan’s densely-packed cities, Mother Nature showcases her best colours. Two thirds of land in Japan is covered by mountains, hills and forests, while its vast coastline boasts hidden coves, dramatic cliffs and snorkelling-friendly reefs. Home to dozens of volcanoes, Japan’s interior is also where the Japanese have mastered the art of spa thanks to an abundance of mineral-rich water springs bubbling up to the earth’s surface. Situated east of Tokyo, iconic Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, a must-see attraction and a perfect choice for hiking. National parks and world heritage sites are plentiful in Japan and home to bears, deer, monkeys, cranes and a variety of other wildlife. Perhaps Japan’s most famous natural phenomenon is the spectacular cherry blossom season, which takes place every year between April and May when thousands of cherry blossom trees show off their finest pinks