From historical temples to bamboo forests, and city high-rises to sleeping volcanoes, the mysterious and romantic country of Japan has far more to offer than meets the eye.
This article originally appeared in The Journal Issue No.11
For Foodies: Tokyo
A vibrant metropolis, filled with bright lights and skyscrapers, buzzing with technology and known as the iconic location of film Lost in Translation, it may surprise some readers to hear that Tokyo is also a hub for all things culinary. Although the cityscape is a gleaming mass of contemporary architecture, the cuisine taps into something altogether more traditional. To get in the spirit, head to Tsukiji Fish Market for the morning tuna auction; visitors start lining up in the early hours of the morning in the hopes of being one of the lucky 120 people allowed in at 5am. If this isn’t for you (by no means is a 5am raw fish auction ‘for everyone’ – despite what the guidebooks say) then make your way to one of the many fantastic restaurants across the city for a taste of the cuisine. Head to Nihonryori RyuGin as one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo, heralded with three Michelin stars and international acclaim; its vibrant flavours and fresh sushi make it a favourite for anyone visiting the city. After sampling everything Tokyo has to offer, head back to Aman Tokyo; this urban sanctuary offers simple Japanese design aesthetics in a soaring high-rise building. Occupying the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, guests are treated to views across some of Tokyo’s key sights, including the Imperial Palace Gardens and Mount Fuji, as well as Tokyo’s largest spa; where better to relax away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s capital city.
Book a stay at Aman Tokyo through Total Management Travel and receive: upgrade at time of arrival, complimentary breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay, $100 USD equivalent food and beverage credit, complimentary Wi-Fi, early check-in/late check-out.
For Culture Vultures: Kyoto
A world away from Tokyo (but only two and half hours on the bullet train), Kyoto is Japan’s historical and cultural hub. Alive with geishas, cherry blossom and Buddhist temples, Kyoto feels like an ode to a bygone era, a beautiful memory. Although a change is being felt within the city, with a wealth of contemporary dining options heralding this movement, we still love Kyoto for its charming antiquity and traditional ways. The experience of staying in a ryokan – a type of traditional Japanese Inn – is not to be missed, and the city is filled with options. Although a typical day sightseeing would not be complete without a trip to one of over 2,000 Buddhist temples – one of the most popular has to be Kinkaku-ji Temple, with its iconic golden temple and beautiful Japanese garden surroundings – we would recommend a trip to the Gion District of Kyoto. This traditional area is lined with preserved machiya houses, lit by Japanese lanterns and is one of the best places to see a geisha in the city. For those lucky enough to be visiting in April, Miyako Odori runs throughout the month, a large event with a series of traditional geisha dances and performances open to visitors.
Book a stay at Hoshinoya Kyoto through Total Management Travel and receive: upgrade on arrival, daily breakfast for up to two guests, via room service, a private Monko (incense ceremony), complimentary Wi-Fi, early check-in/late check-out.
For Skiiers: Niseko
For the avid skiers among you, head to Niseko on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island. Although its consistent powder snow throughout the ski season is a key draw for most visitors, Niseko has much more to offer the intrepid skier: only a short distance from the main slopes lies a spectacular and expansive backcountry to explore. This off-piste skiing, a rarity in Japan, can be undertaken individually or with a guided tour and for a special trip, there are even helicopter tours available over this beautiful area. If this wasn’t enough to convince you, visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views of snow-capped volcano Mount Yotei from the slopes. It is safe to say, this is no ordinary ski trip. One of our favourite places to stay is in the Hirafu Village, at contemporary and luxurious property The Glasshouse. As one might expect from such a name, large wrap-around windows feature in a number of the rooms, creating a bright and open living space. Equipped with modern and stylish facilities, from a warming fire to an outdoor Jacuzzi, this elegantly designed house offers an exceptional retreat for up to ten guests in Niseko.
For Beach Goers: Okinawa Islands
If you’re not one for the cold, travel South to the islands of the Okinawa Prefecture. Only a short flight from Tokyo these sub-tropical islands offer a very different experience: with azure blue waters and white sandy beaches, the slower pace of life is intoxicating. Okinawa Island is the easiest to get to but, unsurprisingly, it is also the busiest for tourists; still making our check list for its warmer weather and sandy beaches, it is perfect for a short trip away from mainland Japan. For those with a bit more time on their hands, we recommend a trip to some of the quieter islands to escape the crowds. First stop: Kume Island; renowned for (seemingly) endless white sand beaches, the most popular of which is Hatenohama Beach, a 7km long sand bar accessible only by tour. Don’t miss the unique Tatami Ishi rock formation or the visiting the hilltop ruins of Uegusuku Castle for views of the island. Next on the list is Ishigaki Island, for its truly spectacular scenery. Whether you want to spend the day on a boat at Kabira Bay (picture crystal clear waters with a backdrop of forest-covered hills) or watch the sun set by the Uganzaki Lighthouse, this island is picture perfect. Far-flung and blessed with glorious tropical weather, adventure lovers can venture even further to Iriomote Island, in the Southern Yaeyama Islands. Covered in lush jungle, it offers the ideal opportunity to channel your inner Indiana Jones with canyoning, kayaking and hiking. Lucky visitors may even spot the critically endangered Iriomote cat which lives on the island.
Whether you’re grabbing your beach bag, your skis or your guidebook, this thrillingly diverse and varied country is anything but ordinary. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.