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Self-guided Tours Recommended by Japan Post

Highlights

日光NikkoA walk through history
  • Historic monuments

Nikko is one of Japan's most popular destinations, known for its rich art, history and many world-heritage sites. Nikko became famous after it was chosen as the mausoleum of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who took control of Japan and established a shogunate military government that lasted more than 250 years. Ieyasu died in 1617 and his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu renovated the shrine in 1634. Monkeys are frequently sighted around Nikko's many parks, but it's best not to get too close because they are wild animals. Nikko offers many relaxing areas to sit and enjoy lunch while taking in the city's breath-taking surroundings.

大内宿OuchijukuStep into the Edo period
  • Historic monuments

Ouchi-juku is a small village rich in Japanese history that allows visitors to step back in time. Restored to its Edo Period (1603-1868) appearance, the thatch-roofed village has interesting shops and a quaint atmosphere, making it the perfect place for a relaxing stroll. Located between Aizuwakamatsu and Nikko, Ouchi-juku is accessible from Yunokami Onsen Station by taxi (around 2,000 yen for a round trip) or by bus (ask at the station staff for the timetable).

会津若松AizuwakamatsuCity of samurai
  • Historic monuments
  • Hot spring

Aizuwakamatsu is a castle town in the western part of Fukushima Prefecture and is famous for its samurai history. One of the biggest battles of the Boshin War took place in Aizu between the new government army and the shogunate military government. The Aizu clan fought against the new government army until the very end, a key turning point in the transition from the Edo Era (1603-1868) to the Meiji Period (1868-1912). The city is best known for its samurai traditions and high-quality sake and ceramics. A good way to get around Aizuwakamatsu is to buy a one-day bus ticket upon arriving at Aizuwakamatsu Station, or at Higashiyama Onsen Station. A one-day ticket costs 600 yen and can be used on Akabe (red line) and Haikara-san (blue line) buses, both of which stop at major sightseeing locations.

仙台・松島
Sendai & MatsushimaThe perfect blend of city and surf
  • Night life
  • nature

Sendai was founded in 1600 by warlord Date Masamune, turning it into the feudal capital of the north. Sendai, now the largest and most commercial city in the Tohoku region, has colourful, tree-lined streets that combine high-end shopping and dining with a rich feudal history. Just outside of Sendai, you'll also find the majestic port city of Matsushima, a perfect getaway if you're looking to escape from urban hustle and bustle. The journey takes around 30 minutes by train and costs 820 yen for a round trip.

山寺YamaderaStairway to Buddhist heaven
  • Historic monuments
  • nature

Yamadera is a small town in Yamagata Prefecture founded in 860 by priests of the Tendai sect. It was made famous by poet Matsuo Basho who composed one of his most well-known haiku when he visited in 1689. The direct translation of Yamadera is "mountain temple", and the most famous temple in the town is Risshaku-ji, located just five minutes from the station by foot. There is a steep, 1,000-step climb to reach Risshaku-ji, and it is said that this mystical pathway is a link between heaven and hell. Despite the tough climb, it is very common to see a large number of elderly Japanese people making the ascent to the temple.

銀山温泉Ginzan OnsenA beautiful and romantic hot spring
  • Hot spring
  • nature

Relax in one of the most beautiful and romantic thermal hot spring locations in Japan: Ginzan Onsen, which became particularly famous in Japan thanks to a popular 1980s drama. Ginzan Onsen is a tiny town in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture built along the river of a thermal spring and consists mainly of restaurants, ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), and souvenir shops. It offers amazing views during the day, but even more so at night where the light from the windows of the restaurants and inns create a truly magical atmosphere. While it is stunning at all times of year, Ginzan Onsen is especially beautiful when covered in snow in the winter.

角館KakunodatePath walked by warriors
  • Historic monuments

Kakunodate is known as the samurai town of Akita, famous for its samurai traditions and former Kakunodate Castle which was demolished in 1620. Originally comprising two distinct areas, the samurai district and the merchant district, apart from the castle, the town itself has remained mostly untouched since its founding. Kakunodate is also famous for the hundreds of weeping cherry trees that line the river running through the town.

函館HakodateGateway to the north
  • Historic monuments
  • Night life

Hakodate, a port city famous for its seafood, is the first city encountered after emerging from the tunnel connecting Honshu and Hokkaido islands. It was one of the first cities in Japan to open its doors to the West, soon becoming an international hub as can be seen in the architecture of its main buildings. In the heart of Hakodate, one of the key ports in Hokkaido, is the colourful Asa-ichi market proffering diverse varieties of seafood. There is a beautiful citadel atop Mt. Hakodate which is accessible via bus, cable car or ropeway. Many of the major sights in Hakodate are located close to the main train station.

札幌SapporoThe beer capital of the North
  • Night life

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, and one of the largest cities in Japan. Known as northern Japan's modern city, Sapporo hosted the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, making it a well-known destination to people around the world. The city has a very western feel, with skyscrapers, long parks and a rectangular street system, all of which create a rather North American vibe. The city is also well known for its Snow Festival, beer, fresh seafood, and ramen.
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