If you feel like you’ve seen it all on your travels throughout the States, take a trip to Tokyo for an entirely different experience. With culture, cuisine and customs all its own, Japan can easily overwhelm the senses. But prepare before you travel, so you won’t have to worry about the unique experiences available in Japan getting lost in translation.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Entry requirements: Passport that’s valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket
Flight time: 14 hours from NYC; 12 hours from LA
When to Go: Tokyo at its best
Best weather: March and April are when the weather is temperate and the cherry blossoms bloom; June, July and August are humid, rainy months.
What to Do
Go to the theater: Take in a Japanese Kabuki performance, plays with elaborate sets and costumes in which all of the roles (even female characters) are traditionally played by men. Don’t worry about the language barrier here; the dramatics of the production make the plays easy to appreciate.
A view from the top: For a view unlike any other, go to the special observation deck of the Tokyo Tower at night (the deck is about 820 feet high).
Soak in hot springs: Take a train to Hakone, a hot spring resort about an hour outside of Tokyo. The volcanic surroundings have created relaxing natural hot springs (called onsen), and it’s one of the best places to get a view of Mt. Fuji, which you might feel compelled to climb…
Hike Mt. Fuji: A nighttime hike to the summit of Mt. Fuji — Japan’s highest peak and most recognizable mountain — is a challenge with a truly rewarding payoff. During the July and August climbing season, take a Fujikyuko bus to the fifth station on the mountain, and start hiking at about midnight. It takes about five or six hours to get to the top (there are a few rest stops along the way), and you’ll reach the summit just in time to see the sun come up. A word of warning: The climb is doable but definitely not leisurely.
Take a side trip: After you’ve experienced the crowds, fashions and cutting-edge electronics of Tokyo, step back in time with a trip to Kyoto, a former capital of Japan. Since Kyoto was spared from much of the destruction of World War II, many of the city’s old temples remain intact. Don’t miss Toji Temple (the highest pagoda in Japan) and Kiyomizu-dera, which was established in 778 and rebuilt in the 17th century into the side of a mountain. To see equally beautiful temples in a less busy setting, take a train from Tokyo to Kamakura, which is about an hour outside of the city.