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Japan Holiday Packages

Japan, Nihon or Nippon, formally, Nippon koku or Nihon-koku, literally "the State of Japan" is an island nation in East Asia, located in the Pacific Ocean, as it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", thereby referring Japan as the "Land of the Rising Sun”.

Japan is an archipelago with plenty of islands, amongst which the four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.  The "Land of the Rising Sun" is a country where the past meets the future, and the culture stretches back to the millennia, yet has also adopted and created the latest modern fashions and trends, to get you involved on the Japan Holiday Package!

Tourist Attractions:

Different areas in this Land have a plethora of environs to keep the tourists enchanted and add to their treasure trove of knowledge and interest! Here they go! The current Imperial Palace or Kokyo is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the centre of the city, and a short walk from the Tokyo Station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family. From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view Tokyo, the "Eastern Capital" of Japan, officially called Tokyo Metropolis,   and considered as one of the prefectures of Japan.  

Life in this city moves at a well-oiled clip, with an energy that borders on mania and an obsession with newness that seems to make all old ideas quickly turn into new innovative strategies with a vitality that springs from the intertwining of the new with the time-honoured old. While it is the wellspring of Japanese pop culture, it is also a place where the patrilineage of its imperial family, is a tightly-held institution. The Meiji Shrine is a shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, and his consort, Empress Shoken. This Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park, make up a large forested area within the densely built-up city. The spacious shrine grounds offer walking paths that are great for a relaxing stroll for the visitors who are in awe of this grand spectacle!

Nijubashi, contains those two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi or Eyeglass Bridge, for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi , or Double Bridge, is derived. The Imperial East Gardens are open to the public throughout the year for their splendid view. You could visit Sensoji , also known as the Asakusa Kannon Temple,  i a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa and is one of Tokyo’s most colourful and popular temples. A shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise, leads from the outer gate to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon. Alongside, typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukuta, folding fans and various traditional local snacks from this area, are sold on the street which has a history of several centuries, tempting the crowds with their unique products on sale!

Ginza, is a district of Chuo, Tokyo and is known as an upscale area with numerous department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffee houses. This district is recognised as one of the most luxurious shopping areas in the world. Many upscale fashion clothing flagship stores are located here, also being recognised as having the highest concentration of western shops.. Prominent are Chanel, Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Flagship electronic retail stores like the Sony showroom and the Apple Store are also here. Built in, the clock tower of the Ginza Wako building has stores   which sell jewellery and luxury items.

Hakone is a mountainous area, west of Tokyo in Japan, and the checkpoint on the historical Tokaido road marks the beginning of the Kanto region.The volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashinoko, is a popular tourist attraction, well known for its onsen, hot springs  and its views of Mount Fuji. The lake is crisscrossed by cartoonishly decorated "pirate ships". The Great Boiling Valley is a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs and Owakudani can be reached by cable car from Sounzan and the Lake. The Hakone Jinja Shrine, nestled on the south shore of the lake, is a picturesque Shinto shrine with torri gates in water. The Hakone Open Air Museum displays a wide variety of sculptures and artwork within a beautiful parkland setting and includes a Picasso exhibition of paintings and pottery, a feast for the art aficionados!

It would be really exciting to escape the big-city bustle and explore Mount Fuji, by staying in scenic Hakone, then zoom back to Tokyo by the Bullet train on an overnight jaunt. You could cruise the Lake Ashi, take a miraculous ride on the Mt. Komag take through the aerial cableway, soothe away your cares in a hot spring bath in Hakone and have a day free to explore this exquisite resort town. Remember, Mount Fuji, is Japan’s highest mountain and the focal point of the sprawling Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.   Once at the top, you will pass under a small torri gate and encounter a group of huts selling drinks and souvenirs, and surprise, surprise, you will even find vending machines on the top of Mount Fuji. Yes, this might sound anticlimactic, but viewing the mist or the sunrise above the clouds, would more than make up for your thrilling climax! Ho! The contradiction is worth every minute spent on this trip! You can also gaze into the long-dormant crater at the center of the mountain.

Tokyo Disneyland is a theme park at the Tokyo Disney Resort located in Uravasu Chiba, Japan near Tokyo.  To all of those who come to this happy place, you will discover tantalising lands of Fantasy and Adventure and Yesterday and Tomorrow.  May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of joy, laughter, inspiration, imagination, and a magical kingdom which is an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and comraderie between the countries of the globe? It sure is! The World Bazaar is the main entry corridor and primary shopping area of Tokyo Disneyland. The themed areas of Adventure land consists of two distinct yet complimentary areas, a New Orleans-themed area, and a "jungle"-themed area.  Westernland is an "old west" themed area, the counterpart of Frontierland in the other Magic Kingdom-style parks. Critter Country is a small area of the park and is dominated by a single major attraction, the Splash Mountain. The landscape and theming of the area, including its shops and restaurants, are a direct extension of this gleam and glitter! There is also another super hands-on canoe ride. Like other Magic Kingdom theme parks, Fantasyland's central entryway is a castle, in this case Cinderella’s Castle, a near exact copy of the one in Florida's Magic Kingdom.   Fantasyland's attractions are generally dark rides that take visitors through scenes from classic Disney movies.

Toontown. like its counterparts in other Disney theme parks, is called "Mickey's Toontown"  and is heavily inspired by the movie `Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Tomorrowland takes up a more urban look and appears more like a community than a showcase of future technology.  So, get on for this unimaginable sojourn of a fascinating mirage and exotic imagination on the Japan Holiday Package!

Amongst the most famous temples in Japan are Kiyomizu-dera,  , a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain, Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion,  Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion; and Ryoan-ji, famous for its rock garden. The Heian Jingu is a Shinto shrine, celebrating the Imperial family and commemorating the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto. Three special sites have connections to the imperial family, the Kyoto Gyoen area including the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sento Imperial Palace, homes of the Emperors of Japan, for many centuries,  Katsura Imperial Villa, a fine architectural treasure, and Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, one of its best Japanese gardens. In addition, the temple of Sennyu-ji houses the tombs of the emperors from Shijo to Komei.

Keep moving on with the Japan Holiday Package! Kyoto is located in a valley, part of the Yamashiro, or Kyoto Basin, in the eastern part of the mountainous region known as the Tamba highlands. Sight-seeing areas here include Arashivama, the Gion and Pontocho geisha quarters, the Philosopher’s Walk and the canals which line some of the older streets. The `Historic Monuments of the Ancient Kyoto’ are listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  These include the Kamo Shrines, Kami and Shimo, Kyo-o-Gokokuji or To-ji, Kivomizu-dera, Daigo-ji, Ninna-ji, Saiho-ji or Kokedera, Tenryu-ji, Rokuon-ji or Kinkaku-ji, Jisho-ji or Ginkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Hongan-ji, Kozan-ji and the Nijo Castle, and the Museum is also situated in Kyoto. Visitors are able to view exhibitions and read as much as manga as they desire.

Some of the most scintillating sights are the head temples which are located in Kyoto, like the Honganji Temples and Chion-in Temple. It also has five of the top Zen temples named in the "Five Mountain System" Tenryuji, Shokokuji, Kenninji, Tofukuji, and Manjuji, along with Nanzenji Temple, which sits above all the temples, outside of the mountain system. Although there are "five" temples, Kyoto and Kamakura both have their own five. The Kamakura temples are Kenchoji, Engakuji, Jufukuji, Jochiji, and Jomyoji Temples. The Eiheiii Temple is also a prominent Zen temple, although it was never part of the mountain system.

You may also visit some of the ancient and famed shrines here. Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto, famous for its thousands of vermilion torri gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at a few meters away and belongs to the shrine grounds. This shrine is dedicated to the God of rice. Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari, and sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari, which is a few metres above sea-level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines, which may be worth a ride or climb to indulge in some tantalising pleasure!

There is the Shin'en which consists of four gardens surrounding the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle, and east. The Minami Shin’en or South Garden is a Heian-style garden designed for holding Kyokusui-no-en, a garden party during which aristocrats amused themselves by composing Japanese poems. In spring, the garden is bright with the deep pink blossoms of drooping cherry trees, to lend the visitor’s a soothing charm for their eyes. The Naka Shin’en or Middle Garden gets visitors to pass through the cluster of trees behind the shrine's main buildings to discover a beautiful garden.  It contains the Soryu-ike pond which features the Garyu-kyo, a walkway consisting of stone pillars which Once served as the foundation stones for the girders of Sanjo Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi, the famous bridges in the center of Kyoto. The pond is surrounded by an exquisite expanse of rabbit-ear irises. The Higashi Shin'en or East Garden has a pond called Seiho-ike in the center on which courtiers are said to have gone boating in ancient times. Borrowing the Higashiyama hills as background scenery, the garden contains two elegant old-style buildings, the Taihei-kaku and the Shobi-kan adjacent to it, which add to the garden's overall charisma!

Heian Shrine or the Heian Jingū, is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city. .A giant torri gate marks the approach to the shrine, around which there are a couple of museums. The actual shrine grounds themselves are very spacious, with a wide open court at the center. The shrine's main buildings are a partial replica of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian period, built on a somewhat smaller scale than the original.

A stroll through Nara Park from Todaiiji, leads to one of the best Shinto shrines in Japan, the Kasuga Grand Shrine or Kasuga Taisha. Nestled in the midst of verdant woods, this shrine is approached via a long pathway intended to give the visitors time to prepare for worship. The natural setting is a purposeful part of the sacred site, since Shinto is rooted in nature..The shrine itself features vermilion-colored pillars and astounding stones and bronze lanterns. The Kofukuji's pagoda temple is both a landmark and symbol of Nara and also encloses the Kofukuji's National Treasure Museum and the Eastern Golden Hall. The recently renovated National Treasure Museum exhibits part of the temple’s great art collection and is an absolute must-see for lovers of the Buddhist art. Among the many outstanding exhibits is the three-faced, six-armed Ashura Statue, one of the most celebrated Buddhist statues in all of Japan.

Toji Temple, or literally "East Temple", was founded at the beginning of the Heian Period, just after the capital was moved to Kyoto and is the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The large temple, along with the temple Saiji or “West Temple’, served as the capital's guardian temples. A popular flea market is held each month at the Toji Temple from early morning hours until early evening, which is crowded with vendors on the plaza and in the park that surround the paid temple grounds. A wide variety of new and second hand goods are on sale, including clothes, tools, sculptures, kimono, antiques, pottery, toys, food and plants and a smaller antiques market is held on the first Sunday of the month.

Todaiji or the "Great Eastern Temple" is another   famous and historically significant temple and a landmark of Nara, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, amongst the “Historic Monuments of Nara”, together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city.  Sika deer, regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam around these temple grounds freely. The Iwatayama Monkey Park, popularly called "Monkey Mountain" in Nishikyo-ku is a park where monkeys chatter all the way and the park itself is inhabited by a troupe of Japanese macaque monkeys.

Then, Shirakawa, is a village located in Ono District, and best known for being the site of Shirakawa-go, a small traditional village, showcasing a style of buildings called gassho-zukuri, located in Gifu. The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is Lake Miboro, hiking path, Koso wetlands, famous Amau Pass and a national recuperation onsen, the Wadake Home, the largest gassho-zukuri in the area, to be viewed and admired, in this neat and clean land!

Thence, Japan, in a summary, is famous for its gardens, known for its unique aesthetics, both in landscape gardens and Zen rocks and gardens. The nation has designated officially "Top Three Gardens", based on their enigma, size, authenticity, that have not been drastically altered, and ofcourse the historical significance. These gardens are Kairakuen in Mito, Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, and Korakuen in Okayama. The largest garden, and the favorite of many travellers, is actually Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu. The rock and sand gardens can typically be found in temples, specifically those of Zen Buddhism. The most famous of these is the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, as mentioned above, but such temples can also be found throughout the country. Moss gardens are also popular in Japan and Koke-dera, also in Kyoto, has one of the nation's best gardens.

Some of the holiest sites are made up of large complexes on mountain tops such as the Mount Koya,   and Mount Hiei, hosting Japan’s most prestigious and head temple. Nara’s Todaiiji Temple and Kamkura’s Kotokuin Temple are famous for their large Buddhist statues.  Horyuji Temple in Horyuii, just south of Nara, is the world's oldest wooden structure. There is the beautiful Phoenix Hall in Uji and Japan has a handful of well-known Confucian Temples, amongst which,Nagasaki’s Confucian Temple is the only temple in the world to be built by the  Chinese outside of China.

In Shimbara, you can visit the ruins of Hara Castle, see old Portuguese tombstones, and the samurai houses... There are sites like the Martyrdom Museum and Memorial Park for martyrs in Fujisawa.  You can see one of these sites at the Maria Cathedral in Tsuwano, built in the Otome Pass. Nagasaki is home to the Oura Church, and has museums which have artefacts and significant information.Strangely, you can often find Christian objects in temples and shrines throughout the country. The three must-visit places for World War II buffs are Hiroshama, Nagasaki and the capital of Okinawa, Naha. The Peace Park, Prefectural Peace Museum, Himeyuri Peace Museum, and the Peace Memorial Hall are some of the best places to learn more about the ancient era and view artefacts. Torii of Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Onsen, quite literally meaning "hot springs", are the pinnacle of the Japanese bathing experience, and you would find clusters of hot spring inns popping up wherever there's a suitable source of hot water.   

Shopping:

While you may be better off heading for France or Italy for high end fashion, when it comes to casual fashion, Japan is hard to beat. Tokyo and Osaka, in particular, are home to many shopping districts, and there are an abundance of stores selling the latest fashion, particularly those catering to youths. Just to name a few, Shibuya in Tokyo and Shinsaibashi in Osaka are known throughout as centers of youth fashion. The main problem is that Japanese shops cater to Japanese-sized customers and the country is also famous for its beauty products such as facial creams and masks. While these are available in almost every supermarket, the Ginza district of Tokyo is where many of the most expensive brands have their own shops.  Japan's main contribution to jewellery is the cultured pearl, invented by Mikimoto Kōkichi, and visitors can get their hands on the "authentic" stuff at Mikimoto's flagship store in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Then of course there is the kimono to be bought as a designer collection, whether casual or formal, to lend you that oomph style!  Mostly sculpted silver jewellery with themes of lotuses,

Dragons and koi (carp) are displayed as they are simultaneously fresh and modern. It would be strange to note that even Haibara's business cards are made from exquisite paper. Find gorgeous, high-quality washi and tiny treasures such as wallets, hand mirrors and mobile phone accessories made from printed paper in this jewellery box of a paper shop. Regional ceramics, vibrant batik textiles, richly dyed washi  or handmade paper , handmade glassware and tatami mats fill up several floors of those wonderful handicrafts shop. You would also find authentic lacquerware, ceramics, scrolls and ukiyo-e or wood-block prints for interested buyers.

Cuisine:

Japanese cuisine, renowned for its emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, has taken the world by storm. The key ingredient of most meals is white rice, usually served steamed, and in fact it is the Japanese word gohan, which also means "meal". Soybeans are a key source of protein and take many forms, notably the miso soup is served with many meals, and also tōfu bean curd and the ubiquitous soy sauce. Seafood features heavily in Japanese cuisine, including not only creatures of the sea but also many varieties of seaweed as well, and a complete meal is always rounded out by some pickles or tsukemono.

One of the joys of getting out of Tokyo, and travelling within Japan is to discover the local specialities. Every region within the country has a number of delightful dishes, based on locally available crops and fish. In Hokkaido try the fresh sashimi and crab. In Osaka, do not miss the okonomiyaki stuffed with green onions and the octopus balls. Most Japanese food is eaten with chopsticks, which is an easy skill to pick up, although mastering it would take a while.

Japanese food is based on combining staple foods, typically Japanese rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu dishes made from fish, vegetable, tofu, to add flavor to the staple food. In the early modern era ingredients such as red meats were included that had previously not been widely used in Japan.  . The Michelin Guide has awarded Japanese cities more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined.

Most Japanese-style restaurants have lunchtime teishoku or fixed set meals. These typically consist of a meat or fish dish, with a bowl of miso soup, pickles, and rice and can be as inexpensive, surprisingly even for large appetites.  American fast food chains are also ubiquitous, including McDonald's, Wendy's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  There are also a number of Japanese "family restaurants", serving a wide variety of dishes, including steak, pasta, Chinese style dishes, sandwiches, and other foods. Though Starbucks has planted its flag in Japan almost as well as in the United States, the Japanese kissaten has a long history. If you are really looking for a jolt of caffeine, then go to Starbucks or one of its Japanese predecessors such as Doutor... Most coffee shops are one-of-a-kind affairs, and reflect the tastes of their clientele. In a Ginza coffee shop, you will find a soft "European" decor and sweet pastries for upscale shoppers, taking a load off their Ferragamos. In an Otemachi coffee shop, and in Roppongi’s   all-night coffee shops, the night owls pause between clubs, or doze until the trains start running again in the morning.

In case you are trying to get out of the rain, the heat or the crowds for a while, the kissaten is an oasis in an urban jungle, and a novice kind is the jazz kissa or jazz coffee shop. During the summer months when it is not raining, many buildings and hotels have restaurants on their rooftops and serve dishes like fried chicken and french fries, as well as light snacks. Finally, you would find a blend of culinary fare to cater to European, Mediterranean, Continental, Chinese, Panasian, Italian, Greek, French and Indian tastes! The speciality is, of course, draught beer, for those who have the taste buds for it! Cocktails and other drinks are also often available as part of all-you-can-drink sets.

Climate:

Spring is the best time of the year to be in Japan. The temperatures are warm but not hot, as there is not too much rain, and March-April brings the justly famous cherry blossoms and is a time of revelry and festivals. Summer starts with a dreary rainy season in June, and turns into a steam bath in July-August, with extreme humidity.  Head to northern Hokkaido or the mountains of Chubu and Tohoku. Autumn, starting in September, is also an excellent time to be in Japan. Temperatures and humidity become more tolerable, fair days are common and fall colors can be just as impressive as cherry blossoms.  Winter is a good time to go skiing or hot-spring hopping.  Heading south to Okinawa provides some relief. There is usually heavy snow in Hokkaido and northeast Japan due to the cold wind blasts from Siberia. Note that the Pacific coast of Honshu, where most major cities are located, has milder winters than the Sea of Japan coast, as it may be snowing in Kyoto while it is cloudy or sprinkling rain in Osaka, an hour away.

What a wonderful escapade on this Japan Holiday Package!


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