A fascinating archipelago, Japan literally abounds with emblematic sites that cannot be ignored. To succumb to the beauty of the country, a cultural trip is the best option for all the curious people charmed by Japan. Thanks to its numerous daily flights from Paris, but also from many cities in France, Japan's leading airline, ANA - All Nippon Airways, makes it possible for all travellers to get to and around Japan easily and at attractive prices.
Okinawa, its dream beaches and festivals
Located 1,554 km as the crow flies southwest of Tōkyō, the Okinawa Archipelago enjoys an exquisite subtropical climate with pleasant temperatures all year round. Only two hours by ferry from Naha, the capital of the prefecture, lies the island of Zamami, a pearl among the waters. This island with sublime beaches is famous for its exceptional setting and its coral reefs which are the delight of divers from all over the world. Furuzamami beach has been awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide. The traveller can thus enjoy swimming, water activities and wild nature while enjoying the white sandy beaches and the blue sky as far as the eye can see. The archipelago is also a breeding ground for humpback whales and sea turtles. Naha's heart is beating thanks to the lively Kokusai Dōri, the international street. Its energy and festive character make the city vibrate throughout the year with its many cultural events, including the unmissable parade of the 10,000 dancers of Eisa in early August. Drums and dances inflame the neighbourhood to the delight of visitors. More than 350,000 people also come every five years to enjoy the wonderful Uchinanchu Taikai festival, known as "the meeting" of Okinawa.
Akita and the "Ice Monsters" of Mount Moriyoshi
In Akita Prefecture stands Mount Moriyoshi, famous in Japan for being one of the three great sites of trees covered with frost. Its relief and the countless trees scattered on the 1,100-metre peak give it its nickname of "Ice Monsters". It takes only about 20 minutes by gondola lift from the Ani ski resort. The traveller, amazed by the ascent, then begins, on compact snow, a 30-minute hike to the summit in the middle of these famous trees. Snowshoes and ski poles are available for free for rent. From February to March, the "Yoru-no-Juhyo Kanshokai", or "night observation of frost-covered trees" is held. When the weather is good, the contrast between these trees and the starry sky offers a magical panorama. In autumn, the trees of Mount Moriyoshi are covered with bright foliage that sets the mountain ablaze. The view from the gondola, over the beech and maple trees in shimmering colours, is enchanting every time. Mount Moriyoshi, also known as Hana-no-Hyakumeizan, is one of the 100 most famous flower-covered mountains in the country.
Hakodate, star fortress and cable car
Famous site of Hakodate in Hokkaido, Goryōkaku is Japan's first star-shaped fortress. This famous site of the Battle of Hakodate marks the last assault between the forces of the imperial government and those of the Tokugawa shogunate. In spring, Goryōkaku is adorned with unique pastel colors thanks to cherry blossoms (sakura). In the middle of May, it is the turn of the wisteria to sublimate the place with their bright colours. Visitors have the opportunity to walk along a tunnel covered with these flowers. As for the summer, hydrangeas make way for the hydrangeas. Flowers magnify Goryōkaku all year round to the delight of the traveller's senses. A cable car takes travellers in three minutes to the top of Mount Hakodate, 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide, to enjoy a splendid panorama. The exceptional view from the cable car ride is a marvel in itself. It is possible to admire the panorama at dusk, but visitors should first inquire about the sunset times on the relevant dates to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Going to the panoramic terrace before sunset is a memorable experience, as the light gives way to the night enveloping the city.
Hokkaido, its wildlife and marshes
Often referred to as a paradise for wild animals, the Nemuro Marshes are located in the city of the same name in eastern Hokkaido. The area is a popular destination for bird watching. About half of Japan's species live here, including the rare wild birds of Lake Furen and Shunkunitai. The Nemuro Swamps are also ideal for nature tours, during which it is sometimes possible to encounter, among others, Ezo deer and red foxes. Lake Furen and the ancient spruce forest of Shunkunitai are real natural treasures that cannot be ignored. In the past, wooden paths provided access to the forest, which unfortunately have since been damaged by typhoons. Nevertheless, it is still possible to walk there accompanied by a guide from the "Nemuro Nature Center" and wearing a good pair of boots. The Shiretoko Peninsula, located at 2h15 by car from Nemuro, offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful cruise, "Shiretoko Peninsula Utoro Cruise, Brown Bear Couse", departing from Utoro port, to observe wild brown bears. This emblematic Shiretoko animal is as feared as it is revered by the natives. These bears can be seen from the sea in Rusha Bay.
Shikoku, road trip on the loose
There is nothing like a road trip in the charming region of Shikoku, the fourth island of Japan, located in the south-west of the Archipelago, to enjoy a trip with every comfort. Takamatsu, which has an airport, is the ideal starting point. This town is also a highly recommended stop for lovers of Japanese gastronomy, with its specialities of udon (Japanese thick noodles) and its sanuki wagyu beef, fed with olives and served in yakiniku in the various restaurants of Takamatsu. To obtain a rich and tasty meat, the sanuki wagyu beef is raised in a peaceful environment, in the open air, and it respects a special diet of olives. Moreover, the famous Zenigata sand sculpture is a gigantic work, resembling an ancient coin, which is well worth the trip. The drive to Kochi is through a beautiful setting with beautiful winding roads. The visitor is greeted in the town by the statue of the "little boy from the Iya Valley peeing", a symbol of courage in the local folklore. Some people offer him coins to have courage or to provoke luck. For lovers of art history, a visit to Monet's garden, the second and only garden of the painter outside France, is an absolute must. Recreated in the village of Kitagawa, this garden allows visitors to better understand Monet's inspiration in designing his own style of ukiyo-e, Japanese prints on wood. The atmosphere here is truly pleasant.
Fukuoka, the vibrant centre of southern Japan
Fukuoka is the most populated prefecture of Kyushu, located in the south of Japan. For centuries, Fukuoka has positioned itself as a cultural and commercial centre. The city of Fukuoka, which is increasingly focused on innovation, is also presented as a platform for the development of start-ups. The prefecture, although at the forefront of innovation, is home to many traditional techniques related to crafts, including pottery, glass and washi paper making. Fukuoka is also an obligatory stage for gourmets who will be able to taste, among others, the tonkotsu ramen or the motu nabe (a giblet fondue). The north of the prefecture is particularly famous for its seafood. And for the brave, the famous fugu, the puffer fish which requires a permit to cook it safely, is available in some establishments. Thanks to its lush forests, warm sandy beaches, famous mountains and pleasant four seasons, Fukuoka is also the ideal prefecture for nature aficionados. Less than an hour away from the city are mountains that allow hikers to enjoy the great outdoors away from the crowds.