5 reasons to visit Japan
Japan is a land of true contrast; rich with centuries-old tradition, the country has ancient, ornate temples and picturesque old towns standing alongside the dazzling lights and technical innovation of ultra-modern cities, like Tokyo and Osaka.
Japan's unique blend of ancient and modern is one of the main draws for visitors, who love to explore the modernity of Japanese city life while also experiencing countless natural wonders and learning about the country's rich history.
It's a remarkably diverse country just waiting to be discovered, where you can disconnect from the high-tech cities with days spent in serene nature, discovering ancient rituals, shrines and springs.
Japan is an island nation, made up of four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, as well as many thousands of smaller islands. One of the best ways to explore these isles is on a cruise, where you can marvel at the country's diverse coastline and soak in amazing views as you travel.
Just in case you need any further persuasion, here are our top five reasons to visit Japan.
Although Japan is beautiful at any time of year, there is perhaps no better time to visit than during Cherry Blossom season, when the already exquisite landscapes and pretty city streets are further enhanced by papery pink blossoms otherwise known as Sakura.
This stunning pink explosion is just as captivating to Japanese residents as it is to visitors. The ritual of Hanami - or 'flower viewing' - is an important part of Japanese culture during the spring, when people gather to enjoy each other's company and to appreciate the transient beauty of the spring blossoms. It can be as simple as a stroll in the park, but more often involves picnics with loved ones under the dazzling pinks of the trees overhead.
On our cruise of Japan in 2024, you'll be sailing at the peak of cherry blossom seasons, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to partake in the ritual of Hanami yourself.
Sushi, ramen, tempura…many Japanese dishes are known and loved all over the world, but a trip to Japan offers a chance to taste the most authentic versions of foods you might have tried before, and to discover local dishes that you might never have heard of.
On our cruise there'll be chances to delve into the local delicacies of the places you visit, like Takoyaki in Osaka and the renowned seafood of Toyama. You can even discover Japanese food on your days at sea on board MS Westerdam in pan-Asian restaurant, Tamarind, which has been praised by Condé Nast Traveler for food 'that rivals the best restaurants on land'.
Step off your ship on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, to discover a vast haven of natural beauty with six national parks home to volcanoes, hot springs, and a huge variety of wildlife. Hokkaido is also home to the Ainu, an indigenous population with their own distinct culture, history, and cuisine.
You'll spend a day in Hokkaido on our cruise next year, where you can visit the Onuma Quasi-National Park with its three tranquil lakes, and see cornerstones of Ainu culture here, like the beautiful attush robes, and taste the region's distinct cuisine.
One of the reasons Japan is a perennially popular destination is that it perfectly combines astonishing natural landscapes with the bright lights of its sprawling cities. You'll be wowed by the dazzling urban skylines of Tokyo, the world's largest city, with its sleek towering structures, top-class sushi restaurants, and huge area of cultural activities, museums, and other attractions.
Tokyo might be the most famous city in Japan, but it's certainly not the only city visitors fall in love with when touring the country. Our cruise next year will take you not only to Tokyo, but also to Kochi, with its 17th-century hilltop castle, and Osaka, a completely modern city which was reconstructed after the Second World War.
If you tire of the slightly chaotic energy of some of Japan's big cities, the good news is that you're never far from truly tranquil rural areas where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Of course, the country's most famous and iconic natural sight is the majestic, snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. The mount is also an active volcano and is one of Japan's Three Holy Mountains, along with Mount Haku and Mount Tate.
On our cruise you'll also have the chance to sail to the island of Sado, a wonderful natural paradise of beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, and glistening rockpools. It's also home to the Toki Forest Park, a conservation area where visitors can see some of the last wild Japanese Crested Ibis, a large, delicate bird with rosy plumage.