Escape to Japan,
an extraordinary destination where you'll become a part of its
admirable culture and realize the most treasured legacies that are
still alive in today's modern world. Absorb the peaceful surroundings
and remnants of its heritage built on the canons of humanity and
spirituality in many of the ancient streets, shrines and temples,
stroll gardens, mountainsides and hot springs. During your journey,
you'll encounter the country's strong Zen Buddhism and Shinto
influences that have permeated the daily lives of the Japanese, passing
valuable teachings through the generations.

Photo by

Become a part of their proud traditions that have significantly
impacted the rest of the world. Savor the unique smells and tastes of
authentic sushi, sashimi, soba noodles, tempura and Gyoza. Learn about
definitive cultural activities such as sumo wrestling, annual
festivals, traditional tea ceremonies and martial arts. Cross paths
with a real Geisha, a delicate female entertainer commonly dressed in
expensive silks and white make-up. As soon as you arrive, you'll find
that the colorful sights and sounds, vibrant celebrations and magical
stories will immediately captivate your mind and heart. For the
complete experience of Japan's intriguing history, visit the
spectacular places in Kyoto and Tokyo, two very different cities that
will take you through Japan's celebrated past and flourishing future.

you seek an intimate exploration of the destination, there are a
variety of specialty tours that enable you to immerse into Japanese
customs. You could stay in a traditional village inn, ride in a
rickshaw (man-pulled carriage), take part in a ritual tea ceremony, see
the cherry blossoms in early bloom around popular viewing areas and
much more. Check with an ASTA travel agent to personalize your vacation
with all of the special arrangements that will help you make the most
of your time in Japan.

Kyoto: The Heart of Traditional Japan

The original capital and very heart of historic Japan, Kyoto
displays incredible sights that are remnant of Japanese power, culture
and religion as they have persisted over time. Dare to be inspired on
the grounds of more than 200 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that
have survived over the centuries. All of these sites were designed to
offer tranquility and deep meaning to those who lay their eyes upon
them. Thousands of people are drawn to Ryoanji Temple, the Temple of
the Peaceful Dragon, seeking a spiritual message in its mysterious
rock garden. The garden consists of raked gravel and 15 moss-covered
boulders, and every element was designed to obtain optical illusions
that offer a spiritual connection for many observers. The magical,
seemingly unending path of over 5,000 vibrant orange torii gates that
winds through the hills and towards the Fushimi Inari Shrine will
immediately catch your eye. A widespread symbol of prosperity and good
fortune all over Japan, the torii is a traditional gate at the entry of
a shrine, which, according to custom, allows visitors to purify
themselves before walking into a sacred place for prayer.

Photo by TravelSense Community Member scientistseeking

For the true culinary treat, stop by the
delectable Nishiki Food Market, a narrow shopping street lined by more
than 100 shops known as the kitchen of Kyoto. You'll come across
neighborhood noodle shops, Franco-Japanese fusion cuisine and
Kaiseki-ryori, an artistic seasonal dish often declared the ultimate
food experience in Japan. Wander through other local food markets and
specialty shops and find a variety of Japanese hand-painted ceramics,
tofu, miso, noodles, tea, sweets and sake. You may also decide to try
your hand in the kitchen with the assistance of a local chef, which is
commonly offered with Kyoto restaurants and cooking schools.

you're visiting in late March or April, you'll have the pleasure of
seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom, one of the most celebrated
events of the year in Japan. As you make your way around Kyoto, you'll
notice large gatherings of people in parks commemorating the occasion
with good food, sake, beer and music. Some of the best spots for
viewing the cherry blossoms are along the banks of the Kamogawa River,
near the Heianjingu Shrine and on the hanmoku path between Kitayama and
Kitaoji. Walk along the Path of Philosophy, where rows of cherry trees
line the small canal, forming a tunnel of cherry blossoms overhead.
During your time here, you will easily be seized by the serene

Photo by

Tokyo: A Modern City on the Rise

Once a small castle town in the 16th century, Tokyo
has grown into one of the world's most populous regions. The capital of
Japan and bustling metropolis of more than 12 million people, it
embraces the time-honored traditions of Japan's past with the energetic
wave of the future. Spend some quality time at the sacred Imperial
Palace, the current residence of Japan's Imperial Family. Surrounded by
deep moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, the palace
and inner gardens are open to the public for New Year's Day (January 2)
and the Emperor's birthday (December 23). Walking along the palace
grounds, you'll see the remaining buildings and guardhouses, Imperial
Palace East Gardens and Water Fountain Park. The paths leading through
the gardens wind past formal shrubberies and wild plantings, which are
older and more natural than those found in formal Japanese gardens.

Photo by

Ueno Park, a local favorite spot located
in Tokyo's merchant district, is rich in historical, cultural and
religious sites of interest. With over 1,000 cherry blossom trees
blooming in the spring and lotuses flowering in the summer, the park
offers a leisurely afternoon of enjoyment for all travelers. Indulge
the poet inside of you at Rikugien, the six poems garden. Spend an
hour weaving up and down the garden's pathways and admire the pond,
islands, forested areas, hills and teahouses that combine to create 88
miniature scenes from famous poems. Near Tokyo Bay, you'll find Hama
Rikyu, a beautiful garden surrounded by the Sumida River. The 300-year
old oasis is the perfect retreat with seawater ponds, forests, a
traditional teahouse as well as a spectacular view of the progressive
business district, Shiodome, and its skyscrapers.

For a
taste of Tokyo's cutting edge, tour the Shinjuku district by foot. With
streams of neon colors and soaring skyscrapers, this industrious
business area is packed with millions of people from day until night. 
On the east side, you'll discover its devotion to shopping and
nightlife, which includes the city's largest red-light district,
Kabukicho. Make your next stop Daiba, an extravagant locality that has
developed into a dynamic shopping and entertainment area filled with
futuristic architecture and a variety of stores, theme parks and
museums. Go on a culinary adventure through food theme parks, each
allowing tourists to taste various versions of a single dish, scattered
all over Tokyo. Some of the parks include the Shin-Yokohama Ramen
Museum, Ikebukaro Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City, Jiyugaoka Sweets
Forest, Yokohama Daisekai and Daiba Little Hong Kong.

Photo by

Are you ready for an unforgettable cultural
experience in Japan? An ASTA travel agent has years of experience,
established global connections and the devotion to create the ultimate
cultural vacation you've been looking for. By becoming familiar with
Japanese customs and proper etiquette and participating in personalized
tours, you'll gain a close look inside their way of life. Find an ASTA agent near you to discover the multitude of travel options available to make your vacation to Japan far beyond what you'd expect.