Japan- all cities
Osaka & Kobe are home to some splendid displays of Japanese ancient history. You will find Osaka Castle and Himeji Castle, who are both parts of the UNESCO World Heritage. Not only these make Osaka the place to be, if you are interested in traditional Japanese architecture and tradition.
Nagoya is one of the most sports- crazy cities in Japan, home to a famous baseball- (Chunichi Dragons) and a very successful soccer- team (Nagoya Gramous Eight). It is also a significant port, with a lot of sights, that are not to be missed. The Nagoya Castle from the 17th century (re- built in 1959) and the Atsuta- shrine are definitely important sights. The later is home to the Kusanagi no mitsurugi-sword, one of the three regalia of the Japanese emperor.
Kyoto is thought of as one of the most beautiful places in Japan. The whole area is full of ancient temples, shrines and traditional buildings. It is also said to be the cradle of Japanese culture. A number of excellent museums will help you to understand better, what you are looking at. A visit to Japan without a stop in Kyoto is not complete.
Okinawa is the southern most district of Japan, consisting of a chain of small islands and is said to be the home of the martial art of Karate. Aside from its political importance (Vietnam War, WW2, US Naval base...), Okinawa is most and foremost a seaside- resort, with spectacular flora and fauna and some nice beaches. Some of the many national parks are known to be fantastic diving spots.
Sapporo hosted the Olympic winter-games in 1972, which should give you a hint, what to expect from this town and area. Sapporo should so be visited in winter, when it offers excellent conditions for all kinds of winter- sports from downhill skiing to ski- jumping, with regular top- events being held at the sights of the 1972 Olympics. As Sapporo is otherwise a rather “young” city, traditional architecture and historic sights are few. An annual attraction is the snow-festival, that attracts snow- sculptors from around the world, to compete with delicate or giant snow buildings and sculptures.
Yokohama is a popular port- town, just approx. 30 minutes by train from Tokyo. It is home to one of the largest China Towns in the world and has a huge ferris- wheel that offers a fantastic look across the bay area. If you are traveling with children and the youngsters are a bit tired of temples and shrines, you might consider a day at Fure- yu, which is also a perfect example for Japanese inventive spirit. The heat from waste incineration plant is powering a huge complex with baths, swimming pools, tea rooms and green houses. It also offers a magnificent view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge by day and especially by night.
Hiroshima & Nagasaki If you are interested in the younger history of Japan, you should pay a visit to these to cities, for quiet obvious reasons. The temples and sights erected to commemorate the dropping of the first nuclear bomb in the history of modern warfare, are a reminder of the evil that man can do but also about the way we are able to forgive and move on, to times of peace and harmony. Of course, there are not many historical sights in these cities- they are nonetheless worth a visit.
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