Japan Named 2018 Destination of the Year by Travel + Leisure

Another publication has placed Japan atop its list as Travel + Leisure magazine names the Land of the Rising Tourists Numbers as 2018’s destination of the year.

America’s only monthly travel magazine cites Japan’s rich history and skyrocketing number of international visitors as main reasons for bestowing the honor. The publication also noted Japan’s exotic parks and temples and its blend of vibrant cities, mountain trails, and eclectic cuisine.

“Japan is one of the world’s fastest growing destinations for travelers, who are now pushing beyond the major cities of Tokyo and Kyoto into all corners of the country,” said Jacqueline Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure. “And it is the people, of course, who make a destination: the graciousness and hospitality of the locals are something that truly resonates with our readers.”

The wonders of Japan are no secret to anyone who has been here for a certain period of time. Here are just some of Japan’s top travel destinations Tokyo Weekender has shared over the years:

Itukushima Shrine

Hiroshima’s Floating Torii Gate

Where to start but Japan’s six most beautiful places. Last century Kyushu’s Yabakei Valley, the Miho Pine Grove in Shizuoka and Hokkaido’s picturesque Onuma pond were added to the original three most beautiful places as designated by scholar Gaho Hayashi in 1643. Of the original three, which include the mesmerizing floating forest of Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and the snaking mystical sandbar of Amanohashidate, a must visit for any Japan tourist is the floating torii gate at Itukushima Shrine off the coast of Miyajima. A short ferry ride from Hiroshima, this UNESCO World Heritage site deserves to be the Instagram profile picture of any visitor from abroad.

Daisetsuzan National Park

Hokkaido’s Grand National Park

Most ski bums know Hokkaido for its plush virginal powder, but few are aware that 10 percent of Hokkaido’s land mass is covered by protected natural parks. Daisetsuzan, approximately the same size as Kanagawa Prefecture, is the largest national park in Japan. Known as “the playground of the gods” to the Ainu natives, the area is popular among mountain climbers as well as casual hikers alike for its challenging climbs, breathtaking views, and abundance of natural hot spring resorts.

Oirase River Waterfalls

The Fast Train to Aomori

Aomori is the apple of Japan’s eye, at least to the extent that Honshu’s northernmost prefecture grows more than half of the country’s apples. Hop on Japan’s fastest shinkansen for the three-and-a-half hour journey from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, where a lineup of much slower trains offer scenic rides along the coastline. Aomori is also a popular destination for its peaceful hiking trails, unique and rejuvenating hot springs, and good-humored locals.

Urabandai Pond

Destination Fukushima

Ever since the 2011 meltdown of the Daiichi Nuclear Plant reactor, Fukushima has had a sullied reputation. A relatively obscure travel destination for foreigners prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, its newfound notoriety, and government efforts to dispel the myths and rejuvenate the tourism economy, have brought the charms of Fukushima Prefecture to the forefront. With ample natural beauty from the mountaintops to seaside beaches, to historic castle towns to the high-quality sake, there is no reason to be scared of a Fukushima vacation.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Rediscover Nikko

So, debatably, it’s not really the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, but still, the $40 billion Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a must-visit. The shrine in central Nikko is vast, with 55 structures, eight of which are national treasures. Meanwhile mounts Nantei and Oku-shirane offer some of the best hiking trails within spitting distance of Tokyo. In addition to scenic waterfalls, cozy cafés, and opulent Western-style hotels, Nikko’s Lake Chuzenzi offers a picturesque opportunity for a leisurely stroll or boat ride.

Matsumoto Castle

The Other Side of Nagano

Long before it gained international fame for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics (and for its adorable snow monkeys), Nagano was a city of temples. For 13 centuries pilgrims have come to Nagano to pray at Nagano’s main Shinto shrine, Togakushi Jinja, known as one of Japan’s power spots. Matsumoto Castle is Japan’s oldest existing castle, meanwhile, the Togakushi Soba Museum provides every bit of information you want to know about Japan’s finest soba noodle. And while you are there, you might as well go skiing.

48 hours in Saga
Yutoku Inari Shrine

Japan’s Best Kept Secret

Eat, drink, and get a taste for the slow life in Saga, one of Kyushu’s prettiest prefectures. The smallest prefecture on the island of Kyushu, this delightfully rural place features picturesque terraced rice fields, unspoiled natural parks, luxurious hot springs towns and the revered pottery town of Arita. Don’t forget the grilled oysters and the “alien of Ariake,” the less-than-attractive fish called warasubo, which is a local delicacy.

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