In celebration of our sixth Hotel Vouchers Giveaway, we’ve selected our favorite images of Japan from across the GaijinPot Travel site. From jaw-to-the-floor mountain scenery to cedar-flanked temple pathways; whirls of neon cityscapes to an everyday commute by bike – it’s clear that Japan is one very photogenic country.
Portal to another world at Biei
Winter scenes of Biei in Hokkaido look like they were shot in a dreamscape, while summer transforms into rolling hills of flowers and a lake so strikingly blue that Apple made it a wallpaper.
On the trail of Mononoke at Yakushima
This remote, mysterious island served as the inspiration for the enchanted forest in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke. Many make the 10-hour pilgrimage to see the ancient Japanese cedar tree, estimated to be up to 7,200 years old.
Robot rock at Shinjuku
It’s hard to find the words to describe the now infamous Robot Restaurant tucked away (in a glaringly obvious way) in Shinkjuku’s red-light district. Despite the name, there’s not much restaurant happening here. But there is a whole lot more than robots.
People twirling fire at volcanic Mount Aso
Every year, locals get together to swing ropes of fire above their heads in honor of the marriage of the gods at the ancient Aso Shrine. Gigantic Mount Aso stakes a claim as Japan’s largest active volcano, and as having one of the largest craters in the world.
Monkey business in Nagano
Photos of monkeys soaking away their cares in hot springs are not only good for their caption value but clearly demonstrate just how wonderful a Japanese onsen experience can be. Japan has more than 3000 hot spring resorts – it’s a cultural experience that you shouldn’t skip.
The road to Laputa in Kumamoto
Known as “Laputa no Michi” (Laputa’s Way), this twisting road jutting out over the rim of a stunning caldera was named after another Ghibli movie, Laputa: Castle in the Sky. When the clouds roll into the basin and obscure the farmland below, it looks like you’re floating on a sea of cloud.
Geisha in a taxi in Gion
There’s something about seeing a geisha in real life that’s akin to a celebrity sighting. Spot a maiko (apprentice geisha) scurrying down one of Gion’s cobblestone streets and try not to gush.
Man on cart at Tsukiji Fish Market
Zipping through the world’s largest fish market, traders on motorized carts handle more than 2,000 tons of fish every day. Get up early (as in 3 a.m.-early) to join the queue for the famous tuna auction before breakfasting on fish too fresh to be true.
Baby blues at Hitachi Seaside Park
In spring, over four million light blue nemophila bloom across Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture just north of Tokyo. The same hill turns a deep, blood red in autumn when the kochia bushes reach their peak.
Daytime drinking in Ueno
In the eastern shitamachi (“low-town” or downtown) part of Tokyo, Ueno is where you go for a taste of the good old days. Squeeze into one of the ramshackle restaurants and join in with the already tipsy locals – some places bring out the alcohol from 10 a.m..
Autumn approaching in Nikko
An historic mountain town at the entrance to Nikko National Park, Nikko is gorgeous anytime of year. But it’s in autumn when the scenery really gets to strut its stuff. Be warned, everybody wants a piece of it then.
Fantastic Mr Fox at Zao Fox Village
The list of Japan’s cute animal parks/cafes/islands/rental services keeps getting longer. Visit one and you’ll have to contend with lots of cries of “kawaiiiii” (“cute!”) before feeling sheepish when you do it too.
Biking to work in Tokyo
The images you see of masses swarming through underground stations, skyscrapers blazing in the night and flashing neon signboards are all part of the capital city. But there’s an everyday, ordinary quietness that sometimes pierces through. And it’s just as captivating.
Japan has its own Easter Island
The replica Moai statues at the Sun Messe park along Miyazaki’s beautiful Nichinan coast are one of the more quirky examples of Japan’s love of imitation. Can’t get the real thing so why not replicate it? See the Statue of Liberty in Odaiba, walk the streets of Paris and New York at Shinsekai or go Dutch at Huis Ten Bosch.
Pride and prejudice in Okinawa
Deserving Bora Bora levels of travel brochure stardom, Okinawa is a unique tropical paradise with a tragic and beautiful backstory. Experience traditions from the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, for which the Okinawa islands were home, and an altogether different kind of Japan.
Physics-defying art in Sapporo
The Hokkaido hub of Sapporo makes room every February for more than two million visitors, come to see the spectacular ice and snow sculptures during the annual “Yuki Matsuri” (Snow Festival).
Awa Odori in Tokushima
Held during August, this dance parade features traditional music, costumes and songs. Tokushima’s version is the most famous, drawing millions of spectators out onto the summer streets, but you can catch smaller dance festivals throughout the country – some even let you join in.
The heartbeat archives on Teshima
Floating at the edge of Japan, sparsely-populated Teshima island is secretly filled with stunning works of contemporary art. At the profoundly moving Les Archives du Coeur, you can listen to the recordings of previous visitors’ heartbeats, and record your own.
Just deserts in Tottori
People are often surprised by the diversity of Japan’s landscape – especially when they see a picture of somebody making the peace sign while riding a camel. One of the country’s smallest prefectures, Tottori is a compact puzzle of natural wonders, including these majestic sand dunes.
Happy New Year at Rainbow Bridge
Japan excels in pyrotechnics and, if your timing is right, you can catch an unforgettable display of sky-high art; there’s everything from Pokemon characters to giant singing wisteria trees. July and August is fireworks festival season, while big fireworks and light shows go on at New Year’s Eve in the major cities. Roll on 2017.