The northernmost island of Hokkaido makes up 22% of Japan’s total land area, and is the 21st largest island in the world. The island consists of four main regions (‘Dohoku’ in the north, ‘Doto’ in the east, ‘Donan’ in the South and ‘Douou’ in the centre) and is also home to Sapporo, the fifth most populous city in Japan and famous around the world as the origin of the country’s oldest beer brand.
As a tourist destination, Hokkaido is a true delight. As the seasons change, the scenery, foods and activities that can be found there change with them; from exhilarating snow sports and mesmerising snow festivals over the winter months to beautiful fields of flowers and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the lakes, hills and national parks in the summer, you could make multiple visits to this wonderful island and enjoy a different experience every single time.
Hokkaido is a particularly great location for those who love the outdoors, but also for foodies. After a busy day of cycling around Lake Toya, hiking up Mount Rasu or snowmobiling at Shikisai-no-Oka, visitors can feast on crab, squid and other cold-water seafood delicacies which have been caught fresh by community fishermen, bought at local fish markets and then prepared by expert chefs at restaurants across the land.
What’s more, Hokkaido is the historic home of Japan’s native Ainu people who today run cultural events, workshops and performances at museums and special preserved locations in order to help educate visitors from near and far about their traditions, lifestyles and customs.
Shikoku is Japan’s fourth largest island, and home to Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima Prefectures. Here, visitors can find a series of unexpected delights, from the modern art of Naoshima Island and the olive gardens of Shodoshima in Kagawa to the mesmerising dance festivals and naturally-occurring Naruto Whirlpools of Tokushima.
Ehime Prefecture is home to several charming and quaint historic towns just waiting to be explored, while Kochi Prefecture pairs the golden sand of Katsurahama Beach and speciality local dishes such as Katsuo no Tataki to create the ideal retreat from daily life.
Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture in Japan, and is made up of several small islands. The climate here is subtropical and the landscape is one of sandy beaches, sparkling blue waters and an abundance of unique features that can leave you wondering if you really are still in Japan.
Okinawa is home to the native Ryuku community, with their own language, foods and culture that differs significantly from those of the mainland Japanese. Visitors are encourage to learn as much about the native ways of life and experience the unique cultures and dishes that can be found there during their stay.
While Okinawa may be most popular for its beautiful beaches and glorious weather, the region also offers unique flavours of popular drinks, some interesting local fruits and vegetables and a wide variety of native marine life, making it a truly special location that feels a world away from anywhere else in Japan that you may have been.
Chugoku means ‘central country’ in Japanese, and can be found in the west of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. Typically split into two regions (Sanyo and Sanin), Chugoku covers the prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tottori and Shimane.
While Tottori Prefecture is well-known for the spectacular Mount Daisen and the famous Tottori Sand Dunes (complete with camels), the prefectures of Chugoku hold great cultural and historical significance and provide plenty of wonder for visitors wishing to explore a more traditional, authentic side of Japan. In Shimane, the World Heritage site of Iwami Ginzan, a former silver mine, lies not too far from Izumo Taisha (Japan’s oldest shrine) and the rural Samurai district of Tsuwano.
Okayama Prefecture boasts one of the best Japanese-style gardens in the country and the historic canal area of Kurashiki, while the Akiyoshidai Limestone Cave and the stunning views that surround the remote Motonosumi Shrine in Yamaguchi Prefecture are most certainly worth exploring.
Most visitors will be aware of the tragic history of Hiroshima, but the city is today a thriving location with deep cultural and global significance. Take a trip to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn more about the devastation caused by nuclear weapons, then travel to the prefecture’s famous Miyajima Shrine to spend time within the serenity and peaceful atmosphere that can be found there.
Heartland JAPAN offers the following tours in the Chugoku region. Please have a look!
The Kansai region is also referred to as ‘Kinki’, and was once Japan’s main political hub. Here, you’ll find the ancient cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, and a total of seven prefectures: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga, Wakayama and Mie.
While most visitors know of the deer of Nara, the ornate Geisha of Kyoto and the fascinating street foods of Osaka, the stunning feudal castle of Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture could rival any of Japan’s most popular sites when it is cloaked in cherry blossoms during sakura season, and the rich history of the Ninja that surrounds both Mie and Shiga Prefectures would fascinate any eager traveller.
One of the true jewels of Kansai is that of Wakayama Prefecture. Here, it’s possible to spend the night in an ancient temple on the mysterious and atmospheric Mount Koya and take part in the authentic morning rituals of monks, or to walk along the world-famous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage paths and follow in the footsteps of history.
Heartland JAPAN offers the following tours in the Kansai region. Please have a look!
Japan’s north eastern Tohoku region spans six prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima. The area is known for its beautiful landscape of mountains and lakes, its volcanic hot springs and for the historic architecture and landmarks that can be found there.
Visitors to the beautiful rural Iwate Prefecture can lose themselves in the mysteries and wonders of Tono, the home of Japanese folklore, while few destinations are as relaxing as the streets of Yamagata Prefecture’s Ginzan Onsen, an old-fashioned onsen hot-spring town popular with those who wish to literally immerse themselves in Japanese history.
If you love exploring the great outdoors then look no further than Fukushima Prefecture, where you can hike through the stunning Oze National Park and take in the picturesque volcanic highlands of Bandai by boat. Alternatively, why not schedule your trip to coincide with the Kamakura Snow House Festival of Yokote in Akita Prefecture, or for the colourful Nebuta Matsuri Festival held in towns around Aomori?
Heartland Japan offers the following tours inside the Tohoku region. Please have a look!
Kanto is the most urban of Japan’s regions and is located on the eastern side of Honshu, the country’s main island. Here, you’ll find the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, with its densely populated streets and futuristic neon lights and attractions. Surrounding the city, however, you’ll also find some beautiful mountains and hidden-gem locations with historical monuments, shrines and landmarks to be explored.
Travelling even further from the Tokyo metropolis and prefecture, you’ll see that Kanto includes a further six prefectures: Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi and Ibaraki. Kanagawa offers various fantastic day trip locations from Tokyo such as the historic and spiritual beach-side town of Kamakura or Hakone National Park, boasting stunning views of the iconic Mount Fuji. In Saitama Prefecture, visitors can explore the grounds of Chichibu’s famous shrines or cruise along the Arakawa river in traditional boats.
For a nature-lover’s retreat not far from the capital, few locations are as appealing and beautiful as the national park and mountain valleys of Gunma Prefecture, the mesmerising Fukuroda Falls of Ibaraki, or the winding hiking trails and tempting hot springs of Tochigi’s Nasu-Shiobara.
Heartland JAPAN offers the following tours in the Kanto region. Please have a look!
Japan’s third largest island, Kyushu, is situated southwest of Honshu and has a great cultural and historical significance. From the shrines and sacred island of Munakata Taisha in Fukuoka Prefecture to the Yayoi Period architectural site of Yoshinogari Park in Saga Prefecture and the Dutch-inspired amusements and attractions of Nagasaki, there’s plenty to learn about and explore on this picturesque and enchanting island.
Making your way through the rich greens of the subtropical Yakushima island in Kagoshima Prefecture or gazing up at the waterfalls of Miyazaki Prefecture’s mythological and enchanting town of Takachiho, it’s easy to understand why the beauty and wonders of Kyushu have inspired so many films and creative works throughout history, and as you take in the volcanic landscape of the Kuju Mountains in Oita, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve travelled to a far, distant realm far from the stresses of reality.
Kyushu’s most famous volcano, Mount Aso, can be found in Kumamoto Prefecture. After taking the time to explore the landscape and marvel at the wonders that only nature can create, why not take a trip to the nearby Kurokawa Onsen to experience bathing in naturally-occurring volcanic hot spring water for yourself?
Heartland JAPAN offers the following tours in the Kyushu region. Please have a look!
The Chubu region can be found in the centre of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, and consists of nine prefectures. These prefectures are often split into three smaller areas, known as Hokuriku (Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama), Tokai (Shizuoka, Aichi and Gifu) and Koshinetsu (Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata).
Hokuriku lies along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and boasts beautiful coastal geography and rural peninsulas such as the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. Additionally, Toyama’s famous Alpine Route through the Northern Alps makes for an unforgettable journey through one of Japan’s most interesting geographical landscapes.
In Tokai, the mountainous region of Shirakawago and Gokayama in Gifu Prefecture boasts a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site housing traditional and preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses dating back over 250 years, while Aichi Prefecture’s historic main city of Nagoya is the third largest economic centre in the country and provides ample efficient transport links to various interesting locations across Japan.
Finally, visitors to the Koshinetsu region should take the time to explore the beauty of Mount Fuji and the surrounding five lakes in Yamanashi Prefecture before visiting the hot-spring bathing monkeys of Yamanouchi in Nagano or the famous ski resort of Yuzawa in Niigata.
Heartland JAPAN offers the following tours in the Chubu region. Please have a look!