Last updated on Jan 27th, 2021 at 02:58 pm

Just when you thought you knew all the cool cities in the world, Contiki brings your its definitive guide to Japan – read, enjoy it, act on it…

They bring you the facts about the hippest, coolest and most unusual country you’ve never visited.

1. You want a hit of culture

You’ve come to the right place. There are golden temples, ancient castles, shrines, samurai houses, tranquil zen gardens and most significantly, geishas to spot in the Gion district. Takayama is the most traditional city of all, with 18th century Hida style houses, the only surviving buildings of the kind. If you’re in Tokyo, head to Asakusa, Tokyo’s most ancient district.

2. Tradition with a twist

From authentic Ryokan houses, traditional tea ceremonies and geishas wandering the streets of Kyoto, you will simply be captivated by its many customs.

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3. History

Are you a history buff? Well why not step back in time and make your way to Hiroshima? There is a peace memorial park and museum commemorating the devastation of World War 2, a painful reminder of the destruction that occurred in the past. Take a moment to reflect on the town’s sombre history, and the continued hope for world peace.

A Bomb Dome Hiroshima

4. Experience a world like no other (seriously)

Expect the unexpected in this country. Travel to Tokyo and immerse yourself in world-class dining, vibrant nightlife, rich history and a bustling megalopolis. Head to Shibuya and walk across the largest crossing in the world, the Times Square of Tokyo and just have your mind blown by the stream of people.

Want even more? Why not try the weirdly themed cafés like the ‘cat’ café, ‘maid’ cafés, ‘ninja’ restaurants and the most astonishing of all… The Robot restaurant.

5. Party like it’s 1990, and then make a fool of yourself at karaoke

Think karaoke bars, world-class nightclubs and sake. The karaoke bars are technologically advanced, with luminous paint, disco lights, and booming sound systems.

Opt to go to an izakaya before a night out, for the perfect mixture of cheap food and drinks. It’s the Japanese version of a pub.

Sake

6. The food

Without a doubt, Japanese food is world class, and there are more Michelin restaurants than in any other country in the world. Think sushi, sashimi, soba, udon, bento, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, ramen, gyoza. But that’s not all – even the 7/11s are stocked with high-quality food that will have you weirded out, and drooling at the same time!

HOT TIP: Experience the eclectic mix of food outlets from automated sushi chains, izakayas, themed restaurants, convenience stores, or, if you have the cash, head to the most expensive Michelin restaurant in the world in Kyoto, called Kitcho.

Slightly Gross Fact: Eating raw chicken is a real thing. In a world where salmonella is feared, Japan embraces it, and this dish is named ‘torisashi’.

Kobe Beef

7. Shopping and fashion

Japan is arguably one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world. Who hasn’t heard of Harajuku? Harajuku is perfect for those vintage threads and quirky pieces. Shibuya is the heart of youth subculture, and shopping. And for the black-belt shoppers among us, did we mention an entire department store named 109, with nine floors, dedicated just to you?

If you’re in Osaka be sure not to miss Namba, Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. It’s a guaranteed shopping haven for all.

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Book a trip to Japan before the end of November and you’ll get not only a 10% early payment discount on your 2018 trip, but you will also stand in line to win R10 000 in spending money for any trip booked to Asia.

Call Contiki on (011) 280 8481 or visit www.contiki.com  for more details.