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  • Beyond the cherry blossoms: what’s blooming in Japan’s flower gardens

    With a calendar that’s filled with events and festivals celebrating the distinct natural phenomena of spring, summer, autumn and winter, there’s no country that embraces its seasons quite like Japan. Case in point? Springtime – a season that’s become a symbol of Japan itself, with its dusting of candy-pink cherry blossoms, hanami flower viewing activities and hordes of people picnicking beneath the trees. But what happens once the sakura petals have fallen? Well, it doesn’t mean the flower party’s over, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s only just begun! After the sakura comes a veritable flora free-for-all – with an eye-popping array of blooms springing up across the country. To help get you closer to the flurry of floral activity, we're rounding up some of the most quintessentially Japane ...

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  • The 2011 Tohoku tsunami and how I fell in love with Japan

    Jamie Lafferty is an incredibly well travelled Scotsman, having been all over the world writing and photographing for the likes of the Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust and more. It was back in 2011 that we first knew of him, as he got the enviable job of blogging for the pioneering Travel Volunteer project, which saw him travel the whole of Japan. Chances are you may have read some of Jamie’s work before, but you can find out more about him here. This is the story of his first encounter with Japan... I could hardly have been any safer. Over 10,000 miles away, and almost 3,000m above sea level  in the Bolivian city of Sucre, high in the Andes, the extreme dryness of the Atacama Desert covered most of the land between me and the Pacific Coast. Th ...

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  • 8 local highlights to discover in Aizu-Wakamatsu

    With stunning countryside, a rich and storied history, and deep connections to samurai culture, visiting Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture is a must if you want to get off the beaten track in Japan. Travel through the area and not only will you find a slew of lesser-discovered gems, but you’ll also avoid the flock of tourists that tends to crowd some of the country’s more well-known hotspots. One of Aizu-Wakamatsu's most famous attractions? Its Buddhist pilgrimage route, which takes in a grand total of 33 statues of the goddess Kannon – not to mention many temples dating back thousands of years – from start to finish. The pilgrimage is one of 104 Japan Heritage 'stories' designated by the country’s Agency of Cultural Affairs, which aim to connect locations, artefacts, festivals, food ...

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  • Tsunami Reflections

    Ten years ago, on 11th March 2011, a huge earthquake measuring 9.0 magnitude shook the north-east coast of Japan. In the tsunami which followed over 18,000 people lost their lives. At a time when all our lives are turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, there is a danger of this day slipping away, unremarked upon outside of Japan. By way of remembrance, I wanted to share my recollections of that day. I remember the morning of 11th March 2011 vividly. I woke unusually early and turned on the radio. Breaking news was of reports of a large earthquake off the coast of Japan (three weeks earlier I had woken to similar reports, that time from Christchurch in New Zealand and had felt almost relieved that it was not Japan that was affected). At the same time, I received an email from ...

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  • Tales from Tohoku: Life-changing memories from a truly special region of Japan

    This month we observe the 10th anniversary of the 11th of March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and the incredible effort millions of people all over the world have put into recovering this northern region of Japan. Tohoku is where you'll find unspoiled landscapes, fascinating local culture, unforgettable festivals and historical treasures. To mark Tohoku's recovery, we asked some of our InsideJapan teammates to share their stories of times spent exploring the region. We've been running trips all over Japan since 2000, and we've offered trips to Tohoku since pretty much day one. Tohoku has always represented everything that makes Japan so special, and the untainted beauty and culture of this largely rural region is only outshone by the friendly people that make it. Whilst most visitors head sout ...

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