Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Home of the sun goddess and the Shinto faith's dynamic heart, Ise also offers natural wonders and culinary delicacies

With the hallowed ground of Ise-jinja Shrine as its centerpiece, there's plenty to see and do around the Ise Bay area in eastern Mie. Beyond exploring the religious facets of this region, you'll have amples chances to wander historical districts, lounge on sandy beaches, and indulge in local delicacies such as Matsusaka beef, spiny lobster and abalone.

Don't Miss

  • The mystical atmosphere of Ise-jingu's inner sanctuary
  • Shaved ice from a shop along Ise's pilgrimage route
  • Lounging on the beach in Toba

How to Get There

The Ise Bay area is easily reached by Kintetsu Railway from Osaka and Nagoya.

The city of Ise is the most common starting point for travel in the area. The Kintetsu limited express will get you to Iseshi Station in about two hours from Osaka and two hours 15 minutes from Kyoto. From Nagoya the journey is about 90 minutes.

The soul of Japan

Shinto is Japan’s indigenous religion, and Ise-jinja Shrine is its most sacred site, where the sun goddess Amaterasu is enshrined. You could visit the shrine and surrounding area as a daytrip, but staying overnight will allow you to explore at a more leisurely pace.

The outer shrine and the Sengukan Museum

While Ise-jingu’s inner sanctuary is its most famous feature, the outer shrine and the Sengukan Museum next door are also worth seeing. Both are in central Ise, about a 10-minute walk from Iseshi Station. The architecture at the outer shrine is similar to the inner shrine, though less grand.

The Sengukan Museum features displays on the shrine and its architecture, as well as a scaled-down replica of the outer shrine's main complex, a sacred site off limits to the public. You can also see copies of the many treasures stored away from human eyes in the main shrine.

The inner shrine

The inner shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu, Shinto’s sun goddess and mythical ancestor of Japan's emperors. It’s also said to house the yata-no-kagami, a sacred mirror and one of the nation's most holy relics.

To the left of the entrance to the inner shrine is a long, meandering, old-fashioned street lined with shops and restaurants which is well worth taking time to explore.

To enter the shrine precincts, cross the wooden Uji Bridge, passing through the torii gates on either side. This is thought to purify visitors prior to entering the sacred grounds.

While there are many interesting sub-shrines and other Shinto structures throughout the grounds, the inner shrine's main building is largely obscured from public view. Only the Emperor and senior Shinto priests are provided access inside. However, the solemn atmosphere makes a stroll through the lush natural surroundings an amazing experience. Take time to watch the masses that come from all over Japan to pray.

Shopping and dining options

After visiting the shrine, wander the nearby street of Oharaimachi and Okage Yokocho Square to sample culinary offerings like Ise’s uber-thick udon noodles and shaved ice. If you're a green tea aficionado, Ise is the country's third-largest producer of the stuff, so be sure to have a cup. This is also a good chance to pick out special gifts for friends and family back home.

Beyond Ise

While Ise is the area’s main draw, Matsusaka and Tsu both make for worthwhile visits as well.

Matsusaka was once a thriving merchant town with a castle that towered over the area, and the walls of the castle remain for sightseers to explore. The city’s modern-day claim to fame is the heavily marbled Matsusaka beef that rivals, and some say outdoes, the more well-known Kobe variety. They even make sushi with it. Matsusaka's yakitori, topped with miso, has also gained a stellar reputation among foodies.

Tsu’s central location makes it a great base for excursions to other parts of Mie Prefecture. While in town, don’t miss the Mie Prefectural Art Museum that features Western-style art produced by Japanese artists.

For sun worshippers and ocean lovers, there are numerous beaches along Ise Bay, particularly in Toba, south of Ise City.