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

GUIDE August

Festival magic at the peak of summer

August offers similar summer fare to July with beach trips, highland excursions and water sports all popular pastimes. The difference is the increased heat and the colorful backdrop of summer festivals and firework displays-not uncommon in July, just much more pronounced in August.

Some of the biggest and best festivals include Tokushima's Awa Odori and Aomori's week-long Nebuta Matsuri. Both feature dancing and night illumination in the form of bright floats, fireworks and lanterns-common motifs in August celebrations.

Don't Miss

  • The Bon holiday period in early/mid-August is one of the busiest and most expensive times for Japan travel
  • Major fireworks festivals in Japan feature world class displays over the course of several hours
  • The Awa Odori and Aomori Nebuta Festivals are among Japan's best-loved matsuri

The Awa Odori in Tokushima is one of the headliners of the nationwide August event calendar

A time of wandering spirits

Commonly called Obon in Japanese, the summer holiday period-typically between August 11 and 16-is a time when the spirits of deceased family members are said to return to the realm of the living and revisit their loved ones. Traditionally, it's a time for relatives to gather at their family homes, enjoy festive community dance events, and take family outings. Seats on planes, trains and highway buses sell out in advance, so plan ahead or consider staying in one of the big cities which enjoyer far fewer crowds than usual.

Enjoy less-crowded big city experiences in Osaka and Tokyo during the peak August holiday season

Tohoku's big three

For a definitive summer festival experience, consider touring the Tohoku region in early August. This is when the Sandai Matsuri (three major festivals) of Tohoku take place over multiple days. The iconic festival floats of the Nebuta Matsuri (8/2-7) make this event the best known of the three. Every night for five days, the human-powered platforms are lit up like giant paper lanterns and paraded through the streets before huge crowds.

Made largely from paper, the Nebuta festival floats are painstakingly beautiful works of art

Around the same time, you can also attend the Tanabata Matsuri (8/6-8) in Sendai, in which long colorful streamers are attached to poles and carried in procession through shopping arcades. In Akita, the Kanto Matsuri (8/3-6) features street performances involving pole-mounted lantern towers that give the festival its name.

The Tanabata Matsuri and Kanto Matsuri are equally impressive Tohoku festivals

Further South

On a more serious note, further south in Hiroshima, the anniversary of the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945 is marked with a beautiful and moving ceremony in which glowing lanterns are set adrift on the river running through the Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome.

Marking the end of Obon on August 16, the Kyoto Gozan Okuribi is held adorning the Kyoto hillsides with giant, flaming Chinese characters. Appropriately, the most famous of these is the character meaning "large" on Daimonjiyama in the Higashiyama district.

Remembering the events of August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima and bidding farewell to the spirits of deceased loved ones in Kyoto

Fireworks light up the night

Fireworks are serious business in Japan and July and August are the peak period for them. Major cities like Tokyo and Yokohama host high-profile displays, all showcasing the work of big name pyrotechnics artists over several hours.

Two smaller cities which stage major events are Nagaoka in Niigata (8/2-3) and Suwa in Nagano (8/15). The latter benefits from a charming lakeside setting that inspired scenes from the 2016 Japanese film, Your Name, or Kimi no Na wa. Be advised that both locations see visitors in their hundreds of thousands during festival time, so making accommodation and travel arrangements early is a necessity.

The firework display in Suwa is among the largest nationwide

More typical summer pastimes

Heading for cooler climes at higher altitudes is a no-brainer in August and this logic isn’t lost on the Japanese. The national parks of Hokkaido (and nationwide), the Japan Alps in central Honshu and destinations like Mt. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture, and the Iya Valley and surrounding mountains in Shikoku, are popular destinations worth considering.

Shady ravines and lofty heights in Shikoku

Okinawa is the Japanese beach holiday destination par excellence, but equally impressive and slightly less well known are the beach resorts and islands of Kyushu. Miyazaki has some prime surf spots and the trendy Aoshima Beach Park-a leisure complex and event space.

Aoshima Beach Park offers leisurely waterfront dining and events that include open-air cinema evenings, yoga workshops and DJ and live music sessions

Neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture is home to Amami Oshima and the Amami Islands which include Yoron Island and Okinoerabu Island. All have picture-perfect beaches and diving spots that include reefs, wrecks and underwater ruins.

Amami Oshima-miles of coastline and endless beach options

Explore and enjoy the clear waters of Yoron Island

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