After Wakayama prefecture was chosen as the most sustainable destination by Lonely Planet’s readers this year we were on cloud nine but things were only going to get better! This month the popular luxury travel publication Condé Nast Traveller announced The Readers' Choice Awards 2021 and Japan came through like no other country. Thanks to its rich culture, UNESCO acclaimed traditional cuisine, modern infrastructure, and magnificent nature, Japan was voted 3rd best country in the world! This was just the beginning of Japan sweeping the competition...
Were you thinking about visiting the three most popular cities in the world? It won’t be too difficult because all of them are located in Japan!
Tokyo claimed the first spot in the competition with its vibrant mixture of neon modernity and splashes of traditional colour. We all got to enjoy the sights of Japan's capital this summer during the unforgettable opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games and parts of the competition. Tokyo is a metropolis that will take you on a cultural journey from the country's samurai past to the high-tech future. You can also come here for the well-deserved city break to savour the mouth-watering cuisine. This year three Tokyo restaurants appeared on the world’s top 50 restaurants and Tokyo's culinary scene has earned more Michelin starts than any other city in the world!
© Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau
The second place didn’t come as a surprise but we’re impressed that Osaka managed to overtake the fan favourite, Kyoto, and came in second! Osaka also happens to be Japan’s second largest city, well-known among the gourmet crowds for one of the best street food like takoyaki balls and okonomiyaki. Exploring Osaka's central areas at night you will be greeted by restaurant signs taking the shape of 3D human faces or sea creatures floating above the street, promoting local businesses!
Another must-see location is the Osaka Castle which provides beautiful views of the city and is especially stunning surrounded by cherry blossoms in spring. If you stay in the area, make sure to add Universal Studios Japan to your wish-list. It has recently opened a new Super Nintendo World section for all Mario fans and is planning to introduce Pokémon attractions starting from next year! Osaka also works great as an exploration base for the nearby Wakayama and Nara prefectures.
© Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau
Centuries of preserving Japan’s cultural heritage, 10th century temples, and an aura of refinement are all things which you will find in the world's third best city - Kyoto. Get lost on the hills of Arashiyama or in one of the local temple complexes and try to capture the eluding essence of Kyoto. Some of the most popular attractions include the beautiful Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji Golden Pavillion, and the Kiyomizudera Temple but make sure to venture off the beaten path, it doesn't take much but creates memories for a lifetime.
Local people used to live in ‘machiya’ townhouses but due to high costs and effort it required to keep them in good condition, they have been recently transformed into little hubs of culture. Stay overnight in a machiya and feel like you have gone back in time to the samurai period! Alternatively, you can spend the night at Condé Nast Traveller readers' favourite hotel in Japan: Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto. The options are endless!
Heading down south you can hop on the Seven Stars Train which traverses through Kyushu and was voted readers' favourite luxury train in the world! You can choose between a four and two day adventure, and explore places like Arita famous for its pottery or the tranquil Yufuin Onsen.
Let's get planning!