There are nearly 7,000 islands making up the nation, but when you travel Japan for the first time, you'll probably want to stick to the four main islands since 73 percent of the country is undeveloped. In fact, when taking your first trip to Japan you may be content to remain on Honshu, home to the capital city of Tokyo. p>
The four primary islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. A chain of islands known as the Ryukyu Islands lie to the south of Kyushu, and is home to Okinawa.
Each of the main islands has charms unique to the land. You can travel Honshu and Kyushu via highspeed bullet trains, called Shinkansen. Consider picking up the Japan Rail Pass which will also get you onto some local buses, ferries and smaller trains.
If you do plan to island hop in Japan, we recommend working your way north to south or vice versa, unless you plan to fly. Besides, how else will you get to experience the world's longest rail tunnel at over 33 miles, the Seikan Tunnel, which connects Hokkaido and Honshu?
In the House of the Rising Sun, why be surprised to find a house of sake and rice?
The FushimiInari Taisha complex of Kyoto dates back to the eighth century, and though the gods of rice and rice wine have long left the premises, the shrine is still popular for it's many hiking trails to smaller shrines, and the cool tunnels you'll walk through to get to them.
The tunnels are made up of tori, a traditional Japanese gate, which literally means bird perch. There are thousands of tori lining the paths.
You'll have to be an early riser for this one, but the Tsukiji Central Fish Market presents a sight to see: Fishmongers gone mad.
Stalls upon stalls are set up to sell the catch of the day to restaurants and grocers, and the auctioneers and merchants have been meeting here daily for centuries. And they do business at a frenetically fishy pace, starting at 5 a.m.
When you're through watching the yelling and trading, head out to the outer market to find fish serving accessories. You'll find trays, plates, bowls, ramekins, tea sets, and everything else you can think of. . .because when it comes to serving food in Japan, presentation is everything.
Whether you get your groove on at 4 a.m., 10 p.m., or any other hour of the day, there is always a club, bar or dive available to get the party started, played out and finished. Check out Metropolis to find the best restaurants, bars and clubs to suit you.
It doesn't matter if you like to go goth, gay or just plain gaga, you'll find the Japanese ready and already partying in ultrachic nightclubs or cool jazz joints.
The nomiya provide places to get a snack and check out the joints where the natives hang for a quiet drink. If you want the glitz of a western style nightclub, check out the Roppongi district. Many of the bars in Japan will charge a table charge, which usually includes snacks, and some of the bigger clubs will add a service charge.
A Dohyo is a ring for Sumo wrestlers. And the Japanese invite you to compete, but not by stripping down and trying to throw your opponent out of the ring. You'll have to build a robot, and then be proficient enough in the operation of it to throw out someone else's robot.
Well ok, in this particular competition, called the Japan Robot Sumo Tournament, the ring and the robots are much smaller than you would imagine, but hey, Fighting Sumo Robots!
» Vaccinations & Visas You can travel Japan visafree if you have an ticket to leave the country within 90 days of your arrival, if you have a valid passport. Routine vaccinations are recommended for visiting Japan, along with a Hepatitis B vaccination. If you will be visiting the more rural areas and farms, consider getting a Japanese encephalitis shot. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Destinations Page for more information.
» Yen Roll out the Yen when you travel. . . designated by a ¥ on the price tags and at exchange counters.
» Radiation & Getting Rolled According to the U.S. State Department, there is little danger of getting radiation poisoning just keep away from the Fukushima Dalichi Nuclear Plant, which suffered some damage in March 2011 by a major tsunami. Remember, earthquakes and tsunamis are always a risk in the Pacific Ring of Fire.
As for getting rolled by something other than earthquakes, there are some nightlife areas where tourists have complained about spiked drinks and robberies, or unauthorized credit card charges.
» U.S. Embassies The U.S. Embassies in Japan are located in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa. U.S. Consulate Generals have offices in Sapporo, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Osaka.
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