Japan’s countryside is the place to do as the Japanese do – appreciate the rejuvenating power of nature. You’ll reach Matsumoto by bullet train, whizzing past Mount Fuji until you are surrounded by lush paddy fields, mirror-like lakes and dense woodlands backed by the lofty Japanese Alps.
In Kamikochi, get up closer to the ice-sculpted peaks and aquamarine rivers on hikes through ancient forests. A must is a stop at a natural hot spring for a relaxing onsen and you may well be joined by the cheeky-faced snow monkey.
Modern Art and Ancient Culture
Easily doable by day trip from Kyoto is Nara, a town renowned for its wealth of Buddhist and Shinto heritage.
Its location at the end of the Silk Road meant that Nara became Japan’s first capital in 710 and the entry point of Buddhism to Japan. Today there are many dramatic reminders of its power and glory including a 49 ft Buddha, and temples and shrines set amid a landscaped garden dotted with wild deer.
For something more modern, head to the island of Naosahima where you’ll be greeted by Yayoi Kusama’s iconic giant squash – the gateway to cultural encounters on this island dedicated to art. Wander galleries home to Monet’s waterlilies, discover underground art installations and even a kitschy onsen that doubles up as an artwork.
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