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HOKKAIDO - BIEI

With its gently rolling hills and verdant farms, it’s hard to believe that Hokkaido’s Biei-cho had a cataclysmic volcanic past. Now, where lava once flowed, cherry blossoms bloom and diamond dust sparkles. What a difference 500,000 years can make!

RAIN

As the song says, 'Into each life some rain must fall.' But with a yearly rainfall twice the world average, Japan gets an awful lot of the wet stuff. No wonder the Japanese language is rich in rain jargon. Come experience what it takes to grow rice, but don't forget your umbrella!

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KARUIZAWA

Perhaps Japan's preeminent summer resort, Karuizawa was 'discovered' by Christian missionaries who flocked here in the Meiji Era to relax in its cool summer temperatures. In addition to the villas that they constructed, these Christian pioneers left behind another important legacy: delicious lettuce.

SHIBU ONSEN

Maybe you're looking for a place to wash away your cares and woes. Maybe you want to ward off illness and live to a ripe old age. Or maybe you just want to get really, really clean. Whichever it is, the hot-springs town of Shibu Onsen - with its fabulous, funky nine-bath circuit - is the place for you!

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UENO

In what Tokyo district can you find a history-making park home to world-class museums, neighborhoods that exude retro charm, and a famous shopping street that was once a notorious black market? Welcome to Ueno.

WASHOKU

In the last fifty years Japanese dietary habits have undergone such drastic changes that the traditional Japanese food culture known as washoku is in danger of disappearing from its country of origin. Sushi and tempura still retain a faithful following, however. Both these culinary delights were perfected near Tokyo Bay, once a seafood cornucopia.

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KYOTO

Sixteenth-century Japan: a turbulent time of clan rivalries and shifting political allegiances. Besides making war, one other thing galvanized the military elite of the day: the making and drinking of tea in a ritualized fashion known as chanoyu. Meet Sen no Rikyû, the man who turned the simple act of brewing tea into an art form and, in so doing, became both teacher and advisor to two of Japan's most famous warlords.

SUMO

Mongolia, Bulgaria, Georgia... more and more of Japan's sumo wrestlers are coming from places other than Japan. Come with us to a sumo stable for a glimpse at the changing world of Japan's ancient national sport.

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RICE

Blessed with an ample and reliable supply of water, the Echigo region of Niigata Prefecture produces some of the highest quality rice in the world. See how rice is grown in Japan’s rice heartland.

TAIYOJI

Located high in the Chichibu forest, Taiyo-ji Temple seems far removed from modern civilisation. Not surprisingly, it is an ideal place for anybody seeking the path to Zen mindfulness. If you want to reset your soul, a two or three-day stay here will do the trick.

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GEISHA

Travel across the Sumida River to Tokyo’s Mukojima district, where Old Edo culture is kept alive by the resident geisha. Of all of Tokyo’s townships, Mukojima boasts the largest number of these entertainers, all of whom spend long hours perfecting their dance moves and other artistic skills. Subtle, yet strong, their artistry continues to thrive amid Tokyo’s contemporary scene. The strong bonds of sisterhood that have been created over the years are reflected in the smiles and greetings that these geisha - both retired and active - exchange as they go about their business. It makes for an oddly welcoming atmosphere.

YATSUGATAKE

The Yatsugatake mountain range spans the border of Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures. One of the few mountain ranges in Japan that welcomes hikers during the winter months, Yatsugatake’s highest peak rises to a height of nearly 3,000 meters. A panoramic view of volcanic mountains covered all in white followed by some warm sake at a cozy mountain lodge makes for an unforgettable winter’s journey.

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KAWASAKI

Extending several kilometers along the shores of Tokyo Bay, the Kawasaki Industrial Zone offers a panoramic view of light-emitting, smoke-belching structures. With their eerie smoke, these Showa-era factories make for a surreal scene and also serve as a reminder of how the vibrant city of Tokyo was built.

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BUNZEN

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