Tokyo is the capital and largest city of Japan, and its 38 million people make it the most populated metropolitan area in the world. Tokyo is very urban but built on a long history. You will find it has a mix of tall modern buildings, tiny old alleys, and a nice blend of parks and open areas.
An ancient city, Kyoto served as the capital of Japan for over 1000 years from around 794. It is dotted with historic castles, temples and shrines, plus a wide range of craft workshops and stores, many of which have been operating for centuries.
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan around the 8th century, and still houses a range of incredible buildings and history from that time. It is also famous for the large number of wild deer that live in the many parks and open spaces around the city.
A pretty city close to Osaka, Himeji - and the famed Himeji Castle - is easily accessed from Osaka or Kyoto. Being on the Tokkaido Shinkansen line means that Himeji is also excellent for a day-trip when travelling to or from Hiroshima.
Hiroshima was almost completely wiped out by the atomic bombing during WWII, and the modern re-development means it has a different atmosphere to many other cities. It has a vibrant local food culture, and an open, spacious city offering a variety of world-class attractions. The nearby island of Miyajima also makes for an excellent day trip or overnight stay.
Miyajima is the common name for the island of Itsukushima in Hiroshima Bay. It is named for its famous shrine, which has made it a popular tourist spot for hundreds of years. With a large number of ancient religious sites, much of the island is covered with undisturbed forest.
It can be easily reached by ferry from Hiroshima for a day trip or overnight stay.
Approximately one hour west of Tokyo, Mt. Takao is a popular destination for locals and travellers looking to escape the concrete jungle for a bit. The summit offers sweeping views over Tokyo and - on a fine day - Mt. Fuji, and has several hiking trails of differing skill levels. For the less athletic, a cable car and chair lift offer easier access.