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Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

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Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

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Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

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Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

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Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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Recommended Viewing

Watch this video showcasing what makes this country so unforgettable

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See how the residents of Akuseki Island, home to less than 100 people, maintain age-old traditions to carry on the island's legacy.

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Japan: Month-By-Month

There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.

Japan in December-February

Japan bustles with tourists all year round, but a winter visit allows you to avoid the throngs of summer guests and experience a different side of the island nation. During the months of December through February, the weather throughout Japan is cool and crisp, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures averaging around 35 to 40º F. Tokyo doesn’t get much snow, but the rest of the mainland receives plenty of it, especially on the northern island of Hokkaido and Japan’s Alps. The cool air of winter also keeps cloud cover to a minimum, making it the best time to view such iconic treasures as Mount Fuji. 

Holidays & Events

  • January-February: Sapporo Snow Festival. One of Japan’s most popular winter events, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held during one week every February in Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, and attracts more than two million visitors from Japan and around the world.
  • February 3 or 4: Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival) is held throughout Japan to coincide with the first day of spring according to the old Japanese (lunar) calendar. Celebrations include the throwing of roasted soybeans to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.

Must See

Temples and shrines throughout Japan are beautiful throughout the year—but are even more dramatic when they are blanketed in snow. When snow begins to fall, even locals rush to places like Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), which turns to a winter wonderland. 

Watch this film to discover more about Japan

ReelEarth: Hong Kong: Cardboard Granny Produced by Tammie Tsang and Scott Clotworthy

Meet a 66-year-old homeless woman who is part of Hong Kong’s population of “waste pickers,” and see how their work collecting cardboard helps the city.

Japan in March-May

Spring is an exciting season in Japan, with budding leaves and sakura (cherry blossoms) sweeping the country from south to north. In March, Tokyo’s spring weather averages about 55º F during the day, rising to the 70s by May.

Holidays & Events

  • Late April/Early May: Golden Week, one of Japan’s busiest times of year, is a combination of four national holidays—Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day—that occur over a week’s span.

Must See

Cherry blossoms: Japan’s iconic sakura are renowned throughout the world. The beautiful pink flowers that blanket the country in colorful splendor begin their first bloom in late March or early April in places like Tokyo and Nagasaki to early May in Sapporo. 

Japan in June-August

Summer in Japan can be hot and humid (but with fewer crowds), with temperatures reaching the mid-90s (F) in many parts of the country. Locals often head to the mountainous regions or the northern island of Hokkaido to escape the heat. June is the rainy season in most of the country. Temperatures can reach the mid-90s (F). July and August is also the ideal time to climb Mount Fuji—when the mountain is (usually) snow-free and the weather is relatively mild. 

Holidays & Events

  • July: Gion Matsuri: Dating back to the 9th century, Kyoto’s biggest annual festival is a month-long event that is equal parts religious observance and raucous summer block party celebrating Kyoto culture.
  • July 7: Tanabata (Star Festival): As the date approaches, long, narrow strips of colorful paper known as tanzaku are inscribed with wishes and hung from bamboo branches.
  • Mid-August: Obon: This annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors typically ends when floating lanterns are put into rivers and lakes to guide the spirits back home.

Must See

While the summer months can be hot, this is also when flowers bloom and the greenery is at its most lush in Japan. Plus, these months are always filled with fireworks displays and cultural festivals, including Tokyo’s annual Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival held on the last Saturday in July. 

Japan in September-October

September is rice-harvesting season, and the time of year with the greatest risk of typhoons. After that, the weather is generally mild, with October pleasantly warm and less humid. Trees throughout Japan begin to show their beautiful autumn colors and November is peak fall foliage time. 

Holidays & Events

  • November 3 or 4: Bunka no Hi (Culture Day) is a national holiday held annually in Japan to promote culture, the arts, and academic endeavor.
  • Mid-October: Taiiku no Hi (Sports Day): Held the second Monday of October, Taiiku no Hi is a national holiday to foster healthy minds and bodies through physical activity.

Must See

Viewing the fall foliage (called momijigari) is a favorite activity in Japan this time of year. Typically, autumn foliage season starts in mid-September in the Hokkaido region and can stretch to late November in places such as Hakone.

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Japan Interactive Map

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Formerly known as Edo, Tokyo has been Japan’s capital since 1868, after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from the old capital of Kyoto. Today's Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis of ultra-modern skyscrapers and neon-lit streets interspersed with historic temples, serene public parks, and traces of the the Shogun-era capital. Take a pre-dawn stroll through Tsukiji, the world’s largest and busiest fish market, or grab some tasty yakitori from a street vendor. Wherever your interests lie—from a traditional kabuki drama to robot cabarets—it’s all in Tokyo.

Experience Tokyo with us on:

Featured Reading

Immerse yourself in Japan with this selection of articles, recipes, and more


Learn how to make a traditional meat soboro, a classic bento option.


As the culture changes its view of Japanese women in society, female sushi chefs take on one of Japan’s most male-dominated traditions.

Edible Art

The Japanese Bento Box

by Amanda Read, from Dispatches

The way a society approaches food tells a lot about the morals and values of its people. Without a doubt, the Japanese have brought the art of food preparation and presentation to the highest levels. One of the best examples of their love of aesthetics can be found in bento boxes, traditional Japanese lunch boxes that some say date back to the fifth century. In Japan, bentos have become so popular and ubiquitous that they can be found almost everywhere: at work, in school, every major train station. Much more than just a simple lunch box, the bento is an iconic item in Japan, and fast becoming one around the world. It has evolved into a cultural phenomenon with ever-more-elaborate and eye-catching designs, both inside and outside the box.

In a culture like Japan where even flower arranging (ikebana) is considered an art form and an expression of creativity, it’s easy to understand how that sensibility can extend to food. But it’s a bit surprising to see that in America, where lunch is often an afterthought—leftovers from last night’s meal or a sandwich quickly stuffed into a brown paper bag, or perhaps a takeout meal—bentos are becoming increasingly popular. Like the Japanese, more and more Americans are taking pleasure in healthy food presented in an attractive way.

The basic idea of bento is that food should not only  be pleasing to a person’s taste buds, but should also be a feast for the eyes. Beginning with the actual box, bentos can range from the elaborate to the simple—from mass-produced plastic containers to beautifully hand-painted, lacquered wooden boxes. Like elegant clothing, bentos have always been a kind of status symbol. The more elaborate the box, the better-off the family.

Now to the food inside the box. Compartments make it easier to eat small amounts of a variety of healthy things. According to tradition, each meal ideally should have five different colors, and a mixture of flavors and temperatures to make up a nutritious and healthy meal. But for today’s bentos, there are no strict rules or limits. Anything can be put into a homemade bento box.

The latest trend in bento making is a style called kyaraben, meaning character bento. The food is arranged creatively to look like to look like people, animals, plants, or characters from popular media. For example, hills of white rice with seaweed dots for eyes become panda bears or an egg transforms into a hatching chick. A radish can be turned into the head of a bunny, or a cucumber slice can become a monster’s tongue. There are no limits to what can be imagined.

Transcending national boundaries, bentos have become more a philosophy and way of life than simply a meal. Convenient, healthy, portable, aesthetically pleasing food—it’s no wonder more and more people are jumping on the bento bandwagon.

Makunouchi is a classic dish, containing a pickled fruit, a slice of broiled salmon and a hard boiled egg. Sake bento is a simple bento with a slice of broiled salmon as the main dish. Noriben is the simplest bento, with nori (seaweed) dipped in soy sauce over cooked rice. Here, we’ve provided one bento staple that you can mix and match with the starch of your choice—white rice, brown rice, or noodles. Most bento elements are meant to be eaten at room temperature, so no reheating is required.

Meat Soboro

1 lb ground beef, pork, veal, turkey or a combination of your choice
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, green and white parts both (about 2 stalks)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons oyster sauce


  1. Using a large non-stick frying pan or a wok, heat up 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in the pan. Add the vegetables and stir-fry until softened.
  2. Add the meat and brown well.
  3. Add the sugar and stir around until it’s caramelized a bit. Add the sake; stir around to evaporate.
  4. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Let simmer until the liquid is almost gone, but the meat is still moist. Taste for seasoning at this point and add a little soy sauce or salt to taste.
  5. Serve over white rice with sour cream.

She’s on a Roll

Female sushi chefs take on one of Japan’s most male-dominated traditions

by Megan Mullin, from Dispatches

In the summer of 2014, I was taught how to roll sushi in Kameoka, Japan, while on Japan’s Cultural Treasures. I watched attentively as capable hands assembled rice, seaweed, and vegetables into a flawless roll. Under my teachers’ guidance, my first attempt at making sushi was fairly successful. I beamed, holding up my plate for the teachers to critique.

Both sushi instructors were women.

Japan is at once the most modern and the most ancient of countries. Its cities feel high tech and Western, yet it is also fiercely protective of its old traditions. However, in recent years Japan has begun to embrace some inevitable changes. One of the most notable is the culture’s view on Japanese women in society.

Back in the 17th century, a woman’s role was restricted to a domestic one. After World War II, women’s rights saw some advancement, such as the right to vote in 1946. And now, in the 21st century, more and more Japanese women are being encouraged by the government to enter the workforce. But one profession in particular has a very strong “No Girls Allowed” policy in place: the sushi chef.

Training to become a sushi chef is no easy feat even for a man. It takes years of grueling study. After that, the hopeful chef must find employment in a reputable restaurant, where he will most likely do little more than watch (and wash dishes) at first.

The odds are already stacked against any female chef, regardless of her training. There is a litany of strongly held—yet completely unfounded—beliefs as to why women cannot be sushi chefs. The most common excuses include women’s hands being too small and warm to prepare sushi correctly. Others claim that feminine products like makeup and perfume would interfere with taste and smell. These old wives’ tales may sound ridiculous to a Western ear, but they are major obstacles for modern female sushi chefs to overcome.

That has not stopped a few intrepid chefs from forging a path through this unforgiving profession. Take Yuki Chizui for example. Chizui, eager to help other women break into the field, learned the art of sushi making and opened Nadeshico—Japan’s first and only sushi restaurant with an all-female staff. Chizui believes that as a woman, she is better at communicating with her customers—putting them at ease and anticipating their desires.

Then there are chefs like Yumi Chiba, who shook up tradition by simply entering her family’s business—a role usually reserved for a son. She more than excelled in her practice, entering sushimaking contests and winning silver medals. But despite her critical success, Chiba is still aware of society’s prejudice. “I am a woman working in a world of men,” she said. “In a way, I feel as if I’m non-Japanese.”

While prejudices linger, there is hope for the future of women sushi chefs in the creation of more inclusive schools, such as Tokyo Sushi Academy. The school’s female principal, Sachiko Goto, is proud of her diverse student body—more than 20 percent of her enrolled chefs-in-training are women. That is more than double the amount of female students since the school opened in 2002. “The world is changing,” Goto said. “If they (sushi restaurants) don’t welcome women, they will have trouble finding experienced chefs to take over their businesses when they retire.”

And since it seems the worldwide popularity of sushi is here to stay, so too are female sushi chefs.

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