I first visited Japan when I was in my thirties, and it blew my mind. From the outside, it seems like two completely different worlds.

There’s the ultra-modern, high-tech whirlwind of Tokyo, with its electronic districts, anime, cosplay lovers, cutting-edge restaurants and financial centres. Bullet trains that whisk you through the country. Robot servers and ramen vending machines.

But you don’t have to look hard to find Japan’s quiet heart. Dark-timbered city centres with cobbled streets and manicured gardens. Traditions going back thousands of years. Places of pilgrimage and contemplation.

Few places seem both as foreign and familiar as Japan, but you won’t really understand until you see it for yourself. Whether it’s cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, sublime skiing, ancient culture or Michelin-starred restaurants, here’s everything you need to know.

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