However, it is the world's largest metropolis, with over 37 million residents (9 million in the city alone). It goes without saying this means lots of crowds. And just imagine trying to cross the street at major intersections!
Being an island country, a great way to see Japan beyond these large cities is on a small ship cruise. Explore a quieter side of Japan, visiting smaller port towns, full of history and culture and retreat back to an intimate ship at the end of the day, to relax and wake up in a new port of call.
Wonderful, less crowded ports of call include:
This region of Japan offers a unique culture, Western, Japanese and Russian, with a a fascinating history of the Ainu people, who are ethnically Japanese and Russian.
The town of Kanazawa escaped war damage and natural disasters, and has interesting museums and districts to experience.
The Izumo-taisha Grand Shrine is considered to be Japan's oldest (believed to have been built in the 700's) and second most important Shinto shrine. The Matsue Castle is a six story structure, one of only a dozen original castles to have survived fire, earthquakes and feudal demolitions. Sitting atop a hill and surrounded by thick walls and a moat, it luckily never saw a battle.
Want to learn about the evolution of toilets? Check out the Toto Museum.
One of Japan's best loved noodles and famous in Takamatsu is the Udon noodle, which you can find all through out the city prepared in a number of ways. Not to be missed!
Kobe of course is well known for its beef, and the Nada district is Japan's top sake producing area. Arima Onsen is a famous hot spring town located within Kobe city limits, on the opposite side of Mount Rokko and city center. Panoramic views of Kobe and neighboring Osaka can be enjoyed from the mountain.