Japan in Focus
By Georgia Shipley
24 October 2019
With the Japanese Rugby World Cup and Joanna Lumley bursting onto our television screens recently, we’ve been lapping up all things Japan.Read more
Cherry blossoms, geisha, tea ceremonies, sushi, Shinto and robots; Japan has it all. When you cross Japan by train it is all too easy to fall in love with this unique country.
Guests of Great Rail Journeys on an exhilarating rail tour of Japan are fortunate in that they can experience all of these wonders with ease and in comfort thanks to perhaps the most modern, comfortable and efficient rail system in the world. Prepare to be amazed by the blistering speed of the Bullet Train, inspired by the natural beauty of Japan's rural areas and National Parks, and wowed by a culture quite unlike any other. A rail holiday in Japan really is the adventure of a lifetime.
Japan is a genuinely fascinating and beautiful country that is exciting to tour by train. An escorted rail holiday with Great Rail Journeys combines the opportunity to immerse yourself in Japan's history, culture and natural beauty with excellent value for money.
The cost of your Japan train holiday includes flights, all rail, coach and ferry travel, a generous selection of meals, overnight accommodation of a high standard and a programme of guided tours, excursions and visits to some of Japan's most compelling destinations.
An island in East Asia, Japan is located at a point where the East China Sea, Philippine Sea and Sea of Japan meet. The latter separates Japan from its nearest neighbours, South and North Korea and Russia to the west. Far to the east of Japan across the North Atlantic Ocean the next major land mass is the USA.
Whilst modern Japan's history can be traced back as far as 500BC, much of the culture and tradition that exists today originated with settlers from Asia who arrived via Korea, China and Russia in the third century, forming clans throughout the island. The leader of the influential Yamato clan became Japan's first emperor in the fourth century. In subsequent centuries the heads of various clans claimed the role of emperor, each changing Japan's capital city in the process. By the eighth century, culture and civilization had developed to the extent that Japan enjoyed an exceptionally high standard of living.
In the following century a new emperor nominated Kyoto as Japan's capital city; a position it would hold for the next thousand years. Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, Japan's aesthetically-focused Heian culture was established, embracing and emphasising beauty in all aspects of Japanese life. Japan's feudal era began in the twelfth century when a ruling class of warlords, the shogun, seized power, provoking fierce and ongoing conflict between rival clans. This era culminated in the enforcement of an 'isolationist' policy in the seventeenth century, effectively ending Japan's interaction with the outside world.
An American treaty in 1854 overturned this policy and re-established the role of emperor as Japanese ruler. Following the Second World War, during which Japan mounted an aggressive campaign against China until American intervention forced Japan's unconditional surrender, the country's current democratic constitutional monarchy was established.
Japan's climate is generally mild and temperate with four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter - which more or less equate with Europe's. Spring is warm and largely dry whilst summer can be hot and humid following a four-week period of rain which usually begins in June. Autumn is breezy and cool, whilst winter is mild and dry with temperatures rarely falling below zero, although Japan's central and northern regions may experience snow.
Most people tend to equate Japanese cuisine with raw fish dishes such as sashimi or sushi but in reality Japan's culinary culture is far more extensive. Noodles play an important role in many dishes with soba, made from buckwheat flour, and udon the most popular varieties. Tempura cooking involves the coating of meat, seafood, vegetables or fish in an extremely light batter and deep-frying them. Japanese specialities include Sukiyaki, a dish of thinly-sliced beef with tofu, vegetables and vermicelli noodles traditionally prepared and cooked at the table; Yakitori; small pieces of meat or fish on a bamboo skewer barbecued over coals, and Tonkatsu, a cutlet of pork rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Touring Japan by rail can be a peculiar experience for the European rail traveller. The Japanese claim that their rail service is the most dependable in the world with an average delay lasting only 30 seconds. In Europe this would count as a punctual arrival!
Helping you plan your holiday to Japan