Japan has everything I look for in travel: nature, culture, food, facilities and people. It is very safe. Signs are in English. Transportation is easy. People are considerate. Food is delicious.
My highlights begin at Hiroshima. The city that witnessed the world's first atomic bombing on 6 August, 1945. Today, the Peace Memorial Park is a relevant reminder. An inspiration for nuclear disarmament in the world. There are several monuments including the famous A-Bomb Dome; one of few buildings that stood after the bomb exploded 600 metres above the city.
The Takayama Spring Festival or 'Sanno Matsuri' is a traditional festival held every year on the 14 and 15 April. It is famous for its floats or 'yatai'. Preserved since the festival beginnings over 300 years ago.
Three yatai near the centre of town provide a 50-minute marionette performance, once in the morning then again in the afternoon.
Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's original castles. Listed as a National Treasure, it is worth my stay. A striking black rather than the usual white, it is situated within a moat on all four sides. The only path to the Castle is by bridge. Then a lovely walk to the entrance.
Kanazawa is a picturesque city that exudes culture without the crowds. It has three chaya districts. Chaya being a tea house where the geisha performs. While I didn't see an actual geisha, I imagine one at the former tea house turned museum, Ochaya Shima. Located at the biggest chaya district, Higashi.
Osaka is far more relaxed than Kyoto and despite having fewer attractions, I like the casual atmosphere; the sense of everyday life. Osaka Castle Park is my favourite cherry blossom spot in Japan. An expansive parkland where locals gather, and tourists are a minority.
Kyoto is a city with over a thousand temples and shrines. The difference according to the dictionary, is that temples are buildings devoted to worship; shrines are places regarded as holy. My definition from general observations in Kyoto, is that temples cost money while shrines are free.
Of the sites I visited, my favourite was the Fushimi Inari Shrine.