Art Aquarium at Coredo Muromachi in Tokyo
Only open during the summer, this over-the-top aquarium combines thousands of goldfish, colorful lights and inventive glass bowls to create a surreal atmosphere. With lots of visitors wearing yukata (summer kimono) and bright art, this is one of the must-sees of the Tokyo summer.
Owl Cafés in Tokyo
As keeping owls as pets is illegal in most countries, a visit to Japan is a rare chance to see and pet these gorgeous critters. There are plenty of cafés to choose from, and those outside of the central areas of Shinjuku and Harajuku are usually not too crowded, so you can greet all the residents without rushing or bumping into people. But be careful to turn off the flash of your camera or phone, as to not scare the owls!
A Meal with a View at Momijiya in Kyoto
Momijiya is located in the town of Takao, a short train ride from central Kyoto. Cross the bridge that leads you toward this historical ryokan (Japanese-style inn) and fall under the spell of the stunning view (and yummy Japanese cuisine!). In summer you can be entertained by maiko while cooling off right over the river, and in autumn you can tuck into fall specialties while surrounded by bright red maple leaves.
Japanese-Style Retro Glamor Shots in Kyoto
Taking pictures dressed as a maiko or geisha against the backdrop of Kyoto's temples has been a popular activity for years, but this one is something a bit more special. Transform into a retro-style Showa (1926-1989) beauty with a twist of modern flair, and accessorize your look with hats, heels, jewelry and more. The studio also has top-notch photographers and makeup artists to make sure you're literally picture-perfect.
Lake Shikotsu on a Clear-Bottomed Kayak in Hokkaido
Lake Shikotsu has been selected as the clearest lake in Japan for eight years running, and is one of the wonders of Hokkaido. Besides strolling the shores, you can get great shots by taking a twirl around the lake in a clear-bottomed kayak. You'll be able to see the clear blue waters right beneath your feet, and with any luck the surrounding mountains will reflect in the still lake.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding & Yoga Poses on Miyako Island
Okinawa is a fabuluous beach resort, and among the various islands, Miyakojima (Miyako Island) is possibly the most scenic. The turquoise color of the ocean and darker blue of the sky just scream "tropical paradise," and the quality of the light (particularly in the morning and early evening) makes for fantastic pictures.
Lanterns & Lights After Dark in Osaka
Osaka really comes into its own in the evening, when the lanterns, neon signs and special illuminations turn the city into a wonderland. Some of the best places to enjoy an evening out are in Shinsekai, Dotombori and the Umeda Sky Building, the lattermost of which offers not only views over the city but also a "galaxy walkway!"
Itsukushima Shrine & Torii Gate at Dusk in Hiroshima
The famous torii gate that graces Miyajima is certainly impressive during the day, but at sunset the combination of the pink and gold sky, dark hills and bright orange gate is sigh-inducing. Itsukushima Shrine is often lit up at dusk, and there are a couple of evening cruises that can take you to see both the shrine and gate.
Yanagawa River near Fukuoka
Known as the "Venice of Japan," the castle town of Yanagawa is crisscrossed with waterways that you can cruise down on cute punts. In the spring you can float underneath cherry blossoms, and in the summer irises dot the canals. The boat captains sing local songs and can provide you with rather awesome straw hats to wear during your tour, a perfect day trip from nearby Fukuoka.
The 'Princess Mononoke' Moss Forest in Yakushima
Yakushima is a bit off the beaten track, as the island can be a bit tough to access. But it is worth the effort, as the perfectly preserved ecosystem and lush greens are well deserving of the term "mystical." Of all the available hiking routes, those that pass through the Shiratani Unsui-kyo Gorge are a particular favorite. The moss-filled forest is said to be the inspiration for the scenery in Hayao Miyazaki's animated film Princess Mononoke. It's important to know that Yakushima is very humid, so look after your cameras accordingly!
Writer: Chiara Terzuolo