This large, bustling port is the starting point for tours to the ancient cities of Kyoto and Nara, the cultural fountainheads of classical Japan. Kyoto's Old Imperial Palace and the shogunal Nijo Castle remain glorious symbols of the power the city held for over 1,000 years. Until 1868, Kyoto was the capital of Japan, filled with elegant timber buildings and, perhaps more than any other Japanese city, imbued with Kami, the divine spirit. You'll sense it everywhere, for there are hundreds of Shinto shrines and over a thousand Buddhist temples, as well as sacred treasure-houses of religious sculpture, painting and exquisite gardens. Nara, City of the Seven Great Temples, lies in an idyllic setting.
Set on a bay in the Inland Sea, Hiroshima was the infamous site of the first atomic bomb explosion of August, 1945. But perhaps the best reason to visit Hiroshima is the enchanting island of Miyajima with its famous Itsukushima Shinto shrine, considered one of Japan's three most beautiful sights. Its famous torii stands just offshore, a tall, vermilion-colored symbol of Japan, which appears to float during high tide.
Korea''s "museum without walls" is akin only to China in its depth and cultural wonder. From Pusan, you can journey to the ancient Silla capital of Kyongju, a dynasty which reigned in Korea for almost a thousand years. Today this small provincial town is virtually a museum without walls, dotted with many splendid ruins. Nearby, the forested mountains and valleys shelter hundreds of beautiful Buddhist shrines including the renowned Sokkuram Grotto, and Tongdosa and Pulguksa Temples. Pusan is also a shopper''s mecca and Korea''s vital southern link to Japanese and American trade.
Famous for its succulent Kobe beef and cosmopolitan flair, this booming port town sits between the Rokko Mountains and Osaka Bay. It contains a remarkable cultural mix of Swiss chalets, Moslem mosques and Russian Orthodox churches tucked between traditional Japanese buildings. A cable car ascends to the summit of Mount Rokko, a national park.