Although we just told you about why Japan is an unpopular tourist destination, if you are planning on visiting in 2015—and we really recommend you do!—there are some landmark events going on that you might want to consider as you make your plans. Here’s our list of five places you’ll want to visit in Japan in 2015.
・Tokyo, Jan 25
You’ll have to hurry if you want to make this, but if you are in Tokyo on Jan 25, the place to be is the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium. Yokozuna Hakuho is set to shatter all previous records by winning his 33rd Emperor’s Cup. The Mongolian-born wrestler is currently undefeated in this tourney and favored to take the prize. Of course, if by some chance he doesn’t become the all-time-winningest sumo wrestler this time around, you could make the next tournament in Osaka for the rematch.
・Himeji, March 27
Unlike most of the castles in Japan, 14th-century Himeji Castle has never been razed by fire, war or earthquake, and making it the finest surviving example of feudal architecture. But just because you escape disaster doesn’t mean you are exempt from the ravages of time. Renovation work has been ongoing since 2010, but the castle is set to completely reopen on March 27, with the walls and roof returned to the sterling white that gave the building its nickname of Heron Castle.
・Echigo-Tsumari, Niigata, July 26-Sept 13
With the aging population and urban migration, many small towns in Japan are battling for survival. The Echigo-Tsumari region of Niigata has taken a rather unique approach: become a center for the arts by hosting modern art festivals and dotting the 760-square-kilometer landscape with permanent installations. The area is now home to hundreds of pieces that can be found both in towns and in unlikely spots out in the countryside. Once every three years, a major festival is held in the summer, bringing artists from around Japan and all over the world to create and perform, and if you make your way there this year, you can be a part of it too.
・Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Aug 6 and 9
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a milestone that is especially poignant considering the dwindling number of survivors. Both cities have various programs and events planned throughout the year, with the August 6 ceremony held at the Hiroshima Peace Park as the centerpiece, and many civic groups and individuals are planning events of their own. Unfortunately, renovations on the Peace Park are not scheduled to be completed until 2017, but most of the museum and related buildings will still be open to the public.
・Koya-san, all year
As the home of Shingon Buddhism, Mount Koya in Wakayama is considered one of the most sacred sites in Japan. The secluded mountain town is home to hundreds of temples, including Kongobuji, the sect’s head temple, and as the beginning and end of the 88-temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, it has always featured prominently in local tourism. This year, which marks the 1200th anniversary of the founding of Shingon Buddhism, the area is going to draw even more crowds for events marking the milestone, including a 50-day memorial ceremony for the sect’s founder from April 2 to May 21.
Have fun, folks!