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Visit temples & gardens.

Find your zen moment among temples, shrines, castles and gardens that date back centuries. Imagine yourself as Japanese royalty while strolling these serene settings. Because even royalty appreciates a good deal, keep this in mind: When in Kyoto, most shrines have free admission.

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Be dazzled by tradition.

Experience ancient traditions unique to Japan. Favorites include: tea ceremonies, Kabuki theater, sumo wrestling and maiko dress-up -- the last being popular with female visitors to Kyoto. Your hotel or tour operator can arrange these excursions, but consider booking ahead for the best availability.

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Savor more than sushi.

Food & Wine magazine says Japan is unleashing the world's "most thrilling food trends." Feast on fresh sashimi, nigiri and maki in a country that takes sushi seriously. Save room for ramen, soba noodles and sake. Dine on a budget among locals at yakitori stalls (known for skewered meats) and izakayas (beer bars).

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Try on colorful trends.

Japan has produced fascinating trends that make simply walking Tokyo's streets a wow-inducing experience. Explore fashion inspired by anime (cartoons), manga (comics) and cosplay (role-playing costumes) while listening to tunes of Hatsune Miku, Japan's biggest pop singer.

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Explore mountains & more.

The snowcapped peak of Mt. Fuji, the country's majestic 12,000-foot icon, wows visitors in winter. Another mountainous region to visit is Nagano, whose ski slopes were home of the 1998 Winter Olympics and continue to welcome wannabe Olympians. Japan's diverse winter settings are accessible via bullet trains and quick flights.

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