Travel Highlights 2016

Below are my highlights of visiting 29 of Japan's 47 prefectures in 2016:

Number 10: Dotombori on a summer evening

I am generally not a fan of busy and crowded places, but on one summer evening in Osaka this year, I was in the mood to enjoy the bustling, touristy atmosphere and many culinary options of the colorful Dotombori district.

Number 9: Kesennuma Fish Market

Heavily damaged by the tsunami in 2011, Kesennuma's fish market has recovered to retake its position among Japan's busier fish markets. Tourists can observe the early-morning action from a balcony above the market. The visit was enhanced by interesting explanations from a volunteer guide who approached us.

Number 8: Toyama Glass Art Museum

Kuma Kengo seems to be behind every other major building designed in Japan these days. He is also the architect of the Toyama Kirari building, which opened in 2015 and contains the Toyama Glass Art Museum. While the glass museum was nice, the building stole the show for me.

Number 7: Mount Aso

One month after Mount Aso's most recent eruption, we visited the majestic volcano in November to check the state of tourism in the area which had also suffered from the Kumamoto earthquakes in April. A two kilometer no-entry zone is currently established around the crater, but tourists are welcome to see the awe-inspiring mountain from just outside the no-entry zone.

Number 6: Amami Oshima

I finally made it to Amami Oshima, the subtropical island between Kyushu and Okinawa. I was stunned by the island's outstanding, yet deserted sand beaches. A true hidden beauty!

Number 5: Kawana Hotel Golf Course

Widely considered among Japan's best golf courses, the Kawana Hotel Golf Course along the coast of the Izu Peninsula was the highlight of my year's research of Japanese golf courses.

Number 4: Damaged Kumamoto Castle

Half a year after the Kumamoto Earthquakes, I went to see Kumamoto Castle in its damaged state. The city encourages tourists to come and see the local symbol especially now. While it is not yet possible to enter the castle's inner grounds, visitors can see the massive fortress from the outside.

Number 3: Hasedera in the rain

The heavy rain and the cloud-covered, surrounding hills made the visit to Nara's Hasedera Temple more memorable than it probably would have been in good weather.

Number 2: Autumnal Yudono-san

Only about once every three years do I come across natural autumn colors in such a burning state as I witnessed them at Yudono-san Shrine in Dewa Sanzan this year. Considering that Yudono-san is among my most favorite shrines to begin with, it is no surprise that this visit ended up high in my 2016 highlights.

Number 1: Haguro-san in the early morning

The serene atmosphere at the base of Haguro-san in the early morning provided another memorable highlight to this year's reporting activities within less than 24 hours of enjoying the amazing autumn colors at Yudono-san.