Our Japan trip was a blast! Japan exceeded my expectations, the people are extremely welcoming, it is -obviously- extremely organized, signage is very detailed and many times accompanied by English words, most customer-facing personnel speak basic English. The sites are spectacular, and given their cleanliness and organization it makes everything very pleasurable to see and explore.
Tokyo > Nikko > Kyoto > Hiroshima > Mijayima Island > Yokohama
Tokyo needs no introduction, and as a mega city it has a lot to offer everyone. I did not spend to much time in the city but I hit a few places on the list; Tsukiji Market: largest seafood market in the world, quite a site, and you can eat sushi right off the boat! this is a MUST DO! Kabukicho and Shinjuku areas: very active and lively parts of town. Omotesando is the design and shopping district. Meiji Shrine is a nice sight, but also very popular, expect lots of people.
Located ~2 hours north of Tokyo, Nikko is an ancient town with several century-old temples nestled in the woods, it is also at the footsteps of a higher elevation plane with several mountain peaks (Takayama, Nantai), hot springs (Okunikkoyumoto), marshlands and waterfalls (Ryuzu falls). Fun story, I got lost in these marshlands, for about 1 hour I did not see a single person, I was lost in the woods. I walked down a path and found a teenage girl who spoke English and told me the nearest bus station to get me back to Nikko was 1 mile away if I just followed the road up, I told her thanks and I started walking, she insisted in walking with me. When the bus station was in sight I told her I was very thankful and that she did not need to accompany me there, she insisted further in walking me up to the station, it was 'her duty' to get me there safe. This is how cordial and welcoming Japanese people are.
Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its beauty is hidden, for you need to explore the temples, streets, hike a little, walk the oversized Imperial Palace etc. A little history: when the US generals planned the attack of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, Kyoto was at the top of the list for a number of reasons, the General in charge, having spent his honeymoon years before asked for it to be left unharmed, it was far too beautiful. Once you see it you'll understand.
Must see sites: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (get there before sunrise, beat the crowds), Golden Pavilion, Imperial Palace, ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO FOREST (get there before sunrise, beat the crowds, GINKAKUJI NISHI HONGANJI, HONEN-IN DAITOKU-JI
Eat at: NISHIKI MARKET, GOYA, HINODE UDON, DAIMARU. Japan is not listed on the regular ViaMichelin guide, a different site is set up here, it is broken out in 3 sections: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
WWII historians give credit to Mr Stimson, former US Ambassador to the Philippines before the war, for succeeding in removing Kyoto from being at the top of the 'target list' for the A-bomb, Nagasaki took its place. Mr Stimson spent his honeymoon in the city and alleged Kyoto had too much cultural value and was too beautiful to be decimated.
Hiroshima & Mijayima
Hiroshima is a modern city by all standards, and it has moved on from the scars of the bombing. Only 2 main scars remain; the atomic dome, and every day at 8:45am the bells ring to remind citizens of all the lives lost. Visit the Atomic Dome and the peace park with the memorial, it can be emotionally taxing on you, so much so we decided to skip the museum altogether. Right from Hiroshima you can head via train and then ferry to the island of Mijayima and visit the Itsukushima Shrine, and see the giant Tori gate, you can walk up to it during low tide or take a boat during high tide.
Yokohama & Kamakura
A short ride south of Tokyo, Yokohama is a more manageable city with a few things to see; the harbor side, Ramen museum. Head to Kamakura on a short train ride and see the DAIBUTSU temple and HASE-DERA (Large Buddha statue).
Kamakura Buddha #1