Want to add a more creative touch to your trip to Japan? While famous for temples, cherry trees, and street fashion, Japan is becoming more and more known as a destination for design-centric travel. Rather than adding art festivals and galleries to a trip as extra activities, it’s completely possible to plan your entire holiday with these locations as the main focus, all the way from Hokkaido to the beaches of Okinawa.

Kirishima Open Air Museum | Photo by Japan 99+1

The recently released JAPAN 99+1: Traveling through art, design, and architecture is both a printed book and website geared towards helping lovers of art and design to find the best spots in Japan to visit. Complete with stunning photos and descriptions of 99 of Japan’s best locations, and produced by a well-known international team of experts in art, design, and travel, the book itself has been published by the Japan National Travel Organization (JNTO) as a way to inspire a new way of traveling through the country.

Art Tower Mito (Courtesy of Art Tower Mito) | Photo by Japan 99+1

From open-air art galleries on islands to unique hilltop gallery spaces designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winning Japanese architects, there’s a bit of something for everyone who has even the slightest appreciation for Japan’s contribution to both modern and traditional design. That means that it’s not just for your stereotypical luxury traveler either. Many, if not most, of the spots featured in JAPAN 99+1 are either free to view or have reasonable admission fees.

Suggested Activity
Challenge Sumo Wrestlers and Enjoy Lunch
Eat, train, and fight like a real Japanese sumo wrestler during this sumo demonstration and authentic 'Chanko Nabe' (hotpot) meal.
Kyoto Art Center – Dance 4 All © Toshie Kusamoto | Photo by Japan 99+1

The only catch is that the book will be difficult to find, as it’s only being distributed to select travel agencies and curators around the world, but the online version (art.japan.travel no longer accessible) has all of the same information plus more, including suggested tours from travel agencies specializing in more offbeat travel throughout Japan. Many are rather eccentric ideas for tours, including one through an area in Kyushu known for its active and majestic volcanoes that also serve as artistic inspiration. If you haven’t planned your art vacation around walking on a volcano, now might be the time to start, but you’ll find yourself just at home with locations around the Seto Inland Sea, famed for the Setouchi Triennale art festival.

Akita International University Nakajima Library | Photo by Japan 99+1

While many famous galleries, spaces, and festivals are featured, Editor-in-chief Roland Hagenberg also interviews some of Japan’s top architects to get their perspective on their craft as well as how architecture has been used to boost local areas and even provide relief after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region. After all, there’s architecture behind every art space, and with Japan being home to many of the world’s best architects this is the perfect country to experience art and design of all varieties within incredible structures.

Sapporo International Art Festival © Keizo Kioku / Courtesy of Sapporo International Art Festival Executive Committee | Photo by Japan 99+1

You won’t be able to hit every destination within JAPAN 99+1 throughout even a lifetime of travel, but you can definitely find a place that fits your schedule and adds a new dimension to your trip.

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Filed under: Editorial
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