Japan - Off the beaten track
Kirishima National Park
Kirishima, in southern Kyūshū, is known for its superb mountain scenery, hot springs, the impressive Senriga-taki waterfall and spring wildflowers. The day walk from Ebino-kōgen village to the summits of a string of volcanoes is one of the finest volcanic hikes in Japan. Shorter walks include a stroll around a series of volcanic lakes - Rokkannon Mi-ike has the most intense colour, a deep blue-green. The southern view from the summit of Karakuni-dake is superb: on a clear day you can see right down to Kagoshima, the nearest large city, and the smoking cone of Sakurajima, a decidedly overactive volcano. A direct bus runs from Kagoshima to Ebino-kōgen.
Love Hotel Hill
In Tokyo's Shibuya district is a concentration of love hotels catering to all tastes. The buildings range from miniature Gothic castles to Middle Eastern temples. The rooms within can fulfil most fantasies, with themes ranging from harem extravaganza to sci-fi. Further choices can include vibrating beds, wall-to-wall mirrors, bondage equipment and video recorders.
Japan's highest mountain (3776m/12,385ft) is a perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone which last blew its top in 1707, covering the streets of Tokyo 100km (62mi) away with volcanic ash. On a clear day, you can see its volcanic cone from Tokyo, but this reclusive mountain is often mystically shrouded by cloud or, in winter, picturesquely capped off by snow.
For an enjoyable combination of rugged seascapes, traditional rural life and a light diet of cultural sights, this peninsula is highly recommended. The wild, unsheltered western side of the peninsula is of most interest, as it is less developed than the indented eastern coastline.
The Seagaia Ocean Dome is mind-boggling: it's a 140m (460ft) white-sand beach complete with a splash of ocean under a permanently blue 'sky,' all in a completely controlled 'natural' environment. It's the apotheosis of the Japanese obsession with germ-free fun and amusement parks.
This all becomes even stranger when you realise that the complex is just a stone's throw from bona fide surf and sandy beaches along Kyushu's Miyazaki-ken coastline. Seagaia is accessible by bus from balmy Miyazaki, a reasonably large city on the south-east coast of Kyushu. The Ocean Dome closes during the winter months.