Japan’s food halls: the perfect place to pick up presents and picnics

Japanese department stores are places of wonder, where staff greet customers with low bows and the basements are temples to elaborately packaged delights

In the pink: Osaka and Kyoto’s cherry blossom beauty – in pictures

Japan’s sakura (cherry blossom) season gave photographer Will Fearon plenty to contemplate and capture on his travels through the country

Instagram snapshots: Tokyo’s places of worship

Showing a different side to Tokyo, Belfast-born photographer Conor MacNeill turns his lens on the striking architecture and stunning interiors of a mosque, cathedral and temple

Japan New bullet train link to the north’s wide open spaces

From the end of March, a direct bullet train will link Tokyo with Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, considered to be the country’s natural adventure playground. In summer, visitors head there for hiking, climbing and camping in its vast expanse of forests, lakes, mountains and hot springs. In winter, reliable snowfall makes for great skiing, with Niseko the most famous resort.

Sapporo, meanwhile, is styling itself as Japan’s version of US hipster city Portland. People are relocating there for its laid-back lifestyle, outdoorsy edge, winter festival, small start-up businesses and retro-styled bar scene. The Hokkaido Shinkansen route will connect Tokyo with Shin-Hakodate Hokuto in four hours, two hours less than the current journey time. A seven-day Japan Rail pass costs £157.