iReport: Top Japanese holiday destinations

iReport: Top Japanese holiday destinations

CNNGo iReporters from Europe and Japan tell us what gets their motors running this New Year

In a CNNGo iReport assignment at the end of 2011, we asked readers to share their photos of their favorite Japanese travel destinations, as well as the reasons they picked them.

Sasa Jancikic, of Belišće in Croatia, and Melvin Francisquini, living in Tokyo, sent us these shots and a word or two on what made them pull out their cameras.

Melvin Francisquini: Hiroshima and Miyajima

HiroshimaHiroshima: An essential item on every visitor’s must-see list.

I moved to Japan in July and had a one-week JR rail pass to use before starting work in Tokyo on August 1.

I wanted to see other cities in Japan first because I knew once I started my life in the capital it would be hard to venture beyond a 40-minute train ride.

This was my first visit to Japan and I continue to be amazed by the people, food and, most importantly, the culture -- of both Japanese people and the foreigners living here.

I decided to opt out of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto because I feel those cities get enough publicity and somehow people visiting Japan forget about Hiroshima.

It may be a long way away from Tokyo, but it should be on everyone’s must-visit list of cities in Japan.

I'm not a history buff and we all know what happened there but no book, travel guide or blog can ever express the feelings you get as you visit each memorial.

More importantly, you get to understand how the city tries very hard to remind the world of what a nuclear bomb can do to a city, its people and the recovery process.

MiyajimaThe classic Miyajima image of its red torii gate standing alone in the bay.

As for Miyajima, I've taught many adult students whose hometown is Hiroshima and they themselves have not visited the area.

Like I mention in the iReport, I completely underestimated the beauty of this city and hope to return one day to fully capture it.

Sasa Jancikic: Hida Takayama

Hida TakayamaHida Takayama is a strikingly beautiful tourist town in Gifu Prefecture.

My first visit to Japan and Hida Takayama was in 2007. I stayed for three weeks and experienced so much I could write a drama about it.

The reason for the visit was to meet my then-girlfriend, although I only knew about her town from our Skype conversations.

Only after arriving there did I find out what a gem this city in Gifu Prefecture really is. It was my first impression of Japan and it was really something -- it soon felt like a home away from home.

Our relationship ended a year and a half later and, coming from a tiny place in eastern Croatia, I was surprised to find I really missed that little old Edo-period town in rural Japan.

I visited again in winter 2009 and then again in 2010, just in time for the Takayama spring festival, when the photos were taken.

Hida TakayamaIts festival is part of the ongoing drive to win back visitors post-March 11.

Some were shot by my dear friend Atsushi Futatsuya, an active participant in the festival and one of the people trying hard to get Takayama tourism back on its feet after the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

So many small family businesses were hit very hard by the lack of visitors who became scared of visiting Japan, even cancelling already-booked holidays.

That was the reason I decided to file this report -- I want to help with the effort. If you're interested too, please drop by our fan page on Facebook and find out a little more about Hida Takayama.

More on CNNGo iReport: Royal Tokyo, Enoshima and Yokohama

These photos were submitted to CNNGo by iReporters Melvin Francisquini and Sasa Jancikic as part of an iReport assignment asking readers to share their favorite Japanese destinations. Interested in submitting your own stories, photos and videos? Visit our iReport page.

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