My third trip to Japan was just as exciting as the previous visits. Japan is a beautiful country and has much to offer. From the energetic and visually overwhelming Tokyo, to the calm and peaceful countryside, there is always a new experience or site to explore. Just like my previous ‘Passport’ blog post, below I will share my suggestions for travelling Japan :)
Tokyo - Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku. This hotel is a couple minute stroll to Shinjuku station, which is a major hub for buses, trains and the Tokyo metro. The rooms are spacious by Japanese standards.
Kyoto - I highly recommend staying in a traditional Japanese house, which can be booked through Airbnb. Step out of your comfort zone, sleep on futons and sit cross legged on tatami mats!
Gonpachi - You may recognise the interior of this restaurant as it was the inspiration for a memorable set in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. The banquet menu is worth the splurge as you receive a wide selection of Japanese food, plus the food is super tasty! Best to email them in advance to make a reservation.
By train! Train, shinkansen (bullet train), metro and/or subway. It is by far the easiest way to get around Japan. The stations are well signed and easy to navigate. You feel very safe on the metro, even late at night. Depending on the length of your trip and destinations, it may be worth getting a Rail Pass. TIP: Take note of the yellow exit signs and numbers while using the Tokyo metro. They will help you gain your bearings once you are on street level and with accessing tourist attractions.
See Tokyo from above on the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree - (A similar situation as in NYC..to do Empire State building or Top of the Rock?). You could either do Skytree or Tokyo Tower, the experience is very similar. From the top you can totally understand how Tokyo has a population of 13.35 million people! If you are lucky and visit on a very clear day, you might even spot Mt Fuji in the distance.
Akiharaba - Known as ‘electric town’, you can browse hundreds of electronic shops. In more recent times it has now become the centre of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops are devoted to anime and manga.
Imperial Palace (and Gardens) - Get out of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and into the serene Japanese gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace. Be sure to check the opening times before you visit as they are closed on certain days/dates.
Tsukiji Fish Market - Many travel resources tell tourists to visit early in the morning in order to see the large tuna fish. However, in recent times (like we experienced) you will be blocked by security guards holding up signs stating tourists can only enter the inner fish market after 9:30am. However, a tourist informed us that only a handful of the entry points to the inner market are manned. Therefore, if you are up for a challenge and feeling a little adventurous, you are able to slip into the inner market early in the morning so you can see all that the inner market has to offer, including the Tuna ..its worth the risk in my opinion! However, I am sure if you did wait until 9:30am, you won’t be disappointed.
Fancy a little skiing or snowboarding?…
Hakuba Ski Fields - Host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba is a village in the Japanese Alps, just outside the city of Nagano. There are 11 resorts in the region. Happo-One is the most popular and full of tourists, however we thoroughly enjoyed Tsugaike Kogen Ski Resort, which is far less crowded. It is only a 15 minute drive from Happo-One.
Fushimi Inari Shrine - It is an important Shinto shrine and is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.
Kinkaku-ji - Commonly known as the ‘Golden Temple’, it is one of the most popular buildings in Japan. Many tourists flock here to see the Zen Buddhist temple shimmering by the lake.
Tea Ceremony - En is a small Japanese-style teahouse in the Gion area of Kyoto. You can enjoy an authentic tea ceremony experience first hand.
For truely authentic Japanese handicrafts, visit the 3rd generation indigo dye house Aizen Kobo. The 100 + year house is beautiful in its self. As a courtesy, it is best if you email prior to you visiting the shop. If you make a purchase, Kenichi is more than happy to show you the indigo dye vats and explain his process. Authentic Japanese indigo dyed textiles are hard to come by; you can be assured that you are investing in the real deal here!
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden - This bestselling novel presents the confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.
Japanese people love to hear a foreigner speak their language, so go on, download a Japanese phrase app before you go and test out some words/greetings when you’re there to really immerse yourself in the Japanese culture!
Overall, Japan is very clean, safe and organised. It is a stress-free country to travel around and I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy visiting the land of the rising sun.