Japan Travel Guide
I have lived and worked in 3 prefectures (the U.S. equivalent to a state) for almost a year, visited 14 prefectures, and have experienced a wide range of Japanese culture across different areas. I have really enjoyed living in Japan, and would love to come back…….if I didn’t have to work quite as hard as I have this past year. For whatever reason, Japanese people love to work. Seriously. I personally don’t understand the need to stay after hours, come in early, or otherwise slave your life away for a company, but I guess 135 million people do. To each their own.
Other than the work obligation here in Japan, most of my experiences have been extremely positive and I feel like I have the opportunity to share tons of information so other to get the most out of Japan.
For most of my year in Japan, I lived in Tokyo. I can tell you this: it’s never boring. There are endless things to do.
Here are a few of my favorite blog posts from living in the Tokyo area:
Tokyo is made up of a series of cities (called wards) within the prefecture. Each one has a particular flavor of Tokyo.
Must-see wards in Tokyo include:
- Akihabara: known for being the anime capital of the city. This area is filled with a mix of anime shops, adult sex stores, infamous “maid cafes” and arcades. Akihabara is home to the Tokyo Animation Center, which constantly has gaming or animation shows, events, and interesting displays.
- Shibuya: Not only does Shibuya have the largest crossing in the world, but they have tons and tons of shopping opportunities and restaurants. Shibuya is by far one of the most lively wards in Tokyo, and will keep you entertained for hours. It’s within walking distance of Harajuku district, Omotesando *which is extremely beautiful during the holiday season, as the whole street is lit up!!!*, and the Meiji Shrine
- Harajuku: Not only will you find crazy fashion and delicious crepes down the streets in Harajuku, but you can see cat street!!
- Roppongi: Get there just after dark and drink until first train at any of the clubs that litter Roppongi’s streets. (I enjoy V2, Jumanji, and Oh Yeah! ) During the daytime, enjoy the artwork that decorates Roppongi’s midtown area.
- Shinjuku: Climb the Tokyo Metropolitan Building (for free) to see a 360 view of the sprawling city, watch a 4D movie at the Toei Cinema, or have a relaxing picnic at one of the largest parks in Tokyo, Shinjuku-gyoen (a spectacular mix of Japanese garden, greenhouse, and teahouse)
- Asakusa: See the prettiest shrine in Tokyo, Senso-ji, visit the oldest theme park in Japan, Hanayashiki, and take a 30 minute walk from Asakusa to the Sky Tree. (You don’t need a map to guide you for that urban frolic….) You can also enjoy my favorite hookah bar, just 5 minutes behind Sensoji Shrine, called Bonji Bar.
Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuk
Things to Do:
- Visit the Great Daibutsu in Kamakura (just 1 hour by train from Shinjuku)
- Visit any number of animal cafe’s (take your pick from cats, owls, birds, rabbits & hedgehogs, penguins, and more)
- Take a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market
- Check out a Sumo Wrestling Tournament or practice
- Visit Kawaii Monster Cafe
- Go to a show at Robot Restaurant
Often overlooked, Nagoya is home to some of the kindest people I have ever met in my life. The city of Nagoya sits in between Tokyo and Osaka, on the main Shinkansen line.
Things to do in Nagoya:
- Visit Nagoya Castle:
- Visit Inuyama Castle
- Head to Gifu to experience Nagoya’s rural beauty
- Take a day trip to Monkey Park, a monkeys-only zoo where you can get THIS CLOSE to a zoomboomafoo
- Head to the Science Planetarium or the botanical garden in downtown Nagoya
The most relaxing large-city in Japan. I prefer this area over Osaka, and Tokyo alike. Full of historical riches as well as delicious cuisine, Kyoto is easy to maneuver by bus or train. Within the city limits is a gorgeous area called Arashiyama, which is perfect for riding around on bike.
Related Blog Posts about Kyoto:
Things to do in Kyoto
- Visit Fushimi-Inari Shrine
- Stroll Through Sagano Bamboo grove in Arashiyama
- Visit the Gold Temple, Kinkaju-ji and it’s sister (silver) temple, Ginkaju-ji
- Take a day trip out to Nara to feed the wild deer
- Purchase souveniers on Gion Street
- Head over to Sento Imperial Palace
- Rent bicycles and race around Arashiyama
- Visit Monkey Park and feed the wild macaques
*****WILL UPDATE SOON*****
****WILL UPDATE SOON*****
Any visit to Japan isn’t complete without a short vacation to the island of Naha, or another of the hundreds of islands in Japan’s southern region. The snorkeling here is phenomenal, and prices are far below any Hawaiian excursion you might be considering. The people are really friendly here in Okinawa, and welcome you into their life Okinawan-style. I had a great time exploring the beaches and surrounding areas this October. Even in winter time, Okinawa has great weather.
- Snorkel at any of the beaches. I was in the southern part of the island, and explored a nearby coast. Watch out for dangerous lion fish and jellyfish
- Visit the Okainawa WW2 Bomb caves
- Visit the exquisite Shuri Castle
- Take a day trip to Ishigaki Island
- Go drinking at an Izakaya and experience real Okinawan cuisine
Japanese food is so much more than sushi. When you enter the Land of the Rising Sun, prepare your palate for delicious noodle dishes, onegiri (rice balls), curries, and meat dishes. My personal favorite dish is shabbu-shabbu, which is a boiled-meat and veggie pot. You slide thin layers of pork or beef into a bowl filled with your choice of veggies and flavored soup, and gobble down as much as your stomach can handle.
Make sure to try one of the hundreds of ramen shops around Japan, with their vending machine pay systems and cheap, delicious dishes. Buck wheat soba is one of the tastiest dishes I have had, although many Japanese can’t have it due to food allergies. If you can’t read the symbols on the vending machines, I just guess and hope for the best. I haven’t been disappointed about a meal yet!
Japanese people love curry and put it in everything. Curry rice, curry and naan, curry bread. Try “Curry Pan” (curry bread) for a savory breakfast treat! You can find it in any conbini store in the area.
I am going to be taking a trip in Early February, 2016 to see Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima, and will update my guide to Japan accordingly to my experiences in those regions