If Japan isn’t on your list of countries to visit, now is the time to put it there! If it is on your list, move it up nearer to the top. It is a scenically beautiful country with clean, modern cities, an efficient train system plus some of the best food. Here’s a summary for you-
In Japan we loved-
Travelling on the Shinkansen (Bullet trains).
Friendly helpful locals, especially in the Tourist Information Centres.
Walking in the mountains and countryside in general.
Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, Osaka and Kyoto – all slightly different but delicious versions
Sashimi (Mark only)
Asahi Dry beer (Mark)
Hot milk tea from the vending machines (Karen)
Great places to stay-
Gasthof Crescendo in Kawaguchiko
Toyoko Inn in Kanazawa
AirBnB apartments in Shinjuku/Shibuya areas of Tokyo
Great places to eat-
Any of the smaller laneways in Dotombori in Osaka or Shinjuku in Tokyo.
Hirochan in the Okonomiyaki House building in Hiroshima.
Sushai Minami in Nakatsugawa – excellent modern Japanese food.
Being looked after by locals after getting lost in Nakatsugawa (see my Barber shop to Banquet post)
Seeing the night lights of Tokyo for free from the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Seeing Tokyo’s skyscrapers from the 53rd floor of the Tokyo Opera City Building whilst eating a delicous steak meal at Yoshida restaurant.
What you must do when you visit Japan-
Visit and stay in any of the lake towns near Mt Fuij.
Walk in the mountains or countryside near a traditional village. e.g. The short walk from Magome to Tsumago is a lovely walk.
Buy a Japan Rail Pass so you can travel on the Shinkansen.
Visit Fushimi Inari temple and take the walk up Inari-yama with its thousands of red torii gates which form a passageway over the pathway.
Visit Miyajima Island, a short train and boat ride from Hiroshima.
Visit one of the castles e.g. Himeji Castle
Visit a department store basement food gallery – the array and quality of food at reasonable prices will astound you.
Try some of the more offbeat foods, e.g. Octopus Balls.
What to avoid doing-
Arriving in any major city in peak hour with your case/backpack and trying to board a subway train
Blowing your nose whilst eating. (Head to the bathroom if a hot meal causes your nose to run.)
Eating in smoky restaurants. The solution is to go somewhere else!
What you need to be prepared for-
Everywhere you go there will be people, thousands of them in some cases. At the popular tourist locations and of course on city trains you can only rarely feel you have enough personal space.
Dealing with non-Englsih speaking people, so learn some basic Japanese words, phrases and expressions.
Bathing with members of the same sex in onsen.
Being butted by aggressive young male deer in Nara, on Miyajima island and various other places where they roam freely.
Sleeping on thin futons if you choose to stay in traditional ryokan or minshuku accommodation.
Conversely, eating the beautifully presented food in ryokan or minshuku accommodation.
Major historic sites with scaffolding on all or part of them.
Hopefully you’re inspired to book your flight to Japan so you can have experiences as wonderful as the ones we had. If you have been to Japan let me know your favourite experiences because I’m pretty sure we’ll return to the Land of the Rising Sun.