Japan is a country of extremes. Modern meets the ancient. Tradition meets the hype. With that in mind, we tried to enjoy the best of both worlds. In the 2 weeks we spent in Japan, we visited 9 cities in 5 districts. It was busy and rushed but at the same time it was great to get to know so many different realities of this beautiful country.
After all the crazy tour around Japanese lands, we gathered the best places and things to do in this wonderful country!
- Discover the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo
Japan is famous by it’s millennial castles and lush green gardens. Take the time to visit one beautiful temple right in the middle of the heart of Tokyo. Walk through the gardens while you learn more about its history and the rich Japanese culture.
- Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial
The Memorial starts at the museum where it shows the history told by those who suffered the vicious attack. We all know how it all went down but the details depicted in the museum will make you understand it in a whole new perspective. After you leave the museum, head to the garden and you’ll see the top of the ‘Atomic Bomb Dome’. A fascinating structure that survived the impact and stand still until this date.
- Take a ferry to Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island is a must-do when in Japan. The island is less than 1 hour from Hiroshima and is famous by the shrine that sits just a few meters from the island. It has also survived the impact of the bomb intactly. But this little island has more. As soon as you step off the ferry, you’ll be welcomed by lovely
but sneaky food thievesdeers who densily populate Miyajima. Walk around the bottom of the hike trail and take a cable car up the top of the mount. If you are feeling adventurous, walk all the way down too and appreciate the temples and small shrines. Before going down, stop at the top of Mt Misen and enjoy the breathtaking views over Hiroshima.
- Stay in a traditional Guest House
A traditional guest house in Japan will offer you an extraordinary experience. We stayed in a house which took 11 years to build and was already 100 years old. Sleeping on tatames and cooking and having a shower in a typical Japanese bathroom was incredible. Such an incredible experience.
- Adventure on at Kagoshima Island (and see the Sakurajima volcano in activity)
Kagoshima is consistantly covered by the black ashes from the Sakurajima volcano on the neighbouring island. You can take the ferry to Sakurajima and go up the top of the little island by bus and take some up close pictures of the most active volcano in Japan. After that, visit the museum at the bottom of the tour and check the high activity from safety.
- Walk through the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto
The world famous red gates in Japan are located in Kyoto. A city packed with culture and with thousands of years of history. If a shop is not at least 100 years old, it’s not old or well established enough. To get to Fushimi Inari-taisha gates, take a quick bus from the city centre and start the walk to the top. Get there early to be able to take some shots, otherwise the crowd will make it impossible to do so.
- Roam around Osaka at night and Eat at the Markets
Osaka has plenty to see and do during the day, but at night, the city centre lights up and the streets are filled with hungry passers by. The markets at Dotonbori Street offer plenty of options for everyone. The specialty though is the takoyaki, a little round cake made with octopus. Watch all the billboards shine and reflect on the river while you enjoy your local delicacy.
- Don’t be ashamed and go to an Onsen (Japanese Hot Baths)
Onsens are typical Japanese hot baths usually located around volcanic areas with the thermal sprigns. The hot water is meant to offer relaxation and other medicinal ailments. It’s usually a busy domestic turist attraction and few outsiders dare to participate as you are only allowed inside completely bare. We took the plunge and made a stop after a long walk around charming Kobe and enjoyed the hot waters to relax and experience the true Japanese lifestyle.
- Take part on a Tea Ceremony in Kyoto
As we mentioned before, Kyoto is home to thousands of years of culture. And one of the most famous attraction around is the Tea Ceremony. Commonly scattered all over Kyoto, it’s important to look for authentic Tea Houses where a Gueisha shares her knowledge with the guests. It’s not a particular cheap visit but definitely worth a stop if you want to experience the millennial oriental culture. Pay attention and enjoy the moment, savouring an authentic green tea.
- Visit the Golden Temple in Kyoto
Another Must-Do in Kyoto! And with really good reason. The Golden Temple is covered in actual gold and is one espectacular sight always packed with tourists. The temple itself is stranded in a little island and closed to visitors. You can only look from afar but the views don’t disappoint at all.
- Sit under a Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Tree and have a Picnic
It’s a Japanese tradition during Spring to sit under a Sakura tree and have a picnic. It means good luck. No wonder, all parks were packed with groups of families and friends trying to find a spot to guarantee their lucky year.
- Visit the Largest Chinatown outside China
Yokohama is also home to the largest Chinatown outside of China! Full of colours, aromas and exotic shops, soak a different culture in the heart of Japan.
- Shop at Akihabara, Tokyo
If you are on the lookout for cheap electronics, look no more. This busy neighbourhood is booming with 5 storey shops filled with all sorts of technological gadgets. Good price and variety are imperative. Just try not to get lost while at it.
- Travel on a Shinkansen
One of the fastest trains in the world is the Shinkansen. Take only a couple of hours to travel from Tokyo to Osaka in a smooth and comfortable ride. Plenty of seat space and a train system that allows for quick jump-in/jump-off trips are the perfect way to travel around Japan.
- Climb Mt Fuji
Mt Fuji is the most iconic landmark in Japan. To get there, take a whole day to make your way by bus. Enjoy the magnificent views of the proud mountain. If you would like to climb it though, be aware of the closing seasons where conditions to hike up the top are not favourable.
Have you been to Japan too? What were your highlights?
Share it with us in the comments, we would love to hear from you!
Larissa & Jean