If you’re thinking about it – book it now. I promise you will have the most amazing time.
Japan has been at the top of my bucket list. The culture has appealed to me – from the art, to the kawaii everything. I can honestly say it’s the best place I’ve ever visited, and I really really want to go back.
Our first few days in Japan were filled with extreme highs and lows.
The lows: Jetstar sending our bags to Melbourne instead of Japan. Trust me, you don’t want to have to try and explain to Japanese airport authority why you’ve got no bags for your nine day holiday.
- Tip one: Don’t put your clothes in a Japanese washer/drier… The result is a few hours hanging in an apartment sans clothes while they’re locked in there, and ultimately walking around for a day in half shrunk, half damp clothing.
- Tip two: Don’t try and buy Japanese toiletries. They’re not the same.
The highs: On the first full day of our trip, we got engaged. I’ll be honest – I knew it was coming (I may have taken a sneaky look in his hand luggage and there was the box). While exploring the serene Imperial Palace Gardens, out came the ring. If I couldn’t love Japan any more – it now forms a perfect part of our shared history, and I will insist on returning for every major anniversary!
Top tip: Explore top tourist spots in the afternoon to avoid the tourist crowds, and then you’ll get to explore shrines and sights as the sun sets.
We stayed in Akasaka. It was the perfect as it was on the main rail loop, but was a local suburb. We stayed in an apartment through Airbnb.
Tokyo is a treat for all travellers. Every precinct is different – from Shibuya’s busy streets, to Shinjuku’s bright lights, and our favourite – the back streets of Harajuku which is filled with pottery shops.
We were in Tokyo in Spring, and literally stumbled across a festival while we were in Shibuya. Hundreds of dancers had taken over the streets – it was awesome.
Top place to stay: Akasaka.
Top place to visit: Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku (it will be weird, but just go anyway)
Nara is worth a visit – you can do it as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, but our friend lives in Nara (lucky friend I know), so we stayed for a few days.
Buy some deer crackers and head to the park. They have learnt to bow for a cracker, and they will start before you even get there. We were there in May, so there were still a few babies around which was cute.
We walked up to the top of the town in the late afternoon to miss some of the tourists – it meant we were exploring the shrines at dusk which was pretty impressive.
Kyoto (and surrounds)
Top place to visit: Fushimi Inari
This was amazing, and I strongly recommend it.
Magome and Tsumago sit in the Kiso Valley, and are connected by an 8km track through the valley.
We stayed in Magome – it’s beautifully restored, and is hands down the most peaceful place I’ve stayed. Our ryokan – Magome Chaya – included traditional dinner (delicious), and breakfast. We walked up to the top of the town for the sunset, and just took it all in.
The 8km trail forms part of the road that joined Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo Period. It is BEAUTIFUL. Start in Magome as it’s mostly a downhill from there. We walked past rice paddy fields, streams, and amongst it all were hilariously ‘camouflaged’ vending machines. Halfway through we watched a local man plant his crop with an awesome machine – he was so friendly and tried to explain how it all worked for us. Brown bears have been seen (very rarely) along the trail, so there are bells fitted on poles along the track – and you’re encouraged to ‘Ring hard for bears’.
In Tsumago, be sure to visit the coffee shop, and have a fresh ice-cream!
To get there, take a train to Nakatsugawa Station, and then a taxi will take you to the town from there (the town itself isn’t accessible to cars). If you stay, the post office can take your luggage through to Tsumago for you.