Japan was one of my favourite countries, not only because of the serenity of the landscape, but because of the amazing people, culture and history. I was only in Japan for fifteen days, so I wanted to ensure that I could see as much as I could in that time. I invested in a 14 day all access JR Rail pass to ensure that I could tick off a majority of the items on my to do list.
The first destination on my adventure was Tokyo, I stayed within one of the inner to the city called Ueno. It was a vibrant location with its infamous market streets, which had stores selling anything from the freshest seafood to the latest fashions. After enjoying the craziness of the markets I enjoyed taking a stroll in the nearby Ueno Park, which housed a number of Japans museums. You can literally spend days browsing all of the museums, however I enjoyed the Tokyo National Museum the most. Within the park there were also a number of shrines including the Keneiji Temple, Toshogu Shrine and a five story pagoda (it is located within the Tokyo Zoo, but you can see it from the outside).
The next on the to do list was to visit the imperial palace and gardens in the center of Tokyo (Chiyoda), it was hard to comprehend that such a large area of gardens and grassland existed in the center of Tokyo. After a long day exploring the grounds and basically circumnavigating the entire gardens I finally found Imperial Palace, which was just utterly jaw dropping.
The next day, some serious retail therapy had to be had after spending the last few days walking around Tokyo’s Parks. I decided that I wanted to head to Shibuya, which contains one of the busiest intersections in Japan (located just outside Shibuya station), standing back and just watching the scatter of people made me feel like a drop in the ocean. I loved Shibuya, it had amazing shopping, bars and so much yummy choices for food that it’s I was spoilt for choice. It was definitely one of the more happening areas for nightlife in the city and is highly recommended on a weekend.
After another hectic travel day, it was time to slow the pace down and enjoy another aspect of Japanese culture which of course is… beer. I embarked on a tour of the Kirin Brewery and enjoyed learning the process and history behind beer in Japan. After feeling rather merry after the tour, I decided to go shopping in one of Tokyo’s largest malls (Suncity Mall) and visit the Pokemon Mega Center, where I couldn’t contain my inner child.
Speaking of inner my inner child, one must do spot to keep everyone happy is Disneyland Sea. It truly feels like walking into a magical world. I highly recommend heading there on a non-weekend day to minimise the waiting times for rides. The highlight of the park, apart from the 15 different flavours of popcorn that you can buy around the park, is the final water show. The sheer size of the show was mind boggling and the costumes, lasers and fireworks were out of this world.
One of the must do’s on the weekend in Tokyo is to visit Yoyogi park on the lookout for the Japanese rock music fans, punks and cosplayers. I was lucky enough to see the famous rockabillies busting out while I was there. The park had all sorts of characters and music and overall a great vibe.
The Tokyo fish market was surprisingly one of the highlights of Tokyo. The market place was busy and it was great to walk through the isles upon isles of fresh produce from that mornings catch. I was quiet surprised how large a fully grown tuna fish actually is, watching the vendors cut the mighty fish for sale was a treat. Whilst looking at the stalls of fresh fish was exceptional, tasting the produce was even better. I was spoilt for choice and ended up not needing diner for the evening with the amount of delicacies on offer. Simply amazing!
The next stop on my journey in Japan was to see the great Buddha of Kamakura. Even though Kamakura is a small coastal down, it has a vast number shrines and the scenery there is just unbelievable. During the day I went to numerous shrines including:
The most important Shinto Shrine (Hachimangu);
The Zeniarai Benten Shrine where you wash your money from the waterfall (which is supposed to double your money); and
One of the most beautiful temples (Hase Temple) which had a beautiful coy pond centrepiece surrounded by a number of temples and zen gardens. There were also a breathtaking view of the bay from the main Hase Temple, which contained one of the largest wooden statues in Japan. Overall Kumakura is a must see for any visitor, you might even find yourself feeling like an A-List star among the Japanese school children on excursion.
Nikko was another small town on my agenda, which was located a couple of hours north of Tokyo by Shinkasen. It is home to one of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines (Toshogu Shrine) and also home to the three monkeys shrine (see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,). The town is located at the entrance of the Nikko National Park, so the natural landscape in the area is very picturesque. Whilst in Nikko I was also able to visit one of the three most finest bridges in Japan (Shinkyo Bridge), which is definitely postcard worthy. Overall Nikko is an amazing place to visit, I loved the atmosphere of the town and the architecture of the shrines is very impressive.
One of my main goals in Japan was to see Mount Fuji so I decided to stay a night at a nearby town called Kawaguchiko. I decided that I would take the cable car to the top of Mt Tenjo so I could get the best shot of the mountain. Once up the top, the weather was kind to me and I was able to get some great shots of Mt Fuji. While Mt Fuji was the main reason for my visit, I was actually quite surprised how beautiful the town was itself. The town is located on the banks of Lake Kawaguichiko and is home to several hot springs and onsens.
The next major destination on my list was Kyoto, which is known for Geisha and its abundance of spectacular shrines. The Shrine of Fushini-inari Taisha I found is a particular unique experience from the other shrines. Why you may ask? It is because the 233 meter trial to the shrine contains over 10,000 tori gates. It feels like you are in an orange maze. Another I visited was the famous Kinkakuji Shrine which is covered in gold leaf, it was such a spectacular site. After a couple of days of experiencing the local shrines and temples I decided to venture into the old town of Kyoto on the hunt for a Geisha and Maiko. I tried my luck searching on Gion Corner, but lady luck was not on my side. It was okay though as the old town area of Kyoto is full of resturants and entertainment. One my last day in Kyoto I was lucky enough to meet a Geisha whilst on my way to explore another local shrine.
Hiroshima was an important destination for me on this trip because I wanted to understand more of what happened and the aftermath of the nuclear warhead bombings from World War II. I made my way to Heiwakinen Park and visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum and Genbaku Dome. It was a very touching experience, especially reading the stories of those caught up in the bombings.
The last stop on my trip was Osaka, I was excited for this city because it had a reputation for good food, nightlife and shopping. Osaka definitely lived up to its reputation, my favourite areas was Namba and Dotonbori which is home to the Gilco running man. The areas had such an electric atmosphere. I would definitely come back here next time I am craving some excitement.