I recently was asked by a colleague for my top 10 recommendations on a trip to Japan. So this is basically a list of things that I always bang on about from my trip to Japan.
1. Go-karting through Tokyo dressed as Yoshi
I’ve already tried pitching this to my colleague, and he was not nearly as psyched about it as me, but still. I stand by my number one pick, which was one of the funniest and scariest things I’ve done. Read more about my go-karting experience HERE.
2. Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera takes its name from the waterfall on the complex and is most famous for its wooden platform, which was built without any nails – don’t worry, it’s safe to walk on! A visit around sunset offers some spectacular views above Kyoto.
3. Sampling the cuisine on Dotonobori
Dotonobori is Osaka’s most famous drag; it swarms with pedestrians, neon lights and good food. In a city known for a “kuidaore” (“eat until you drop”) food culture, Dotonobori and the surrounding streets are ground zero. I loved okonomiyaki, takoyaki and the enormous soft serves. Flick through my Japan Food Diary HERE.
4. A walk through the Fushimi-Inari shrine
For one of Kyoto’s (and Japan’s!) most popular and impressive attractions, follow the thousands of vermilion torii gates up and around the mountain at the Fushimi-Inari Shrine.
5. Catching the famous Shinkansen – Japan’s bullet trains
I’ve always enjoyed train travel, I think I get that from my mum. So travelling on the Shinkansen was less of a transport method and more of an adventure for me. The trains were so punctual (of course!), comfortable and spacious, not to mention quite affordable thanks to the Japan Rail Pass I ordered before I left.
6. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The famed bamboo grove is Kyoto’s second most-visited site. You can access the grove for free, or pay an entrance fee to the sprawling temple next door and wind up among the soaring bamboo. I went early in the morning to try and avoid the notorious crowds and instead got monsoonal rain. Still, it was pretty mint.
7. Osaka Castle
Other than the food (and Universal Studios), the exquisite castle smack-bang in the middle of the city is probably Osaka’s biggest attraction. You can cross the moat and view the castle for free from the ground. Or pay another small entrance fee and see the city the way the golden-plated dragons do.
8. Bow to Nara’s “friendly” deer
My parents swore that if you were firm with the deer in Nara, they would stop ganging up on you, bow politely and eat the biscuit calmly out of your hand. I guess they have somewhat more experience in getting wild animals to behave than I do though. Read my Nara deer experience HERE.
9. Visit a cat cafe
Cat cafes, while still a novelty, are admittedly a dime a dozen around the world now. But Japan is where the whole “mix animals with food” concept comes from. Sitting with the cats was a great way to recover from Tokyo’s heat and crowds. I chose one that made sure that the cats were not overwhelmed by people, and were all rescues.
10. Stay in a capsule hotel
On the topic of Japanese ideas gone global, my nights in different capsule hotels were definitely a revelation. For the price of a higher end hostel bed, you could have a “room to yourself” and a quintessentially Japanese experience. And you can read about my experience HERE
Ok, well 10 things weren’t nearly enough to talk about even just a week in Japan. I could also go on about ramen-by-machine restaurants, walking around the alleyways of Golden Gai, the madness of Shibuya Crossing and more! Plus, I didn’t even get a chance to see Mount Fuji, experience onsen culture or head to the other islands. Guess I’ll just have to go back again!