Japan, with its great history and wide range of local attractions, is an interesting country to visit. Exploring Japan is always a delight. One can find something that would interest them ranging from temples, shrines, and castles to gardens, parks, onsen, and shopping. There are just too many things to see and do in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Since Buddhism is a prominent religion in Japan, the country is home to temples. One may notice that every municipality has a temple as a place of worship. Visiting temples stores and viewing sacred Buddhist objects is something one should not miss when in Japan. Kyoto, a large city, boasts of hundreds of temples. Other cities with amazing temples include Nara and Kamakura. Mount Koya is a temple where guests can stay overnight.
Experiencing the Japanese way of living will not be complete without taking onsen baths. Natural hot springs or onsen is extremely popular in Japan that every region in the country has resort towns and hot springs.
Many types of onsen exists. They can be indoor or outdoor, developed and undeveloped, or gender mixed or separated. A lot of these hot spring baths are offered in public bath houses and a ryokan. Tourists are highly recommended to stay overnight in a hot spring ryokan to truly experience Japan.
Eating Japanese cuisine is always a gastronomic treat. Tourists will find a great variety of seasonal and regional dishes. Exploring the food scene will range from mobile food stands to centuries-old ryotei. The country also has a nice selection of restaurants that offer various cuisines. While it is nice to jump in and experience Japanese cuisine, brushing up on some pointers might help when it comes to dining out.
Japanese dining involves a lot of regional specialties and varying dishes. Some of the most common food to try include sushi (Nigiri, Temaki, and Inari), tempura (Ebi, Sakana, and Nasu), sashimi (Maguro, Sake, and Tai), tofu (Aburaage, Koyadofu, and Tofoyu), soba (Zaru, Kobe, and Kitsune), ramen (Shoyu, Shiom, and Miso), and yakitori (Negima, Momo, and Tsukune), to name a few.
Of course, no trip to Japan will ever be complete without shopping. The country has a wealth of stores that carry different products ranging from traditional souvenirs to modern electronics. Both Tokyo and Osaka are home to a number of retail districts that are mostly situated near train stations. Some of the boutiques are in covered shopping arcades, city centres, and underground malls.
Japan offers more than just the usual touristy activities. There are tons of outdoorsy and adventurous things to engage in while in the Land of the Rising Sun. Some of them include:
Perhaps one of the lesser known information about Japan is its world-class ski and snowboarding resorts. The country has more than 500 ski resorts from Kyushu to Hokkaido, where the best snow conditions are.
Those from Tokyo can ride a shinkansen and head on to the Yuzawa region of the Niigata Prefecture for a daytrip. There are also mini ski resorts on Mount Fuji. Some of the best ski and snowboarding resorts in Japan are Niseko, Shiga Kogen Resort, Furano Ski, Zao Ski, and Nogawa Ski Resort.
Japan also has one of the breathtaking sceneries. Tourists will find hiking in Japan a joyous activity. This mountainous country has cultural and religious mountains that are a haven for hiking enthusiasts.
Located at the Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, the bamboo forest will bring you on an enchanting journey out of the city through a majestic grove of giant bamboos that beautifully sway with the wind. The place also has touristy shops near its entrance. It is also within short distance from the entrance of the Tenryu-ji Temple.
Since it is one of the most photographed spots in Kyoto, the forest can be quite busy particularly during peak hours. It is best to visit the place just after sunrise when there are still few people. It continues to attract many visitors because of its accessibility. The pathway going to the grove is only a short walk from the Arashiyama train station.
Visitors can access the bamboo forest via bus, taxi, or train. The best route is via the train from the Kyoto Central Station since it is cheaper, faster, and has longer operating hours.
Via the JR pass, ride the JR Sagano Line to reach the Saga-Arashiyama Station. It will take about 15 minutes of travel time. From the station, the beautiful bamboo forest is only a 10-minute walk.
Best done at dusk, head on to the Pontocho Alley and you catch a rare glimpse of geisha or maiko, a geisha apprentice. They are usually seen on the lantern-lit alley as they make their way towards Gion District’s traditional restaurants. They are quite rare nowadays so go on an adventure. Admire their exquisite painted faces and intricately designed silk kimonos up close so you can truly have an unforgettable Japan experience.
Always be ready with your camera. They move pretty quickly so you better be ready to capture them. Make sure that you do not block their way when you see one. Always treat them with respect.
Take note of festivals in the Gion district. Many free public geisha and maiko performances are usually held during festivals like the weeklong Hanatoro Higashiyama.
Head on to Hanami-Koji Street at midnight. If you fail to catch a glimpse of them on their way to tea houses, you may be lucky to see them as they head home from the restaurants.
If you still fail to see a geisha and you have cash to spare, it might be best to watch a paid geisha performance.
Be mindful of fake geisha. Some tourists are fond of acting like a “geisha for a day” posing or being too friendly with other tourists. They are not the real deal because an authentic geisha will only dress up and put on make-ups when they are on their way to work. A real geisha also shows the years of training. They move swiftly and gracefully.
The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, along the valley of the Yokoyu-River in the northern side of the Nagano Prefecture.
The monkey park has towering pines lining the pathway. If you visit in February, you can see these pines covered in snow. The path will lead you into a river valley where you may see monkeys bathing in the natural hot spring. These wild Japanese Macaques or Snow Monkeys gather around a man-made pool. Since they live in social groups, visitors can witness how these animals interact with their kind.
While it is prohibited to feed and touch the monkeys, it is not unusual for the monkeys to brush past you and even ignore your presence as they are used to seeing humans in their habitat.
From Nagano station, walk towards the Nagano Dentetsu station. Afterwards, take the Yudanaka line to Yudanaka station. When you get there, you can take the bus to the entrance of the park. There will be a 30-minute walk from the entrance to the valley where the monkeys are.
Located in Shibuya, Meiji Shrine is a serene escape from the busy and touristy streets of Tokyo. It is just beside the busy Harajuku Station and is next to Yoyogi Park. Compared with other shrines in Japan, Meiji’s structures are made up of natural wood. It also has a forested area that is perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Visitors can also try Shinto activities such as buying charms and amulets, making offerings at the main hall, and writing a wish on an ema.
Japan is an exciting country to visit and reside in. Both locals and tourists never run out of things to do and enjoy.