Japan Travel Guides for Backpackers

One day itinerary in Kamakura, Japan

A little background on Kamakura The political centre of medieval Japan, Kamakura is located in Kanagawa prefecture, just south from Tokyo. Surrounded by forests and hills on the north, west and east, and by the Sagami bay on the south, Kamakura is described as a ‘natural fortress’. Though small by today’s standards (Kamakura is home to approximately one hundred seventy thousand residents), the now-resort town used to be the de facto capital of Japan, as it was the most populated settlement and the seat of the shogunate during the Kamakura period. I have visited several cities in Japan, and explored some better than others. Among them, Kamakura left me in awe. It could be because I prefer small towns to large, bustling concrete jungles, but Kamakura has left me yearning for it day after day, so if you are in Japan and have no particular plan for a day, I suggest venturing out to this splendid little settlement. How to get to Kamakura If you are coming from Tokyo, the best way for you to get to Kamakura is to use the Yokosuka Line from Tokyo station. It is a direct train ride lasting a little more than an hour. For this  travel plan, I suggest taking an early train and reaching Kamakura before 10 am. If you are coming from other cities, like Kyoto or Osaka, my best advice is to take an airplane. There are several low-cost carriers offering a direct flight to Kamakura, they take a shorter time and, best of all, naturally, it is a direct route. Should you use the train, the prices are very similar but you will have to transfer several times (e.g. from Osaka, you need to transfer at Shin-Osaka and Shinagawa stations). Now, onto the one-day itinerary! Komachi street Adjacent to the rail station and leading to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Komachi street may be the most famous street in Kamakura. The narrow passage is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants of various kinds and it crawls with visitors almost all the time. If you want to eat there, you can select between local and international cuisines. I remember seeing a Turkish restaurant at the very entrance to Komachi street. Interestingly, due to the narrow space and the number of people, local authorities have recently passed a regulation banning all drinking and eating whilst walking up or down Komachi street. This, however, comes as no oddity or surprise to anyone familiar with Japanese culture as no matter where you visit in the country, eating and/or drinking while walking is considered inappropriate or even mannerless. Komachi Mame shiba cafe My special recommendation goes out to the cute dog cafe that sprouted in the midst of souvenir shops and boutiques. For around one thousand yen, you get a drink of your choice from their vending machine and half an hour playtime with a dozen of adorable and well taken care of mame shiba dogs. Before getting some playtime, however, you will purchase the ticket and wait […]

Visiting Arashiyama? Don't Miss the Iwatayama Monkey Park!

If you’ve ever considered traveling to Japan, you have certainly encountered the pictures of a towering bamboo forest. This forest is located in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan and it is definitely gorgeous. It’s a picture-perfect destination for sure, but did you know that there is more to see than just these forests? After you’ve taken in the sights and snapped the perfect selfie, make your way across the large bridge. Check out the gift shops and try some of the locally popular matcha (green tea) flavored ice cream. Follow the signs up the mountain and be ready to have a truly unique experience at the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama. Just Up the Mountain from Arashiyama Bamboo Forest This park is located just up the mountain. It only costs 550 yen to enter (roughly $7 AUD) and you can stay for as long as you like. On the way up, there’s even a leaf museum and park for small children. While you won’t need any real hiking gear to head up the path, I’d definitely recommend you wear tennis shoes. The walk takes most visitors fifteen to twenty minutes. If you’re visiting in the summer, there are cool mists to stop at along the way. Just make sure to bring some water to keep you hydrated! Kyoto Skyline and Native Monkeys When you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by the brilliant Kyoto skyline and dozens of Japan’s native monkey, the macaque. There are many families of monkeys and you’ll likely be able to see a baby along with the full-grown monkeys. there is a skyline viewing area complete with viewing binoculars and benches. Take a moment to just breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the mountain view. The park is well-known for its beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring and bright red leaves in the fall. As you look down into the trees, you just might spot another monkey. Up Close and Personal Next, head into the gift shop. Along with souvenirs and small snacks, this little shop sells food that you can feed the monkeys through a screen in the building. If you don’t want to invest in it personally, you can just go inside and watch other people feed them. It’s a great place to get up close and personal with the monkeys with absolutely no risk to you. Just Make Sure to Follow the Rules When you finish up in the gift shop, you can walk a little further up the mountain and observe the free-roaming macaque families. These monkey families are used to people being around, but make sure you follow the rules. There is a roped-in path that you should remain on, and make sure you don’t crouch near the monkeys. They’re not really huge fans of selfies, so remember that. After all, they are still wild animals and, if you scare them, they will react defensively. For more information on admission, hours, and access, you can visit the park’s English page at http://monkeypark.jp/Englishpage.html.

Visit Nagoya, the forgotten city of Japan!

I bet you’ve barely heard of Nagoya! The city has the reputation of being one of the most boring of Japan and I guess lost between Tokyo and Osaka on the way to Kyoto, it is easy to overlook. And yet, travelers have no idea of what they are missing! As a former resident of Nagoya, I want to show you why it should be on your to-do list! Why should you visit Nagoya? History of the city In the 17th century, Nagoya was the capital of the Owari region and was the home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who is known for its role in the unification of Japan. Nagoya, thanks to its ideal location between the former capital, Kyoto, and the commercial hub, Edo (now Tokyo), was pretty important in the development of the country. During World War II, Nagoya was a renowned center of the Japanese aircraft industry. Because of its strategic importance, a quarter of the city got destroyed by multiple air raids. Nagoya was then carefully rebuilt following a modern city planning that allowed for wide streets and huge boulevards which is pretty unusual for Japanese cities. Nowadays, Nagoya is also well known for being the headquarters of huge companies such as Toyota or Mitsubishi. You’ll get a feel of Japan daily life There are a lot of things to do in Nagoya. You’ll find a lot of shrines and temples to visit as well as crazy shopping districts to go to. I know Nagoya might not sound as appealing as Tokyo, but that’s a shame because it mainly offers the same attractions than the capital. I am not saying you should not visit Tokyo though. Far from there, I mean, it’s Tokyo! But during your trip, you might be looking for a less populated city and Nagoya is the perfect fit! The city was not built for tourism and you won’t find a lot of shops that feel “made for tourists”. You’ll get to eat in restaurants in which Nagoyans go to and to interact with Japanese people every day. You’ll get a truly immersive experience in a Japanese city. It is easy to get around Nagoya Nagoya has only six subway lines and all the main attractions are easily accessible through them. You’ll find Nagoya Castle or Atsuta shrine on the Meijo line for example. The two main hubs are Nagoya Station and Sakae, which both hold huge shopping centers, and they link most of the subway lines. If you really want to make your visit easy, I’d recommend you to hop in the Meguru Nagoya Sightseeing bus that links some of the main sites for only ¥500 the day pass. Nagoya is also the perfect base for day trips that are accessible via the Meitetsu railway or the Kintetsu one depending on where you want to go. 6 things to do in Nagoya Nagoya Castle The original castle was built in 1614 but got destroyed during World War II. It is now being rebuilt using traditional methods. Nagoya Castle was […]

Alternative Things To Do in Japan

Have you been on trips where you enjoyed yourself and the place but felt like you have just been to the same spots as everyone else?  Or maybe, you’ve been to this country before but would like to try and experience new things?  You’re not alone.  More and more frequent travellers are getting savvy and want to personalize their trips, but, not knowing where to start, may still end up following the plethora of guides out there.  Nothing wrong with that per se, but in the spirit of adventure and to satisfy wanderlust, I’ve come up with a few alternatives below with a lot of room for tweaks to (re)experience Japan. Explore the city (or two) on your own I’m sure you’ve heard this before, Japan is so clean and so safe, you can leave your wallet and other valuables outside and come back to see it as is, if not cleaner/better.  Kidding aside, the streets are safe for evening strolls, dining/drinking out, or sightseeing during the day.  My partner and I got lucky with some great finds i.e. unique apparel and kawaii items in trendy Takeshita street in Harajuku, and good grub i.e. a cafe in the middle of nowhere in a forest-like haven somewhere near the park, and met and chatted with a few interesting locals to practice our rusty Nihonggo.  Localizing is a great way to learn more about the culture or the people, if not by communication then just by observation or interaction.  Find YOUR spots.  Call it your very own walking tour. Aside from visiting parks, museums or shrines like Ueno or Meiji Shrine, or getting some retail therapy in outlet stores or shopping districts in Shinjuku, you may take pictures of Japan for collecting those ‘new memories’.  Mostly at night, we took photos of panoramic views of the city from different parts of Shinjuku, and fell in love with the city even more. You may or may not go to all the known tourist destinations in the so-called Classic Golden Route i.e. Tokyo-Kyoto-Hakone-Mt. Fuji or the extended one i.e. Tokyo-Mt. Fuji-Ise-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka. Visit rural Japan While Tokyo alone will give you a wonderful time and experience, travelling to the countryside is something else.  It’s a different side of Japan past the buzz and glitz of the city.  It requires more planning and preparation, especially if you are staying overnight or longer; it’s not for the faint of heart.  But adventure is what you are looking for, right? For starters and within easy access from Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, some of the beautiful and charming towns to see (and there are many) that can be tackled as day trips are Karuizawa, Nara and Hakone.  Just a little further, there is Shima Onsen Ryokan in Gunma Prefecture as alternative accommodation to hotels. Don a yukata all you want.  If you’re going by car, go the way of the Japan Romantic Road and take in the views of parks, onsen or hot springs, mountains and countryside.  Warning: you might not want to go back to the city or your country after […]

Layover in Narita: A Quick Transit & Stay Cultural Tour

If you ever find yourself with a half-day or so layover transiting through Narita airport in Japan (the airport most commonly used for Tokyo), be sure to take full advantage of the Transit & Stay Program. There are eleven free tours covering all of Narita’s must-see and must-do attractions, ranging from shopping to eating to traditional culture to visiting the countryside. Some include a volunteer guide while others are self-guided.   The best tour to choose I chose to do Tour 1 and visited Narita town and Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple without a guide. (If you want a free tour guide, it’s best to book ahead on the Transit & Stay Program website.) This way I could do some shopping, some eating and get some culture in at the same time without running out of time.   Program requirements To participate you need to: 1. Go through immigration and officially enter Japan As an Australian, I only needed to fill out the arrival cards. Other nationalities should check their specific requirements. 2. Have at least five hours to spare before your next flight departs It is important to be back at the airport at least two hours before your onward flight’s departure time. I did Tour 1 in approximately 3.5 hours but wish I’d had more time. 3. Have sufficient cash Although the tours and guides are free, you still need to pay for transport and entrance fees. Also, many of the shops and restaurants only accept cash. I took out ¥4000 which was enough for hiring a locker, a return train fare, a bottle of water, a small souvenir, a snack and a meal.   Preparing for the tour What to do with luggage? Luggage can be left at the airport in lockers. There were plenty available in the central area of Terminal 1 (T1) on the ground level, sized small to large. I had no trouble fitting all my bags into a large locker. It was simple to operate using coins, costing just ¥500 for the whole day. Visiting the Transit & Stay Reception Counter It was definitely worth dropping by the Counter also in the central area of T1. Even though the brochures provided enough information to venture out confidently, I found talking to the staff much more useful. They spoke perfect English, were incredibly polite and gave me all the necessary information to make my trip as smooth as possible. Taking the train to Narita Station Go to T2 and buy a ticket If you start your tour from T1 like I did, you will need to get to T2 to take the Keisei Main Line. The staff at the Counter explained how to get there and even gave me instructions on how to purchase the discounted same-day round-trip ticket to Keisei-Narita Station. I never would have figured that out without their help. The train journey The journey to Narita was a quick seven minutes with trains departing every 20 minutes. Everything was clearly written in English […]

Nagasaki – A Budget Friendly Destination in Japan

I have been to over ten different prefectures in Japan, and Nagasaki City is by far the most traveler friendly place I have visited to date. All of the main sites are centrally located and easily accessible by tram. The maps at the tram stations are explicit and equipped with English. Plus, you can buy a day pass for the tram for only 500 yen (less than $5) at any tourist place and most hostels you might find yourself staying in. So, what is there to do? Nagasaki is home to many unique buildings, museums, and views. As a port city, it has been privy to many different cultures over the years and their influence shows. Here, you can find many interesting and budget-friendly sites including religious, historical, and tourist-aimed. Religious Sites 26 Martyrs Memorial Nagasaki was one of the first ports open to foreigners in the 1500’s. A number of Portuguese people moved and visited there, including many Jesuit missionaries. Because of this influence, several of the sites Nagasaki has to offer are of Christian origin. These include the Site and Museum of the 26th Martyrs, Urakami Cathedral, and Oura church, just to name a few. 26 Martyrs Museum The Site of the 26 Martyrs This museum chronicles the eye opening journey of 26 Christians, ranging in age from their early teens to their mid-sixties, that were marched from Kyoto and Osaka to Nagasaki in the 1500’s because of their faith. In the face of intense persecution from the government, they refused to recant their beliefs and were crucified just like the man they worshiped. Through pictures and testimonials, this museum tells the story of each and every man who made the decision to march to his death. If you are familiar with the movie, Silence, there are a few artifacts in this museum that were used in the film. Admission Price: It’s only 500 yen to enter and, in my opinion, worth every, single yen. Urakami Cathedral Urakami Cathedral Once the largest Christian church in Asia, it is still open to the public and may be visited for free to worship. Pictures are not allowed inside, so the beautiful stained glass story of Jesus is even more worth a visit. Make sure to enter quietly and remain respectful of the reverent atmosphere when you enter. Oura Church Oura Church This was by far the most expensive church we visited. At 1,000 yen for entry, you are given a booklet containing the Christian history of Nagasaki as well as admission to the church and its adjoining museum. The museum is full of interesting stories and artifacts as well as videos concerning the early church. Budget Tip: The inside of the church is beautiful with solid wooden pews and stained glass windows, but the museum was reminiscent of the 26 Martyrs museum without as much detail. If you’re on a budget, I would visit the first two and view Oura Church from the street. Historical Sites Nagasaki Peace Park Nagasaki […]

EASY HIKING ADVENTURES AROUND TOKYO

During my everyday life in Tokyo, I happened to meet a lot of travelers who, attracted by the worldwide fame of this buzzing metropolis, fly to Japan and venture to explore the city’s restless streets. Akiba’s Electric Town with its cheap electronic shops, manga & anime stores; Harajuku, the heart of Tokyo’s fashion; the popular shopping and entertainment area of Shibuya with its iconic Scramble Crossing; Roppongi and its never-ending nightlife; the luxurious Ginza area and many more. I’ve no doubt that all these famous spots will make you fall in love with Japan’s unique capital, especially if you are a big-city person (and if you are a huge fan of manga & anime too!!). But what about those travelers who are more into nature, outdoor adventures, or who would simply like to take a break from the lights and crowds of the city? Do not despair!! There’s plenty of day-trip adventures you can take from Tokyo to satisfy your own tastes! Here are two simple inspirations that I tried out myself!! EASY DAY TRIPS FROM TOKYO: Mt. Takatori – Kanagawa Prefecture (About 1 hour away from Shinagawa Station – Keikyu Line- get off at Jimmuji Station) A chill hike through the peaceful woods of Mt. Takatori is the perfect way to escape the chaos of one of the world’s most populous cities. On your way to the top, you’ll come across Jimmu Temple (after a brief but nice 30-minutes walk). Jimmu-Ji (Ji stands for “temple” in Japanese) dates back to the VIII century and it belongs to the Chinese Buddhist sect of Tendai. Looking at the old structure of the temple, you can’t help but feel like time has stopped around here. Interestingly, this is believed to be the place where samurai warriors took refuge when fleeing from the siege of Odawara Castle in 1590. Following up the trail, the path gets just a little bit steeper with several stairs and a small area equipped with chains just in case you need to hold on. In about another 30 minutes, you reach the top, which features an observatory (from which you can enjoy a 360° view over Sagami Bay and Tokyo Bay), and training cliffs for rock climbing. This is a very popular spot among rock climbing enthusiasts and what is left of the old mine (several interestingly shaped cliffs) has been equipped for this purpose. Many people just stop here and then start heading to the train station, missing out on what is actually the best part! Yes, because if you continue down the path, you will find an 8 meter tall Buddha carved in a monolith stone and surrounded by trees, branches, and moss. This statue, which is only 65 years old, stands in a small clearing and is definitely a gem immersed in nature. This was absolutely the perfect spot to take a nice break and put my photography skills into practice. Not only did I enjoy the walk there but throughout the whole hiking trail, […]

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Hot Springs

The combination of communal bathing and flat-out nudity make Japanese onsens one of the stranger experiences for many travellers visiting this wonderful country. These places are often far too easy to overlook and miss out on, due mainly to their birthday suit dress code. This is a shame because once you get past all of that, you will discover that onsens are supremely relaxing, not to mention the long list of health benefits of these public hot springs/baths. I was just as confused as you probably are before I first went to Japan. If only I’d had a guide like this to make the whole “getting naked in front of strangers” thing a lot easier. Before we get into the rules and what you should bring, let’s start by going over what a Japanese onsen actually is. What is a Japanese Hot Spring? “Onsen” is the Japanese word for hot spring or bath house. These onsens are located all over Japan so you will have little trouble finding one as they are a huge part of Japanese culture. They are also meant to be great for both your mental and physical well-being. There are two main types of Japanese onsens that you should be aware of. “Rotenburo” describes an outdoor onsen and “sento” refers to an indoor onsen (usually called a public bathhouse). Rotenburo onsens are widely considered to be the “superior” onsen, with the onsen being beautifully constructed in itself, coupled with the fact that they are often situated in an area of natural beauty. Just imagine the sheer spectacle of sitting in an outdoor hot spring, gazing out at the mountains or listening to rivers flow by in the distance. This is what you’ll be missing out on! On the other hand, sento onsens tend to be more common and are often used on a daily basis by regular Japanese people. This makes for a totally different experience as you’ll rarely find other “gaijin” (foreigners) there. Whichever one you end up visiting on your trip (try them both), the rules and general etiquette are the same for each. What to Bring to a Japanese Onsen Some [high end] onsens provide you with just about everything you could possibly need, including shampoo, body soap, face wash, a razor and a towel. However, this will often cost you extra so you may be better to just bring your own stuff. This is what I choose to do. Here’s what’s on my list: Shampoo Body soap Face Wash Two towels (one full body towel for after and a small face towel that I bring with me into the onsen) A razor (if I’m in need of a shave) What to do in a Japanese Onsen I imagine this is why you’re reading this. You don’t want to get to an onsen and then have no clue what you’re actually meant to do. Just follow these steps and you’ll be an onsen master in no time! Step One: Get into Your Birthday Suit By far the most […]

Hidden Waterfalls in Osaka and Mie

I always find the best adventures in places that are not extremely well-known. You know, the places that are mind-blowingly gorgeous, but not crawling with tourists (other than yourself!) so you can easily take pictures and soak it in. As I’ve lived in Kansai (the central area of Japan,) I’ve asked locals what places they would recommend seeing. I have a particular affinity for waterfalls, so I may have asked about them more than once. I just find waterfalls are especially impressive and beautiful. Something about the calming sound of a waterfall just pulls me in. Here in Japan, that calming sound is often accompanied by a peaceful background of beautiful foliage and maybe even a traditional bridge or two. Two really amazing waterfall destinations that I’ve been able to find amazing on a couple of different levels. First, they are closer to conventionally popular destinations than you might think. You don’t have to travel too far by train to get into the great outdoors. Secondly, I like these waterfalls because they don’t require a lot of hiking. You don’t have to spend your whole day hiking a mountain, so they’re easy to squeeze into a packed itinerary. Personally, I’m not a really avid hiker. I don’t want to miss out of amazing sights, so I will hike, but it’s not pretty. I tend to huff and puff all the way up every mountain, with my backpack seemingly gaining kilograms every ten feet of incline. On more than one occasion I’ve been passed by elderly Japanese hikers that tell me I can do it. So here goes, if you’re looking to see some waterfalls in central Japan, these are my recommendations. 1. Minoh Falls, Osaka, Japan Would you believe that there is a gorgeous, greenery surrounded waterfall right in Osaka? I didn’t. I remember asking around about a year after our move here and a friend telling me, “Oh yeah, there’s one about 40 minutes away from here in Osaka.” That’s right, there is more to Osaka than skyscrapers, street food, and shopping. I had no idea when I first moved here! I had a hard time finding this place until my friend gave me the address. But the good news is, that means it’s less well-known! You can be sure to have a fairly quiet experience. I visited with my family on a warm summer’s day, and there were only about 10 people there, all of them Japanese. The Road to Minoh Falls When You Get There There are signs to follow on the main road. They will lead you down a paved sidewalk, and, you come out from the sidewalk, you’ll be able to see the bright red bridge and the waterfall. If you go during a weekend, there are some little shops with souvenirs and food open. We went in the evening, so they were already closed when we got there. Even with the shops closed, there are picnic tables where you can sit down and eat […]

A hike to a magnificent view of Kyoto City

Since I have been living in Kyoto almost three years now, I do have to say, Kyoto is not just about temples and shrines. Indeed, those famous shrines and temples are worth visiting, however, once is enough. Most of the time, the places just get too crowded and noisy. Kyoto is only beautiful in a more mysterious way. I came from Taipei, Taiwan, a city size bigger than Kyoto. To me, Kyoto can only be recognised as a town. In the beginning, I was frustrated by how little stuff you can do within this city. There is only one major shopping area, located around Sanjo and Shijo. Public transportation such as the subway is limited down to two lines only. A rather convenient way to get around the city is by bus, but I would not say it is the most efficient one. It is easier to get around the city with bicycles, but cyclists in Kyoto are quite rude, sometimes. However, I fall madly in love with this city after a while, or to be more accurate, after the hike I did with my schoolmates in the comfortable weather of mid-October. Mt. Daimonji The mountain is located in the east of Kyoto, close to the well-known Buddhist temple, Ginkakuji (???). The name of this mountain literally means the kanji (Chinese character) “big, or great”. The kanji is in a way, carved onto the mountain which can be seen even from afar. Mt. Daimonji is famous because of one of the festivals which are celebrated in the summertime-Gozan Okuribi (?????). It is the climax of the entire Obon festival in Kyoto. On 16th August, people set up the fire which signifies the moment when the spirits of departed family members, who are said to be to visit this world during Obon, are believed to be returning to the spiritual world. Okuribi thus, sent-off fire. The whole event begins at approximately 20:00, where the first letter will be lit. Follow up with four different kanji (Chinese character) as shown in the picture below. Each lasts for 30 minutes. I was lucky that from the rooftop of my flat, I can see at least three letters clearly. The event is held annually, even when the weather condition is not good. There was once, on a typhoon day, they still tried to light up the fire, and eventually, they had succeeded. Most of the locals will choose the Kamogawa Delta (which is close to the Demachiyanagi station, Keihan line) to watch the fire. Families, couples and friends with snacks and drinks, all waiting patiently. From 17:00, the riverside is already crowded and lively. The Hike My first hike up of Mt. Daimonji was in 2015, six months after I had been in Kyoto. Even until today, I could not forget how beautiful the view was from the top. Basic information for the hiking route: From Demachiyanagi station, it takes about fifteen minutes by bike to get to the starting point. There will be a place where you can park your bike, and also a vending machine in […]

Fly In and Out of Tokyo to Climb Mt.Fuji in 40 Hours

Things to Know Before You Go Climbing Season What?! There’s a climbing season for Fuji!?  Yes, those were my exact thoughts too!  The climbing seasons starts July 1st and goes until September 10 every year.  If you go outside of the climbing season, you will need to apply for a permit. 1000¥ Mountain Donation (NOT optional) There are two points on the trail where someone will come collect your mandatory donation.  The first point is at the start of the trail at Station 5 where you will see a booth on the right-hand side.  They will most definitely stop you!  In return, you’ll receive a trail map and a wooden ornament that says Mt.Fuji on it.  The second point is at Station 6 where all the porta potties are.  Someone will come out of a hut and see if you have a wooden ornament hung on your bag (aka if you have paid or not).  Make sure you bring enough cash with you! Teahouses There are teahouses at Stations 7, Fake 8, Real 8, and 8.5.  These teahouses are for people to hike up early, nap for a few hours and enjoy a meal in a warm indoor place, then continue the hike to the summit at 12 am.  There is a teahouse at Station 9 but it is a small shack that only sells food.  I have included more information about this climb below.  If you plan to book a teahouse, make sure you do it ahead of time because LOTS of tour companies will book 20-30 spots at a time so it gets booked up quickly.  Also, these teahouses are at least 8,000¥ on a weekday.  Not cheap at all :(! Food Food and drinks are sold at all teahouses along the way.  However, be prepared to have enough CASH on you!  A small plate of curry rice costs 1000¥ up there! Light! Your headlamp will be your best friend!  Forget flashlights because you will need BOTH hands when you are climbing (yes on your hands and knees).  Also, bring extra batteries because once your headlamp goes out, you might as well crawl to the side and nap until the sunrises before you hike again. Washrooms/Restrooms It costs money to go to the washroom at each and every station!!! Most of the time there is a box with a price labeled on it so technically you can donate what you can afford :).  However, the washroom at the very top of the mountain is very much guarded by people and you have to pay 100¥ to go. My 40 hour Journey Originally, I had planned to go to Japan during my one week October holiday in Taipei and also climb the mountain during that time period, but after finding out the climbing seasons starts July 1st and goes until September 10 every year, I realized I had 3 weeks before the season is over!!  Woohoo, another spontaneous last minute adventure! Day 1: Saturday Arriving at Haneda Airport After work on […]

Karuizawa: Activities for every season

Karuizawa is one of Japan’s hidden natural treasures. Located in Japan’s Honshu island, in Nagano Prefecture, this little town is best known for winter sports, recreation activities, golf, whiskey, and hot springs. It is on the foot of Mount Asama and boasts scenic gorge with a feast of colors every season. Surrounded by forests and mountain peaks, Karuizawa offers tranquility and peace from the bustle of Tokyo (and other such big cities). Each of the four seasons of Karuizawa – whether Summer, Fall, Spring or Winter – promises activities that help you explore the best of Nagano Prefecture, and give a different lens into the country at large. Activities for summer Summer in Karuizawa typically lasts from July to mid-August, although it can begin earlier. This is Karuizawa’s warmest month with temperatures ranging from 12-35 degrees Celsius. Many Tokyo residents visit their summer homes of resorts in Karuizawa to escape from Tokyo’s hot summers. Karuizawa’s Sports Arena Summer is also one of the best seasons to go swimming in Karuizawa’s Kazakoshi Koen, an indoor sports and fitness arena located 8 minutes away from Karuizawa station. A single ticket cost is between 200-300 yen. The park also has a fully functioning gym, Tennis court, and football court, best used in these seasons. Don’t forget to buy an ice lolly (ranging from 200-300 yen) on the second floor of the arena beside the gym. Another vending machine downstairs sells chilled bottled milkshakes (400 yen onwards). If you are not a huge fan of swimming, an alternate way to cool off would be to visit the Sengataki or Hoshino onsen, where you can find a chilled equivalent of a jacuzzi. Imagine the crisp relief of jumping into a bath of cold water on a hot summer day! Walks and Hikes Nights are generally crisp and cool – perfect for a little outdoor walk. However, this is also the season when a majority of bugs and pests emerge! Be sure to use enough insect repellent and close your doors and windows. Karuizawa is a great location to go on hikes – it gives you a good workout, allows you to bond with friends and family, and is the best way to explore the scenic beauty of the mountains of Nagano. Karuizawa also has a vast number of peaks – the town itself is located at the foot of Asamayama, an active volcanic mountain, with an elevation of 2,568 meters. Shiraito waterfalls Kumoba pond offer some gentle, but slightly challenging trails. If you’re looking for a steep or tough trail, Kurofuyama or Yunomaru are great options – their peaks are also by the clouds where you get a gorgeous view of the mountains. While hiking in the summer, be sure to wear loose, comfortable cotton clothes, and carry along a bottle of water, sunscreen, and a camera. Bear and flying squirrel sightings are not uncommon in Karuizawa – however, animals are typically very shy, so be sure to tread softly to not scare them! Other Activities […]

3 Days in Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Blog

My boyfriend and I visited Tokyo, Japan last November 2017 for our 10th anniversary (yey!) It was a trip we’ve been wanting for a long time and then finally, we were able to make it and it was beyond wonderful! Fast facts: Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is one of the largest and most populous cities in the world. It is composed of 23 wards and is the seat of the Emperor of Japan and the country’s government (Wikipedia). I’d like to start with how the city made me feel. Well, I was taken aback. I never expected much but there I was all wide-eyed and amazed. Tokyo inundated my senses –  from the glowing lights in Shinjuku to the chaotic scramble at Shibuya crossing, from eating the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted to some retail therapy in Harajuku. The hotels are hi-tech, the train system is astounding and there is always a park in your vicinity to take a respite from the busy city life. One moment I was in the middle of madness but with a bit of walk, I was with the serene beauty of nature. What really impressed me though is the good manners and politeness of the Japanese people and how clean their city is. I can go on and on about what I love about this country, with all its quirks and characteristics so I should probably stop now and share with you our itinerary and some travel tips during our stay in this great and dynamic metropolis. Our 3-day Itinerary in Tokyo Day 0 – Arrival We arrived at Narita Airport quite late in the morning. From there, we rode the Narita Express to bring us to the city because it was the most convenient option for us. Other ways to get to Tokyo is by bus, taxi or through a private transfer. We arrived at our Airbnb accommodation in Shinjuku past 4 pm. Once settled in, we went for a ramen in one of the famous ramen places in town, Ichiran to properly welcome our stay. It was worth every calorie!!! Day 1 – Top Places to Visit in East Tokyo For our first day, we decided to explore the Eastern part of Tokyo. Tsukiji Fish Market Japan is blessed with abundant sea life and the Japanese people sure know their seafood. In Tsukiji Market is where the famous tuna auction happens. We were not able to catch one as you have to line up in the wee hours of the morning to be able to have a chance to attend to one. Yes, limited slots only! What’s interesting though is the market is very clean and not that smelly. The market has long been planned to be relocated but was delayed. In recent news though, it was said that the move will finally happen come Oct 2018. Imperial Palace This is where the Emperor of Japan lives. It is a large area surrounded by moats, stone walls, and a vast green space. Right […]

Top 3 Places to Go for Japanese Cuisine

In the Philippines, the language of love is pretty obvious, it's feeding people. If you travel to the Philippines and you make friends, the main form of bonding is through eating; whether it is eating out or dining in, we Filipinos make sure to keep our loved ones full of food. This is also why the Philippines has so many types of food, our cuisine is not limited to recipes from our home country, we also have a variety of food from other countries. One country that has a huge following of restaurants in the Philippines is Japan. Though not everyone is a huge fan of raw fish or fish in general, there is still an abundance of Japanese Cuisine, which provides a lot of choices for foodies just as myself. The great thing is, there a Japanese Restaurants in every city, though some do not hold SM Supermalls, most of the malls hold a semblance of a Japanese restaurant of sorts. When it comes to cravings, one of the things I know I crave for is Japanese cuisine. Most people would think that authentic Japanese cuisine is hard to come by here in Baguio, but they couldn't be more wrong. Baguio is home to more than 10 Japanese restaurants that do their best to serve authentic food with a twist. I have three personal favorites that I hope can indulge your craving if you're ever looking for food from the Land of the Rising Sun. Though not everyone is particularly into the raw fish menu, these restaurants also serve dishes that are cooked and still delicious. I cannot stress how wonderful it is to find restaurants or cafes where you can not only enjoy the food but also enjoy the place itself, and for me, these restaurants all have a little bit of Baguio in them that cannot be replicated anywhere else and they're all just places where I can truly enjoy the taste of Japan. 3.) Zushi Me Japanese Cuisine Located in the heart of the central business district, Zushi Me offers great sushi rolls and ramens, the prices are relatively affordable, but not all of the food is student friendly. If you're a student looking for some good soul food, I do suggest the Nagasaki Ramen, it's a large serving that's good for two people if you don't have too much of an appetite; however, if you're looking for a large platter that is definitely for sharing, you should try the Sashimi Platter, it comes with 3 types of fish that are filleted, scaled and de-boned to perfection. I often come here when I'm just looking for a place to be with myself and my sushi. I used to order the Sashimi rice bowl because it gives me everything I need. The restaurant recently relocated and underwent some renovations which I can assume is why they increased prices since the move, but it's definitely still Japanese cuisine on a budget. Among other places in Baguio, Zushi Me is […]

Winter Holiday in Hokkaido Japan for 7 days 5 nights

A Winter Holiday in Hokkaido with only AUD828 I would love to share my experience on how I spent only AUD 828 for a beautiful snowy winter holiday in the northernmost area in Japan which is Hokkaido. With only AUD 828, this has included the flight ticket, the accommodations, the transportation fees and also the food! You might think that with this amount, we were staying in dormitory or hostel, but no, we were staying in a 4-star hotel and also a 3-star hotel. With this amount, we also ate delicious food throughout the trip. Besides staying in Sapporo (the capital of Hokkaido), we also took the JR train to the cities out of Sapporo for example: Kamikawa – the place where we access to Daisetsuzan Otaru – the popular tourist destination with its beautiful canal Hakodate – where one of the world's top 3 night view located at, and also the southernmost city in Hokkaido Noboribetsu – not only the Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, it is also the largest hot spring town in Hokkaido If you're only planning to visit the capital city which is Sapporo, the amount that you're likely to spend is going to be much lesser than AUD 828. So, Let's get started!   The Budget Table The Flight Ticket : AirAsia = AUD 212 for a return ticket flying from Kuala Lumpur to Sapporo. After adding the flight meal, insurance and also the baggage fees it was AUD 247.   The Transportation Fees in Hokkaido : JR Hokkaido 3 Days Pass = AUD 176  (if you're not planning to go to the cities out of Sapporo, you do not need this pass at all) Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass (include a 1-day subway pass for Sapporo city that can use on a different day) = AUD 18  **Too bad, just found out that this pass had been stopped selling since April 2017.   The Accommodations : 4 nights in BEST WESTERN HOTEL FINO SAPPORO (it's now Hotel Mystays Sapporo Station) and 1 night in HOTEL HOKKE CLUB HAKODATE = AUD 183 ( 2 tiny size adults and 1 tiny size teenager shared a twin bedroom)   The Food : AUD 204 for 5 days We have eaten a few seafood meals, Ramen, Sushi and a lot of other delicious meals as well.   The Total: AUD 828   The Hokkaido Winter Itinerary We were there at the end of November, it was very lucky for us to witness the snow during November as it is also the end of autumn, so we also witnessed the autumn colours in Hokkaido during the first few days in the trip while there is no snow at all during that few days.   Day 1: 19 November – Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sapporo on the late night. It was an overnight flight but I did rest well on the plane. The flight reached Sapporo around 8 am in the next morning.   Day 2: 20 November Once we reached Sapporo, […]

Niseko: a snow lovers dream

Picture your idea of snowy paradise. Where is it? Canada? France? America? I bet Japan wouldn’t be in your visual, right? Let me tell you right now, it should be.   Niseko, located on the northern island of Japan, is fast becoming known for its light, deep and fluffy powder. There are about 5,000 permanent residents there, not including the neighbouring town of Kutchan. Oh, and one of the things I love about Niseko and Kutchan is that their mascots are a skiing and a boarding potato….Hokkaido is known for its delicious spuds.   A paradise of four snow resorts Before going to Niseko for a whole season, I wasn't the most experienced skier or the best with snow, I had only ever been a few times. Niseko has completely given me a passion and love for icing-sugar like snow, and I haven't looked back. Firstly, let me tell you about each of the four resorts and what they have to offer.   Grand Hirafu The biggest resort out of the four, and also the most westernised. Living here for four months definitely gave me the insider's perspective.The great thing about Grand Hirafu Is that it also includes neighbouring resort Hanazono, included with the ski pass. Both of these resorts are popular with beginners, with Hirafu housing the Go Snow instructing company (the biggest in Niseko). This resort is a great place to warm up and find your “shredding” feet. It has runs for all skill levels, be aware though that because it’s the biggest resort and the easiest to access, it can get a bit crowded at peak times in winter. Most of the groomed runs get a good dumping of snow, so even if you aren’t ready for backcountry gates yet, you still feel like you’re out there on piste. Miharashi is a great run, for the more advanced, and more of that deep snow. Catch first lifts, go left under the gondola and through the trees and you’ll be on one of the best runs. Another run worth noting, is the Shirakaba or the Center run, accessible a few ways via either king hooded number 4 and to the left, or the ace pair lift number 3. It’s hard to pinpoint specific runs because everyone has their own favourite and to be honest, the snow is great everywhere on the mountain, so go exploring! Access to the other resorts is also possible, so don’t forget to try them all out (buy an all mountain pass). Hirafu Hanazono Hanazono is a fantastic place to find some of that beautiful, untouched power Niseko is known for, even when you get there around midday. Although, be aware there are a few flat bits where you’ll need to keep up your speed so you don’t get stuck trying to pull each other along. A couple of runs worth noting are strawberry and blueberry fields located to the right of Hanazono lift one, and to the left respectively. […]

Japan's Nara Park: Deer-Central

Why go to Nara Park? Nara Park is famous as one of the most picturesque and oldest parks in Japan. It is a sprawling 502 hectares of beautiful sights and is home to many cultural landmarks of the City of Nara. But what the park is famous for is the 1,200 residents of the Park: Deer. That's right, Nara Park is best known as the Deer Park of Japan. Established in the late 19th century, the park is in Japan's first capital city. Nara is recognized to be the birthplace of the country's high culture. It is home to Japan's earliest accounts of art, literature, events, and myths. This is also the city where Buddhism first thrived in the country. The park itself is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites (with there being a total of 8 UNESCO sites in the Nara). Shrines and Temples The beautiful temple is home to the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. The T?dai-ji Temple T?dai-ji is actually a Buddhist Temple Complex. It is also the first of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the park. The Great Buddha Hall, or “Daibutsuden”, is home to the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha. The Complex was built in 741 AD by the Emperor Shomu. Its purpose was to establish the Temple as a Central Temple for all the provincial Temples in the entire country. The Complex has actually since been rebuilt twice, first in 1293 and then in 1709, after multiple fires. The Complex at present is actually smaller than the previous reconstruction. And the large bronze Buddha has been recast several times. The Complex attracts a large number of tourists throughout the year and is an amazing site to behold in person. The K?fuku-ji Temple K?fuku-ji was once a family temple of the Fujiwara clan, the most powerful clan during the Nara and Heian Periods. Once again, the K?fuku-ji Temple is actually a Temple Complex. It consists of two pagodas (one five-story and another three story), the K?fuku-ji National Treasure Hall, and the Eastern Golden Hall. The Eastern Golden Hall is home to a large wooden Yakushi Buddha statue. Currently, the Central Golden Hall of the temple is closed for renovations until 2018. The Temple Complex is the second out of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the park.   The Temple Complex is located nearest the entrance of the Park from the Kintetsu and JR Nara Stations. It is one of the first sites you may encounter when entering the park. You can learn more about the Temple from its website here. The Kasuga Taisha Shrine The Shrine was established in 710 by the Fujiwara clans Fujiwara Fuhito for the purpose of using it as the clans' tutelary shrine. This was the same time as Nara City was established as the Country's first Capital City. It is the third of three UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Shrine was rebuilt from scratch every 20 years, however, the custom was discontinued during […]

Secrets Of Gion: Exploring The Geisha Town Of Kyoto, Japan

Discovering The World Of Geisha You've never been to Kyoto if you haven't been to Gion. Made internationally famous by the controversially critiqued book and movie adaptation, Memoirs Of A Geisha, Gion hides away the secretive world of the Japanese geisha. However, it wasn't Memoirs that hooked me in on this mysterious town. Only after reading Geisha Of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki, an autobiography of the former Geisha that Memoirs is based on, I wished for the day that I could see for myself every sight that the author so beautifully painted in words. The day finally arrived for me – my first time visiting Kyoto, Japan. It was just before the cherry blossoms season, but it didn't matter to me. I'm not here for the cherry blossoms, I'm here for Gion. A Surreal Experience Just passing through the streets gave me the chills. Every Ochaya (teahouse) and Machiya (townhouse) was how I imagined it to be. I could almost see the stories described in the book come to life. Even just strolling along the streets is wonderful. Cobblestone paths, traditional wooden houses, people dressed in brightly colored Kimono to get the full experience of this geisha town. But while tourists roam the streets that were once strictly dominated by locals, I can't help but wonder if a geisha is practicing her dance or tea preparation behind the wooden doors of an Okiya (geisha lodging house). Geiko VS Maiko For the sake of understanding, geisha is most commonly used to describe the profession. But not many know that the actual term for those in full kimono, hair ornaments and white makeup that we're most familiar with is actually maiko – a 'geisha in training' or apprentice geisha. When a maiko debuts, it's a big celebration of public procession and performance. At this stage, she is not supposed to entertain yet until her training is completed. When a maiko finally 'graduates' from apprenticeship, she becomes a geiko – an adult geisha fully qualified to entertain. Her clothes would change to more toned down colors and her hair would take on a more mature style. This stage doesn't get as much fanfare as the maiko stage, but this is really when they become full-fledged geishas. Catching A Glimpse Of Geisha It's not easy to catch sight of a geisha, less so get hold of one for a picture. Because of their celebrity status, they navigate around inconspicuous alleys to avoid getting stopped by tourists. You'd be amazed how quickly they can walk in those tight kimono and wooden clogs! Before you can raise your camera, they would have probably darted around the corners. A friend of mine managed to grab one for a quick photo but she refused to speak. But that's what makes the world of geisha so intriguing. We as foreigners will never fully understand it. But if you want to try your luck, the best time is in the evening, when they slip into Ochaya for their banquet appointments. It's best not to hold them back though, as they get very busy […]

Cherry Blossom and Japanese Culture

Who has travelled to Japan? It is different compared to the Western world, this is for sure. When I have to explain my friends how Japan is, I always try to make a comparison between India and Japan. And I love both of these countries. However, they are the complete contrary. While India is rather dirty, everything is very cheap, a lot of poor people and very delicious vegetarian food, Japan is ultra clean, a lot of very well-dressed people and a lot of fish food and compared to Western prices, not cheap. Naming it, if you are a fish lover, it is paradise on earth. As a vegetarian, it is rather a hard life. Cherry Blossom March and April are the months of the year to travel to Japan for the Cherry blossom season, also called Hanami. I have travelled a couple of times to Japan, however, never before in the Cherry blossom season. I was always wondering why people make such a big hype around this thing happening. And now, having seen these gorgeous Cherry trees, I know why. It is actually hard to describe, how beautiful it is. They are everywhere, in the streets, in the parks, you even spot them from the train windows. And for me even more fascinating is the excitement of the Japanese people themselves have about the Cherry blossom. They do picnic under those trees, pictures, selfies, even paint them. Impressive to have such a passion for this!         Japanese Culture Well, Tokyo is not only Cherry blossom. It is also diving into a complete different culture. Talking to people you really find out how different it is. Since space is very rare and expensive in Tokyo, some restaurants had the idea how people stay only the short time needed in the restaurant. They have the whole menu outside (this is nothing special), but you also buy a “ticket” with your desired food at a machine outside. You take this ticket and go inside and order directly. Isn’t it efficient? Talking about efficiency, we have to talk about Japanese Railways. Their trains are as punctual as Swiss watches. The two men working per subway train (two, because if one gets unable to work, there is instantly a second one available) have split their work. One drives, and one handles the doors. A typical Japanese thing is that you always show with your hand/arm what you see. So you always see the man standing next to the train and showing with his hand along the train (because he is checking if he can close the door) and also talking with himself (well, I did not understand what they talk). And on each Subway station you have an overview of all stations of this line, on which it mentions for each station the position of the car and where you have access to elevators, stairs etc. The hotel I stayed in had a shuttle bus to the next bigger Metro Station. The […]

What too see your first time in Tokyo

When I decided to visit Japan, I was afraid of getting lost and being overwhelmed by the masses of people. This was especially true concerning Tokyo, the capital city of Japan with a population of 13 million. I am coming from a small country, and the city where I live my whole life has only around half a million people, so it sounded kind of intimidating. To my surprise, there was really nothing to worry about. Tokyo is easy to navigate, the English signs are everywhere, and the people are kind. There were indeed many people, and the trains could get really crowded. But you don’t need to worry about thieves or other criminals or people who would bother you in any way. Maybe I was just lucky, but I did not have any bad experience with the local people. Japan is a really safe country and that applies to Tokyo too. I visited Tokyo in May 2016 with my boyfriend. It was at the end of our 3 weeks trip around Japan so I already had an idea what to expect. Nevertheless, Tokyo is a city that has grown on me and is unique among the other places in Japan I have visited. Concerning some practical information, we chose to stay at an AirBnB apartment. Hotels in Tokyo are expensive, and the rooms are really small. I was thoroughly satisfied with our small apartment near Shinjuku. Staying at a private apartment will give you the feeling of experiencing the life of a local, which will no hotel give you. I definitely recommend trying it. You can travel the city with train or metro quite comfortably (not counting the sometimes tightly packed compartments). We have actually traveled only by train and did not use metro at all. For a few days our JR passes (discount ticket for trains belonging to japanese Railways) were still valid, so we tried to make as much use of them as possible. The last two days we had to buy the ordinary train tickets, which you can get from the ticket machines located at the train stations. We ate at small inconspicuous restaurants which we encountered while walking through the city. We were trying to save money so we did not enter any posh establishments. If you are looking for a filling budget meal you can definitely find it in Tokyo too. Actually the best meal in Tokyo was our last meal. We had a tendon with warm soba noodles in miso broth in a small joint near Takeshita Street, which was full of locals. We had to wait for a few minutes outside before being seated, but it was definitely worth it. If you are wondering what is Tendon, it’s  tempura fried vegetables and seafood over rice. It was absolutely delicious. Now let’s get to the things to see in this exciting city. Takeshita Street One of my favourite places in Tokyo is Takeshita Dori, the bustling street full of shops, crepe stands, and colorful people walking […]

Tokyo Food Guide

Tokyo Food Guide If you are a lover of sushi, consider yourself a foodie, or if you're just looking to try something new, Tokyo is the perfect destination for you. With restaurants of every variety on nearly every corner, you never have to look too far. Sushi One of the most popular dishes in Japan is sushi, and it is a must try as a visitor to the country. There are traditional sit down sushi restaurants and sushi-go-rounds, where your food is delivered to you on a conveyor belt. These restaurants can be found all over Tokyo. One common chain is Hamazushi. Here, you order your appetizers, sushi, and dessert from a screen. There are also plates of already made sushi rolling by on the conveyor belt that are available to enjoy immediately. The sushi is usually in the form of nigiri (two pieces of fish over rice), regular rolls, or hand rolls. Hamazushi (and most other sushi restaurants) have traditional raw fish, but also have dishes of cooked fish as well, in case you're new to trying sushi and are a little nervous about the consumption of raw fish. There are many drinks that you can order from the screen, but if you are looking to enjoy a traditional Japanese drink, there is matcha powder on each table. Beneath the conveyor belt is a spout that pours out warm water for your tea, with cups located above the conveyor belt. If you enjoy your green tea, be sure to try the green tea ice cream for dessert! Themed Restaurants In Tokyo, there are many themed restaurants for an entertaining night out. One of the most popular is the Robot Restaurant. The Robot Restaurant is most well known for its unusual costumes and entertaining show that comes with the dinner. You can expect to pay a pretty penny if you choose to visit this restaurant (around $70 entrance fee and $10 for the meal), but it is sure to be an experience that you will never forget. Hananomai Ryougoku is a sumo-themed restaurant. Visitors sit around a Dohyo(sumo ring), that is located in the middle of the restaurant. On some saturdays, you can even catch a performance in the Dohyo! Zauo Shinjyuku is a fishing restaurant. When you arrive at this restaurant, you receive a fishing pole to catch your dinner. You eat in a boat, and there is water surrounding the boat with different types of fish that you can catch for your meal. When you catch your fish, the restaurant employees sing a song and everyone in the restaurant claps. Then, they give you the option of how you would like your fish cooked and prepare it for you and deliver it to your table. If you get your fish fried, they'll even fry the bones for you to eat! At Ninja Akasaka, you can find ninjas hiding in the shadows throughout the restaurant, and if you order the right thing, your meal might come with a magic trick! There […]

OSAKA Amazing Pass: A ticket for having more fun with less cost

If you are planning a trip that you would like to stay in OSAKA for deep travel, do not miss to add this ticket/the pass on your list. Osaka is the biggest city in western Japan, has more than 2 million population. In this kind of busy city, it has a very convenient underground system but complicating. Well, if you are not good at the direction… You can stay here for 1 to 7 days and make your unique experience in this modern city. ONE DAY PASS AND TWO DAY PASS I have been to Osaka last year. There were a lot of tourists but I found most of the western tourists bought the underground ticket every time when they are going to another station. Osaka Amazing Pass: ONE DAY PASS and TWO DAY PASS will be your new choice. The underground pass is for you to travel anywhere else via Osaka underground or bus(not all of them). It has some limit but enough for traveling the Osaka city. Not only for underground, some of the sightseeings can get discounts by the pass even free entry, such as Osaka castle, Umeda sky building, Osaka zoo… more than 20 different activities. WHERE TO BUY THE PASS Kansai Tourist Information Center Kansai International Airport Osaka Visitors’ Information Center Umeda Osaka Visitors’ Information Center Namba If you have enough time, highly recommend buying it in KIX Airport. The opening is until 10 pm. They are very punctual. I arrived at the center at 10:00 pm and the guidance said sorry they've closed to me. Unfortunately, I have to look for another place to buy the pass, it sounds easy but a bit difficult. The direction in stations are so complicated, so the best solution is asking an officer who works in the station. I bought the pass in Umeda station, there was no way to find the information center. I asked an officer who wears in uniform and bought the ticket. That's the efficient way to get your ticket if you don't want to be lost in such a complicating station. WHERE TO GO WITH THE PASS As the paragraph above, there are more than 20 activities or places for you to enjoy with the pass. Get discounts and save your money. I would recommend some of the most valuable or must-see sightseeings and activities. Cruise Ship Santa Maria Day Cruise/Twilight Cruise Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel Osaka Castle Museum Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden Osaka-jo Gozabune Boat These five discounts were the most valuable for me. Following, these activities look like fun and I bet you will enjoy it! Tombori River Cruise/JAZZ Boat Floating Garden Observatory (Umeda Sky Building) Osaka Science Museum (If you have kids, he/she will get lots fun.) Kaiyukan What else? You must have Tsutenkaku Tower in your list but I would not recommend it if it is not free. Also, you might have Shitennoji Temple in consideration. For me, maybe it's because it was in renovation, that was the most […]

Exploring Japan: Top 4 Unique Things To Do

Once the Imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is now a popular destination for world travelers who have their eyes set on Japan. Most people who visit usually plan a detailed itinerary, making sure they see all the famous sights in Kyoto. The city is one of the few left in Japan that has carefully preserved many of their prewar traditional buildings. However, the rise of modernization has unquestionably paved way for newer and modern buildings. Despite this transformation, Kyoto continues to remain an important cultural and religious center for the Japanese. The enigmatic city embraces new and old traditions, carrying the past into the present and future. No doubt, Kyoto is high on your list of places to explore in Japan.  With so many things to see and do, it is easy to spend more than a month exploring all that Kyoto has to offer. However, most visitors only have a few days before they leave for other great destinations around Japan. Here is a list of the four most popular destinations in Kyoto. Surely in your own research, you have seen these recommendations over and over again. Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its impressive sight of over 5,000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the wooded mountain behind the shrine. Be sure to write your wishes on an ema, or prayer plaque, when you reach the first stop. Traditionally, they are hung with the others on temple grounds, but some tourists like to bring them home as souvenirs. Tenryuji Temple and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is known to be one of the most important Zen temples in all of Kyoto. Spend some time walking around its beautifully landscaped garden. Be sure to take a stroll through the iconic bamboo grove when you exit the temple. Kinkakuji Temple, also called the “Golden Pavilion”, is another important Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Many people visit to take pictures of the iconic temple and its golden reflection in the surrounding pond. There will definitely be many people waiting to take pictures! The guards will urge tourists to keep moving forward, so I suggest you find a spot away from the path and patiently wait to snap your photos! Kiyomizu-dera Temple is famous for its old, wooden stage because it gives visitors a beautiful view of the trees below. The ideal time to visit is during spring or fall, as those are the best seasons with the most stunning views. Its name, Kiyomizu-dera, literally translates to “Pure Water Temple” due to the purity of its waters. Be sure to drink from the Otowa Waterfall. While there may be a long line, a sip of its pure waters may bless you with longevity, academic success, or a prosperous love life. (Don’t be greedy and drink from all three streams!) If you have limited time to explore Kyoto, these are the definite must-sees in the prefecture. However, if you are more flexible with your itinerary, I highly recommend these top four unique things to […]

Japan: More Than Just Mangas and Animes

JaFun from the mountains to the megalopolis   When you hear the word Japan, anyone can immediately associate it with ramen, kimono, sakura, geishas among many other words which we have used in daily conversations. However, I would like to target some readers who want another perspective of what Japan can offer rather than the obvious.  So, what else is there really, you ask?   Japanese Architecture: Preservation and Innovation My goal is not to bore you about this topic if it is not your cup of tea. At least know general ideas and take a moment to appreciate them. Added knowledge or learning is always a good thing. I am simply telling you though, that as a traveller when we go to an unfamiliar place, you look around and observe the surroundings such as nature and man-made buildings right?   Generally, the Japanese build with nature in mind and work around trees and century-old structures rather than uproot or destroy or implode them. They preserve their gardens, castles and temples and observe proper etiquette which tourists are required to do so too.   If you are into Architecture just as I am, you can google famous architects if you haven’t yet. The Japanese architects are masters of their skill. Try looking up for Kenzo Tange, Shigeru Ban, Fuhimiko Maki, Takaharu Tezuka among others. Personal favorites are Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma.   When I was there, I made a list of buildings I want to see which were made by these architectural geniuses. Tokyo alone is an architectural pilgrimage from century-old temples to contemporary hotels and shopping centers. They juxtapose traditional and modern buildings together and innovate construction techniques from the past to the present. Example is Asakusa Temple near Kengo Kuma’s Asakusa tourist center in Tokyo. In Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, design of the buildings there can be a bit different but each of these place is unique and can leave you in awe.   Japan and its people   Japan as a whole speaks about the locals living there. They are honest and trustworthy which I experienced first-hand. When my friends and I were at Lindt Ginza, we ate, paid for our meals and hurriedly left without realising that my friend dropped her money. One of the lady staff had to run a block just to reach us and hand back the money. When we were walking in the streets even at night, I do not have to act and put my guard up as if someone will take advantage. When my shoe laces get untied, I wouldn’t have to put my phone back in my bag. I can just leave it on the floor for a while and no one will snatch it from me. They are disciplined and courteous even when they do not speak or have limited English vocabulary. A kind store lady helped us read our Nozomi shinkansen tickets even though she does not speak our language and tried to point where our […]
Load More