Japan is a special place. Its culture is unique and traditions well preserved. Tokyo is probably the most interesting city in the world, as it is a city of contradictions. There’s an avant garde, boldness to it, but yet there’s also a timid sensibility, too. It’s both modern and ancient, debaucherous and pious. The food, the facilities, everything is deliberated over and planned out, but there’s spontaneity around every corner. It’s edgy, real and fearless. Yet, for a city of its size, it’s unimaginably safe and tidy.
Japanese citizens have a sense of responsibility in keeping their homeland organized and neat, and proudly show off their incredible technology and forward thinking nature. I love everything about it. There’s so much to see and do in Japan, and often times not enough money.
JAL is the best. From the bounty of snacks to the yuzu skytime drink, you trip begins on the right foot. It’s so good you don’t even really care that you’ve been on a airplane for like 1500 hours.
If you end up in any hotel that has breakfast included, you’ll be enjoying an assortment of congee, pickled everything and sushi. The amazingness cannot be understated.
I’m a big fan of private tours of Japan if you can swing it. The transportation and hotels are typically included and they take care of the language barrier. This is an issue because reading Japanese characters is hard (not an easy language to pick up). Many times you can customize your itinerary to what suits your needs. I’m a big history and monument buff, so these are the hits.
The Imperial Palace in Chiyoda is the first on your list. Not the one in Las Vegas, the real deal. You literally feel like Richard Chamberlain is about to walk out at any moment. Anyone? No one got that Shogun reference. The Emperor of Japan, Akihito, who famously wants to abdicate due to age, lives here.
This ancient palace (moat and all) is located steps away from the central area of the city. It’s super close to the famed Ginza street, which is basically the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, everything is compact and efficient with pops of color.
You’ll want to visit Tokyo Tower, Japan’s broadcasting tower based on the Eiffel Tower, for panoramic views of the city.
Tokyo has ~10 observation decks throughout the city, and this was isn’t the newest, but it’s a classic. You get a nice view of the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower that looks more like a bird’s nest but whatever.
A view of the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, you’ll be visiting there soon:
Your next stop will be Asakusa district, where you will see the Senso-Ji Temple.
As it is a huge attraction, there’s many places were lunch can be enjoyed around the area. Miso soup, karaje, and tempura bento for days.
Nakamise-dori is the pedestrian street lined by shops upon shops of souvenir and trinket vendors. It may be a little touristy, but you’re a tourist. Enjoy it.
This is a Shinto temple, and the pagoda is a Shinto shrine.
Next head to Shibuya (home of the Shibuya crossing), where you’ll visit the most famous Shinto shrine, the Meiji Jingu, that has huge Torii…
…and a ton of barrels of sake. Sake is used as an offering to deities.
Located in the middle of a forest (that’s right, there’s a forest in the middle of Tokyo), this venue is very popular for weddings.
If you’re lucky, you’ll even see a processional with women in traditional garb. And girls in kimonos–look at the intricate obis!
Spend your afternoon/evening marveling at all of the bright signs and lights in Shinjuku district. Japan’s famed entertainment/business district is known for its red light qualities; there is some interesting stuff here. It’s the best. Keep Japan weird, y’all.
For your companionship needs…
It literally looks like this stretch of city is built from legos.
I had one of the best bowls of ramen of my life here. I don’t know the name of the place, it was super crowded, down a random street, I bought a ticket from the machine and a piping hot bowl of goodness was set in front of me.
More congee next morning. I love it.
Ride the world famous bullet train, the Shinkansen, the next day. Catch it at Shibuya station, literally one of the busiest train stations in the world. Buy a ticket from one of the automated machines. Everything is really clearly marked and frequent announcements are made.
Stop at Yokohama station for lunch. There is a Takamayashi department store which has one of the biggest food courts I’ve ever seen filled with every Japanese delicacy you could imagine. Or even better, there’s the museum of Ramen near the station.
Continue on your trek to Kotoku-in, the home of the gigantic Kamakura Buddha.
This immense and impressive bronze statue of the Buddha probably dates back to the 1250s. That’s right…1250. We’re talking before the Italian Renaissance.
He has outlived every structure that has been built to house him, being left in the open air since 1498. 1498 !!! That’s insane craftsmanship. My phone won’t last 4 years.
The artistry in the casting of such a large structure is astounding. He’s one of Japan’s most iconic monuments and he attracts almost a million visitors every year.
Enjoy a drive in Japan’s country side as you head to the mountains. Japan is an island nation, and most island nations were formed by geothermic features…aka volcanoes.
Japan has a large active caldera with fumaroles and hot springs and the Owakudani, Hakone region is well traveled to by tourists seeking to obtain black sulfur eggs.
Boiling these eggs in hot sulphur springs gives them the blackened color of their shells. Legend has it that if you eat one of these eggs, your life will be prolonged by 7 years. I ate all of these.
The reason you’re heading deep into the mountains is the majestic view of Mount Fuji.
So ends the first leg of your trip to Japan. Stay tuned for the second half of this adventure series in Japan.