There are many reasons why you should visit Japan. Besides the fabulous food, the country got a lot more to offer: impressive temples, white sand beaches, a lot of electronic stores and traditional Japanese architecture. Late spring (March to May) is the best time to visit Japan because there is little rainfall, temperature is mild and you can see the popular and spectacular spring-flowering cherry trees. The cherry blossom, also known as sakura in Japan, is a very important symbol for the Japanese. Every April, families and friends gather in large groups for hanami or ‘flower-viewing’.
Tokyo is the capital city of Japan. The city center is busy, crowded and expensive but it also offers an unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, dining and culture. Three days in Tokyo are long enough to see a lot. Shibuya is the center for fashion and culture. There are many little shops and restaurants and you can visit the Hachiko statue, homage to the faithful Akita dog who waited at Shibuya Station every day for his master, even after his death. You can find also here the busiest intersection in the world, Shibuya Crossing. There is a good view over the crossing from the Starbucks at the QFRONT building located on the northern side of the crossing.
Ueno Park is a large public park next to Ueno Station. It’s the ideal place to take a break during your trip. Ueno is also known as a cultural district because there are many museums here f.ex The Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Arts. Another attraction inside the park is Ueno-Zoo, the first zoo in Japan. Kan’ei-ji, a Buddhist temple that dates to 1625 is on the outer edge of Ueno Park.
Akihabara is an electronic paradise. If you consider yourself a truce fan of all things Anime, then you should visit Akihabara. It’s the true center for anime, manga, arcade and video games. There are electronics and flashing lights everywhere.
Kamakura is a city located about 50 km south-southwest of Tokyo. The Great Buddha, also called ‘Daibutsu’ is a bronze statue which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 11 meters, it is the second tallest Buddha statue in Japan.
You should also visit Enoshima, a small offshore island. You can head up to Enoshima shrine or enjoy some delicious local street food like whitebait bread, Japanese ice cream or senbei (rice cracker) made from a whole octopus. One of the most popular scenic spots is ‘Sea candle’, the lighthouse observation tower. It is also a great place to see Mt. Fuji.
Kyoto is quite easy and fast to access with Shinkasen, a Japanese high-speed train. Geisha are found throughout Japan, but Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s geisha world. It is also the best city in Japan to explore the traditional Japanese culture. If you are a foodlover, you should visit Nishiki Market, a five block long shopping street with more than one hundred shops. You find seasonal delights and Kyoto specialties. Mount Hiei is a mountain on the northeast of Kyoto. It is a nice hiking spot.
Osaka reminded me of Las Vegas. It is a fanstastic high-end dining scence and a paradise for street food. It alsways a difficult choice because everything they serve looks so delicious. If you are travelling to Osaka and want to go shopping, you could go to Shinsaibasi or Tenjinbashi, a 2,6km-long shopping arcade.
Sushi and Sashimi is without doubt one of the most famous foods to come from Japan. Japan has a wonderful and unique cuisine. Ramen, Tempura, Miso soup, Yakitori (brochette), Onigiri or Udon, there is so much to try in Japan. If you walk down in any street in Japan, you often see fake plates of food. Sampuru, the art of realistic fake food is very common in Japan.
If you visit Japan, you should inform yourself about Japanese Dining Etiquette. In Japan, there are no courses. You often order multiple plates and share them with everyone.
You should never pass food with your chopsticks. When eating ramen or miso soup, you can sip directly from the bowl. Don’t be surprised to hear slurping noises from around the table 🙂 Slurping in Japan shows that you are enjoying the meal. Tipping in Japan is not common and is often considered rude. Another rule: don’t blow your nose at the table. I found that difficult as my nose is often running when I eat something hot or spicy. Sniffing at the table to avoid blowing your nose is actually acceptable.
Some tips for the trip: If you plan to visit more cities in Japan, you should stay at least 2 weeks in Japan. Hanada airport is closer to Tokyo than Narita airport. To travel from city to city you always can take the train (JR or Shinkansen) and you don’t need to rent a car.