Japan is absolutely out of this world.
It is the land of “Sakura” (cherry blossom), Samurai, maple trees, anime, Macha, and well, of course, amazing food. But Japan offers so much more. The country of the rising sun, I mean we have all seen the documentaries. We’ve all sighted trying to visualize those amazing places. Well, they are real and 100 times better in person. You simply have to experience Japan in person. Whatever you do, show respect first and foremost.
This island country is located in East Asia in the Pacific Ocean, lying off the eastern coast of the Asian continent. Once you step into Japan you find a versatile life enriched in culture and tradition but balanced with modern development. Japan is a fast-developing country and hence you can see the vast variety in each city with the growth in technology and architecture. When traveling to this amazing country you have to keep up your pace and match it with the people of Japan. Tourists often get lost in the rich culture that the country was able to preserve despite its speedy advancement and growth.
Let’s explore our favorite cities in Japan.
One thing on top of the food list is Sushi! Big surprise, right? You cannot visit Japan and not try authentic sushi. You can find some of the best sushi joints in the city of Tokyo. One famous sushi restaurant in Tokyo is “Sushi Uobei” which is a must-try for all tourists.
However, Tokyo is not only famous for its sushi joints; this is the city of light in Japan. Full of hustle and bustle, Tokyo is a happening place. Madness to some not used to in-your-face cities. A must-visit in Tokyo, Japan is the Imperial Palace which is a wonderful piece of Japanese Architecture. Another place on the Tokyo bucket list of wonders is the Meiji Shrine, where you can personally experience the contrast in the Japanese lifestyle. The shrine is a perfect break away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life of Tokyo and it showcases Japanese culture amidst the modern lifestyle around it. In fact, Tokyo has many peaceful spots throughout the city that offer a retreat from city life.
Since we’re talking about culture, don’t forget to tick off the great museums in Tokyo to absorb all the rich history and heritage that Japan has to offer.
Last but not least, out of all the beautiful parks, shrines, streets, bars, restaurants, etc, this place blew my mind. Allow me to put it in perspective without sounding like I’m bragging, I’ve been to Broadway shows in New York, Operas in Venice, thousands of live concerts, etc but nothing even close to what I experienced in Tokyo. Whatever you do, you must add The Robot Restaurant located in the Shinjuku district to your must-list. It will leave you speechless and fired up.
It is out of this world.
Of course, Tokyo is not the only city in Japan (although it is the capital). Some amazingly breathtaking cities await travelers and tourists and a few of these cities include Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara.
The great city of Kyoto is the perfect balance between traditional and modern. My personal favorite city in Japan. Kyoto is famous for its temples, shrines, Geishas, and Nijo Castle. This is where you can break into the true peaceful side of Japan that helps you break out of this world and reconnect with yourself and your uchinaru heiwa (Japanese for “inner peace”).
Head to the Gion to experience Japan at its fullest. Matcha lover? Walk over to the Macha House. I mean wow! Blend in with the locals. If Japan is known for something is its level of culture, dedication, and outstanding manners. If they don’t know English, they will literally take you by the hand and guide you. And with a smile on their face. Again, simply out of this world kindness.
And yes, people in Kyoto (like in most of Japan) love to laugh and truly enjoy life. You will see them having laughs and pranking each other in the park, spending quality time, and creating memories.
At least that is what I took from Kyoto (and Japan in general).
Osaka: Any Foodies In The House?
There are many famous food spots in Japan that you simply cannot miss out on. This is the land where your senses will be at their maximum capacity. And this is what Osaka (at least for me) was all about. It’s regarded as the food capital of the world for a reason.
When I planned my solo trip to Japan, I had one thing in mind: Food and Culture. And me being a chronic foodie, I knew I had to include Osaka in my top cities to go to.
Are you feeling peckish? Simply head to the Dotonbori area. Just take a walk and you will enjoy taste and experience scents from A to Z within a matter of 10 minutes. Not to mention Osaka has one of the best nightlife in Japan. It reminded me of NYC (in a good way). There was a constant out of this world feeling.
The city of Osaka is a well-known modern port city. It almost reminds you of any modern port city in the US. And if you’ve been to Osaka and know its crowd, they are fascinated with American (US) culture. This port city is the commercial center of Japan and is famous for its architecture, that’s right if you love buildings and global architecture this city should be on top of your bucket list. Breathtaking buildings such as the Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle, and various astonishing museums enrich this city and brighten the life in it.
Nara, another wondrous city of Japan, was, in fact, the capital of Japan in the 8th century and is the country’s most culturally enriched city. It has many famous temples and shrines and beautiful artworks dating back to the 8th century when it was the capital.
If you are there check out these places:
A Few General Tips
If you are traveling across Japan. Make sure to buy a Japan Rail Pass. It is extremely convenient and will save you money if you plan to visit more than two cities across Japan. Research what pass works best for the cities you want to visit. Japan can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t somewhat plan ahead and tend to get stressed easily.
Along those lines, learn the basics of Japanese. Not only it will help you navigate through the country but it shows respect. Respect is at the core of Japanese culture, it will go a long way with them when you simply say “Kon’nichiwa” (Hi) or “Arigato gozai ma” (Thank You ‘past tense’).
This is the age of technology, we barely can walk 10 feet without getting lost without our smartphones. While we recommend getting lost is the best way to venture out and discover, having your phone with an internet connection is practical. Look up Pocket Wi-Fi, it is dirt cheap and you can use Google Maps, Google Translate, etc. It just makes it easier, especially in a country that can be so opposite to yours.
When using the Japan Rail Pass, especially the Shinkansen which is the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, etc make it a memorable experience and do what locals do: Order a bento box in the train station, a drink in the vending machine, sit and relax at speeds of 200+mph. Talk about out of this world! Make sure to know the difference between reserved vs unreserved seating cars. Plan ahead and if you’re not stopping at Fuji, sit on the right side of the train to get a view of it from a distance if the day is clear.
We can’t stress this enough but make the effort to blend in with the locals. It is the only way you truly get to experience a new place. The only genuine way to explore yourself and grow.
Check out our previous Travel article here.
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