Japan Things to Do Tips by Maline
Japan Things to Do: 671 reviews and 1,043 photos
Shibuya area in Tokyo
The capital of Japan, so much to see in Tokyo, you could spend more than a lifetime exploring it.
Tokyo has a population larger than the whole country of Sweden. Roughly the equivalence of the entire population of Sweden travels with the trains and subways here each day. You don't have to spell it out; Tokyo is pretty crowded.
As is often the case with larger cities (and here we are talking megacity) there are several downtowns rather than one special. Depending on what you are looking for, you may want to choose different destinations within Tokyo.
For a starter I would recommend Shibuya or Shinjuku. These places fulfill the foreigner's Tokyo fantasy of color, people and the likes. If you are a skyscraper junkie Shinjuku is also the place to go.
Other places of interest include Ueno (museums and quaint streets, also pachinko heaven), Yoyogi park and the Meiji shrine( the city´s lung and place of stillness), the Harajuku area (shopping mecca where all the foreigners hang out apparently), Roppongi (entertainment and embassys), Akihabara (electric town - but maybe not that many bargains if you are from another country), Kanda (bookstores and sports stores) Yúrakuchó and Ginza (expensive shopping and the international tourist office´s location).
Of course there is also much much more to see. For a great way of so to speak seeing it all at once, take the elevator up to the 45th floor of the Tokyo government Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku. On a clear day, you can even spot Mt Fuji.
Hmm, there are often clear days in megacities huh?
Anyway, the ascent and descent are free of charge and a good way to get a little perspective and an overview of the city.
Address: Tokyo is on the east coast of Japan
Directions: Take the flight to Narita, then follow the crowd.
Kinkaku-ji, Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
So, when you arrive in Japan, probably you will land either at Narita close to Tokyo or at Kansai airport close to Osaka.
And now what?
Well definitely it is so hard to give any advice on what you MUST see in a whole country. I think it impossible, actually presumptious. So I will just make some guesses.
I s'pose Tokyo, the capital, and Kyoto, the cultural and religious capital, would list as real must sees. Nikko mausoleum and temple area and Mount Fuji would be a must see if you center your trip around Tokyo, and Hiroshima and Kobe would probably list as must sees if you centrer the trip around Osaka. (In the pic: The Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion is a real must see if you are in Kyoto!)
Most of my sightseeing tips for Japan will therefore be listed under "Off the beaten path" instead. But scroll down for a few real-deal Japan must sees...in my humble opinion:-)
Kyoto and the Kiyomizudera
Old capital of Japan, and the emperor's hometown for a thousand years, Kyoto rates up there with Tokyo on the must-see list.
In the picture, the view of Kyoto from the temple Kiyomizu, in my humble opinion one of the absolute must-sees of Kyoto! ( the temple was originally erected as early as 798, whereas Heian-kyo - today's Kyoto - dates back to 794)
Directions: Kyoto is a four hour train ride south-west from Tokyo. It is close to the economic and commercial hub of Osaka/Kobe in the Kansai region.
Fuji-san on a clear day fall 2004
Pictured in many famous woodprints and modern postcards, the real deal is a must see.
Try the five lakes district or lake Ashino in Hakone area for Fuji sights. If you go to Ashinoko, like we did, be sure to take the "rope-way" either there of on your way back. It's a little scary, but offers the best sights. (Rope way photo in the travelogue.)
Mount Fuji, or "Fuji-san" in Japanese is actually a dormant volcanoe, that hasn't erupted for 200 years (knock on wood). It's 3776 metres high and not only the most beautiful mountain in Japan but also the highest. It is also considered a sacred mountain, like many other mountains in Japan.
You can climb Fuji, but the climbing season is quite short, only during summer. However, if you are ON the mountain, then you don't really SEE it, so I think unless you are a climber, you are just as well off just looking at the mountain from a distance.
Supposedly you can spot Fuji from Tokyo (we vaguely saw something of it's shape from a skyscraper), however as I mentioned before, the Five lakes district or Hakone area are the best places for Fuji sights. You can also see it from the Shinkansen if you are going south from Tokyo.
Nikko is situated about 120 kilometres north of Tokyo. It is possible to make a day excursion from Toyko and cover the main Nikko sights, but I suggest you start really early in the morning.
In Nikko there are several sights to see. First and foremost is the Toshogu shrine, mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieasu, the shogun who started the Tokugawa era. Among other sights you will find the three monkeys here, the ones who "hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil".
Other sights at Nikko include the Rinno-ji temple, the Taiyuin mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu, and the Futarasan shrine (which we didn't sadly have time for).
Nikko is one of the places in Japan that have been put on the World Heritage list. The mausoleum and temple area, which is close to the town itself is totally beautiful, set in a forest of high rising cedar trees. When we visited it waas raining, wich was a downer (!) but lent the area enev more of a mystic atmosphere.
The famous red bridge just before the entrance to the temple area is unfortunately under reconstruction and covered (with WHITE plastic - why not red?) thus cannot be seen.
You definitely shouldnt miss out on Nikko, and if you plan to make just a one day excursion, be sure to go really early in the morning. The attrections close in the afternoon, and after it gets dark, there is not so much to see anymore. Plus, there is quite a walk from the train station(s) to the temple area itself.
If you have time for a longer visit there are supposedly very scenic surrounding hiking trails, views over the Nikko sacred mountains, a famous waterfall and even more temples to visit.
The once famous Nikko monkeys (I encountered them back in 1992 when I also visited Nikko) have successfully been driven out of the temple premises back into the woods. Supposedly they became a bit too aggressive with the tourists who didnt want to share their portion of ice cream or something.
Directions: Either take the Tobu line from Asakusa to Nikko or take the Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno stations and change in Utsunomiya. Tobu is advisseable unless you hold a valid JR Rail Pass in which case the Shinkansen route will be cheaper (but longer).
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