[Travel Advice] Japan

Random Observation/Comment #513: Japan’s blend of the traditional and downright weird is comforting. Whatever the roots may be, they are firmly grounded.

arishayama pissed

Things Japan Does Amazingly

  • Transportation – while it looks unbelievably confusing, it is pretty darn efficient.
  • Food – I have a separate entry about how much I love Japanese cuisine. I think I just like all Asian food.
  • Culture of right and wrong – everyone clearly understands what they should and should not do within societal norms. This applies to cleanliness, sanitary habits, and overall manners. It’s beyond regular courtesy and actually creates an asterisk in the study of sociology because Japanese people are truly an exception to following the rules.
  • Fancy toilets – there are a few squatters, but most places have immaculate cleanliness and high tech toilets
  • Infused nature – there’s always a way to escape the concrete city and bustle by just walking into a shrine and praying for good fortune and prosperity in all endeavors
  • Sake – it’s so inexpensive and delicious

Things Japan can Improve

  • Garbage receptacles – I’m on the fence about this one because the streets are still super clean. I think people just carry around their garbage. The lack of receptacles may encourage people to be more conscious of littering, but it’s still inconvenient from a NYer’s and HKer’s perspective
  • Addressing feminine health issues – this is a suggestion from my better half
  • Big things swept under the rug – I love Japan, but I know those who live there that are severely depressed and desperately trying to break apart from monotony. You don’t have to look far to see the angst and overall undying search for meaning bottled up in Manga and Anime.

Lessons Learned

  • Order sake over beer – as a beer lover, I would still rather drink sake to pair with meals
  • Buy a PASMO card if you’re commuting a lot – super useful and slight discount for the convenience of using the card. It also works at stores and the 500 yen deposit with balance on the card is returned
  • Buy a JR pass if you’re going between Kyoto and Tokyo – I think JR is far-reaching enough to go to most major attractions. It’s also convenient for a quick day trip to Osaka or Kobe if you’re staying in Kyoto
  • Buy a sim card with Internet plan – if you’re meeting up with people, I think it’s best to get a wifi sim card
  • Use free 7-11 wifi – the other choice is to go to 7-11 and use their free WiFi
  • Carry some cash – while most places take credit cards, I’ve found it is very useful to have at least 7000 yen with you. This is used for transportation and those small vending machine food purchases
  • Beware of last trains – trains stop around 1230 or 1am, and taxis get super expensive. I’d recommend planning ahead or sleeping at a capsule hotel if you get too drunk

Because my parents wanted to see more photos and less words, here’s some highlight sights and activities. I used JR for most of my travels.

Activities Kyoto

bamboo groves wide

  • Arashiyama –
    • How to get there – Take the Sanin Main Line from Kyoto station north 6 stops to Saagarashiyama. Follow the signs to the Bamboo grove and make a left when you get to the cross street. Make a right and go up the park.
    • Things to see – Bamboo groves, temples, park with a pretty good view of the river,

kyoto fushi inari gates

  • Fushi Inari tori gates
    • How to get there – Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto station 2 stops to Inari station.
    • Advice – Try not to take photos in the beginning because it’s a huge bottleneck for tourists. Instead, walk further up the mountain and it will get sparser. The beginning is really bad for those claustrophobic

kiyomizu temple

  • Kiyomizudera
    • How to get there – there’s a very convenient bus that drops you off right outside the main area so you can do a quick walk. I personally think the bus lines are best for seeing all the main temples.
    • Things to see – the temple view from above, a lot of tourists taking selfies, a very crowded walk up to the temple to buy little gifts

kyoto tofukuji temple

 

kyoto zen garden

 

  • Tofukuji temple
    • How to get there – Take the JR Nara Line to Tofukuji and walk a bit
    • Things to see – I highly recommend the Zen garden

kyoto nara feeding

  •  Nara
    • How to get there – Take the JR Nara Line all the end, get a map from the station, and walk East
    • Things to see – lots of deer waiting to eat from your hand and nip you in the butt if you don’t give them their wafers

Activities Osaka

osaka at night

  • Umeda Sky building
    • How to get there – It’s a long walk under a smelly underpass when you get to the Umeda station. Take the West exit and walk towards the building while following the random people.
    • Advice – Go for twilight sunset and relax for their free wifi while having a beer. After dark, try out the amazing dinner selections in the basement.

osaka castle

  • Osaka castle
    • How to get there – Take the Osaka Loop Line to Osakajokoen
    • Advice – Remember this place has last entrance at 4:30pm. Also, photos are better by the entrance than on the way there.

Activities Tokyo

imperial garden

  • Imperial Palace garden
    • How to get there – Take the JR Yokohama line to Tokyo main station and follow the signs. You will see the Palace hotel on the right and a vastly large open gray gravel area on the left side
    • Advice – It’s a beautiful walk around the park, have lunch at the Palace hotel afterwards

king roboto

  • Shinjuku robot restaurant
    • Advice – If you go to Shibuya, you can visit the train car across from the hachiko dog and get a voucher that allows 1 free ticket for 3 or more people. If you have 5 people, you can do 2 separate reservations online
    • What to expect – it’s very loud, but don’t expect too much. It’ll be a fun surprise of craziness. Very hard to explain. You can take any photos without flash, but it’s pretty dark, so just enjoy.

ueno park

  • Ueno water lily park
    • How to get here – take any of the many lines that go to Ueno station
    • Advice – buy some ice cream and walk around the park. When these bloom, it’s ridiculously beautiful

asakusa

  • Asakusa and sensoji temple
    • How to get here – Take the Tokyo Metro Ginza line to Asakusa. We traveled from Ueno and it was pretty quick
    • Advice – It’s a crowded street walk that goes directly to the Sensoji temple, but it’s worth a peek to get some deals on touristy gifts. The temple is very crowded, but you’ll eventually make your way up there to say a prayer.

daiba family

  • Daiba
    • How to get here – it’s a bit off the beaten path, but you can take a cool above ground Tokyo Waterfront Transit. We got on near the Hamamatsucho stop called Takeshiba
    • Advice – this is mostly for shopping and maybe looking at the big gundam statue

gundam selfie

  • Akihabara
    • How to get here – Easy stop on the JR Yamanote line
    • Advice – gauge who you’re traveling with to determine which floor you’re going to explore. It tends to get weirder and weirder when you go higher. I would recommend taking the elevator to the top floor and working your way down if you’re feeling brave. The gundam cafe was meh.

meji temple marriage

  • Harajuku and yoyogi Park
    • How to get here – JR Yamanote line to Harajuku
    • Advice – this is a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle. Every time I’ve visited, there’s been a wedding ceremony.

Activities just outside Tokyo

big buddha kamakura

  •  Kamakura
    • How to get here – Take the Zushi line from Shibuya to get to Kamakura stop. To see the Buddha and some other gardens, you can take the bus or walk
    • Advice – eat some of those little fishies because they’re so delicious

yokohama boat and ferris wheel

  • Yokohama
    • How to get here – Take the same line from Shibuya and get off at Yokohama station
    • Advice – contact Yuka and she’ll show you around! http://www.yukaontheroad.com/

~See Lemons Love Japan

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